UA-FLORIDA

Arizona basketball: Tenacious Gators thriving on turnovers

2012-12-14T00:00:00Z 2014-08-01T11:22:49Z Arizona basketball: Tenacious Gators thriving on turnoversBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 14, 2012 12:00 am  • 

For a team that averages 15 turnovers a game, the Arizona Wildcats may want to peer carefully at Florida's defensive stats.

Or cover their eyes completely.

The seven teams that have faced the Gators so far this season, a respectable bunch collectively rated as the 41st-toughest schedule by Sagarin, have turned the ball over 17 times on average against Florida.

The Gators are also holding those opponents to 34.9 percent shooting from the field, 32.1 percent shooting from three-point range and allowing them to score a grand total of 48.3 points on average.

Nobody has scored more than 66 on Florida, either.

While UA coach Sean Miller noted that the Wildcats' turnover number is skewed by the 27 they coughed up against Southern Miss on Dec. 4, the Wildcats have given up 14 or more turnovers in four of their seven games.

Even 14 would probably be too many for Saturday, when the Gators appear at McKale Center.

"Playing with 12 or fewer turnovers, in this game, is something we have to do to have a chance to win," Miller said, "and they're going to really challenge our team in that area."

The Gators are also gifted offensively, with well-regarded passing and cohesion that result in a 47.3 percentage from the field and 73.6 points per game. But that efficiency is also a function of their defense, Miller said.

"They play so well together offensively and also defensively; both of those sides of the basketball feed off each other," Miller said. They play man-to-man but they also "zone, they press and they do all of it well and they do it with great intensity. They force you to take care of the ball.

"Turnovers against Florida lead to transition baskets and opportunities - and that's really where they thrive."

UA guard Nick Johnson, who owns the Wildcats' top assist-turnover ratio (2.4-1), was aware of the challenge.

"They're definitely a talented team on defense and offense," Johnson said. "I know they have a zone they throw out, and they press a little bit. We're going to try to do the best we can in practice and be ready for it."

Miller has been using three primary ballhandlers in the backcourt: Johnson, Mark Lyons and Jordin Mayes. But when asked if the Florida pressure could alter his guard rotation, Miller said that wasn't the only area of concern.

"Really, our team has to handle that kind of pressure," Miller said. "Our frontcourt players are going to be put in position where they'll have to make decisions away from the basket. Our whole team has to handle the ball.

"Do the guards take on more responsibility? Yes. But it's not really that one guard. It's going to be a number of them who have to handle the ball and play with great purpose."

Mizzou added; Zags possible

Arizona has added Missouri for a two-year nonconference series beginning in 2015-16 and is discussing a future series with Gonzaga, Miller said.

The Tigers are scheduled to visit McKale Center in 2015-16, and the game will be returned in Columbia, Mo., in 2016-17. A Gonzaga series could begin either in 2014-15 or 2015-16, and it would include UA's first-ever visit to the Zags' on-campus arena.

"That's certainly in the cards," Miller said of Gonzaga. "We know that nonconference scheduling is important, gaining confidence, and playing against different styles. I think we've done some of that already" this season.

Arizona had a two-game series with Gonzaga that ended last season, but both games were played at semi-neutral sites - Phoenix (in 2008-09) and Seattle (2011-12) - and the teams also met in Tucson during the 2000-01 season and at Salt Lake City in the 2003 NCAA tournament.

Next season, the Wildcats have major nonconference games scheduled against UNLV at McKale Center, and at San Diego State and at Michigan. Arizona also is expected to play in the NIT Tip Off.

In 2014-15, UA has road games scheduled at UNLV and UTEP, plus a home game with Michigan, and the Wildcats are expected to play in that season's Maui Invitational.

York battling

Freshman guard Gabe York has not played in UA's past two games, but Miller said there still may be a need for him in the rotation.

"It's just right now we're going with our veteran players and guys who have been in these big games more than others," Miller said. "He could (find a role), and he's working hard to carve out that role. Foul trouble dictates a lot of things, and we're always one foul away from that next guy being called on. That's why it's important that he keeps working hard, which he is."

Up next

• Who: No. 5 Florida (7-0) at No. 8 Arizona (7-0)

• When: 8 p.m. Saturday

• TV: ESPN

• Radio 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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