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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Hill solid in replacing Williams

    For the first time this season the No. 17 Arizona men’s basketball team couldn’t rely on one of its five starters with forward Marcus Williams suspended for the Wildcats’ game against ASU last night for a violation of team rules.

    Someone had to step up the enormous amount of minutes Williams eats, and that someone was freshman forward Jordan Hill, who heard his name introduced along with the rest of the starters for the first time in his career.

    In the first four minutes Hill immediately energized Arizona, scoring four points and grabbing four rebounds on top of setting up forward Ivan Radenovic for a layup.

    For the game Hill nearly recorded a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds, both career highs, and hit Williams’ average for minutes (32), 14 more than his previous career high while also unofficially setting a career mark in confidence.

    “”My confidence has gotten a lot better the last couple games,”” Hill said minutes after a throng of media surrounded him in the Arizona locker room. “”Earlier I wasn’t really giving it my all. My head wasn’t in the game. Everybody on the team just said, ‘Shake it off, shake it off. Go out there and play hard,’ and tonight I had the opportunity and did what I had to do.””

    Hill also played solid defense, anchoring the Wildcats’ zone defense and blocking two shots.

    More importantly he helped hold ASU’s best player, forward Jeff Pendergraph, to just five points, both of which came off offensive rebounds. Hill aggressively fronted the ASU big man to limit his touches (six shots) to hold him over eight points below his season average.

    “”He did a great job fronting Pendergraph,”” UA forward Ivan Radenovic said. “”He kind of bothered him the whole game with his defense. I think he got kind of frustrated, Pendergraph did, from the beginning.””

    Said Pendergraph of Hill: “”Sometimes you think you lose him, but then he’s right behind you.””

    Hill also wowed the crowd with a 270-degree dunk twisting in the air late in the first half, after which UA big men Kirk Walters and Fendi Onobun came out to congratulate him during the next timeout.

    Hill’s play was in stark contrast to what he did last weekend in Los Angeles, when he picked up two quick fouls in two minutes Saturday against No. 3 UCLA and turned the ball over three times in four minutes against the Trojans, prompting UA head coach Lute Olson to say, jokingly, “”We didn’t want him to set any records there.””

    “”Probably I had too much on my mind,”” Hill said. “”I shook everything off, and (last) night I went out there and didn’t have as much pressure as I usually have and I went out there and showed everybody I’ve got skills on the court.””

    The Wildcats didn’t have the luxury to sit him on the bench and play Williams 39 or 40 minutes, as they did on the Los Angeles trip. With forward Bret Brielmaier still hurt and Walters out for the year, no other Wildcat big man has played more than sparingly.

    This performance also comes on the heels of Hill complaining about the pressure UA assistant coach Josh Pastner, Arizona’s big men coach, has been putting on him earlier in the week, a statement he took back after the ASU game.

    “”It’s not a lot of pressure, he’s been a good coach,”” Hill said. “”I’ve just got to listen to him. He gets on me sometimes, but that’s what I’ve got to do to get better.””

    Now the question becomes if Hill can use this career game as a springboard to becoming a quality member of Arizona’s still undecided eight-man rotation.

    With Brielmaier returning Saturday against No. 4 North Carolina and with guard Daniel Dillon the only reserve averaging double-figure minutes, as it has been all season it’s Hill job to lose. But now he may have more firmly established that inside track.

    Hill’s teammates “”know how much he can help us if he continues to improve,”” Olson said. “”I think this game will help him a great deal confidence-wise.””

    Before the Wildcats head out on the road to the Oregon schools in two weeks, three home games remain for Hill to continue to grow that confidence. Olson has shown little confidence in Hill or freshman guard Nic Wise on the road this year and has talked about how different the road is for young players in comparison to playing in front of the McKale Center faithful.

    “”The biggest thing is he needs to gain some additional confidence on this homestand now,”” Olson said. “”Sometimes you go in and try to do too much.””

    Now it’s up to Hill to build on this performance and give the Wildcats the interior presence off the bench they’ve been missing all season with Walters unavailable.

    “”I have a lot of confidence to come off the bench and do the same that I did (last) night,”” Hill said.

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