Behind the consistent play of Stanley Johnson, No. 6 Arizona is in the midst of its best stretch of the season.
On a rare Wednesday night matchup at the McKale Center, Johnson and the Wildcats will look to keep the momentum rolling when they face up against Oregon.
Johnson may be playing as well as anyone in the country right now, averaging over 19 points and eight rebounds over the last four games. In that span, he’s also been one of the team’s best defenders.
Oregon will throw everything it has at Johnson but the Ducks, like the rest of the conference, don’t have a guy who has shown he can slow down the Wildcats’ freshman phenom. When the two teams met earlier this month in Eugene, Johnson scored a modest 14 points.
The fact that Johnson has put up such remarkable numbers – he currently ranks No. 4 in Kenpom.’s Player of the Year standings – is made more impressive given the talent he’s surrounded by.
But with Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley struggling to stay out of foul trouble and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s jumper not showing much improvement, it’s become vital for Johnson to take over offensively.
Against the Ducks, Arizona would no doubt like to see more from its big men, although credit must be given for the bench play of Matt Korcheck and Dusan Ristic against Cal and Stanford respectively.
However, as the Wildcats prepare for the final leg of the regular season, Ashley and Tarczewski must be smarter at staying on the court and out of foul trouble. The two have not play over 30 minutes in the same game since Arizona’s win at UTEP.
Facing an Oregon team that doesn’t pose much of a threat down low, there’s no reason why the pair of juniors shouldn’t be able to rebound.
After all, It was in Eugene that Tarczewski had perhaps his best all-around performance of the season: an 11 point, 10 rebound double-double. Ashley scored 10 points in the win.
Defensively, the Wildcats continue to improve as a team and facing high-tempo opponents has not been much of a problem (see wins vs. Gonzaga, at Oregon).
While Joseph Young will get his points, the Ducks don’t have the type of shooter who can light up the McKale scoreboard ala Askia Booker. Even with a hot shooting night from their guards, it likely wouldn’t be enough.
Arizona could probably get away with a subpar performance from almost everyone and still be alright Wednesday. But anything less than control of all aspects would be a disappointment.