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Arizona’s edge vs. UCLA: Rebounding

Kaleb Tarczewski Brandon Ashley

Starting post players Kaleb Tarczewski (left) and Brandon Ashley have helped give Arizona an edge around the rim. Photo by Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Here is something we haven’t heard in a while: Arizona will manhandle UCLA.

That was the conclusion of Doug Gottlieb on CBSSports.com this week, looking at Thursday night’s matchup in McKale Center.

Manhandle UCLA? Sounds about right.

The most consistent thing the sixth-ranked Arizona Wildcats have done well through a 16-1 start is rebound. They lead the conference with a rebounding margin of plus-9.4 per game.

“I think this is the first year when we’re actually bigger than them,” said Arizona senior Kevin Parrom of the matchup against UCLA.

UCLA has length, with 6-10 twins Travis and David Wear and 6-9 freshman Kyle Anderson. But the Wear twins are best described as face-up big men, and Anderson is a unique point-forward type of player. Burly freshman center Tony Parker plays only a few minutes per game.

“The one thing that’s a little bit different about them is they usually have that one back-to-the-basket low-post scorer,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.

That one back-to-the-basket player, Joshua Smith, spent too much time belly-up to the buffet line and left the team shortly after the season began.

UCLA is at a minus-3.5 rebounding margin in six conference games. The Bruins lost the battle of the boards 40-31 in a 76-67 home loss to Oregon on Saturday that prevented UCLA from being ranked for its Thursday visit to Tucson.

“They’re an even better rebounding team than Oregon,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said of the Wildcats in his weekly news conference. “That’s a real wake-up call for us.”

Howland lamented that Travis Wear has only six offensive rebounds through six conference games.

“He should have 18, 20 or 25 right now,” Howland said. “That’s a point of emphasis, getting him to go to the glass every time as hard as he can.”

Arizona has given up only 14 second-chance points in the past three games. The Cats have 34 such points in that span.

UA has out-rebounded 14 of 17 opponents. In 10 of those games, Arizona had a double-digit rebounding edge.

Size is nice. The Cats don’t have a singularly elite rebounder in a spread-the-wealth kind of team, but they do have four players averaging at least 5.0 boards per game. The freshman post trio of Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett is averaging 15.3 rebounds in a combined 61.2 minutes per game.

Tarczewski, the true low-post center, had several big-boy rebounds last Saturday at Arizona State against even-bigger Jordan Bachynski. Tarczewski finished with eight in 22 minutes.

“He’s really good,” Howland said. “Very physical. He really is tough. I like that about him.”

A year after having to play 6-7 Jesse Perry at center, there is a lot to like about Arizona on the boards and its potential to bully UCLA on Thursday night.

“I think we’re going to try to feed it into Kaleb and also Brandon, try to use our big guys the best we can,” Parrom said. “Going inside to Kaleb, Brandon and Grant should be very good for us.”

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