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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    West Virginia shoots down Arizona’s season

    Arizona guard Jawann McClellan defends West Virginia forward Joe Alexander during the Wildcats 75-65 loss to the Mountaineers Thursday in the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.  McClellan held Alexander to only 14 points, almost three points below his season average.
    Arizona guard Jawann McClellan defends West Virginia forward Joe Alexander during the Wildcats’ 75-65 loss to the Mountaineers Thursday in the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. McClellan held Alexander to only 14 points, almost three points below his season average.

    No. 7 West Virginia 75, No. 10 Arizona 65

    WASHINGTON – The Arizona men’s basketball team knew exactly what West Virginia wanted to do in Thursday’s first round NCAA Tournament game.

    But whether it be from players missing assignments, their lack of depth catching up to them or just not having the personnel to match up, the Wildcats could not stop the Mountaineers’ outside attack in a 75-65 loss that ended this strange year for Arizona, who finished with a mediocre 19-15 record.

    “”We didn’t do a very good job,”” said UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill. “”If you don’t get in somebody’s airspace like (guard Alex) Ruoff he’s going to make shots. If you give guys that shouldn’t get drives to the basket drives to the basket they’re going to make them, so we just didn’t do enough on the defensive end.””

    West Virginia hit 11-of-19 3-pointers (57.9 percent) in the Verizon Center, with Ruoff scoring a team-high 21 off 5-for-7 3-point shooting.

    Although the Mountaineers led most of the game, the Wildcats cut the lead to 60-59 with just under five minutes left after guards Nic Wise and Jerryd Bayless hit consecutive 3-pointers. Then WVU guard Darris Nichols and Ruoff followed with a pair of 3s of their own to stretch the lead back to seven, and Arizona never seriously threatened again.

    “”They knocked down a high percentage out there,”” said UA forward Chase Budinger. “”Every big shot they took down the stretch was a 3, and every one of those were daggers, which really killed us.””

    Added O’Neill: “”Then it gets tough after that.””

    Arizona’s coach said the Wildcats “”had a few guys who didn’t do their job”” on the defensive end, and he could have been talking about Budinger. WVU forward Da’Sean Butler scored nine in a five-minute stretch of the first half with Budinger his primary defender, and Ruoff later hit a few 3s with Budinger on him.

    But the UA forward kept his team in the game on the other end, scoring a team-high 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting on a night he did not get much help, as the Wildcats ran into a series of issues that have affected them all season.

    Bayless did not step up, as Ruoff and Co. often faceguarded him and denied him the ball, forcing him into an 11-point, 4-for-10 performance. Bayless has been hounded by defenders since his run of three straight 30-point games, scoring 16.4 points per game during that stretch.

    “”They wouldn’t let me catch the ball,”” Bayless said. “”I got one open look, the 3-pointer in the second half. They did a great job on me. Wherever I went and wherever I dribbled too there’s another guy running at me. They’re a great defensive team, and they did really well on me.””

    Added O’Neill: “”That’s how everybody’s playing him. That’s how everybody’s played him for a long time. They took Jerryd out of the game and they did a decent job on Chase, and we just didn’t have enough from other spots to get it done.””

    The Wildcats got plenty of production for UA forward Jordan Hill, but he can’t do anything when he’s on the bench.

    Against the Mountaineers’ small front line Hill scored 16 points and grabbed 12 boards (10 in the first half), his first double-double in eight games, and he did not pick up any fouls in the first half. But much like in the Feb. 16 game against Stanford, Hill recorded three fouls in the second half’s first four minutes (two offensive) and a fourth at the 9:47 mark, causing him to sit for seven crucial minutes in the half.

    “”Obviously we felt pretty good when he didn’t have any at halftime,”” O’Neill said. “”Then it’s tough for us to play without him on the inside.””

    Earlier in that first half the Wildcats suffered a scare that must have reminded them of one of the low points of the season when Wise hit the deck making a back cut and rolled his ankle. Wise missed just two minutes for an injury that ended up not being anything like the torn meniscus that caused him to miss seven games and alter the team’s season for the worst.

    Although Bayless, Budinger, Hill and Wise all scored in double-digits, Arizona did not get any scoring out of guard Jawann McClellan.

    The 6-foot-4 senior made his biggest contributions on the defensive end checking West Virginia’s star, 6-foot-8 forward Joe Alexander. McClellan made life tough on Alexander all night, helping to hold him to 14 points on 4-for-12 shooting.

    “”It was a tough battle,”” McClellan said. “”He’s a good player. He doesn’t let anything get to him, and he just stayed within the offense. He didn’t try to force anything when he could have. In my opinion he’s a top-15 pick, he’s a load. I’m just glad I was able to contain him.””

    The Wildcats battled back a few times in a game West Virginia led practically throughout, but they never could climb the mountain against the Mountaineers, who answered every UA run with one of their own and never trailed by more than one.

    Arizona’s final problem throughout the season, a lack of depth, may have contributed to that as the Wildcats played basically their starting five throughout. Save for the seven minutes Hill sat with foul trouble and the two Wise missed due to his injury, all the bench did was give Budinger a one-minute break in the first half.

    But Budinger said fatigue didn’t play much of a factor, instead attributing the Wildcats’ downfall to porous 3-point defense.

    “”Every team that shot the 3-ball well against us beat us, and that’s what happened tonight,”” he said. “”They came out just reining 3s on us and killed us.””

    Check the Wildcat Monday for an analysis of the game and a complete season recap.

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