Arizona Basketball

No. 11 Belmont (26-6) vs. No. 6 Arizona (25-7): Miller compares Clark to a couple of Pac-12’s best

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Date: Today, 5:20 p.m., Tucson time
Location: EnergySolutions Arena (19,911), Salt Lake City
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach/Ryan Hansen)
TV: TNT (Spero Dedes/Doug Gottlieb/Jamie Maggio)


Ian Clark

Ian Clark


When asked who Belmont’s 6-3 shooting guard Ian Clark reminds him of in the Pac-12, Arizona coach Sean Miller responded by including the names Spencer Dinwiddie of Colorado and Jordan Adams of UCLA. Gulp. Dinwiddie was as damaging offensively as any opponent the Wildcats have faced and Adams showed the most confidence of any player the Wildcats have played. “(Clark’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 2, from the 3 and from the foul line,” Miller said. “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.” Miller added that Clark, the nation’s leader with a three-point shooting percentage of 46.3, is who he is because of the way point guard Kerron Johnson sets up his opportunities. Clark and Johnson are seniors who have been teammates for three years. Nick Johnson, Arizona’s starting shooting guard, has played with two different point guards (Josiah Turner and Mark Lyons. He will start with his third different point guard next season: T.J. McConnell.


Kerron Johnson

Kerron Johnson


Kerron Johnson’s 210 free-throw attempts are more than three other Belmont starters (Clark, Trevor Noack and J.J. Mann) combined. Clark, Noach and Mann have combined for 181 attempts and made 146. Kerron Johnson is 163 of 210. Arizona’s starting backcourt — Lyons and Nick Johnson –have combined for only 20 more free-throw attempts this season than Kerron Johnson. They are 172 of 230. Arizona has nine players in its record book who have attempted more free throws than Kerron Johnson has this season. Only one of those players was a point guard — Jason Gardner in 2001-02. Gardner attempted 240 free throws that season and made 192. “You have to be willing to give up your body a little bit and go in there, not be afraid to take those hits,” Johnson, 6-1 and 175 pounds, told reporters Wednesday. “These guys (his teammates) are not afraid to take those hits whether it’s on the defensive or the offensive side, and that’s my role is to take the hits and control the tempo and do whatever the coach needs me to do.” Kerron Johnson averages a free-throw attempt every 4.5 minutes. Lyons leads the UA with 131 free-throw attempts. Lyons averages a free-throw attempt every 7.3 minutes.









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Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen writes that Belmont is due for an NCAA tournament victory after losing five opening round games in the the previous seven years. Boise State was also 0-5 in NCAA tournament appearances before Wednesday’s First Four game against LaSalle. Make it 0-6 for the Broncos, who lost 80-71 to the Explorers. LIU Brooklyn is also 0-6 with its loss to James Madison Wednesday. North Carolina A&T ended its tournament-victory drought Tuesday with a 73-72 victory over Liberty on Tuesday. The Aggies were 0-9 in NCAA tournament games before the narrow victory over Liberty, a team that lost 20 games this season. Arizona lost in its first three NCAA tournament appearances in the first four years after Lute Olson was hired in 1983. The Wildcats finally blew out Cornell in 1988 to earn their first NCAA tournament win under Olson. They advanced to their first Final Four that season. Arizona was due for a win in the NCAA tournament that season, but the Wildcats also had one of the most dominating teams in college hoops with Steve Kerr and Sean Elliott. The prevailing thought might be Belmont is overdue for a tournament win, but let’s not forget Arizona last year did not make the NCAA tournament field, which is a major upset for that program. Try telling players like Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Johnson that Belmont is hungrier for a win on this stage.


Kaleb Tarczewski

Kaleb Tarczewski


UA freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski has improved throughout the season, the player for Arizona who has shown the most continuous gradual climb. Despite this transformation, Tarczewski is not a growing focal point of Arizona’s offensive execution. The Wildcats have shown a concerted effort to get Tarczewski the ball on the blocks, but the young talent actually took less field-goal attempts in the second half of the Pac-12 season than the first. In the first half, Tarczewski tried 46 field goals and converted 16 (34.8 percent). In the second half of the conference season (excluding the two Pac-12 tournament games last week), he attempted 39 field goals. He made 24 of those tries, a percentage of 61.5. Arizona coach Sean Miller has not utilized Tarczewski more as a scoring outlet but he developed more efficient ways of getting the post player the ball at the right place. That shows in the nearly 30-point increase of Tarczewski’s field-goal percentage. Because of his size advantage as a 7-footer going against Belmont’s 6-7 frontcourt players, he might try a season-high 10 field goals or more against the Bruins. Better yet for Arizona, he will draw two or three defenders creating opportunities for others.


Solomon Hill

Solomon Hill


If Hill gets 17 points and seven rebounds against Belmont, he will become one of only seven UA players who are ranked among the program’s top 20 in career scoring and top 10 in career rebounding. The list includes the likes of Sean Elliott, Bob Elliott, Al Fleming and Channing Frye. Hill also enters Thursday’s game ready to move into sole possession of second place on Arizona’s career games played list. He has played in 136 games, a figure he currently shares with Gardner (1999-2003). Additionally, Hill needs just eight rebounds and eight points to become the eighth player in school history with 1,400 points and 750 rebounds. Hill is averaging 13.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game this season. Those averages are similar when Arizona wins or loses. Hill averages 13.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in Arizona’s 25 wins. He averages 13.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in the seven losses. The most significant difference is Hill’s three-point shooting. Hill is 9-of-31 (29 percent) from three-point range in the UA’s losses. He is 42 of 106 (39.6 percent) when Arizona wins. When Hill went cold from the outside against UCLA last week, it seemed the Wildcats went flat as well.

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RELATED NCAA TOURNAMENT LINKS
Greg Hansen of The Arizona Daily Star: Belmont may stir up painful memories
Patrick Finley of The Arizona Daily Star: Frontline mismatch: Wildcats wary of the little guy
Bruce Pascoe of The Arizona Daily Star: Pac-12 penalty in past, excited Miller moves on
Anthony Gimino of TucsonCitizen.com: Arizona notes: Mark Lyons looking to get hot in the NCAA Tournament
— Gimino: Mom’s move to Tucson a blessing for Arizona freshman Kaleb Tarczewski
— Gimino: Arizona responds to President Obama’s upset pick
Reprimands happen: Public action against Sean Miller also occurred with Lute Olson
— All you need to know about Salt Lake City bracket pod (Arizona, Belmont, Harvard and New Mexico) from A to Z
— Balanced, experienced Belmont poses productive rotation
— Belmont has nation’s top three-point shooter, highly-ranked defensive statistics
Steve Rivera of FoxSportsArizona.com: Arizona frosh starting to deliver on potential

Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner

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