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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Playing for keeps

    No. 7 Arizona vs. No. 2 Stanford

    LOS ANGELES – The third time is supposed to be the charm.

    Whether the cliché holds true for the Arizona men’s basketball team will become evident when it takes on No. 2 seed Stanford tonight at 8:30 in the Staples Center in day two of the Pacific 10 Conference tournament.

    A win over the Cardinal, who are ranked No. 11 nationally and have beaten Arizona twice this season, would better the chances for the No. 7 seed Wildcats’ 24th consecutive NCAA Tournament berth.

    “”This next game is very important,”” said UA forward Chase Budinger. “”If we win this next game we’re pretty much in the NCAA Tournament. That’s how we’re going to approach the game and try to look at it as a mode of desperation for us.””

    Meanwhile Stanford already has a bid to the Big Dance under the tutelage of head coach Trent Johnson, who was recently named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year. But each win in Los Angeles could better its seeding.

    “”They’re still going to come out here and play hard,”” UA guard Jawann McClellan said. “”They’re potentially a Sweet Sixteen to a Final Four team.””

    The Wildcats aren’t at a total disadvantage playing two games in a row, as none of the five starters played more than 29 minutes in last night’s 87-56 blowout win against No. 10 seed Oregon State.

    “”We really have to take it easy tonight and try to go to bed early,”” Budinger said last night after playing 25 minutes. “”But I think it’s (tougher) mentally than it is physically. I think tonight I was able to get limited minutes and that really helped me.””

    Arizona is going up against a Stanford team that suffered an 83-79 overtime loss to USC in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament last year. But as it has been the entire Pac-10 season, anything can happen between any two teams.

    “”We’re going to try to do some new things against them and try to stop their offense,”” Budinger said. “”We’ve got some things planned out.””

    But it’s the Cardinal’s defense that’s so dominant. Sparked by 7-foot twins Robin and Brook Lopez, Stanford allows just 60 points per game (third in the conference) while opponents shoot 39 percent (second).

    “”The Twin Towers – it’s a big matchup for me, for all of us,”” said forward Jordan Hill. “”We just gotta stay focused, stay sound.””

    Arizona had a better outing against Stanford the second time around this season in McKale Center, especially with the play of guard Jerryd Bayless, who scored 31 after only tallying nine the first time out against the Cardinal during his infamous “”Shoegate”” incident at Maples Pavilion.

    And that last outing was without sparkplug Nic Wise to distribute the ball for the Wildcats, so having him back helps the squad.

    “”I think we are going to have to drive and kick the ball,”” said UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill, “”because if you try to take it straight to the basket their bigs make it tough. It is going to take a great effort.””


    Breakdown
    Tale of the Tape:
    No. 7 Arizona vs. No. 2 Stanford

    Guards

    The Cardinal’s Achilles heel remains their guard play. Mitch Johnson has been solid all year and Anthony Goods can stretch a defense, but Stanford let Jerryd Bayless go wherever he wanted on his way to 31 points in the last meeting, and now he has Nic Wise to help him.
    Advantage: Arizona

    Forwards/Center

    Brook Lopez is as polished a big man as there is in the college game, and he gets help inside from twin brother Robin. Jordan Hill picked up five fouls in an eight-minute stretch in the last meeting, which doesn’t bode well for the rematch.
    Advantage: Stanford

    Intangibles

    The Cardinal have lost two in a row – albeit one on a bad call at then-No. 3 UCLA – and are already guaranteed a pretty good seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats, meanwhile, know a win would make Selection Sunday a stress-free day.
    Advantage: Arizona

    Prediction

    It’s tough to beat a team of comparable talent three times in a season, especially when extenuating circumstances could be attached to the first two wins (Shoegate, Whistlegate). So long as Bayless plays in broken-in shoes and the refs don’t go crazy with the foul calls, the Wildcats will get ready to put their dancing shoes on.

    Arizona 65, Stanford 63

    – compiled by Michael Schwartz


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