Wildcats try to keep season alive

Arizona will look to keep its season alive when it faces UCLA on Thursday. Read on for a complete preview of the game.

Arizona will step on the court Thursday to play UCLA for the third time this season. However, it will be the first in the three meetings without Wildcat guard Josiah Turner. Turner was suspended and did not make the trip with the team. Arizona head coach Sean Miller expressed his disappointment in the freshman's actions, but the Wildcats must now find a way to win the rubber match against a rolling UCLA team.

The Bruins are on a 3-game winning streak that started after they lost 65-63 to the Wildcats in Tucson. They topped Washington State easily 78-46 and pulled off an upset against conference champion Washington 75-69 in their final home weekend. Yesterday, the Bruins set up the third meeting of the season with Arizona by way of a 55-40 victory over rival Southern California.

Arizona played just one game in between meetings with coach Ben Howland's team. It was a road game in Tempe, where the Wildcats fell in surprising fashion. Arizona scored 80 points, but allowed the Sun Devils to score 87 points, well above their season average. The loss dropped the Cats off the bubble picture for the NCAA tournament and made the Pac-12 tournament that much more important.

Now, with Turner suspended, Arizona will have to rally itself and come out on top of UCLA if it has any hopes of making two straight NCAA tournament appearances under Miller.

To do that, Arizona will have to stop 6-foot-10 Travis Wear. Wear has worn out Arizona this season, averaging 16.5 points in the 2 games this season. He has been a struggle to guard, but Jesse Perry did a better job in the second game. Travis was also a force on the glass, grabbing 13 rebounds in the series. He will be one of the players Arizona wants to contain if it wants to win.

Travis Wear can also be a big defensive force. He blocked 3 shots in the first meeting, but didn't have any the second time around. He is a big defender and will keep smaller players out of the lane. The Wildcats may be aggressive and drive against the big man, but the loss of Turner certainly doesn't help with that.

Twin brother David Wear isn't quite as productive as Travis, but still manages to contribute. Averaging 11 points in the series, the sophomore was more productive on the glass in the second meeting, pulling down a game-high 9 rebounds. This was no doubt due to the increased pressure on his brother, but shows that he can also do some damage if not given enough defensive attention.

Senior point guard Lazeric Jones had a game to forget in Tucson. After scoring 13 points and dishing out 4 assists at the Honda Center, the 6-foot-1, 187-pound Jones had just 2 points in McKale Center. He did have 5 assists, but the 1 for 12 shooting performance is something that the senior will want to improve on in the third match up.

The man who may hurt Arizona the most on Thursday is senior guard Jerime Anderson. Anderson played two great games against the Cats this season and should be in line for another one on Thursday. The 6-foot-2 Anderson has played in all but 8 minutes in the two matchups, scoring an average of 13.5 points. However, he was the main player that kept UCLA in a close game in the loss at McKale Center. Anderson also had 6 assists in the games.

Filling out the starting lineup is 6-foot-5 shooting guard Tyler Lamb. The sophomore has played amazing defense against the Wildcats this season, racking up 8 steals in 2 games. Lamb may not score tons of points, but is definitely a playmaker. With 8.5 points and 3.5 assists, Lamb has been productive against Arizona and should do the same this time around.

Lamb took advantage of a struggling defense and put 11 points up in Tucson. Miller may be stressing defense to his players, but with one less player in the rotation, Lamb could find ways to score as he can be an explosive player at times.

First off the bench for the Bruins should be freshman Norman Powell. Playing in his first Pac-12 tournament game, the 6-foot-3 guard logged 22 minutes, going scoreless. He made big contributions in other ways though. Powell grabbed 5 rebounds, dished out 3 assists, stole 2 balls, and blocked a shot. He was all over the floor Wednesday and will look to improve on that Thursday.

Powell only had one basket in both games against Arizona, but did have 7 total rebounds and 4 assists. With the type of game he had against USC, the freshman could make an impact.

Backing up the Wear twins is 305-pound center Josh Smith. The 6-foot-10 sophomore did not play against Arizona in the first game because he was still recovering from a concussion and played limited minutes in Tucson due to foul trouble. He did find some success in his 14 minutes, as he tallied 5 rebounds to go along with 9 points and a steal.

It is also worth noting that Smith played just 8 minutes against USC because he was late to the team bus. He will be rested and ready to play against Arizona.

One of the biggest defensive forces UCLA has is center Anthony Stover. The 6-foot-10 big man has blocked 4 Arizona shots this year and can alter plenty of others. Stover doesn't score much, but can impact the game on the glass and on defense. Stover will see some minutes, especially since the Bruins are playing their second game in as many days, but it remains to be seen if Stover will have a big impact.

Arizona will have its hands full on Thursday and the best way to combat that is to exploit UCLA's weaknesses. That may be hard now that Arizona is down another player. UCLA is playing just about 24 hours after its last game, but the Cats may not want to get into a running game.

The real question mark of the game is Jordin Mayes. After recovering from the stress reaction in his foot, Mayes has played limited minutes. He may not be back to 100-percent, but he will be needed to play extended minutes. If Mayes cannot contribute and fill in for the missing Turner, Arizona may be in trouble.

Both teams are in need of a victory. A win for Arizona gets it closer to the Pac-12 title game and gives it an outside shot at the NCAA tournament. A win for UCLA keeps its season alive and gives it a positive to look at in spite of the recent scandals uncovered. Both teams will be fighting for a win, but only one can get it.

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