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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Cats benefiting from Bayless’ scoring tear

    Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless takes a shot over Cardinal guard Landry Fields in the Wildcats 67-66 loss to then-No. 7 Stanford on Saturday in McKale Center. With UA guard Nic Wise out to injury, Bayless has carried the offensive load for the Wildcats.
    Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless takes a shot over Cardinal guard Landry Fields in the Wildcats’ 67-66 loss to then-No. 7 Stanford on Saturday in McKale Center. With UA guard Nic Wise out to injury, Bayless has carried the offensive load for the Wildcats.

    Hoops Notes

    The 2007-08 men’s basketball season has been a challenge for Kevin O’Neill from the day he took over as UA interim head coach Nov. 4.

    After learning that guard Nic Wise would likely miss the remainder of the regular season during the week before the ASU game two weeks ago, O’Neill has been forced to revamp his system for the second time this year, with the other time coming when guard Jerryd Bayless missed four games earlier in the year.

    “”We’ve had to adjust so many things to injuries without the kind of backup help we need to keep playing the same way,”” O’Neill said. “”If we had another pure point guard on the roster we wouldn’t change anything, we’d just put him into that spot. Or if we had a guy who was a really capable four guy, as soon as (forward) Bret (Brielmaier) got hurt we would have just inserted that guy.””

    This has led Bayless to take more shots and take advantage of more isolation situations, as opposed to the offense with Wise in which the 5-foot-10 point guard created for his teammates and made the Wildcats a better ball-movement-and-assists team.

    “”There’s nobody else on our team – (guard) Daniel (Dillon), (forward) Zane (Johnson) – they can’t do the things Nic can do,”” O’Neill said.

    Luckily for Arizona, Bayless has responded with the best three-game stretch of any player in UA history, becoming the first Wildcat to score more than 30 in three straight games.

    “”I knew I was capable of doing this type of thing,”” Bayless said. “”I’ve been doing it since high school, so it’s not really anything new.””

    Bayless was often asked to take over games for Phoenix’s St. Mary’s High School, but he never had to do so against a defense like then-No. 7 Stanford’s, which allows opponents to shoot a Pacific 10 Conference-low 38.2 percent.

    As he has done before, like he did during Arizona’s comeback from 20 down Dec. 2 against then-No. 9 Texas A&M, O’Neill went to Bayless Saturday and said, “”Come on, you’ve got to just go.””

    That means simply to push the ball up the floor and score some baskets.

    Bayless took that to heart against the Cardinal, scoring 16 Arizona points in a row during a 12-minute stretch in the second half to keep the Wildcats in the game.

    “”He’s naturally a very unselfish player, and it’s difficult for him at times to really understand what I’m saying when I say, ‘Just go’ because his tendency is to move the ball and get everyone involved,”” O’Neill said. “”But because of the way we’re built right now it’s important for him to do some things offensively that he wouldn’t normally have to do.””

    O’Neill said as a college head coach, he’s never coached a player he could say that to, although former Wildcat Sean Elliott had those capabilities for Arizona when O’Neill was an assistant.

    But O’Neill has coached NBA players, Jerry Stackhouse, Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton and Vince Carter, who had that mentality.

    “”It’s something that I hope he carries with him the rest of his career, and I think he will because it comes natural to him,”” O’Neill said.

    Horne starting to develop

    After barely making a dent during Arizona’s first 10 Pac-10 games, O’Neill said UA forward Jamelle Horne is “”making great strides,”” following a pair of good outings last weekend.

    Horne helped slow down conference scoring leader (22.0 points per game) Ryan Anderson on Thursday against California in a career-high 35 minutes before recording five boards in 25 minutes Saturday against Stanford while often guarding 7-foot center Robin Lopez.

    “”He played against arguably two of the three top front lines in the league, and he performed very, very well,”” O’Neill said of Horne. “”And I think as he grows into himself and continues to get better he’s going to be a fine player.””

    O’Neill said sometimes players are ready to be coached and sometimes they’re not, as players often only hear what they want to hear.

    Instead O’Neill has gotten on Horne’s case about not playing hard enough all the time. The coach has told him he needs to be tougher, stronger and not so soft.

    “”Those things I’ve said to Jamelle the whole time, and unfortunately young players take those as they’re being reprimanded or not,”” O’Neill said. “”They’re being coached.””

    O’Neill unhappy with students’ chants

    Although O’Neill acknowledged he’s no prude himself and has been known to say a cross word or two in his time, he did not approve of the Zona Zoo section’s chant after forward Jordan Hill fouled out during Saturday’s game against Stanford, which could be heard by a regional television audience on ABC.

    “”I just know we have great fans, and our student section’s been phenomenal as far as I’m concerned,”” he said. “”We’d all like to say those things at different times, but I think we can give a better representation of ourselves than that.””

    What happened at halftime?

    O’Neill later said he believed center Kirk Walters and forward Chase Budinger blocked Stanford forward Brook Lopez’s shot on a play Walters got called for a foul that led to the game-deciding free throws.

    He also said when referee Dick Cartmell called O’Neill and Stanford head coach Trent Johnson over for a conversation in the second half, Cartmell told the coaches he thought they were complaining too much during a second half in which the teams were whistled for a combined 26 fouls after being called for a 12 in the first half.

    “”My only complaint with the officiating is it was called totally different, there was a different tone to the game in the first half than the second half,”” O’Neill said.

    Steady McClellan

    UA guard Jawann McClellan continues to be a rock for the Wildcats, playing 75 minutes last weekend, a total O’Neill said stems from necessity.

    With McClellan’s history of injuries, O’Neill said he’s surprised McClellan has held up as well as he has, as he ranks second in the Pac-10 in minutes per game (37.75 per game), trailing just Budinger by 0.08 minutes per game.

    “”Jawann’s done everything you could ask and more,”” O’Neill said. “”He hit a huge shot the other day (against Stanford to tie the game at 62). Based on what he’s able to give he’s maxing himself out and doing a great job for us.””

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