Arizona must maintain defensive intensity

Arizona is aware that it fell off a bit after last season's Christmas Break. Read on for its thoughts on how that will be avoided this season and more.

Arizona will enter the New Year as the top ranked team in the country and the Wildcats have had no issues with embracing that fact.

"Being the number one team in the country, you can carry it as a burden and take all of the negative connotations that you want," Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. "On the flip side, we've really embraced the fact that we are the No. 1 team in the country.

"You can't take it from us. We earned it. We've now played 13 games, and we're very proud. We've won 25 non-conference games in a row. Right now we're No. 1 in the country and 13-0. That's a source of pride and something nobody can take from us moving forward."

Arizona got off to a similar start last season only to run into some trouble. Miller believes that his team must keep its identity in order to not mirror last season.

"One of the things we just talked about is that last year we were 12-0," he said. "We then went 12-6 for the next 18 games. That's pretty good by the way. We missed the regular season championship by a game."

Junior guard Nick Johnson agrees with his head coach, saying that consistency will be important to the success of the current team.

"Last year, we kind of let up a little bit," Johnson said. "We're looking pretty good with our nonconference record, but we just have to keep it up.We just have to keep it going. Last year we lost our identity as far as being a defensive team and maybe went a little south. So, we just have to keep that going into conference."

In order to be able to have success from this point on, the theme surrounding Arizona's play will revolve around its defense.

"This year's team, our goal is to compete for the conference championship," Miller said. "One thing that happened to last year's team is we got back from Christmas and we lost our defense. Our defense last year was not nearly as good as now but it was very good. We went through about a four-week period during conference play that we were mediocre at best.

"As a matter of fact, out of 12 teams, I think we were the 12th in defending the three-point field goal. It cost us. When it comes to the regular season championship, with this year's team, you ask who were are and why we're 13-0, we're an excellent rebounding team, and we play together and don't turn the ball over. Most importantly, we're an excellent defensive team."

It's not something that Miller has to convince his players to buy into it and that mentality starts with Johnson.

"We're good, but we can get a lot better," he said. "Right now, we're a top-10 defensive team, which was our goal coming into this year, but I think as a team we know we can be a lot better than that. We can be the number one defensive team in the country if everybody focuses in on being that. But 13-0, we'll take that and try to carry that into conference."

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