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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Cats, Bruins set to tangle in semifinals”

    As the Arizona men’s basketball team defeated Stanford yesterday afternoon, it was only a matter of seconds before both teams exited and the No. 1-seeded UCLA Bruins took the floor in Los Angeles.

    The No. 13 Bruins (25-6) went ahead and dominated No. 9-seed Oregon State (13-18) by a score of 79-47 in the quarterfinals, setting up a showdown with the No. 4-seeded Wildcats (19-11) tonight at 7:20 in the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament semifinals televised by FSN.

    It might not be the championship game, but it is a chance for junior guard Mustafa Shakur to continue his brilliant play of late and keep this team afloat without the Wildcats’ top scorer, senior guard Hassan Adams.

    In the two losses against the Bruins this season, Shakur has averaged four points and shot just 14 percent from the field.

    In the first game Arizona played without Adams, Shakur did exactly what a leader is supposed to do, notching 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists in yesterday’s 73-68 victory over the No. 5-seeded Cardinal (15-13).

    “”I think (junior forward) Ivan (Radenovic) and Mustafa are the two guys that really give us good leadership and good presence on the court, so I’m very happy for them,”” Arizona head coach Lute Olson said. “”This will give us a chance to play the Bruins again. (UCLA) has played very well all year long, but I think our guys are excited about that prospect.””

    The stat line for Shakur can’t lie, as Shakur didn’t commit a single turnover but dished six assists. He drew praise from freshman forward Marcus Williams.

    “”It was pretty much a flawless game he played, rebounding, passing, scoring; it was big,”” Williams said. “”Hopefully he steps up like that for the rest of the Pac-10 Tournament.””

    If the Wildcats hope to knock off the top-seeded Bruins, Shakur may have to continue his “”drive it to the basket”” mentality that Olson said has improved since he first got to Arizona.

    “”He is doing much better in terms of penetration for us,”” Olson said. “”The penetration is under control. … He is doing a good job of controlling the ball and using both hands.

    “”He really is a key part of our game.””

    Shakur’s impressive play against Stanford came off a double-double performance in the loss to Washington to close out the regular season, two games that Olson said rank up there with the best games the Philadelphia native has played.

    “”It was certainly one of the best (Shakur has had),”” Olson said. “”He had a double-double against Washington, but he shot the ball for a better percentage (yesterday).””

    Shakur’s play has a major impact on the game, as Arizona is 11-5 when Shakur gets at least five assists in a game. Olson said that at this point, the team can’t afford to have him on the bench.

    “”There is no question about his leadership out there, and we just knew we couldn’t have him out of the game,”” Olson said.

    With the UCLA game looming and with a victory there vaulting the Wildcats into the championship game of the Pac-10 Tournament, Stanford head coach Trent Johnson said that the strong guard play will have to continue.

    “”The bottom line is the guard play, Shakur and (senior guard Chris) Rodgers,”” Johnson said. “”If they bring the same kind of defensive intensity they bring against us they will be fine, and the game tomorrow should be an intriguing one.””

    Because UCLA has won nine of its last 11 games, sophomore walk-on forward Bret Brielmaier, who played 25 minutes and scored six points for the Wildcats against the Cardinal yesterday, said the execution will have to be flawless.

    “”We’re going to have to play well, execute (and) be patient,”” he said. “”That is what is going to beat a great team like that. We can definitely play with anyone in the Pac-10 or in the country, so I think we’re going to come out and show that tomorrow.””

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