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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Bubbles may burst in Eugene

    Arizona at Oregon

    When the Arizona men’s basketball team plays at Oregon tomorrow night at 8:30, neither team will lack in motivation.

    Both squads enter the game having struggled more than they may have expected, with both teams ranked in the top 25 earlier in the year, compiling identical 8-9 Pacific 10 Conference marks that tie them for fifth in the league with ASU.

    Their overall records nearly mirror each other as well, with Arizona at 18-12 and Oregon at 17-12.

    The teams differ in that the Wildcats’ No. 1 strength of schedule and No. 24 RPI entering yesterday likely makes this a game that would guarantee them a berth in the NCAA Tournament, something that’s still possible with a loss. Meanwhile, Oregon’s No. 58 RPI likely makes this contest a must-win for them.

    “”It’s a huge ballgame for (Arizona) also, because they need to make a statement,”” said Oregon head coach Ernie Kent. “”It’s a big ballgame for both of us. We need to keep the emotion in check.””

    If that weren’t enough to play for, seniors Malik Hairston, Maarty Leunen and Bryce Taylor will play their final game at raucous McArthur Court on their Senior Day.

    That trio along with sophomore Tajuan Porter provide matchup problems all over the court, as the quartet averages over 13 points per game, making it no surprise the Ducks lead the conference in scoring at 77.0 points per game.

    Hairston, who tied a career high with 29 points Jan. 5 in Tucson, leads the Ducks averaging 16.1 points per game, but Arizona’s biggest matchup problem could come from forward Maarty Leunen.

    Leunen ranks second on the team in scoring at 15.5 per game to go along with a team-high 9.1 boards per contest, fourth in the league, and scored a career-high 32 points Sunday against Oregon State while hitting 7 of 8 3-pointers.

    “”He’s one of the hardest players in the league to guard,”” said UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill. “”He has size, good mobility, excellent shooter, very intelligent player. He presents us some real problems.””

    Leunen scored 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting in the first meeting, but more importantly drew a foul on Hill running out to defend him on the perimeter that led the UA forward to pick up two fouls in the first eight minutes and sit for the rest of the half.

    The Ducks reeled off a 25-6 run during one point of Hill’s stay on the bench and overall turned a two-point lead into an 11-point advantage.

    Hill compared Leunen to a small forward due to his ability shoot the 3, go inside and drive left or right.

    “”With Maarty Leunen, a big guy like him and the things he can do it’s going to be a big matchup for me because I’m not used to guarding perimeter players,”” Hill said, “”and that’s what his game is like, so it’s going to be a big matchup. I’ve just got to stay down, keep my hands up, just stay with him.””

    Going up against a fast-paced UO offense that scores points in bunches – the Ducks lead the Pac-10 in 3s (252) and 3-point percentage (39.7 percent) entering the week – the Wildcats could need forward Chase Budinger to continue to torch Oregon as he has during the past two meetings.

    He scored 30 on 12-for-21 shooting last year in McArthur Court and then went for 30 again on nearly identically 12-for-22 shooting earlier this year in McKale Center.

    The sophomore forward had lots of opportunities to shoot with UA guard Jerryd Bayless injured in the previous contest and stepped up with one of his best games of the year.

    Budinger said the success has come because the Ducks trail his pindown screens and don’t do any switching, in sharp contrast to the defense then-No. 4 UCLA threw at him Sunday that doubled him off his pindowns.

    “”They don’t do any switching, and that allows me to come off the screens, go one-on-one, get in transition and kind of play my game out there,”” Budinger said, “”so hopefully I can just continue having success against them.””

    If Budinger does just that and Arizona prevails the team will be guaranteed of finishing no lower than sixth in the conference, which would prevent them from having to play in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament next week. A loss, meanwhile, would put them in the play-in round Wednesday, something the Wildcats haven’t done since the tournament started.

    If they can keep that up against an Oregon squad as desperate as themselves, Selection Sunday won’t be as nerve racking as it was thought to be a week ago.

    “”We’ve actually played pretty good basketball of late,”” O’Neill said. “”We didn’t play well in the first half of the USC game but we played well at Washington State, we played well against UCLA, we played well (last night).

    “”Hopefully we just play well again on Saturday.””

    – Lance Madden contributed reporting

    Tale of the Tape:
    Arizona at Oregon


    Now that Jerryd Bayless has Nic Wise back to help him out, the Wildcats will be able to combat Oregon’s firepower from deep.
    Advantage: Arizona


    Malik Hairston and Chase Budinger always play well when these teams get together, but this game could come down to how well Jordan Hill can defend the inside-outside threat of Maarty Leunen, who’s coming off a career-high 32 points on 7-for-8 3-point shooting.
    Advantage: Oregon


    The Ducks must win this game to have a shot at an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats would probably wrap up a bid with a win, but playing in McArthur Court is never fun.
    Advantage: Oregon


    The Ducks ran off to a 19-point early lead before holding on for a win in Tucson, but that was the Wildcats without Bayless. Finally back at full strength the Wildcats will show what they can do when healthy, but it certainly won’t be easy.
    Arizona 87, Oregon 85 OT

    – compiled by Michael Schwartz

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