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Mar 20, 2024 3:51 pm

Arizona confident Caleb Love will shoot his way out of slump

Caleb Love

Caleb Love’s shooting stroke is a bit off-kilter as second-seeded Arizona begins its NCAA Tournament journey.

He made just 7 of 34 shots (20.6 percent) over the Wildcats’ past three games. Not surprisingly, Arizona lost two of them.

Love is hoping to regain his touch on Thursday when the Wildcats (25-8) face Long Beach State (21-14) in a West Region first-round game at Salt Lake City.

The Pac-12 Player of the Year maintains that his confidence hasn’t taken a hit.

“Extremely high,” Love said Wednesday of his belief in himself. “Obviously, I think that this team kind of feeds off my energy and going into these games, I’m definitely going to be a confidence builder. … Just constantly giving (teammates) encouragement and building them up as much as I can.

“I think sometimes we forget that we all need help sometimes. We all might go through a slump or we might be going through something maybe that’s on the court or off the court, so I’ll be constantly giving my teammates confidence, building them up, making them smile throughout this time.”

Love has averaged just 6.3 points during his three-game funk, which includes going 1 of 10 and scoring two points against Southern California and 2 of 11 while having six points against Oregon. The latter outing saw the Wildcats lose to Oregon in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament.

Then again, Love is averaging 18.1 points, which also makes him a candidate to re-emerge in a big way during March Madness.

And that’s what Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd is expecting too.

“Well, you’re a great player and you’re fine,” Lloyd said. “I mean, a player like him that is a scorer, they’ve had this stuff happen to them before in their career, so they know how to respond.

“There’s no guarantee he’s going to play really well tomorrow. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. I think he’s in a good (place). He’s had a good approach all week. Now we need to get to noon tomorrow and get out on the court. He needs just to let it rip.”

Love is in first season with the Wildcats after playing three seasons at North Carolina. Two campaigns ago, Love had outings of 30, 28 and 23 points while helping the Tar Heels reach the national championship game.

But he was just 5-of-24 shooting for 13 points during the 72-69 loss to Kansas in the title contest.

Arizona teammate Keshad Johnson has spent a season with Love, long enough to feel as if it’s a safe bet he will break out soon.

“Everybody knows who Caleb Love is. Everybody’s seen him do it, and we trust him,” Johnson said. “We’ve got the utmost respect for him and everything. We all know what he did in his college career. He’s one of our go-to guys and we got a lot of heavy load behind him.”

–Field Level Media

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