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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    In-state toughness meeting

    UA forward Chase Budinger backs away from intense pressure from ASU guard Jerren Shipp during the Wildcats 71-47 win over the Sun Devils in McKale Center last year. Buoyed by McDonalds All-American guard James Harden, who leads the Pac-10 in steals, ASU could be on the verge of making this lopsided series more of a rivalry.
    UA forward Chase Budinger backs away from intense pressure from ASU guard Jerren Shipp during the Wildcats’ 71-47 win over the Sun Devils in McKale Center last year. Buoyed by McDonald’s All-American guard James Harden, who leads the Pac-10 in steals, ASU could be on the verge of making this lopsided series more of a rivalry.

    From unquestioned lock for the NCAA Tournament to being tossed back into the heap of teams hoping to distinguish themselves from pretenders to contenders, the Arizona men’s basketball team is on the downside of a second consecutive roller coaster season.

    But before the Wildcats prepared to embark on a short drive up I-10 to play the first of three games on the road, the players sat down Monday for a team meeting Ivan Radenovic said was different than any of the previous ones in which he has participated.

    “”I think this is the first time where everybody stood up and said what they had to say and that makes a big difference than one of those meetings when no one has anything to say,”” said Radenovic, a forward who declined to talk about the specifics of what was said.

    Radenovic said associate head coach Jim Rosborough and assistant coach Josh Pastner initiated the meeting, but the players “”said what they have to say.””
    “”We trust each other a lot when something like that happens,”” Radenovic said.

    Freshman Chase Budinger, who said “”we lost the defensive intensity we had at the beginning”” of the year, called the meeting “”productive.””

    “”Everybody really just spoke from the heart, a lot more passion,”” he said.

    The Wildcats (17-9, 8-7 Pacific 10 Conference) allowed both No. 4 UCLA and USC to shoot over 50 percent in two losses in McKale Center last weekend, and UA head coach Lute Olson criticized Arizona’s effort defensively.

    In addition to the team meeting, the coaching staff stopped calling fouls during practice yesterday and Wednesday. Olson said Wednesday’s practice was “”a whole lot more physical, and it’s going to be that way.””

    Budinger, who scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Arizona’s 71-47 win over ASU (7-19, 1-14) Jan. 24, said the main emphasis in practice was being tough.

    “”When we play 5-on-5 it’s like streetball out there, they’re letting everything go,”” Budinger said.

    “”Anytime you’re talking about ASU and U of A, it doesn’t make a difference if you’re talking ping pong, Red Cross drive or whatever it is, it gets the juices going on both sides. It’s a huge rivalry for the fans, which then makes it a big rivalry for the teams.””
    -Lute Olson,
    UA head coach

    “”It’s going to take something really big to turn it around. I think to turn around that rivalry that will be hard. That will come down the road. Right now we have to play U of A better than before in the past competing with them.””
    – Jeff Pendergraph,
    ASU forward

    “”I remember one time I went down the lane for a layup, and I got my arm ripped off, but you have to just play through it because that’s what I’m going to be seeing in games.””

    Olson said he noticed Pac-10 officiating this year to be less strict to the point where one writer from the Big Ten told Olson it reminded him of the Big-10. The Wildcats emphasize not reaching in and not fouling in practice, Olson said, but the rough play of the conference forced Olson to change the mentality of the workouts.

    “”We need to be more aggressive in terms of knocking people down,”” he said.

    “”Not to moan about bad screens because its not gonna be called, so you just get over it and get through it and be more physical,”” he added.

    In the last two weeks, Budinger has heeded the advice of his personal trainer Trent Suzuki and spent a half hour at night shooting. He led Arizona in scoring against No. 23 Oregon and USC, and said the week off gave him time to re-energize his body.

    Scoring, however hasn’t been Arizona’s problem this year.

    “”We got burned this past weekend, and to do a better job in the game overall we have to play better defense,”” Radenovic said. “”Offensively we are a very good team, but defensively we’re struggling.””

    Arizona is on ESPN.com’s list of “”teams that should be in”” yet is playing like a team trying to kick itself out. The Wildcats have lost seven of their last 11 games, including the two biggest home losses of Lute Olson’s career in Tucson-by 28 to North Carolina and by 15 to UCLA.

    Arizona’s mid-season three game losing-streak ended when it played ASU on Jan. 24, a game that was over shortly after halftime.

    “”It’s been very frustrating,”” Budinger said. “”We started off so well, and had that 12-game winning streak and then we kind of hit a wall. We’ve been up and down, up and down.

    “”It’s been frustrating because I know we are such a good team. We know that, it just doesn’t show in our record. I think we’ve kind of missed that passion. We lost a couple games and started to lose some of that confidence.

    “”We’ve just got to get back.””

    And 1:

    Senior point guard Mustafa Shakur did not practice yesterday or Wednesday.

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