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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Wise, Brielmaier practice”

    Arizona guard Nic Wise drives in for a layup past Oregon State guard Seth Tarver during the Wildcats 76-63 win Jan. 3 in McKale Center. Wise and forward Bret Brielmaier returned to practice yesterday after both were out with injuries.
    Arizona guard Nic Wise drives in for a layup past Oregon State guard Seth Tarver during the Wildcats’ 76-63 win Jan. 3 in McKale Center. Wise and forward Bret Brielmaier returned to practice yesterday after both were out with injuries.

    Kevin O’Neill sounded like a defeated man Thursday night when asked how to attack the Trojans’ triangle-and-two defense, after the Arizona men’s basketball team’s loss to USC.

    The Wildcats’ interim head coach explained in detail how to beat the defense, but didn’t have the personnel to execute it.

    That could change this week, as guard Nic Wise and forward Bret Brielmaier returned to practice yesterday in anticipation of possibly playing on this weekend’s trip to Oregon.

    O’Neill said their availability is “”still very much up in the air”” and will be a game-time decision, but their return to the court signals a step in the right direction for Wise (knee surgery) and Brielmaier (shoulder), who have missed the last seven games in which Arizona has gone 2-5.

    “”We really miss both of them,”” said UA guard Jawann McClellan. “”Bret does all the little intangibles that we need out there on the court, and it’s already been mentioned what we’re lacking without Nic, so we need both of them.””

    McClellan estimated yesterday marked the first time since December that the team has practiced at full strength, due to the Wise and Brielmaier injuries and a sprained right knee suffered by guard Jerryd Bayless in late December.

    O’Neill said the injured Wildcats have taken a “”very realistic approach”” to their situation, working hard in rehab, supporting their teammates and doing what they need to do to get ready. Both players had done some running, shooting and worked in 5-on-5 drills but none had participated in any full-contact situations before yesterday.

    “”For both those guys it was good,”” O’Neill said after yesterday’s practice. “”They played full-out. Neither one are 100 percent, but they’re moving in that direction.””

    When Wise returns, the Wildcats will have their full playbook back at their disposal after being forced to limit it during his absence due to the lack of a healthy true point guard on the roster. O’Neill said his squad runs about 12 or 14 plays over and over again when Wise, Bayless and forward Chase Budinger share the floor but have had to get rid of about nine or 10 without Wise.

    “”We’ll go back to running some things that you play with a straight point guard,”” O’Neill said.

    The return of Wise could also free up Bayless and Budinger, who have become the ultimate focus of opposing defenses.

    O’Neill said opponents have played Arizona the same way since the injury, putting their best athlete or a rotation of top athletes on Bayless, sitting on his dominant right hand and denying him the ball. Budinger receives similar attention, like when then-No. 4 UCLA double-teamed him off screens and bodied him around the court Sunday.

    Bayless and McClellan both expect Bayless to continue to receive similar attention, even with Wise in the lineup, but now teams that do that will be giving a 56.7 percent 3-point shooter, who also averages just under five assists per game in league play, the chance to beat them.

    “”If they’re doubling or whatever to get the ball out of my hands, Nic’s definitely capable of making open shots,”” Bayless said. “”So we’re going to need him to do that this weekend.””

    Added Budinger: “”I believe it’s going to be a lot tougher (for opponents) when Nic gets back because Nic does such a good job of creating for other people, and it’s going to give Jerryd and I much better looks than we’ve been getting the last couple games.””

    McClellan said he has been talking with Wise about how to come back from a knee injury, as he went through the same things Wise is going through after knee surgery following his sophomore year. McClellan has been telling him to run as normal as he can so the other knee won’t start affecting him while blocking out the mental anguish that comes with attempting not to re-injure it.

    Wise’s roommate, UA forward Jordan Hill, said the point guard is “”very excited”” to return to the court, not even wanting to have surgery to begin with because of his importance to Arizona.

    Wise was unavailable for comment yesterday.

    His return means Bayless, Budinger and McClellan should not have to play 40 minutes like they did against the Bruins, something O’Neill said takes a toll on them mentally.

    Along with Brielmaier’s potential return to action, the Wildcats could field a full roster which has gone 14-4 together while making their final push for an NCAA Tournament bid this weekend.

    “”Both of those guys are huge assets to our team, and when we’re at full strength we’re a very, very good team,”” Budinger said. “”So I just hope that they’re ready to come back and they’re healthy.””

    And 1

    O’Neill has never been shy about using timeouts, using all five of his by the 3:38 mark of the first half Jan. 5 against

    Oregon, but he has been criticized for not having a timeout to set up a play in the final seconds Sunday against UCLA.

    O’Neill calls timeouts by instinct and does not believe in taking timeouts to the bank, often using them to stem the opposition’s runs.

    “”I want to give us a chance to be in the game at the end,”” O’Neill said. “”I would have loved to have had a timeout in that situation, but I had no way of knowing they were going to mishandle the free-throw rebound.”” …

    Bayless and Budinger were named to the All-District 15 team by the National Association of Basketball Coaches yesterday – Bayless as a first-team performer and Budinger on the second team. UCLA’s Kevin Love and Darren Collison, USC’s O.J. Mayo and ASU’s James Harden joined Bayless on the first team, while Budinger was the lone conference player named to the second team.

    – Lance Madden contributed reporting

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