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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Injuries mount, depth takes a hit”

    When final examinations for the fall semester ended at the UA, McKale Center became “”Basketball University.””

    That’s what interim head coach Kevin O’Neill said it would be. But to his dismay, the team wasn’t able to go as hard as he would have liked due to sprained knees, separated shoulders, back spasms, shin splints, rolled ankles and anything else you could think of.

    “”We did a lot of things but we couldn’t go longer and harder because of the injuries,”” O’Neill said. “”We would have been doing a lot of two-a-days, one hard and one soft. But I know because of our injuries we weren’t able to do that. That slowed us down a little bit in our chances to have more progress, offensively.””

    Arizona (11-5, 1-2 Pacific 10 Conference) still managed to go 6-3 over the break, outscoring its opponents by a total of 630-587. The Wildcats are currently No. 9 in the Ratings Percentage Index and have the No. 1 hardest schedule in the nation, as measured by RPI.

    “”Overall I think we’ve done a great job, especially with our strength of schedule and the lack of veteran leadership on this team,”” said senior guard Jawann McClellan. “”I think we’ve fared out pretty well.””

    Here’s a breakdown of the team’s winter break schedule:

    Dec. 8: Arizona 78, Illinois 72, OT

    In their first game since Lute Olson extended his leave of absence, forward Chase Budinger and guard Jerryd Bayless shot a combined 8-for-25 but Bayless managed to total 20 points with six late free throws. Forward Jordan Hill scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.

    Dec. 16: Arizona 69, Fresno State 50

    Arizona trailed 17-15 midway through the first half but the Wildcats responded with a 20-2 run to take a 35-19 halftime lead.

    Bayless scored 21 with three 3-pointers and an alley-oop dunk during the 20-2 run. Oh, and then there was his in-between-the-legs bounce pass to forward Jamelle Horne for a dunk. “”I was just playing basketball and having fun,”” Bayless said. “”I did that in high school almost every game. At this level, you have to make sure it gets done.””

    Forward Fendi Onobun made his season debutafter missing the first eight games of the season with shin splints. He scored two points on a tip-in basket in the final minutes of the game.

    Dec. 19: Arizona 52, Nevada-Las Vegas 49

    Hill continued to shine in the paint, scoring 16 points and grabbing a career-high 19 boards while Bayless failed to score in double digits, only scoring eight points. The Wildcats had yet another slow start against the Runnin’ Rebels, trailing for all but 39 seconds in the first half and taking their first lead with 1:18 left in the game.

    “”I don’t wanna be the comeback kids any more,”” McClellan said.

    Dec. 22: Arizona 74, San Diego State 58

    The Wildcats beat the Aztecs and earned the right to go home for Christmas – something that O’Neill said wasn’t guaranteed without a win. Budinger (13 points), Bayless and Hill (15 each) led the team.

    Dec. 29: No. 2 Memphis 76, Arizona 63

    Arizona had its six-game winning streak snapped as it played without Bayless. The guard sprained a medial collateral ligament in his right knee, making an offensive cut at Memphis’ practice facility the night before the game.

    Jan. 3: Arizona 76, Oregon State 63

    The Wildcats were down six at halftime against a team that was picked to finish in the cellar of the Pac-10 and Budinger had scored just two points at that point. “”I just tried to change my mentality,”” Budinger said. “”I just went out there (in the second half) and went all out and tried to attack as much as I could.””

    It worked. Budinger scored 18 in the second half for a total of 20 along with Hill. Wise sank a career-high 17 and McClellan added 10.

    Jan. 5: Oregon 84, Arizona 74

    The fast-paced Ducks led by as much as 19 in the first half and the Wildcats never got closer than five in the second. “”The only half that I’m disappointed in since the Virginia game (a 75-72 loss on Nov. 17) was the first half of the Oregon game,”” O’Neill said.

    Jan. 9: ASU 64, Arizona 59, OT

    Bayless dressed out but didn’t play as Arizona lost to the Sun Devils for the first time since 2002.

    The Wildcats were up 55-50 with 1:53 left in regulation, but the Sun Devils scored five unanswered points to send the game to overtime, where they eventually sealed the deal.

    With a shallow bench, guard Daniel Dillon played a career-high 44 minutes and forward Zane Johnson had his redshirt pulled.

    Jan. 12: Arizona 85, Houston 71

    Taking a break from conference play, Arizona got its leading scorer back as Bayless returned with a vengeance, scoring 33 points and dishing out nine assists in 39 minutes of play.

    “”Jerryd, he was out, but he came back like he wasn’t out,”” Hill said.

    Houston natives Onobun, McClellan and Wise combined for 18 points and eight boards.

    “”I think people are starting to know their roles on the team,”” McClellan said. “”We got good minutes from Fendi in Houston and that’s always a big plus.””

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