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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Arizona game a homecoming for Samford’s 3-point-shooting center Peterson

    Travis Peterson grew up rooting for Lute Olson’s Wildcats.

    Tonight the Samford center from Glendale will get to experience his first college basketball game in McKale Center, playing against the squad that used to be his team.

    “”I wanted to go to U of A every since I was a little kid,”” Peterson said in a phone interview Monday. “”That was my dream school.””

    Peterson, who expects a group of about 50-75 family members and friends, leads a Samford squad that relies on shooting over athleticism, according to Samford head coach Jimmy Tillette, even when playing conference games in the Ohio Valley Conference.

    But Tillette isn’t afraid to face athleticism in his nonconference schedule, as the Bulldogs have already lost a contest at No. 1 Florida and have another matchup looming with No. 6 Louisiana State later in the year.

    “”I think it will give us some confidence knowing what we’ve gone through and the teams we’ve played,”” Peterson said. “”We’re playing the best of the best right now. It definitely helps us with knowing what we need to do to win a game. We have to take all the lessons we learned in our preconference schedule into conference games.””

    Tillette said he’s not looking for any direct benefits but hopes the trip helps his squad long-term.

    He wasn’t shy in laying out his objectives for the contest. While the UA head coach Olson hopes to use this game to test his squad against a team with a methodical style that he will see in Pacific 10 Conference rivals later in the year, Tillette has three clear objectives: help his squad become tougher for league play, get a fat paycheck and play the homecoming contest for Peterson.

    Like the Arizona men’s and women’s teams do, Tillette schedules a trip to each of his players’ home states to play in front of their family and friends.

    Peterson’s cheering section will see a player similar in style to Arizona forward Ivan Radenovic in that they both start at center and feature a perimeter game.

    The 6-foot-10, 230-pound Peterson’s not alone as a shooter on a Bulldog squad predicated on backdoor cuts and open 3-pointers.

    “”Shooting is a big thing for us,”” said Peterson, who’s shot 5-of-11 (45.6 percent) from 3-point range. “”We always have to shoot well to be really competitive with anyone. I have trust in everyone on the court to knock down a 3 when we need it.””

    Said Olson: “”The concern we have is they all shoot the ball very well. On the other hand they’re not as quick on the drive as some of the others teams we’ll face.””

    That’s by design, Tillette said, as every one of his players needs to have the 3-point shot in his arsenal.

    “”I’d like to get athletic and skilled kids, but those kids will go to Duke and Arizona,”” he said. “”I’m always going to take kids with the most skill. Hopefully they play with character and be smart and maybe cerebral and have a sense of playing to fill in gaps of athleticism.””

    Guard Randall Gulina leads the squad in scoring at 24.0 points per game, having made eight 3s on the season for the Bulldog squad that hits 31.7 percent of its 3-point shots, which make up over 40 percent of the Sanford offense.

    Tillette said he would rather play games against a “”polar opposite athletic team”” with inferior shooting than a squad similar to his, as he hopes to make games predicated on skill rather than athleticism.

    “”When teams are athletic and can shoot, that’s a combination of players at high majors who are really good,”” Tillette said. “”Normally teams in our league, we’ll be the best shooting team and they’ll be more athletic. Sometimes skill stumps athleticism. It’s particularly tough against Florida or Arizona because they have better athletes and shooters.””

    Peterson said that his squad knows going into most games it will be less talented and athletic, so Samford has to slow the game down by taking 25 to 30 seconds off the shot clock and getting good shots on top of winning the intangibles battle.

    That’s especially the case against a squad like Arizona that has scored 100 points the past two games and likes to get out and run.

    For Peterson to have a happy homecoming, he knows what his squad has to do.

    “”If we slow the pace of the game and do what we do, we’ll have a shot,”” he said.

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