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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Left-sided approach for Wazzu basketball

    Opponent
    analysis

    The Pacific 10 Conference dubs itself the “”Conference of Champions”” for the league’s 162 all-time team NCAA national championships – the most in any conference.

    But with the intricate story lines emerging in this year’s men’s basketball season, maybe a more appropriate slogan would be the “”Conference of Future Hollywood Blockbusters.””

    At Oregon State, there’s first-year head coach Craig Robinson, the brother-in-law of President Barack Obama, overhauling a program that went winless in the Pac-10 just last season. The Beavers are 7-8 this season and seventh place in a crowded middle tier of the conference.

    At California, there’s first-year head coach Mike Montgomery, who coached at rival Stanford from 1986 to 2004, and has led the Bears to an unexpected 20-win season so far. Cal enters tonight tied for third place with a 9-5 conference record.

    Here in Tucson, there’s second-choice interim head coach Russ Pennell, who went from ASU’s radio commentator to leading a distraught Wildcats team through distractions and early season disappointments. Arizona enters tonight’s game against Washington State with an 18-9 overall record and just two games behind conference-leading Washington at 8-6.

    But Wazzu head coach Tony Bennett has his own filmmaking ideas.

    “”I joke around about that, that’s my goal to have a 100 percent left-handed team, have a national championship and make a movie about it,”” Bennett said in this week’s teleconference.

    Bennett, who is a lefty himself, heads a team with five southpaws out of 13 scholarship players – including last week’s Pac-10 Player of the Week Taylor Rochestie.

    He even has two incoming recruits who are left handed, defying studies that show only seven to 10 percent of the general population is left handed.

    “”No, I don’t purposely recruit them. We’re losing one so we got to replenish. You can’t ever go below half, that’s my rule,”” Bennett said jokingly.

    But it’s not just the Cougars with lefties.

    Pac-10 Player of the Year favorite James Harden of ASU, along with Freshman of the Year front runner Isaiah Thomas of Washington are both left handed.

    How about the “”Conference of Lefties?””

    “”There are a lot of lefties, and that is a little unusual,”” Montgomery said in the weekly teleconference, “”Lefties are harder to guard, I think, because your natural inclination in any game that you play is to have had experience with right-handers, and favor the right. It takes a little bit of a mental adjustment, but maybe it’s a comeback of the left-handers.””

    Bennett thinks Cougs get bad rap for slow pace

    One word describes Washington State’s style of play best: slow.

    Under Bennett’s reign in Pullman, Wash., the Cougars have been known to play a grind-it-out offense, patiently running down the shot clock in their half-court set.

    That was the case in Tucson earlier this season. In the first meeting between UA and WSU, the Cougars went into halftime with a 28-23 lead after controlling the slow pace.

    Arizona broke through with a signature second-half surge, backed by aggressive trapping and an up-tempo offense to secure the 66-56 win. The Wildcats proved that increasing the pace makes the Cougars uncomfortable.

    But that’s not always necessarily the case with Wazzu’s offense, as seen in its upset over UCLA last weekend – only the second time the Cougars have won in Pauley Pavilion.

    WSU scored an uncharacteristic 82 points in the win over the Bruins – more than 20 points more than the Cougars average per game (59.3, last in the Pac-10).

    “”If you’re open after a pass or two, you shoot it,”” Bennett said. “”Our goal in our offense is to take quality shots. We don’t purposely try to run the shot clock down. There’s certain time you have to be patient and grind a possession out.

    “”As long as it’s a good shot,”” Bennett added, “”the goal of our offense is to get good quality works.””

    Added UA point guard Nic Wise: “”Their style of play can slow down anybody. When they’re on their game, they can pretty much beat everybody with their tempo.””

    Rochestie unstoppable as of late

    Coaches and players love using the cliché about wins being a team effort, but WSU’s upset over UCLA can easily be attributed to the stellar play of Rochestie.

    The senior earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors for his performances against the L.A. schools, playing in all but one minute (79) and essentially taking over Saturday’s game to beat the Bruins by one point.

    Rochestie averaged 24.5 points, five rebounds and four assists over the two games highlighted by a career-high 33 points against UCLA (21 in the second half) where he shot 71.4 percent from beyond the arc, hit 5-of-7 from the floor and went a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line.

    B-Roy’s Breakdown

    Backcourt

    Two weeks ago, it was Nic Wise who broke out against the L.A. schools, earning himself Pac-10 Player of the Week honors. Last week, WSU’s Taylor Rochestie did the same thing, earning himself the same honors. In a ‘what have you done for me lately’ society, it’s Rochestie with the hotter hand.

    Advantage: Washington State

    Frontcourt

    The marquee matchup in the paint comes Saturday between Jordan Hill and Jon Brockman. So either Hill overlooks Thursday and gets in early foul trouble, or Hill takes care of the Cougars front court with ease in a gradual progression for Saturday. I’ll go with the latter prediction.

    Advantage: Arizona

    Bench

    It was refreshing for Wildcat fans to see Jamelle Horne snap his Feburary funk with a huge 3-pointer against ASU, erasing the 17-point deficit to put Arizona in contention to win the game late in the second half. Obviously the end result was a loss, but if Horne can restore his early-season shot, that’s certainly a huge advantage to the Wildcats’ bench.

    Advantage: Arizona

    Intangibles

    Somehow, the Cougars actually play better on the road than in Pullman. With a 2-5 record at home and 4-4 on the road in Pac-10 play, Wazzu puts up statistics that makes the road-struggling Wildcats envious for a .500 mark.

    Advantage: Washington State

    Final: Washington State 70-64

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