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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Cats claw for NCAA berth

    Arizonas Mustafa Shakur runs into USCs Sead Odzic (25) during the second half of Arizonas game against USC, Thursday Feb. 2, 2006 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in Los Angeles. USC defeated Arizona 77-70. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat)
    Chris Coduto
    Arizona’s Mustafa Shakur runs into USC’s Sead Odzic (25) during the second half of Arizona’s game against USC, Thursday Feb. 2, 2006 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in Los Angeles. USC defeated Arizona 77-70. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat)

    If the sense of urgency before the Los Angeles trip last weekend was high, it now measures off the charts for the Arizona men’s basketball team.

    The Wildcats (13-9, 6-5 Pacific 10 Conference) have dropped three straight games, a streak of futility that dates back to the 1991-92 season, as they head into tonight’s 6:30 matchup with Oregon (10-13, 4-7) in McKale Center televised on FSN Arizona.

    With many questions in the air for the team, winning out isn’t one of them.

    “”We want to win out,”” junior point guard Mustafa Shakur said. “”No matter who we play I think that will be the mentality.””

    With their back to the walls at this point in the season, Arizona can be happy with one statistic that is promising – the team is 8-1 at home and will have five of the seven remaining games in McKale.

    “”It’ll be good to be back home finally,”” Arizona head coach Lute Olson said. “”We certainly are in a position where we need to protect our home court.””

    The Wildcats host an Oregon squad that beat them 73-68 in Eugene, Ore. Jan. 14. Junior center Kirk Walters said they are just going to have the pay back the favor.

    “”Both (Oregon State and Oregon) beat us at their place, so we have to beat them down here,”” Walters said.

    The Grand Rapids, Mich., native was highly productive in the recent Arizona losing streak, averaging 10.5 points and 6.5 rebounds against UCLA and Southern California.

    “”I think our inside game is certainly coming on,”” Olson said. “”We just need to do a better job of getting the ball in there.””

    “”I think Kirk is doing a better job of stepping in and getting himself open at the right time,”” he added.

    While Arizona has struggled shooting the ball most of the season, the Wildcats had their best night of the season in the loss to No. 13 UCLA, shooting 58 percent from the field.

    Senior guard Hassan Adams attributed the good shooting to patient offensive possessions, something that will have to continue for the team to be successful.

    “”Patience on offense is going to be the biggest thing,”” Adams said. “”I think that’s going to be the key: being a poised, patient team. That’s going to be big on our success.””

    Even with the team struggling on the court, Arizona assistant coach Josh Pastner said he is still reiterating positive messages to the players.

    “”We have enough talent to win the whole thing,”” Pastner said. “”We just have to all be on the same page at the same time on every possession.””

    Pastner said he is trying to use the 1997 Arizona national championship team along with this year’s Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers to show the team that it isn’t time to give up.

    “”In 1997 we were 19-9, and we lost two before we went to the tournament, and we barely got past the first round and ended up winning the whole thing,”” Pastner said. “”Look at the Steelers, they were 7-5 and almost didn’t make the playoffs and ended up winning eight straight.””

    “”We have to keep a positive attitude,”” he added. “”There are a lot of games left to play.””

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