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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Tough, balanced Aggies to test Wildcats”

    UA forward Chase Budinger attempts a jumper during Arizonas 76-72 overtime loss Sunday at No. 4 Kansas. Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon was impressed with Budingers 27-point performance with Kansas defender Brandon Rush guarding him much of the game.
    UA forward Chase Budinger attempts a jumper during Arizona’s 76-72 overtime loss Sunday at No. 4 Kansas. Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon was impressed with Budinger’s 27-point performance with Kansas defender Brandon Rush guarding him much of the game.

    The Arizona men’s basketball program has traditionally scheduled tough during the Lute Olson era, but the Wildcats may not have known what they were in for when the Pacific 10 Conference and Big 12 Conference agreed to play the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.

    As one of two teams to play a second game in the event, Arizona hosts No. 9 Texas A&M Sunday a week after playing on the road against another top-10 team, No. 4 Kansas.

    The challenge was designed to ensure home-and-home series against teams from another top conference, with Arizona traveling to College Station, Texas, and hosting the Jayhawks next season.

    “”I thought it was a good idea,”” said UA assistant Miles Simon. “”It’s a chance to get out and play some quality competition. It just prepares you for your league and the NCAA Tournament.””

    First-year A&M head coach Mark Turgeon welcomes the competition, saying at his weekly press conference that he thinks the Aggies needed to schedule tougher after last season, when the Aggies played only two ranked teams during nonconference play and hosted 11 of those 14 games.

    “”Across the board it will help us in the end,”” said Turgeon, who took over for Billy Gillespie after seven years at Wichita State. “”I think it’ll help our overall strength of schedule, which is important when it comes to RPI and league RPI and all that kind of stuff.

    “”We’re trying

    They make you take tough shots and have big bodies inside, so it’s hard to score.

    -Miles Simon,
    UA assistant coach

    to get on TV as much as we can, get in tournaments as much as we can”” Turgeon tuned into Arizona’s first game in the Pac-10-Big-12 Challenge and came away impressed, especially with forward Chase Budinger’s 27-point
    performance against Jayhawks guard Brandon Rush, a player Turgeon called “”a big-time defender.””

    Simon expects Arizona’s experience against the Aggies’ Big 12 brother last week in Lawrence, Kan., to help the Wildcats. The pace of the game slowed in the second half of that contest as both teams stepped up their defense, with the Wildcats scoring 22 points on 36.8 percent shooting and the Jayhawks doing the same on 34.8 percent shooting.

    “”You have to grind it out a little bit against Kansas, and Texas A&M a little bit is the same way,”” said Simon, who is scouting the Aggies. “”They don’t allow their opponent to shoot high percentages.””

    A&M holds teams to 37.3 percent shooting and 58.7 points per game through seven contests, all wins.

    The Aggies have held all but two opponents to under 38 percent shooting, highlighted by stifling Ohio State to the tune of 24.1 percent Nov. 23. In that game, forward Josh Carter held Buckeye forward David Lighty, who averages 10.2 points per game, to one point on 0-of-5 shooting.

    “”They just play solid, solid defense,”” Simon said. “”They make you take tough shots and have big bodies inside, so it’s hard to score.””

    On the offensive side of the ball, seven different players average at least 7.6 points per game, led by Carter’s 13.0 ppg average.

    Four different players have led the team in scoring and an Aggie has scored more than 15 points in a contest only three times this season.

    By contrast, UA guard Jerryd Bayless has done that in five of Arizona’s six games, and Budinger has twice scored at least 25.

    “”Everybody’s just going to have to be able to guard their guy,”” Simon said. “”Everybody on their team is a threat on the offensive end.””

    Said Turgeon: “”We’re deep, and on any given night somebody can step up for us.””

    UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill called the Aggies a big, strong and smart team that has won some impressive games, including victories over Washington and Alabama, besides the 23-point win in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off against the Buckeyes.

    Still, as A&M approaches its first road game of the season Sunday, Turgeon said his squad has something to prove to justify its high ranking.

    “”I still think we’re a little overrated, but we’re getting better,”” he said.

    And 1

    Former Wildcat Beau Muhlbach will return to McKale with A&M in his third season as an Aggie after transferring from Arizona during the 2004-2005 season. UA fans may remember him as the walk-on who missed a breakaway tomahawk jam and fell on his back in the final seconds of a blowout win over California in 2003-2004. His teammates laughed hysterically on the bench after the miss.

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