- Associated Press - Monday, February 10, 2014

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - The loss of Brandon Ashley to a foot injury sent Arizona scrambling.

The sophomore forward was one of the second-ranked Wildcats’ best and most versatile players, so making up for his contributions was going to put players in new roles and require everyone on the team to do just a little more.

Two games is a small sampling size, but Arizona seems to be doing just fine without Ashley so far.

“We’re not going to be able to replace Brandon,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “We’re going to have to do it as a team and there are things that we have to try to emphasize more now that he’s not a part of what we’re doing and maybe emphasize some things less. We’re working through that as a coaching staff and a team.”

Arizona was a nearly unstoppable force with Ashley in the lineup, setting a school record with 21 straight wins while spending two months at No. 1.

Ashley injured his right foot while going up for a rebound early against California on Feb. 1 and the Wildcats went on to lose that game, along with the No. 1 ranking two days later.

Arizona (23-1, 10-1 Pac-12) had some jittery moments in its first game without Ashley last Thursday against Oregon, playing a bit disoriented offensively without the sophomore forward. The Wildcats managed to pull out the 67-65 victory behind their defense, forcing the Ducks into a big turnover and a difficult tying shot attempt in the final minute.

Arizona looked much more free and easy against Oregon State on Sunday, again playing solid defensively while finding its shooting touch.

The Wildcats shot 50 percent for the first time in six games, dominated the paint 40-12 and shored up a recent concern by Miller and the coaching staff by out-rebounding the Beavers 39-24. Arizona also had a 15-4 advantage on the offensive glass, leading to 13 points in the 76-54 victory at McKale Center.

“I thought the Oregon game was the best thing that could have happened to us because we didn’t have as much confidence as we did tonight,” Miller said after the win over Oregon State. “It feels different to be out there that first time and we fought and we scratched and we made some big plays, and everybody had a different role, it seemed like. It was almost like once we got through that game, had a couple days to talk about it, to me we were a much more confident group tonight.”

One reason Arizona has had success without Ashley has been attitude.

With Ashley, the Wildcats were considered among the front-runners to win a national championship. Once he went down, they were lumped in with the rest of the good teams, their national title hopes supposedly all but done.

But even without Ashley, Arizona still has a talented team and the players took umbrage to the skepticism about their chances, using it to their advantage.

“I don’t think we had any doubts, but I know a lot of people from the outside doubted us,” said point guard T.J. McConnell. “And that motivated us a lot more.”

Losing Ashley has forced Arizona to change things around a bit.

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