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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Injuries, foul trouble doom Wildcats at No. 2 Tigers”

    Memphis guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, right, fights for a rebound with UA forward Chase Budinger (34) and guard Daniel Dillon, left, in the first half of the No. 2 Tigers 76-63 win over the No. 17 Wildcats Saturday in Memphis, Tenn. Budinger scored a game-high 20, but the Tigers were out of reach with Arizona missing two starters due to injury and a third in first-half foul trouble.
    Memphis guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, right, fights for a rebound with UA forward Chase Budinger (34) and guard Daniel Dillon, left, in the first half of the No. 2 Tigers’ 76-63 win over the No. 17 Wildcats Saturday in Memphis, Tenn. Budinger scored a game-high 20, but the Tigers were out of reach with Arizona missing two starters due to injury and a third in first-half foul trouble.

    No. 2 Memphis 76, No. 17 Arizona 63

    Before Saturday’s showdown at No. 2 Memphis, the No. 17 Arizona men’s basketball team had enjoyed a clean bill of health, save for reserve forward Fendi Onobun’s trouble with shin splints.

    Then the injury bug hit all at once, knocking out a pair of starters in guard Jerryd Bayless (sprained right knee) and forward Bret Brielmaier (separated shoulder) for Saturday’s contest.

    Once forward Jordan Hill picked up a pair of fouls in the first 2:30, the Wildcats (9-3) played the rest of the half with three starters on the bench, a recipe for disaster in Arizona’s 76-63 loss to the Tigers (11-0), which snapped the team’s six-game winning streak.

    “”Tonight shows how much Jerryd, Bret and Jordan mean to us,”” said UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill. “”We naturally miss Jerryd very much. We miss Bret almost as much because of his work on the offensive boards, and having Jordan out for 18 minutes in the first half just sowed it up for us and killed us.””

    For just the second time all season, the Wildcats pounced on an opponent early, opening up a 14-6 lead about six minutes into the half.

    Then the offense went stone cold, leading to a 25-4 Memphis run that decided the game.

    During that porous 12-minute stretch, Arizona missed 11 shots in a row and committed nine turnovers, including five in a row at one point without putting up a shot. During the slump, forward Chase Budinger took just two shots and guard Jawann McClellan did not shoot at all, while guard Nic Wise took four shots and center Kirk Walters three.

    By the time the dust had settled, the Wildcats’ early advantage had been negated and they were forced to play catch up against a team that excels at closing teams out on its home floor.

    “”The wrong guys took the shots,”” O’Neill said. “”We didn’t execute offensively. We didn’t get Chase and Jawann enough shots, and with Jerryd out of the game it really kind of put us in a bind.””

    After recording no stats other than his fouls in the first half, Hill played well upon his return in the second half, scoring 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting while picking up just one more foul.

    O’Neill said he considered bringing Hill back in the first half with two fouls for the first time all season, but instead let Walters, Onobun and forward Jamelle Horne battle down low, making the same decision he did in a similar situation Nov. 25 at then-No. 4 Kansas.

    “”I left Jawann and Chase with two fouls, but Jordan being an inside player and the fact Bret was out I thought it would have left him exposed for a third foul,”” O’Neill said.

    With Brielmaier out, Walters earned his first start since Dec. 2’s win over then-No. 9 Texas A&M after not even playing in Arizona’s past two games and putting up no points, rebounds or blocks in the previous three.

    O’Neill said Walters played “”OK”” in his season-high 25 minutes, scoring more points (four) and blocking more shots (four) than the rest of the season combined.

    But the 6-foot-11 redshirt senior recorded just three rebounds, which helped the Tigers outrebound Arizona, 36-29, for the game.

    “”Anytime you play that team it’s important,”” O’Neill said of rebounding. “”They killed us in the first half on the boards. That’s their game – drive, kick, one-on-one, iso(lation), rebound.””

    Memphis also held Arizona to 27.6 percent shooting (8-for-29) in the first half, but that changed dramatically in the second half when the Wildcats hit 17 of 25 shots (68.0 percent).

    The hot second half did not matter when the Tigers hit on their last eight attempts and scored on their final nine possessions after shooting just 39.6 percent (21-for-53) up to that point.

    Budinger scored 13 of his game-high 20 in that half, combining with Hill to score more points than the Wildcats did as a team in the first half, proving O’Neill’s point that the wrong players took the shots during the first-half drought.

    The 13-point loss marked Arizona’s first defeat of more than four points, although it doubled as the Wildcats’ first game without a pair of starters.

    Despite the circumstances, O’Neill said he’s not encouraged with how his team played because he never feels that way after a loss, instead choosing to look ahead to the start of Pacific 10 Conference play Thursday against Oregon State in McKale Center.

    “”We didn’t execute very well,”” said O’Neill, summing up the night’s biggest problem. “”That killed us when Jordan got two fouls during the first half. I think we fought hard, but fighting hard and winning are two different things.””

    And 1

    O’Neill said Bayless would be reevaluated, so there’s no current timetable for his return. Sprained medial collateral ligaments typically keep basketball players out about two to four weeks. …

    The loss dropped Arizona to No. 2 in the RPI, with Memphis flip-flopping into the No. 1 spot. However, the Wildcats moved up a spot to No. 1 in strength of schedule, the main reason why they’re the only team in the RPI’s top 10 with more than one loss. …

    Even with a pair of usual starters injured, O’Neill still rode his starting five hard. Wise played just under 40 minutes, a career high, while Budinger played 38 minutes and McClellan 37.

    Bench players combined for 38 minutes, and that’s with Hill sitting most of the first half with foul trouble. …

    Arizona missed two starters due to injury for the first time in nearly eight years, since forward Richard Jefferson (foot) and center Loren Woods (back) missed a second-round NCAA Tournament loss in March of 2000. …

    Wise shot just 3-for-10 and turned the ball over four times but made up for it in part with five assists and four steals, some of them picking Memphis guards Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts, who turned the ball over six times each.

    Wise set or tied career highs in points, rebounds, steals, free throws made, field goals attempted and 3-pointers attempted, as well as minutes. …

    Forward Robert Dozier led the Tigers with 18 points, while Douglas-Roberts chipped in 17. Forward Shawn Taggart provided a big lift off Memphis’ deep bench with 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting to go with seven rebounds.

    For more coverage of the game, check out the Wildcat‘s pregame, halftime and postgame blogs.

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