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Five keys to Colorado upsetting No. 8 Arizona

After breaking Utah’s perfect home record on Thursday, the Arizona Wildcats head to Boulder on Saturday hoping to spoil the Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team’s 13-0 start at home.

While the Wildcats (18-5, 9-3 Pac-12) were battling the Utes in a triple-overtime affair, the Buffs (16-7, 7-5) handily beat Arizona State thanks to a hot start. The win broke a two-game losing streak and boosted the confidence of the Buffs, although head coach Tad Boyle made it clear that their undefeated record at the CU Events Center this season means nothing.

Arizona, the eighth-ranked team in the latest USA TODAY Sports coaches poll, beat the Buffs by 47 points in their previous matchup on Jan. 4. The Wildcats are also on a four-game winning streak.

Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. MT on ESPN.

Here are five keys to Colorado upsetting the No. 8 Arizona Wildcats:

Bring the defensive energy

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado has struggled to find consistency all year, specifically on the defensive end of the court. With Arizona pushing 100 points in the two teams’ first meeting and atop the conference in most offensive categories, slowing down the Wildcats’ offense needs to be the Buffs’ main focus. Sure, the offense needs to come along, but CU won’t get anywhere if it can’t stop Arizona’s juggernaut offense.

Outhustle the 'Cats

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona loves to play with energy, leads the conference in rebounding and is forcing 12.6 turnovers per game. For the Buffs to knock off the Wildcats, they’ll have to beat them at their own game. In three of Arizona’s five losses, the opposing team reeled in 31-plus rebounds and turned the ball over 12 or fewer times.

This plan isn’t exactly foolproof as the Wildcats are still 3-3 when it happens. However, winning the hustle game is never a bad thing, especially because Arizona may still be tired from its triple-overtime bout.

Unleash Cody Williams

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

While the outcome of their meeting in Tuscon probably wouldn’t have differed too much if standout freshman Cody Williams had played, his return for this second matchup will be crucial. Defensive matchups will be much more favorable with Williams presumably guarding Caleb Love (16 points vs. CU in January), allowing KJ Simpson to guard Kylan Boswell, who scored 14 against the Buffs in Tucson, instead of Julian Hammond III.

Offensively, Williams should be able to drive the ball and open up CU’s offense.

Limit turnovers

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

This is a familiar key, but after committing 18 turnovers last game against Arizona, the Buffs must improve in that area. In their last meeting, the Wildcats scored 25 points in transition as they turned empty CU possessions into momentum-boosting dunks, energizing and-ones and fast-break layups. Colorado must take care of the ball, which could mean slowing down the pace, in hopes of limiting live ball turnovers.

Feed off the energy

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

There are few places better than Boulder on a Saturday night. Throw a basketball game against a top-10 team in the mix and 11,000 fans will pack the CUEC. With the Buffs likely garnering a big crowd, they’ll need to thrive off the large audience to keep their undefeated start at home alive.

Fortunately for the Buffs, they have Eddie Lampkin Jr. and his endless energy on the team. But any bit of yelling, celebrating, diving on the floor or anything else that can get the crowd on its feet will go a long way.

Story originally appeared on Buffaloes Wire