Arizona Wildcats (Finally) Flex Muscle on the Glass

Ira Lee does work against Colorado.Jacob Snow-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Gimino

Arizona coach Sean Miller has lamented his team's rebounding. Before games. After games. Certainly, to his own team during games. Especially in the five losses.

Effort and effectiveness on the glass was not an issue Saturday in a 75-54 win over visiting No. 20 Colorado that marked the Wildcats' first win over a ranked team in four tries this season.

In what can definitely be described as a "team win," Arizona had a 39-25 edge on the glass, which included 12 grown-man rebounds from Zeke Nnaji, a career-high seven from point guard Nico Mannion and seven boards from backup post player Ira Lee, his best total in more than two months.

"To have a plus-14 advantage on the glass was the difference today," Miller said. "I thought Ira Lee was terrific. Zeke is doing it game in and game out. Contributions from a lot of different players."

In Arizona's five losses, it had a cumulative minus-14 rebounding margin.

On Saturday, the team effort neutralized athletic Colorado wing Tyler Bey, who had just four rebounds. Consider: He grabbed 37 off the glass in his past four games against the Cats.

Lee took advantage of the playing time made available as starting center Chase Jeter sat out this week's wins over Utah and Colorado because of back spasms. Lee played a season-high 26 minutes against the Buffs.

"He just played very, very hard. He finished around the basket, rebounded on both ends," Miller said.

"Ira is one of our most consistent practice players. I think the guys on the team will tell you that. When you're like that, sometimes you can really breakthrough in games. He had a big day."

Miller noted Mannion's six defensive rebounds, and attributed him to the learning process.

"If this was two months ago, he wouldn't have put himself in position," Miller said.

With this week's two victories, Arizona put itself back in position to return to the Top 25 and, more importantly, elbow its way back near the top of what could be a crazy Pac-12 race.

While there was much to like in the past two games -- Dylan Smith's play, Max Hazzard's breakout, Mannion's steady, heady play -- rebounding is at the top of the list.

"With the way our team is, we need everyone to rebound," Miller said, "and part of the reason why we won the glass (Saturday) is we had an overall team effort in that area."

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