Defense will be key to advancing

Arizona's defense will play a vital role in its tournament success. Read on to see why Sean Miller says that is, Nick Johnson's responsibility as a defender, and more.

Arizona head coach Sean Miller has had plenty of success in the tournament in past years and attributes it to numerous factors.

"Well, the teams that I've been a part of that have gone beyond this first weekend, there's three of them," Miller said. "The one thing that stands out is that we were ourselves. The things that we did well during the season that we learned to make as part of our overall identity, those things didn't change once we entered the tournament. We were able to establish those same strengths.

"Sometimes in this tournament, game pressure in the moment becomes so big that you can deviate. Players do things that they haven't done. Teams almost take on a different personality; and in those cases, the personality of our team remained the same."

Miller says that Arizona will try to keep its same mentality and style of play against Belmont on Thursday.

"That's what we are going to try to do tomorrow against Belmont," he said. "We have to go a very good rebounding team and a good minded defensive team. On offense we have to play unselfish team basketball where we can create good shots."

It's no secret that Nick Johnson will guard Belmont's Ian Clark on Thursday and Miller feels that his defense, along with Arizona's overall defense, will be one of the keys to winning.

"With Nick Johnson, he has become our team's best perimeter defender," Miller said. "He has all the athletic talent. He has the mind set to be great. I believe one day he will be an elite defender.

"When we have played well defensively he has had a big part in it, and tomorrow he may be meeting the biggest challenge of his season in Ian Clark. If you look at his efficiency, his ability to score I can't believe the field goal percentage he shoots for make and go taking as many 3 point shots that he takes. It won't just be Nick, but it's part of his responsibility and it's a big one."

When asked to compare Clark to other guards Arizona has seen this season, Miller says that he is a combination of two very good ones.

"Well, as you know, there are so many good guards in our conference," he said. "You can pick any team, and you can pick one or two. He's almost like a combination of Jordan Adams and Spencer Dinwiddie, and I say that because Spencer Dinwiddie, he reminds me so much of him because he shoots a great percentage from the two, from the three and from the foul line.

"In terms of Jordan Adams, how well he can use the screens without the ball and how confident he is, how he can shoot the ball in transition. Those are two examples that I would give, but I know he's the Player of the Year in the conference."

Clark is obviously a good individual player, but much of what he does is due to the fact that he plays with a good point guard in Kerron Johnson.

"Part of what makes Clark so good is they have an excellent point guard in Johnson and when you look at his free throw attempts, how he runs the show, the big plays he makes, including the game winning shot here in the conference tournament, they have a dynamic backcourt," Miller said. "I believe that's one of several keys to what makes them such a great team." Belmont is a strong three-point shooting team, but there is much more to the Bears' squad Arizona will be facing.

"Their free throw attempts from the point guard position alone and their ability to score inside three, as a matter of fact, the percentage of shots they make inside the arc is one of the nation's best," Miller said. "That's what scary about them. I would say they're a great offensive team, period. They score 80 points. They score quite a few of those points from the foul line and inside.

"Now, with our own team we have had times where we have surrendered too many threes. It's important that our three point defense is in plays, but we're going to need a great defensive performance, period. They have a lot of diversity in their offense, they use ball screens a lot like UCLA does and that gives all teams problems, especially when you have a backcourt like they have."


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