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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


‘Cats seek Pac-10 title in SoCal

Will Ferguson / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Arizona mens basketball vs. Washington-2.19.11
Will Ferguson
Will Ferguson / Arizona Daily Wildcat Arizona men’s basketball vs. Washington-2.19.11

It’s a gigantic weekend for No.10 Arizona against two gigantic teams.

As Arizona tries to secure its first Pacific 10 Conference championship since the 2004-05 season, it will have to do it on the road against two teams with two 6-foot-10 players in their regular rotation.

First, the Wildcats will tussle with Southern California’s Alex Stephenson and Nikola Vucevic tonight at the Galen Center.

Arizona will match-up with the 6-foot-10 big-men in Stephenson and Vucevic, with 6-foot-7 Jesse Perry and 6-foot-8 Derrick Williams.

Judging from Arizona’s last outing with the Trojans — an 82-73 win at McKale Center — the Wildcats feel it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

“”We played them already,”” Perry said at a press conference on Tuesday. “”I didn’t really have a hard time with guarding them. A lot guys are really big but it’s really difficult for them to score, because they really don’t have great footwork.””

Perry is highly confident despite being 40 pounds and three inches short to both Trojan men, but the defensive help from his teammates makes it easier for him.

“”If you front a player, it’s hard for them to catch the ball with our help side defense,”” Perry added.

One of the big-men Arizona will have to contain tonight may be one of the most polished front-court players in the Pac-10.

“”I don’t think Vucevic gets nearly enough credit, like a lot of the players we play,”” Sean Miller said. “”He’s a great player, he does it so many ways and he has great hands.””

In the last meeting in McKale Center on Jan. 29, Vucevic led the Trojans with 18 points in the loss and had some controversial comments after the game, telling reporters that he felt his team, “”played like women.””

Despite Vucevic being a skilled big-man, USC’s lineup will present advantages for Arizona as it’s able to use speed to their advantage.

“”On our end, it’s maybe a disadvantage for them,”” Perry said. “”A lot of guys can’t guard me too much, because the guys I’m playing are 6-foot-10 and they’re pretty slow.””

Though USC coach Kevin O’Neill will be left with a slow lineup, as all Arizona followers know the former Wildcat interim coach will play his style no matter what.

“”Using two guys, the size of Alex Stephenson and Vucevic, you can say it’s an advantage,”” said Miller. “”But it can also be a disadvantage. He (O’Neill) really uses those two guys to anchor what they do.””

With O’Neill’s style comes a strong defensive mentality and can turn any game against the Trojans into a defensive game.

“”They’re smart on defense, take a lot of pride in their defense,”” Miller said. “”The results speak for themselves, they’re always going to be tough to score on.””

In the last two games, O’Neill has started Donte Smith in place of Maurice Jones.

Jones had 22 points against California last Thursday, and his improvement on offense has improved the Trojans immensely.

“”They’ve really settled in on offense,”” Miller said. “”They have a number of guys capable of shooting. I think we’re catching USC at a tough time.””

Last time the Wildcats handled the Trojans in McKale Center, but this time they’ll have to do it on the road.

“”I think it’s good for us to go on the road and get a couple wins,”” said Williams. “”To prove to everybody that we can win on the road. Hopefully we can get the sweep.””

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