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No. 3 Arizona looks to avoid 'rat poison' at Stanford

Is that Tommy Lloyd or Alabama football coach Nick Saban on the Arizona basketball bench these days?

Lloyd, the long-time Mark Few assistant at Gonzaga who has lifted the Wildcats to No. 3 AP ranking ahead of a Thursday visit to Stanford, has started using Saban's vernacular to describe the dangers facing his team as a result of their outstanding results.

"As Nick Saban would say, 'Rat poison, rat poison," Lloyd said. "This team is just sitting around and everyone is telling them how good they are. They've got to understand what makes them good."

What's made Arizona a possibility for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament is an explosive, balanced offense, an outstanding defense and the emergence of Bennedict Mathurin as a national Player of the Year candidate.

The Wildcats (14-1, 4-0 Pac-12) enter the Stanford game averaging 88.5 points per game and canning 49.9 percent from the field, which ranks eighth. Only Lloyd's old employer, Gonzaga, scores more points a night at 90.9. Arizona's field-goal percentage ranked eighth in Division I through Monday's games.

The Arizona defense limits opponents to 64.4 ppg on 36.8 percent shooting; ranked its defensive efficiency at ninth in Division I through Monday. And Mathurin has been a four-category contributor most nights, averaging a team-high 18 points to go with 6.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 0.9 steals per game.

However, the Wildcats' star on Saturday night in an 82-64 thumping of visiting Utah was Azoulas Tubelis, who poured in a game-high 32 points on 14-of-24 shooting. He also found time to grab eight boards and dole out five assists.

Tubelis chips in 15.9 points and 6.3 boards per game, connecting on 57.4 percent of his shots. Christian Koloko contributes 13.3 ppg and a team-high 7.1 rebounds, while point guard Kerr Kriisa adds 11.7 ppg and 5.4 assists.

Kriisa missed the Colorado game with a minor injury that Lloyd said was the result of horsing around with teammates, but he is expected to play at Stanford.

The Cardinal (10-5, 3-2) could have entered this game with a chance to jump over Arizona for first place in the Pac-12, but the team buried itself with a slow start and couldn't quite dig out of a 22-point hole in a 67-64 loss at Washington on Saturday.

Stanford trailed 43-25 at halftime and nearly erased the deficit behind a defensive effort that held the Huskies to 22 percent shooting in the second half. But its 47-26 domination of the boards was more than offset by 21 turnovers that led to 29 Washington points.

The Cardinal, who get 11.9 ppg and 6.9 rebounds out of Harrison Ingram, are definitely capable of beating anyone. They slapped previously unbeaten Southern California with its first loss on Jan. 11 behind 21 points each from Ingram and Spencer Jones.

"We're not finished," Jones said. "We still know that there's top-10 teams in this conference that we want to go at. So, we're definitely not done."

The game will be played in front of players' family members only. Fans are currently banned from Stanford home games due to COVID-19 concerns.

--Field Level Media

Updated January 19, 2022

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