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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Cougars’ low-tempo game may pose problems for Arizona

    ASUs Sylvester Seay swats the ball away from Arizonas Mohamed Tangara during the second half of Arizonas game against Arizona State, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2006 at McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. Arizona beat ASU 68-47. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat)
    Chris Coduto
    ASU’s Sylvester Seay swats the ball away from Arizona’s Mohamed Tangara during the second half of Arizona’s game against Arizona State, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2006 at McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. Arizona beat ASU 68-47. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat)

    Opponent Analysis

    To call Washington State a low-scoring team is a vast understatement.

    The offense is rather anemic, especially in the last three games, in which the Cougars have scored a total of 115 points, for a ripe average of 38.3 points per game, or just three points more than Arizona has averaged in the first halves of its last three games.

    “”Our low scores have not been the result of trying to hold the ball. … We’re working to score, believe it or not, on every pass, every cut, but we don’t seem to have that ability,”” said Washington State head coach Dick Bennett. “”Our efforts won’t change, nor will our game plan.””

    However, the Cougars’ defense can be unforgiving, leading the Pacific 10 Conference in scoring defense, allowing just 56.6 points per game. Their slow-down, run-the-shot-clock philosophy can be described in one word by the fast-paced Arizona Wildcats: frustrating.

    “”It is frustrating because you’re not used to (the style), but you need to make adjustments, and that’s what we’re going to do,”” senior guard Hassan Adams said.

    Bennett, who announced he will retire at the end of the season earlier this week, makes up for the team’s lack of talent with a patient approach that revolves around creating a slow tempo in order to take the opposition out of its game.

    “”It can be frustrating because you have to play defense for a long time, because they wind the clock down so far, you’re really playing defense for the whole shot clock,”” junior center Kirk Walters said. “”And if they get an offensive rebound, they’re gonna do the same thing.””

    In McKale Center last season, the Cougars did just that, running the shot clock down to the end before departed guard Thomas Kelati stuck daggers into the Wildcats with 3-point shots at the shot-clock buzzer.

    Kelati’s 27 points also coincided with the suspension of senior guard Chris Rodgers for one game. Rodgers’ defensive pressure in Pullman this year contributed to the Cougars’ 18 turnovers and a 39 percent field goal percentage during a 70-52 Arizona win.

    “”I’m going to try to disrupt their offense as much as I can for my team and give us a boost,”” Rodgers said.

    Only one player averages double figures for Washington State: sophomore guard Josh Akognon, with 10.9 points per game.

    The Cougars would rather dictate the pace of the game by spreading the scoring and swinging the ball around the perimeter before they begin their offense.

    “”Obviously the biggest challenge is going to be to maintain enough pressure on them so that it will be hard for them to use the clock as much as they will want to coming in,”” said Arizona head coach Lute Olson.

    The Cougars have fallen on hard times of late, losing their last four games and 11 of their last 13. Still, they have shown success against top opponents, beating No. 14 Washington twice and losing to No. 15 UCLA and California by just two points each on the road.

    Part of the losing streak was due to sophomore guard Derrick Low missing eight games because of a broken foot.

    “”With Low back now … it’s obvious it’s not easy to get them to play other than how they want to play,”” Olson said. “”I think that will be a challenge for us to try to get them to play at a speed that we like.””

    With Bennett’s impending retirement, the Cougars have another incentive: to send their coach off as a winner. With no chance for an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament, it’s one more incentive than Washington State had before.

    “”We can’t do anything about how Dick’s team responds to this, but it’s not like it’s a shock to them,”” Olson said. “”I think this has been something that’s been anticipated over the last year. I know that they feel very comfortable with (next season’s head coach) Tony (Bennett), and I’m sure they’ll want to close things out well for coach (Dick) Bennett.””

    Washington State may be on an emotional high, but the Wildcats will try to take advantage by forcing the Cougars to play high-energy basketball. Against a Dick Bennett-coached team, that can prove much more difficult when the game begins.

    “”I think the biggest key when you face a team that’s really patient like that is you have to be very disciplined,”” Rodgers said.

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