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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Cats shoot for USC

    UA forward Marcus Williams drives to the basket while fending off Oregon defenders in the Wildcats loss to the then-No. 15 Ducks Sunday in McKale Center. The No. 11 mens basketball team will face off against USC tonight.
    UA forward Marcus Williams drives to the basket while fending off Oregon defenders in the Wildcats’ loss to the then-No. 15 Ducks Sunday in McKale Center. The No. 11 men’s basketball team will face off against USC tonight.

    It appeared as if the shooting woes of last season were gone with the departure of the main culprits, last year’s seniors. The first 13 games this year resembled something out of Hoosiers or Pleasantville and freshman Chase Budinger was Arizona’s resident Jimmy Chitwood.

    But as the No. 11 men’s basketball team enters today’s contest against USC at the luxurious new Galen Center in Los Angeles, it has to face not only the ghost of last season’s shooting troubles but the Pacific 10 Conference’s top-ranked field goal percentage defense possessed by USC.

    Arizona still leads the Pac-10 in field goal percentage at 51.2 percent and is fourth in 3-point field goal percentage at 38.4, but in the last three games Arizona has shot 28.5, 16.7, and 20 percent on 3-point field goals, respectively.

    “”We’ve been in games when we haven’t shot the ball,”” said Jawann McClellan who was 0-of-3 on 3-pointers against Oregon. “”If we shoot the ball well against Oregon State it might be a 30-point blowout. Oregon hit – I don’t know how many 3-pointers they hit (The Ducks were 13-of-26). We were 3-of-15 and that’s usually not ordinary where you see me and Chase off at the same time.””

    USC allows teams to shoot just 35.2 percent, almost six percent less than the second place team in the Pac-10, Washington State.

    The Trojans aren’t an easy out at home either, having won three of the last five games at home against Arizona, including a 77-70 win on Feb. 2 in which USC forced 22 turnovers committed by the Wildcats.

    “”They did a really good job scouting,”” senior point guard Mustafa Shakur said of the miscues.

    The Wildcats are in the red in turnover margin but have the Pac-10’s second highest assist/turnover ratio, yet their perimeter-shooting percentage may be the bigger concern. Shakur witnessed last year’s poor shooting first hand (44.6 percent overall, 31.9 percent on 3-pointers), but doesn’t think it will be an issue this year.

    “”We’re getting some good looks, open looks but they’re just not dropping,”” he said. “”Some shots have been in-and-out and those are good shots. I just try to tell the guys to continue to take those shots, your shots within your game and in the flow of the game.””

    Maybe Arizona’s hot start from beyond the arc spoiled observers into an unrealistic expectation of the team’s percentage?

    “”Maybe,”” McClellan said, “”The fans got so used to us shooting real good at the beginning and now…but if you can recall my freshman year when we were shooting good at the beginning of the year and then we struggled and we were winning games on defense, then we got it rolling so hopefully that same thing will just start happening.””

    Arizona has bounced back from its first two losses this season with a win, but McClellan said the loss to Oregon had different meaning than the first two losses. It’s changed the attitude for the Los Angeles trip.

    “”We can let this make or break us, losing against Oregon,”” he said. “”But we all put that loss

    behind us. We know this is a very, very important road trip. If we would have won, (the goal) was to try split, now we have to sweep.””

    Arizona will have some help in its quest with the return of backup point guard Nic Wise. But UA head coach Olson seems finally comfortable to have a rotation of seven guys. Olson said he would be comfortable with “”one guy to rotate with the inside guys and one guy to rotate with the outside guys.””

    “”If you substitute too (many) guys it really ruins the rhythm of the game,”” he said.

    Neither McClellan nor Shakur thought the shooting difficulties have come as a result of physical fatigue, however, so the continuance of giving the five starters the majority of the minutes has not had a major effect, they said.

    Olson would like to see Arizona get easier shots in transition. Washington State and Stanford, both of whom forced a slower tempo, compare to the halfcourt style of USC, Olson said, but the Wildcats still haven’t been running as effectively as they were earlier in the year even against fast paced Oregon.

    “”We haven’t been doing as good a job of getting the ball ahead to our wings as we did earlier,”” Olson said.

    With five of the next six games coming against quality opponents – USC, UCLA, North Carolina, Washington State, Washington – Arizona’s perimeter shooting as well as its resolve will be tested.

    “”I think we need to come out with a lot of intensity and prove to people we’re not just a fun team to watch,”” McClellan said.

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