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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Jimmy V Classic special for Cats

    No. 14 Arizona vs. Louisville

    The image is memorable: Jim Valvano racing around the court, jumping for joy as he looks for someone to hug following North Carolina State’s 1983 long-shot national title.

    This image is also memorable: Valvano leaning on the podium 10 years later as he gives his famous “”don’t give up”” speech less than a few months before his death from terminal cancer.

    That day, Valvano helped create the V Foundation, which funds research to find a cure for cancer. Today the 12th annual Jimmy V Classic, which features No. 22 Oklahoma State against No. 21 Syracuse and No. 14 Arizona against Louisville, will be played at Madison Square Garden.

    For Arizona, the tournament carries its own significance.

    UA head coach Lute Olson lost his wife Bobbi to ovarian cancer and has raised millions of dollars to combat the disease through various charitable functions including the CATwalk, a UA walk to raise money for cancer research. Guard Jawann McClellan, who lost his father in the summer of 2005, said he finds hope in Valvano’s speech, which he watches every year.

    “”Those of who us who have been in it for a while know Valvano, saw him win his national title and met him on the road recruiting,”” said UA associate head coach Jim Rosborough. “”He was quite a guy, quite a coach, quite a character and very outgoing. I didn’t know know him well other than just having met him. Lute knows him. The cause is special and in particular we’ve had cancer run through our program, and we’ve all been touched by it, so it’s a situation where we’re glad to be here and help out in any way.””

    Although far from the seriousness of Valvano’s cause, the Wildcats (5-1) did take a page from the “”don’t give up”” speech against Illinois Saturday, overcoming a 16-point deficit to win their fifth straight game.

    “”I thought it was good on our ability to be tough and do a (good) job of handling the situation,”” UA assistant coach Josh Pastner said. “”We were down, they were needing for us to fold, but we hung in there and stayed positive together as a team and mentally toughed it out to get us a victory as a team.””

    In Arizona’s triumph, however, came a few glaring issues the Wildcats may have to face throughout the season. The Wildcats were beaten up inside, getting outrebounded by six, and gave up 35 points to the Illini’s two big men, Warren Carter and Shaun Pruitt.

    “”The whole team played physical with us, and we expected that pretty much,”” said Arizona’s lone big man, Ivan Radenovic. “”We knew that they were going to come out and try to beat us.””

    Against Louisville (2-1) – who started four guards in its last game but has the ability to send 6-foot-11 center David Padgett, 290-pound freshman Derrick Caracter or 250-pound sharp-shooter Juan Palacios into the post – Radenovic and Arizona may need to adjust like they did in the second half against Illinois.

    Although the Wildcats have played more zone this year than in years past, it was their man-to-man defense that saved them Saturday. Forward Marcus Williams matched up with the bigger Pruitt in that contest, while Radenovic defended the more perimeter-oriented Carter.

    “”The thing I liked the best is we had to play our man defense exclusively,”” Rosborough said. “”We didn’t do anything else, and we competed in that and probably played our man as well as we have all year.

    “”You never know. (Tonight) we may come out and play a lot of zone, but that was one of those games where if we hadn’t had a decent man defense we were in trouble because they went up the zone pretty well.””

    Rosborough said he’s not especially worried about facing bigger teams because the Wildcats won’t see very many of them on their schedule.

    “”You look at UCLA and some of the teams in our league, they’re not really playing two big horses like that,”” he said.

    Maybe more critical to Arizona’s long-term success is the status of the bench.

    The Wildcats used only forward Bret Brielmaier and guard Daniel Dillon off the bench against the Illini, and starting point guard Mustafa Shakur played all 40 minutes. With dates at San Diego State and against Houston and No. 16 Memphis on the horizon, time may not be on the side of the bench in the near future.

    “”We are going to have to develop …some depth,”” Rosborough said. “”I don’t think we felt that either Bret or Daniel hurt us the other day, but I think we have to get them anywhere from 12 to 15 to 17 minutes a game, and then we have to find another guy or two who can come in and give us some minutes.””

    He said the problem is that the since the Wildcats play those three tough nonconference contests before the Pacific 10 Conference season begins Dec. 28 against California, it’s going to be hard to experiment with some of the younger Wildcats.

    “”We’d love to get minutes for (freshman) Jordan (Hill),”” Rosborough said. “”We’d love to get minutes for (sophomore) Fendi (Onobun) and (freshman) Nic (Wise), it’s just we’re in a position where we have to win games, and until there’s a time when we can get them in, it’s just really tough to do so.””

    Against a deep but young and inexperienced Louisville group that loves to run, the Wildcats may need a contribution from the bench to spell Arizona’s starters. When current Louisville coach Rick Pitino sent out 10 guys against Arizona in the national championship game in 1997 for his Kentucky team, the Wildcats countered with eight players playing double-digit minutes.

    This time around Pitino brings a similar style with a completely different cast, but the test of playing a Pitino-coached team remains the same.

    “”It’s been typical of Pitino over the years whether he was at Kentucky or in the pros they’re going to shoot a ton of 3s, they like to penetrate like we do and kick,”” Rosborough said. “”So the look, although the offensive scheme and sets are a little bit different, they’re doing a lot of the things we’re doing.””

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