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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Despite differing expectations, Arizona and Purdue end up in same place”

    NEW ORLEANS – Although Arizona and Purdue stand only a seed apart in the Midwest Regional, that’s where the similarities end.

    Arizona started its season with dreams of the Final Four, with super freshman Chase Budinger added to a talented mix of veterans in Marcus Williams, Ivan Radenovic and Mustafa Shakur.

    But in losing 10 games, including a 1-8 mark against the top four teams in the Pacific 10 Conference, this could be considered a down year for the Wildcats, at least for their standards.

    “”We feel like we have underachieved so far this year, and we got a chance to redeem ourselves,”” Williams said.

    While the Wildcats were shouting “”Atlanta,”” site of this year’s Final Four, at the end of every huddle as motivation for this season, Purdue’s goal was just to return to respectability by making the NCAA Tournament after 9-19 and 7-21 seasons the past two years.

    “”I do feel like we overachieved and to be in that position we had to stay injury free,”” said Purdue’s second-year head coach Matt Painter, 36, who himself is half the age of Arizona’s Lute Olson, 72 and in his 24th year at the school. “”We lost a guy in September that would have played on our front line. If we would have had an injury at the 4 or 5 position or (guard) David Teague we wouldn’t be up here in this position.””

    Painter’s squad relies on Teague and forward Carl Landry – both of whom redshirted last season after undergoing ACL surgery – to shoulder the majority of the scoring load. The senior duo scores nearly half of the Boilermakers’ points (Landry 18.9 points per game, Teague 14.3 ppg), while no other player averages more than 7.4 ppg.

    “”We have two great players in Dave and Carl who do a majority of our scoring and if we go they go and vice versa,”” said freshman guard Chris Kramer. “”When our bench plays well and Dave and Carl play well it’s usually a good game for Purdue.””

    In helping this dynamic duo in the scoring category, Painter said his squad needs to steal points by hitting the offensive glass hard, scoring in transition or getting to the free-throw line, the latter of which goes back to Landry, an inside player who gets to the foul line over eight times per game on average and attempts 40 percent of the squad’s free throws.

    Teague gets it down on the outside with long-range shooting, hitting 42.9 percent of his shots from deep (82-of-191).

    “”(Teague) and Landry are the heart of our team,”” Painter said. “”They both mean so much to us.””

    The Wildcats feature a more balanced attack with four players averaging at least 12.0 points per game and a fifth, guard Jawann McClellan, in double figures much of the year and now still at 9.5. Many times during the season a different one of Arizona’s top scorers has stepped up to lead the team that game.

    As is the case with most Big Ten Conferences teams, the Wildcats prefer a quicker pace than the Boilermakers. Arizona averages 78.5 points per game, which led the Pacific 10 Conference and is over eight more than Purdue.

    “”We always try to control the tempo in our game,”” UA guard Mustafa Shakur said. “”It will be very important. Last year in the first round against Wisconsin we did a good job of not letting them play their game.””

    Said Painter: “”We’re not going to get into a running game with Arizona, and if we do we’re going to lose. We just have to make good decisions on the offensive end, and if we don’t it’s going to lead to fast-break situations for Arizona.””

    The Wildcats also have the experience edge, with this being the squad’s 23rd consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, which ties Olson with former North Carolina head coach Dean Smith for most in a row. Every returning player has experienced the NCAA Tournament and the upperclassmen went through the heart-breaking Elite Eight loss to Illinois two years ago.

    The Boilermakers, however, haven’t experienced the big dance since 2003.

    “”I think (experience) is valuable because our guys know what to expect,”” Olson said. “”Having been in the tournament is an advantage to our guys.””

    Although Landry dismissed the experience advantage by saying basketball is basketball anywhere, Painter disagreed.

    “”I think there’s no question if you have the experience of playing in the NCAA Tournament it’s going to help you,”” he said. “”Any time you’ve been through it before whether winning games or losing in the first round you take something from that and learn how to approach the game.””

    Even the squads’ approach to scheduling differed greatly this season. While the Wildcats and their roster of three McDonald’s All-Americans played a schedule of teams that play different paces in neutral and road settings – “”We always tell ourselves that if you play a tough schedule, you will be ready to play against anybody,”” Olson said – Purdue stayed closer to home to build confidence, which Painter said hurt his squad in their first road games.

    That led Purdue to a 16-1 home record, although the Boilermakers were just 5-10 on the road and in neutral settings. The Wildcats were 9-5 in such contests.

    But regardless of the squads’ original approaches to this season, they have both ended up in the same place, an 8-9 game in New Orleans where Teague said himself, Landry and the rest of the Boilermakers have come to do more than just show up.

    “”I really think we are the underdog right now,”” Landry said. “”Arizona has that name with a great tradition. We are the underdog, and we’ve been the underdog since day one, since the first game this year at the beginning of the season. That’s something we’re just used to.

    “”We do the little things to win ballgames, and if we continue to do that I think we have a chance to win the game (Friday).””

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