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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wildcats to man up

    Freshman forward Jordan Hill deflects a pass from Washington guard Ryan Appleby in Arizonas 84-54 win over the Huskies Saturday in McKale Center. Hill had five blocks in the game and his presence has given Arizona a chance to play more man-to-man defense.
    Freshman forward Jordan Hill deflects a pass from Washington guard Ryan Appleby in Arizona’s 84-54 win over the Huskies Saturday in McKale Center. Hill had five blocks in the game and his presence has given Arizona a chance to play more man-to-man defense.

    The insertion of Jordan Hill into the starting lineup did more than give Arizona a more traditional appearance.

    It allowed the Wildcats to return to their traditional defense, the man-to-man scheme UA head coach Lute Olson has predominantly used against opponents throughout his career.

    As No. 24 Arizona (15-7, 6-5 Pacific 10 Conference) prepares to play Oregon State (9-15, 1-10) tonight at 8:30 in Corvallis, Ore., it might continue to sprinkle in a little zone but will undoubtedly play a lot of man- to-man, with Hill acting as the protective shield behind the defense.

    “”(Hill) makes a huge difference. Anybody going to the basket area now is going to be looking for him,”” Olson said.

    Without a true shot-blocker to wipe out mistakes – Kirk Walters remains out with a concussion and mononucleosis – Arizona has teetered between a 1-3-1 zone and a 2-3 zone for much of the year.

    But in the last two games, the consistent play of Hill (27 minutes per game), has given Olson the chance to play the defense he prefers.

    “”I think it helps us in terms of (it) keeps us moving on the defensive end and helps us to play at that tempo,”” Olson said. “”I think we have better rhythm when we play in man. We’ll be utilizing that as much as we can now.””

    With Bret Brielmaier able to play quality minutes again (20 minutes against Washington) and Jawann McClellan coming off the bench, Olson finally believes he has the depth to play man effectively.

    “”From 1985 on, we’ve been almost exclusively a man-to-man team, we’ve used a zone as a change-up sometimes but usually for a few possessions,”” Olson said.

    “”But to play good, effective man-to-man, you have to have good enough depth that you keep fresh people in there, and I feel very comfortable that we can do that now.””

    McClellan said the defense reminds him of playing on the “”playgrounds, like when you played back home.””

    Though defenders must rely on help in a man or zone defense, McClellan said the mindset is different.

    “”When you’re in a zone, you know you have to guard a guy, but you rely on your other teammates,”” he said. “”Whereas in a man, you rely on your other teammates, but its your job to shut down your guy.””

    Arizona held Washington to 38.7 percent shooting from the field in an 84-54 win over Washington Saturday, and Hill was in large part responsible with a career-high five blocks.

    Olson said Hill has also done a better job of keeping the ball in play, leading to offensive opportunities.

    “”You look at some of the blocks he had on Saturday, they were after somebody had broken loose or got the ball in deep, and it looked like a sure-fire basket, but it ended up being a fast break going in the other direction,”” Olson said.

    For Hill, it’s not all about filling the stat sheet with blocks, either. The biggest boost he provides may be the shots he challenges.

    For the perimeter defenders, that ability not only helps them avoid foul trouble but also has allowed forward Marcus Williams to guard other small forwards.

    “”We’ve been fortunate enough, when people get by us, when we get caught up on the hip, we know we have Jordan coming from that offside instead of just trying to jump and make that foul,”” McClellan said. “”Coach always preaches ‘Don’t foul the driver,’ and now that we have an offside guy, even Jordan is making (senior forward) Ivan (Radenovic) try to block some shots.””

    Series background:

    The last time around against Oregon State, Hill and the rest of Arizona’s bench left much to be desired.

    Hill didn’t score or grab a rebound in five minutes of play, and the Wildcats saw a 21-point second-half lead crumble to single digits before they pulled out an 83-72 win.

    “”That probably gave them confidence that ‘The next time we see these guys, we think we can beat them,'”” McClellan said.

    Arizona has had trouble recently in Corvallis, losing last year and in 2004 and having to come back from a halftime deficit in 2005.

    “”It’s one of the toughest road trips besides Washington,”” McClellan said. “”You have to do a lot of traveling from city to city, bus riding, and it can be tiring on your legs.””

    Arizona leads the all-time series 45-17 and is 17-12 in Corvallis.

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