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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Small in size, big in energy”

    Listed at 5-foot-10 – and that’s being generous – Nic Wise stands as the shortest Wildcat by five inches.

    But lately he’s been making one of the biggest impacts for the No. 19 Arizona men’s basketball team, especially when it comes to affecting the tempo of the game.

    Wise was at it once again for Arizona during Saturday’s 74-58 win over San Diego State in McKale Center, scoring a career-high 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting and dishing out a team-high four assists in 25 minutes off the pine.

    “”It’s been my job pretty much all season to spark, uplift the team when we’re not doing well, and even when we are doing well to push us to do better and go harder,”” Wise said. “”I like being the sparkplug off the bench. Every good team has to have good players off the bench, and I’m glad for that to be my job.””

    In the first half he kept the UA engine running soon after he entered the game by making sweet dishes to forwards Jordan Hill and Jamelle Horne on consecutive plays for easy hoops in the lane.

    Then in the second half he broke out his shooting stroke, scoring all of 12 points while playing the full 20 minutes. During one sequence he nailed 3s on back-to-back possessions to keep the Wildcats’ lead at a healthy margin.

    “”He’s done a real good job,”” said guard Jawann McClellan. “”He’s a sparkplug off the bench, he’s our floor general, and he makes us go. And he frees up (forward) Chase (Budinger) and (guard) Jerryd (Bayless) to get more shots.””

    Wise has keyed Arizona’s six-game winning streak, going for nine points and seven assists Wednesday at Nevada-Las Vegas, 11 points and eight assists Dec. 8 against Illinois and eight points and three assists Dec. 2 versus then-No. 9 Texas A&M.

    Wise said he’s been feeling more comfortable lately after going in for meetings with interim head coach Kevin O’Neill in his office, time that has shown him the coach is gaining confidence in him.

    “”It’s all K.O.,”” Wise said of the reason for his improvement. “”He’s given me more and more confidence, more and more freedom to play my game, so that’s all that I can ask for as the point guard, to be able to run the show. I’d give it all up to him.””

    O’Neill said he likes to joke with Wise that he’s the only player who can keep both teams in the game sometimes due to the point guard’s hectic style that creates openings for his teammates but also leads to turnovers.

    Wise led Arizona in turnovers Saturday with three and turned it over four times against the Runnin’ Rebels, a few times when he went too far in trying to create something for his teammates.

    “”Nic tries to always do the right thing, and occasionally again because of inexperience – he didn’t play much last year – he gets himself in spots where it’s impossible to make the right play although he’s trying to,”” O’Neill said, “”but the guy has the ability to give you energy, on the dribble, on the pass, on the shot, and he’s a young guy who’s growing into his role and growing into his playing time, and the more he gets the more he’ll develop.””

    As the team’s unquestioned energy guy off the bench, that role has worked against him in terms of earning a starting spot.

    O’Neill said any team needs energy off the bench, which he added Wise is great at providing and for now is keeping him in the sixth man role.

    “”If there comes a time where I think Nic’s the right guy to have as our fifth starter, I’ll put him in there,”” O’Neill said. “”… And nobody has a better argument for starting than Nic Wise, he really does. He’s got an argument for it, but I have an argument for bringing him off the bench right now, and if there comes a time when he should start I’ll start him.””

    Wise said he does not care about starting so long as the team is winning, which is exactly what the Wildcats have done since his role off the bench has grown.

    “”He’s been huge for us this year,”” Budinger said. “”He’s really come in off the bench and done a heck of a job for us and really is controlling the offense, controlling the tempo and really stepping up and making those big shots.””

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