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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

Arizona WBB looks to rebound at home against UC San Diego
Jason Dayee, Assistant Sports Editor • December 7, 2023

    ‘We didn’t show up at all’

    Arizona forward Marcus Williams, center, covers his face as fellow forward Chase Budinger looks on during the final seconds of the second half of No. 5 seed Arizonas 69-50 Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinal loss to No. 4 seed Oregon yesterday at Staples Center. The duo combined to shoot 10-of-31 (32.3 percent) for an Arizona squad that shot 35 percent for the game and scored its lowest point total of the season by 11 points.
    Arizona forward Marcus Williams, center, covers his face as fellow forward Chase Budinger looks on during the final seconds of the second half of No. 5 seed Arizona’s 69-50 Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinal loss to No. 4 seed Oregon yesterday at Staples Center. The duo combined to shoot 10-of-31 (32.3 percent) for an Arizona squad that shot 35 percent for the game and scored its lowest point total of the season by 11 points.

    LOS ANGELES – Lute Olson’s disdain for the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament may have increased after seeing Arizona’s performance yesterday afternoon at Staples Center.

    But at least he won’t have to endure the next two days.

    Instead his team will be watching the rest of the tournament from home following the worst Pac-10 Tournament loss in Arizona history and the lowest-scoring output in 425 games as the No. 5-seeded Wildcats (20-10) fell 69-50 to No. 16 Oregon (24-7), the No. 4 seed, in the quarterfinals.

    “”We always felt that the Arizona that played last week is going to show up,”” said forward Ivan Radenovic, who followed a 37-point effort against Stanford Saturday with six points yesterday. “”We played like that first 12 games, we played like that last week, and today we didn’t show up at all. We’re either one of those, bad team or a good team.””

    Arizona was literally a bad team from the opening, when forward Jordan Hill tipped the ball to Radenovic, who put a hand on the ball but couldn’t corral it, and the ball ricocheted off guard Mustafa Shakur before going out of bounds.

    The Wildcats, who shot 35 percent and 18.8 percent on 3-point field goals, stumbled downhill like they were in a Malibu landslide.

    “”Coach is right, however the beginning of the game starts, that’s usually how the game is gonna go,”” guard Jawann McClellan said.

    Less than two minutes later, Oregon kept the ball in the Arizona zone with four straight offensive rebounds after a Maarty Leunen miss and eventually finished with a jump shot by guard Tajuan Porter.

    “”That says a lot about just being tough,”” said forward Chase Budinger, who scored all of 10 points in the first half.

    “”They came out, they wanted it more,”” he added. “”(They were) tougher than us, they were going after rebounds (at the) offensive and defensive end, and we didn’t do that. We were soft tonight.””

    UO guard Aaron Brooks and Shakur didn’t guard each other, but the battle of the senior point guards had an undisputed champion.

    Brooks took over early, making up for the dud of a performance Feb. 10 against the Wildcats in Eugene, Ore., when he shot 2-of-14 from the field. This time he scored 11 straight Oregon points in a 10-minute span in the first half and ended the half with all 16 points he scored in the game.

    “”Maybe Brooks put a little pressure on,”” Radenovic said. “”When you’re up, when you’re winning, it’s easier. Shooting is kind of contagious. Everybody is making shots and then when you’re losing, you start missing shots.””

    The 6-foot Brooks even skied to block a layup attempt by the 6-foot-10 Radenovic. A flustered Radenovic, who didn’t score in the first half, got the ball back and missed another layup before Oregon rebounded.

    When Brooks quieted down, his even shorter side kick, 5-foot-6 Tajuan Porter kicked into gear, crossing over forward Jordan Hill and making a jumper and blasting by the Arizona defense for a layup to give Oregon a 28-21 lead.

    “”There’s no question who played the hardest, smartest and most competitively,”” Olson said. “”It starts out front with Aaron Brooks, but Tajuan Porter knocked down some shots too.””

    Porter scored a game-high 21 points and made 5-of-6 3-pointers, breaking the Pac-10 freshman record for 3-pointers in a season with the performance.

    Shakur, who didn’t score in the first half either, had two points and shot 0-of-4 on 3-pointers, including three turnovers against three assists.

    He turned the ball over in the first minute and a half, and backup point guard Nic Wise, who came in 4 1/2 minutes into the first half, wasn’t on the floor more than 20 seconds before his first turnover.

    “”We didn’t have that fire,”” Shakur said.

    “”We just made a lot of mistakes early on, turnover on the tip, missed a lot of offensive rebounds, and they just got their confidence off of that,”” he added.

    Behind Brooks, Oregon jumped to a 21-13 lead as Olson mixed and matched his lineup. McClellan, Wise and reserve forward Bret Brielmaier and guard Daniel Dillon all saw time in the first half, and forward Marcus Williams spent some time at point guard with the Wildcats going big. They cut the lead to 24-21, but a 10-0 Oregon run over 3:43 stretched the lead to 13.

    The beginning of the second half wasn’t much better for Arizona. The Wildcats never got within nine after halftime, and after a Hill dunk cut the lead to 40-31, Porter and Luenen knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to extend the lead to 46-31.

    Hill was the lone Wildcat who brought his game from Tucson. He scored 15 points and grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds in 31 minutes.

    Williams was one of the many whose game stayed at home. He shot 6-of-20 and contributed a 1-of-6 effort to Arizona’s 3-of-16 3-point shooting output.

    “”It wasn’t even about the shots being made, and we weren’t making shots,”” McClellan said. “”They just seemed like they wanted it more.””

    Olson as heated as ever at Pac-10

    LOS ANGELES – UA head coach Lute Olson couldn’t hold back from ranting about the Pacific 10 All-Conference team. Asked about what he said to Oregon’s Maarty Leunen after the game, Olson spent four minutes rehashing his argument for a 10th player on the Pac-10 team.

    “”I told him he’s had a great year, an all-conference year, and I think it’s an embarrassment to our league,”” Olson said.

    But he was far from done.

    “”I’ve talked with people there, and I’m embarrassed for them that they couldn’t come up with a 10th guy…I don’t care if the 10th guy is added Monday,”” said Olson, referring to Pac-10 league officials. “”If the guy is added he knows he’s the 10th pick.

    “”I think you owe it to the kids that lay out there every day to be honored. I know that they’re gonna be very upset with them, that I express this, I don’t care. They’ve been unfair to one player in the league that should have been all-conference.

    “”They can explain and get on me and do whatever the heck they want to do, but they’re wrong. If you know from a lot of years if somebody is wrong like that they need to know and everyone needs to know they’re wrong.

    “”Does anyone in the room disagree with me?,”” he asked.

    After a pause, Olson offered a unique exchange.

    “”OK, so now I’ll wait for my call and probably I’ll be suspended from the first game of the Pac-10 next year,”” he said. “”That’s fine. If they’ll name the 10th player, I’ll be happy to sit out the first game of next year.””

    L.A. fashion show

    Arizona’s new tighter fitting jerseys drew indifferent reactions in the locker room.

    “”It’s OK, I kind of like it,”” forward Ivan Radenovic said. “”I think it is (easier to shoot). It’s tighter to your body.””

    Said guard Mustafa Shakur: “”They’re fine, they’re cool. They just fit a little bit tighter in the upper area, the bottom more loose.””

    Underneath, the players wore sleeveless shirts with players from Arizona’s past. The shirts were missing two guys though.

    “”Everybody that came through except Luke (Walton) and Andre (Iguodala),”” said guard Nic Wise.

    Season of lows

    Arizona’s point total was its lowest ever in the Pac-10 Tournament, with the next lowest output coming in 1989 when the Wildcats scored 62 in a win.

    The loss marked the third double-digit defeat this season, and the second-worst margin, only to the 28-point loss against North Carolina.

    Arizona’s two home losses to the Tar Heels and Bruins were the two worst of the Olson era.

    – Roman Veytsman

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