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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Balanced Cougs to test UA

    UA guard Jerryd Bayless defends WSU guard Derrick Low during Arizonas 76-64 win over the Cougars Jan. 24 in McKale Center. In the rematch Saturday at 8 p.m. in Pullman, Wash., Low will likely get more help from his balanced team than Bayless will from his squad.
    UA guard Jerryd Bayless defends WSU guard Derrick Low during Arizona’s 76-64 win over the Cougars Jan. 24 in McKale Center. In the rematch Saturday at 8 p.m. in Pullman, Wash., Low will likely get more help from his balanced team than Bayless will from his squad.

    Arizona at No. 17 Washington State

    When the Wildcats play at No. 17 Washington State tomorrow at 8 p.m., they won’t be forced to play two-on-five.

    But it just may feel like that.

    While UA guard Jerryd Bayless and forward Chase Budinger have carried the load in guard Nic Wise’s absence – scoring 66.9 percent of the team’s points – the Cougars (21-5, 9-5 Pacific 10 Conference) boast four players averaging double figures and two more above 6.6 points per game.

    “”Any one of us can be the leading scorer,”” said WSU guard Derrick Low. “”It’s a lot easier instead of relying on one guy to score 30. I see that in Arizona. Bayless is putting up 30 for the past three games (entering last night); we on the other hand put up more balanced scoring to take the pressure off one guy.””

    Seven different players have led or tied for the scoring lead for the Cougars this season. Meanwhile, either Bayless or Budinger have been the high scorer for Arizona (16-10, 6-7) in all but five games this season, with forward Jordan Hill leading the squad in those contests, and Bayless has been the high scorer in eight of the last nine.

    “”I think we both know that us two really need to produce on the offensive end for us to have a good chance of winning,”” Budinger said of himself and Bayless. “”We know that we really have to try to be aggressive out there and do as much as we can on getting to the basket and try to score because we’re the main two scorers on the team, so we really need to step our game up.””

    Bayless will have a tough time doing so against WSU guard Kyle Weaver, who made the All-Pac-10 team last year and is known as arguably the league’s top perimeter defender.

    Weaver said making Bayless work for everything will be the key, which means picking him up full court, face guarding him on the inbounds and making him take contested shots.

    “”Anytime me personally I wouldn’t want to be that guy you’re talking about that he scored 30 on,”” said Weaver, who helped hold him to 23 earlier in the year. “”I take that as a challenge to me personally, and as a team my teammates count on me to meet those challenges. It’s just something I’m willing to do.””

    In the teams’ first meeting Jan. 24, Bayless also played well defensively by shutting down Low, the Cougars’ leading scorer at 13.9 points per game, holding him to five points in garbage time on 2-for-9 shooting.

    But Low said Bayless didn’t do anything special, saying he just missed shots in what was an off-night.

    Although Low having a poor game does not affect the Cougars like Bayless having a bad game would the Wildcats, Washington State is 0-3 in league play when he does not score in double figures.

    “”He’s vital,”” Weaver said. “”If he’s going and he’s in a groove, he’s a factor out there definitely. He’s like the head of our body. He gets us going. We’re going to need him to be consistent the rest of the stretch.””

    Lately the whole team has been going, as the Cougars have run off a four-game winning streak that followed a three-game home losing streak.

    But WSU head coach Tony Bennett doesn’t see things as being that different.

    During the Cougars’ losing streak they lost down-to-the-wire contests against California and No. 9 Stanford as well as an eight-point decision to No. 6 UCLA. A couple possessions here and there could have been the difference between 0-3 and at least 2-1.

    “”That’s why I didn’t lose heart when we were struggling, I knew we were close,””

    Bennett said. “”I think we’ve made little improvements here and there, but it’s just how close this league is, and if you’re just off in one area whether you’re at home or on the road it won’t be good enough against most teams in this league.””

    That poor stretch basically started in Tucson, where Arizona’s 12-point win marks

    Washington State’s worst loss since 2005, preceding the losing streak with a one-point win at ASU sandwiched in between.

    The Wildcats went off from behind the arc in that contest, hitting 12 of 21 3-pointers and leading by as much as 19 in the rout. True to form Bayless and Budinger combined for 45, prompting Low to say both players must be guarded much better in the rematch.

    “”They kind of sliced us up, and they got shots from the perimeter, got to the rim, and we had a hard time handling them,”” Bennett said. “”I thought they played very well, and we didn’t do the job, so it’s a great challenge.””


    BREAKDOWN

    Tale of the tape: Arizona at No. 17 Washington State

    Guards

    Kyle Weaver will likely slow Jerryd Bayless down a little bit, and the Cougars have more depth at this position with Nic Wise out for Arizona.

    Advantage: Washington State

    Forwards/Center

    Jordan Hill struggled to stop Aron Baynes in the first meeting, and he has help from Robbie Cowgill on Hill at the other end.

    Advantage: Washington State

    Intangibles

    Home-court disadvantage? The Cougs lost three in a row at Friel Court earlier in conference play. Plus, the Wildcats come in with the confidence stemming from their 14-point blowout in Tucson, Washington State’s worst loss since 2005.

    Advantage: Arizona

    Prediction

    This one should be another dandy, but it’s basically 2-on-5 with Bayless and Chase Budinger against a deep, experienced and talented WSU squad. Arizona will keep it close but fall just short.

    Washington State 63, Arizona 58

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