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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Zona plays mind games

    Arizona guard Daniel Dillon and forward Chase Budinger, right, try to grab a rebound from UCLA center Lorenzo Mata during the second half of then-No. 11 Arizonas 73-69 loss at No. 3 UCLA Saturday in Pauley Pavilion, the Wildcats fourth defeat in their past five games. During that stretch Budinger said Arizona hasnt played with the same attitude it had during its preceding 12-game winning streak.
    Arizona guard Daniel Dillon and forward Chase Budinger, right, try to grab a rebound from UCLA center Lorenzo Mata during the second half of then-No. 11 Arizona’s 73-69 loss at No. 3 UCLA Saturday in Pauley Pavilion, the Wildcats’ fourth defeat in their past five games. During that stretch Budinger said Arizona hasn’t played with the same attitude it had during its preceding 12-game winning streak.

    The last time forward Chase Budinger lost three games in a row, he was an even skinnier high school freshman. Forward Jordan Hill said his losing streak came the same year, and forward Marcus Williams doesn’t have the type of memory to recollect thoughts of losing.

    For No. 17 Arizona, three consecutive losses are what Williams called a “”mid-life crisis.””

    At the crux of the crisis is the same shooting problems that befell last year’s team, which turned its mid-life crisis into a full-on catastrophe.

    Budinger’s 4-of-11 (0-of-4 on 3s) effort against the No. 3 Bruins Saturday and his 11-of-30 performance in the last three games exemplify the team’s inability to put the ball in the hoop. The sweet-shooting freshman, like the rest of Arizona’s culprits, doesn’t have an easy answer.

    “”Basically, we’re just not making shots,”” Budinger said. “”For some reason our shooting percentage has gone down. We’re still taking good shots, we’re still moving the ball really well, it’s just we’re not finishing those shots at this time.””

    The answer may lie not in the fingertips, the knees or the follow-through, but rather in the mind.

    “”Shooting is a mental thing,”” said Williams, who shot 4-of-12 from the field against UCLA. “”If you miss a few shots, you can’t really be like, ‘Well these next ones aren’t going to go in.’ (You can’t) be thinking too much if you haven’t been shooting the ball that well of late. You can’t think, ‘Well, now it’s going to be a consistent thing.'””

    Maybe the answer lies in the non-verbal communication the Wildcats brought to the floor early in the season. The “”swagger,”” as Hill described it has been lacking.

    “”In the beginning of the season, in the middle of the season when we were doing well, we had a groove to us, kind of like an emotion to us that people saw,”” said Budinger, who’s still shooting a robust 52.8 percent from the field on the season. “”When we came out on the floor, we had a ‘no one can beat us’ attitude. We kind of let that go away from us. We need to bring that back.””

    UA head coach Lute Olson isn’t unhappy about Budinger’s shot selection. In fact, Olson expected the four 3-pointers Budinger attempted to go in “”75 percent”” of the time.

    “”Sometimes the more guys start thinking about – that he’s not hitting – you can’t be looking at it that way,”” Olson said. “”You have to be looking at as if you miss one you should be happy because now your percentage, the chances of you hitting the next shot are a whole lot better. A guy makes five out of 10, he’s got to miss five, but if he starts thinking about the five he’s missing, he’s going to miss more.””

    Yet there’s still something to be said for the physical effects on Arizona’s poor shooting. Guard Jawann McClellan has bad knees, Williams has bad wrists, and the bench hasn’t done much to appease the starters’ need for rest. With no one on Arizona’s starting five playing less than 31.4 minutes per game, exhaustion may be a factor.

    “”That could be due to it’s the middle of the season, we’re getting tired as a team, fatigue is setting in,”” Budinger said. “”It’s something that we just can’t let get to us.””

    If the Wildcats are to overcome their shooting struggles, the right answer may be just to completely forget the past five games all together. For Williams, it may be easier than for some of his teammates.

    “”I have a real short memory, missed shots, turnovers, losses, you’ve got to (have a short memory) or else it’s going to eat you up, it’s going to make you think too much when you’re out there on the floor,”” he said.

    Or the answer may come not just from Arizona, but from its rival to the north, ASU. The Sun Devils are seventh in the Pacific 10 Conference in field-goal percentage defense.

    “”It has to be deep down within us players,”” Budinger said. “”We just need one of these games to turn the tide for us. We just need one good shooting night for us, and we’ll be fine after that.””

    Wherever the answer comes from, Olson said there is no need to worry.

    “”I’m not a panic person,”” he said.

    Too much pressure for Hill

    During Arizona’s team meeting Friday before the UCLA game, Jordan Hill voiced his opinion. The freshman forward who didn’t play organized basketball in his junior year of high school was tired of messing up.

    “”I put in my opinion that (UA assistant coach) Josh (Pastner) puts pressure on me,”” Hill said. “”Too much pressure, I really don’t like all that pressure. I go out there and stop trying to mess up. That’s all that matters, because I don’t want to mess up anything, and every time I go out there I end up getting pulled out.””

    Pastner, who coaches Arizona’s big men and is himself a workaholic, is in part responsible for Hill’s future development. But Hill wants Pastner to take it down a notch.

    “”He’s in my head because I’m a freshman, and he knows more about (basketball),”” Hill said. “”(The whole) team says don’t let him get to me, but it’s easy for them to say because they’ve been here longer than me and they know how it is. I just have to stay focused.””

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