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December 13, 2013

Wolverines pumped for top-ranked Wildcats

Tomorrow at noon, the No. 1 team in the country is coming to Ann Arbor.

The Wolverines, who have not played since last Saturday's 107-53 win over Houston Baptist, have spent the better part of this week focusing on themselves - and not getting too wrapped up in the hype surrounding Arizona.

"I think we're excited for it," sophomore guard Nik Stauskas said. "As far as our preparation goes, it's the same as any other team. We're not trying to get too excited or hyped up for this one. We're trying to approach it like any other game and just have a good game plan for it."

Of course, that is easier said than done. Michigan (6-3) knows an upset over the undefeated Wildcats would be a huge boost for the team, especially with Big Ten season right around the corner.

Stauskas has had this game circled since he was in high school with current Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski.

And the fact that Arizona moved up to the No. 1 spot in both major polls this week certainly adds some flavor. The Wolverines have hosted a No. 1 team in a regular-season game since the 2006-07 season, when Ohio State game to Crisler with the No. 1 ranking.

"They're going to get our best shot tomorrow," sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III said. "We want to knock them off. That is something we faced last year, and we understand that.

"It's time for us to turn things around. It's not like we have had a terrible season so far, but we have to continue to get better every day, and it will be another step toward us doing what we want to this season."

This may be the biggest challenge yet for the Michigan offense.

Through their first 10 games, including a 72-66 win over Duke, the Wildcats are holding their opponents to just 58.0 points per game. Arizona is holding teams to 36.4 percent shooting from the field and an eye-popping 27.2 percent from three-point range.

Just three teams have managed to score more than 60 points against the Wildcats thus far: Cal Poly (62 points), Drexel (62) and Duke (66), all Arizona wins.

"I think first of all, to get those three-point shots, we're going to have to attack the rim," Stauskas said. "I know they have a lot of bigs that are good at protecting the rim, but we have to be aggressive and find a lot of drive-and-kickouts for open threes. When we're hitting threes, we're playing well."

The Wildcats have more size than anyone else the Wolverines have played thus far this season.

Tarczewski is 7-0; sophomore forward Brandon Ashley is 6-8, and freshman sensation Aaron Gordon is 6-9, which will pose a big challenge for Robinson.

"Gordon is a great player, athletic, Robinson said. "Something that Coach Jordan always says is that athletic players need space, so we'll try to limit his space a little. It will be another exciting matchup, just like [Duke freshman] Jabari Parker was, another top 10 player. It will be a great matchup."

The Wolverines will try to contend with Arizona's size with 6-10 sophomore Mitch McGary and 6-8 fifth-year senior Jordan Morgan.

"It's going to be a different look," Mogran said. "They might pose some mismatches or advantages inside, but we have some advantage with our speed.

"This is a game we need to have. We haven't had any real big wings this nonconference season, with the exception of Florida State. It's important for us to get some of those key wins under our belt."

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