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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat



    NEW ORLEANS – A season that started with dreams of the Final Four in Atlanta ended like most of the rest in recent history for the Arizona men’s basketball team – with long faces on the bench in the waning minutes and an earlier-than-expected trip home from the NCAA Tournament.

    For the third time in four seasons, the Wildcats failed to advance past the first weekend of the tournament.

    “”It’s real disappointing just because we look around the locker room and see how much talent and potential was in the team,”” UA forward Marcus Williams said. “”We had high expectations coming in, and I kind of feel like we somewhat let the seniors down a little bit.””

    “”Obviously we wish we could have took them to Atlanta,”” he said.

    But New Orleans ended up being as close as the Wildcats got to Georgia. As was the case for much of the season, the more talented Wildcats were flat out outhustled Friday against Purdue, which played in its first Tournament since 2003.

    “”They played with a lot of heart,”” said guard Jawann McClellan. “”They’re not the biggest team, but they’re very physical, and they work for everything they get, and they do the little things well as far as setting screens for each other and rebounding. People look past those fundamentals these days.””

    The Wildcats couldn’t find those fundamentals needed to get past their Tournament’s first step, a Purdue squad that went 16-40 the past two seasons and featured only two scorers who averaged more than 7.5 points per game.

    The Wildcats held the Boilermakers to 38.1 percent shooting, including 32.1 in the second half, and allowed them to hit 29.4 percent of their 3-pointers.

    But Purdue had the recipe for a mild upset by winning the hustle game with 19 offensive rebounds to Arizona’s nine combined with the Wildcats’ carelessness with the ball (17 turnovers to the Boilermakers’ eight) with a couple forced jumped balls and floor burns mixed in.

    “”It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to figure out if you give them 19 more possessions then you’re not going to get it done,”” Olson said.

    Purdue head coach Matt Paintersaid “”The intangibles in the game (Friday) were very important, and I felt like we won that war.””

    Purdue did everything it needed to get the job done, be it forward Carl Landry staking out position in the paint on his way to a game-high 13 rebounds or guard Chris Kramer making a shot from his knees with three seconds left on the shot clock.

    “”We’re a team that just does the little things to win ball games,”” said Landry, whose team managed to record 12 steals. “”We rebound, get loose balls and take charges and do the little things.””

    The Wildcats had their chances. Arizona went on a 6-0 run by quickening the pace to cut the lead to two with 5:44 left and later to three with 4:20 on the clock, but the Wildcats never got over the hump.

    “”It was just a case (where) we didn’t take advantage of the things we had going for us,”” Olson said. “”At that point all the momentum was heading in our direction, we just didn’t take advantage.””

    With the lead at five and Arizona desperately needing a stop a possession later, Landry backed the ball out to reset the play after it had broken down, but all that ended up breaking down was the UA defense, as Landry found Kramer inexplicably all alone for a layup at the three-minute mark.

    A minute later, down seven and with a comeback still possible, the Wildcats decided to foul early, hoping the Boilermakers would miss to give Arizona a chance at victory.

    Purdue guard Keaton Grant obliged, missing two foul shots, but Landry hustled his way to his final of five offensive rebounds to give his squad more free throws, and all the Wildcats had left was a lesson that should have been learned losses ago.

    “”I think what we take away is we have to be more mentally tough,”” said senior guard Mustafa Shakur. “”As our seniors move on, that’s something we have to take forward with us wherever we end up.

    “”We have to be more mentally tough because you can have the most talent, but if you don’t have the toughness and desire it’s not going to amount to what needs to happen.””

    In the end, a look at the hustle board said Purdue wanted this win more.

    “”Playing hard and making hustle plays is our identity,”” said Purdue guard David Teague.

    If it were Arizona’s identity, the Wildcats’ season would not have ended Friday.

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