12/16 Basketball Notebook

Arizona head coach Sean Miller met with the media on Monday. Read on to see what he said about Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski's injury, and more.

  • With all the possible distractions that can affect Arizona, Sean Miller believes that these next two games are as important as any.

    "This is absolutely as crucial a part of our season and unique part of our season as we will have," Miller said. "It's not just our team and our program, it is really everybody in college basketball, because the non-conference year is winding down.

    "All of us have a few weeks left. This year, we only have two home games left, Southern and Northern Arizona, and then we have a true Christmas break where our players will all have the chance to go home for about two and a half days, which I think will be good to refill their buckets so to speak and get ready for conference play."

  • Miller believes that Southern is capable of challenging Arizona on Thursday, especially if the Wildcats lose focus.

    "Right now we are torn in a number of different directions," he said. "On one hand we have had success, but we have to keep working to make sure we get better. This is a huge week. I think everybody on our team has no less than four finals and then you have a dangerous game on Thursday in Southern.

    "We were in Salt Lake City last year and I watched them almost upset Gonzaga. I look at their scores and they have some losses this year, but I don't know if we've played a team that has more close games on the road. We have to make sure with all we have going on right now that we have a great focus leading up to Thursday's game."

  • Nick Johnson's free-throw shooting was a big reason why Arizona was able to beat Michigan, but his skills obviously go beyond that.

    "Nick is the classic case of a very talented player and a great kid," Miller said. "He came to Arizona and learned, had a big role as a freshman. Think about the number of games he has now started and played in.

    "He has learned from great moments, has learned from tough moments, but he has developed. He is better, more mature, is smarter. He plays three positions for us every game and I have never had a player in the years I have been a head coach ever able to play a third position.

    "He is one of the smartest kids I have ever coached and the value of him right now is like having another point guard on the court. You can make the case he has been our most valuable player, especially when you consider that production wise he has been terrific."

  • Arizona now enters its second week ranked number one, but the Wildcats continue to have one goal in mind.

    "Everybody talks about it," Miller said. "There's a reason everybody talks about it, because it's special. When we first became number one, I don't know if any of us were walking around like we did it, it's over.

    "To be on a team, to be the coach of a team that has been number one is an honor and the longer you can have it, the better for everybody. That's also not our end game. Our end game is to stay with what we are doing, to be ready for the next game, and have a chance to win another home game and go 12-0 instead of 11-0.

  • One of the reasons for Arizona's early success has been the play of Brandon Ashley, who continues to mature.

    "Brandon Ashley is just continuing to grow as a player," Miller said. "When you look at him offensively, his shooting percentage, we are constantly right now trying to get him the ball more in scoring position. He can do it right now both on the inside and now also on the outside and he's making free-throws.

    "We are very efficient when Brandon is involved on the offensive end. I look at the way he had been in mid-October and late October and he has made tremendous growth as an offensive player. He is more confident now."

  • Kaleb Tarczewski went down in the Michigan game due to an ankle injury. Although he is questionable for this week, the injury does not sound too serious.

    "Kaleb hurt his ankle pretty good," Miller said. "I don't know if he had a severe sprain, but it's a legitimate sprained ankle. He came down on the guy from Michigan's foot and rolled it. We've been able to get right on it.

    "We're lucky in that his final exams are really behind him, I think he has maybe one exam left. He is pretty much around the clock right now working to get better. We don't know about Thursday yet because it is only Monday."

  • Should Tarczewski not be able to go, Miller feels that Matt Korcheck will be the next man up.

    "Everybody will have to pick it up," he said. "Matt Korcheck would be the next player in line. He has maybe not been a part of our rotation, but is with us every day and is working hard. He would be the next front court player we would call on.

    "Matt is one of our hardest workers. He hasn't missed one day's practice in the last two years. He knows what to do and he is big and he's strong. I think he will do a good job for us."


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