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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Tall task looming for ‘Cats

    The Arizona men’s basketball team is at its best going small, with four perimeter players surrounding forward Jordan Hill.

    That will make for an interesting matchup against a Stanford squad that’s known for its size, with 7-foot twin towers Brook and Robin Lopez used in a rotation with 6-foot-8 forward Taj Finger.

    When the teams played each other last year, 6-foot-7 UA forward Marcus Williams sometimes had to guard one of the Lopez twins and vice versa, causing mismatches on both sides of the ball.

    After facing Oregon Sunday, a team Stanford head coach Trent Johnson expects to be quicker and more explosive than any team remaining on his squad’s schedule, Johnson thinks the Cardinal are prepared for any type of lineup, including the Wildcats’ four perimeter-player attack.

    “”This game is predicated off of quickness and explosiveness as far as I’m concerned, but we have some flexibility,”” said Johnson, who did not start Robin Lopez against the Ducks. “”We can play small, we can play big but sometimes when we play small we’re a step slow, sometimes when we play big we’re a step slow, so like any other team in this league we’re going to go into the game trying to do what we do best and then adjust from there if we have to.””

    Stanford will have to adjust to an Arizona team that has won six straight games in the series, with the Wildcats often fielding better athletes than the Cardinal.

    “”Their quickness, their athleticism, their skill set has always caused us problems, and I don’t anticipate that being any different come Thursday,”” Johnson said.

    Although that could be true this time around, the Wildcats will likely have trouble with Stanford’s size.

    Behind the Lopez twins, the Cardinal lead the Pacific 10 Conference in rebounding margin (+10.4 per game) and blocks (4.38 per game).

    Robin leads the conference in blocks individually (2.19 per game) and adds 6.3 boards per game. Brook, an accomplished low-post scorer, has averaged 16.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game after missing the first nine contests due to being academically ineligible.

    “”It’s going to be a big matchup,”” said Hill, who will battle the twins in the post. “”Two 7-footers. Whoo. I’m 6-10. I just have to stay out of foul trouble, stay sound and go at it.””

    Although Johnson joked that his team only lost one game without Brook and lost two with him, a statistic tempered by those losses coming to No. 4 UCLA and at Oregon, he has become the Cardinal’s leading scorer.

    He played his best half offensively Sunday against the Ducks, scoring 20 of his season-high 26 points on 8-of-9 shooting in the first half.

    UA guard Jawann McClellan knows what it’s like to come back from academic ineligibility, going through that as a sophomore before suffering a season-ending wrist injury his second game back.

    “”Well his situation was a little bit different than mine, but of course it makesyou hungrier,”” McClellan said. “”You’re eager to get out there. But once you get in the groove of things after the first two or three games, you’re usually back to normal then. It seems like it didn’t affect him at all.””

    After big freshmen seasons last year, Johnson said the twins have improved their composure, their decision-making out of double teams and their ability to play through adversity on the court, like foul trouble.

    With forward Lawrence Hill – an All-Pac-10 performer last year – and guard Anthony Goods – who provides an outside threat averaging 12.6 points per game – complementing the Lopez twins, UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill knows it won’t be easy for his squad to win a seventh straight game over the Cardinal.

    “”They’ve got a solid team,”” O’Neill said. “”They’re a veteran team.

    “”We definitely have our hands full.””

    Lance Madden contributed to this report

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