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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Early struggles, diversity propel ‘Cats into conference play”

    UA forward Chase Budinger defends OSU guard Josh Tarver during the Wildcats 83-72 win last year in McKale Center. If Arizona hopes to win its 26th straight game against the Beavers in Tucson, Budinger will likely have to carry much of the scoring load with leading scorer Jerryd Bayless injured.
    UA forward Chase Budinger defends OSU guard Josh Tarver during the Wildcats’ 83-72 win last year in McKale Center. If Arizona hopes to win its 26th straight game against the Beavers in Tucson, Budinger will likely have to carry much of the scoring load with leading scorer Jerryd Bayless injured.

    Oregon State at No. 21 Arizona

    The 2007 portion of the current season for the No. 21 Arizona men’s basketball team was anything but ordinary.

    Entering Thursday night’s 6:30 Pacific 10 Conference opener against Oregon State (6-6) in McKale Center on FSNA, the Wildcats (9-3) went through a barrage of adversity through their first dozen games.

    Arizona lost its Hall-of-Fame head coach for the year when Lute Olson took a personal leave of absence and the players had to adjust to the new ways of Kevin O’Neill. The Wildcats also bid farewell to a freshman reserve guard for good when Laval Lucas-Perry transferred to Michigan.

    The injury bug hit many players in the form of shin splints, bruised hips, back spasms, popped bursar sacs, separated shoulders and twisted ankles. Arizona’s star point guard Jerryd Bayless is still sidelined after spraining a medial collateral ligament in his right knee last Friday.

    Slow starts, foul trouble, flubbed plays. You name it and Arizona probably already went through it during nonconference play.

    “”9-3 is shocking to everybody and didn’t nobody know how good we were going to be, especially with this younger team and now with this coaching change and everything else,”” said guard Jawann McClellan. “”I think we’re doing real well.””

    Said forward Jordan Hill: “”It’s not easy, man. But we just have to keep going. We’re trying to get to the NCAA Tournament, and to do that we’ve just go to stay focused, on and off the court.””

    Hill has been another surprise for the Wildcats – but a good surprise at that. As the Wildcats tried to find their identity early on, the 6-foot-10 sophomore emerged as a scoring threat (13.6 points per game) and a vicious rebounder (7.2 boards per game – ninth in the conference).

    But the man that averages over three fouls per game needs to limit his contact when the Beavers come to Tucson, bringing with them an arsenal of towering players to match up with Hill.

    OSU boasts six players 6-foot-8 or taller, with three listed at 6-foot-10 or taller. But numbers alone can’t scare Hill.

    “”It really doesn’t mean nothing to me,”” Hill said of the Beavers’ height. “”I’m not intimidated by no big men. Personally, I think I’m one of the best big men in the country right now.””

    Junior C.J. Giles is one of OSU’s two forward/centers that stands at 6-foot-11. After transferring from Kansas and becoming eligible to play on Dec. 8, Giles has five games with OSU under his belt, averaging 5.8 points and 6.0 boards per game. He posted 13 points and 10 rebounds against Montana State on Sunday.

    “”He’ll get better as time goes by,”” UA interim head coach said of Giles. “”He’s very talented.””

    And there’s the rub – talent. The Pac-10 has lots of it, and Thursday’s contest is only the beginning.

    Even though the Beavers have the worst record of any Pac-10 school, the Wildcats aren’t expecting any easy games from here on out. As O’Neill has said many times, any team can be the victor on any given day.

    “”For fans and media, maybe some games seem bigger than others,”” O’Neill said. “”But to me the biggest game (for us) so far this year is against Oregon State at home on Thursday night.

    “”They’re a team that’s got good pieces, and they’re trying to put them together,”” O’Neill added. “”They play well defensively. They play hard. You got guys that can put up numbers. To me, any team can beat you.””

    UA forward Jamelle Horned brought up Arizona’s Nov. 21 contest against Division II foe Adams State when he was asked if OSU could surprise the Wildcats. In the game, the Colorado school with an enrollment of 2,500 led by as much as five points with nine minutes to go in the first half and trailed by just eight with 9:06 left in the game, giving the Wildcats and their fans a scare.

    “”Any team can catch us off guard,”” Horne said. “”… Oregon State is a Division I team, and we’re preparing for them and want to come out and smash them early, honestly.””

    And 1

    Former UA assistant Jay John is in his sixth year as OSU’s head coach. His team is trying to rebound from a 11-21 finish last season. …

    Individually for the Beavers, guard Seth Tarver (14.5 ppg) and forward Marcel Jones (13.4) lead the team, offensively. …

    Arizona is 46-17 all time against OSU and has won 14 of the last 16 contests.

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