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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Cats win 1 for Olson

    UA point guard Jerryd Bayless dribbles the ball past a defender during Arizonas 68-50 win over Concordia yesterday in McKale Center. The freshman scored eight points on 2-for-8 shooting while going 1-for-4 from beyond the arc.
    UA point guard Jerryd Bayless dribbles the ball past a defender during Arizona’s 68-50 win over Concordia yesterday in McKale Center. The freshman scored eight points on 2-for-8 shooting while going 1-for-4 from beyond the arc.

    UA assistant coach Kevin O’Neill started the season off with a lot more responsibility than he originally anticipated.

    In his first game as interim head coach of the Arizona men’s basketball team while Lute Olson takes an indefinite leave of absence, the No. 17 Wildcats defeated Concordia of Montreal, Quebec, 68-50 in McKale Center yesterday afternoon.

    The game began two hours after a press conference was held to announce Olson’s leave.

    “”That guy’s been a fixture on that sideline for 25 years,”” O’Neill said of Olson. “”I think it was probably odd for everybody.

    “”I think it was hard for the players, too,”” O’Neill added. “”They were a little thrown off; to be coached by the same guy every game and every practice, and all of a sudden, he’s not there.””

    It was mentally challenging to kick off the season without the Silver Fox, forward Chase Budinger said.

    “”(To) look over at the sidelines and not see him there, that’s kind of what got to me,”” Budinger said. “”After a play, I’d look over to the sidelines and not see Coach Olson there, so it was kind of surprising or weird or just not normal to see that.””

    Up 33-15 after the first half, the Wildcats let their lead slip from 22 to eight with just under 10 minutes left in the second.

    The Stingers shot 40.6 percent in the second half after draining just 27.3 percent of their shots in the first 20 minutes.

    Dwayne Buckley led the second-half charge, scoring 16 of his game-high 22 points with three 3s.

    “”This is college basketball, and people are going to make shots,”” said guard Jawann McClellan. “”I think this town is spoiled. It’s Division-I basketball, and everybody can play. This team beat Illinois by (four to open the preseason

    Sept. 2).

    “”And it’s our first game, and we’re shaking the rust off,”” he added. “”I’m not disappointed with our play at all.””

    O’Neill said he liked players’ man-to-man defense. The Wildcats’ hyped-up new strategy proved to be worthy, as the Stingers were held 31 points below their preseason average.

    Arizona forced 14 turnovers, registered five steals and had five blocks – four from freshman Jamelle Horne. He also had seven points and five rebounds on his 19th birthday.

    “”I was surprised with how well (Horne) played,”” O’Neill said. “”Those are hard things to do as a freshman.””

    Horne, who played 28 minutes, was one of 10 players to see action.

    Freshman guard Jerryd Bayless started the game, scoring eight points on 2-of-8 shooting and dishing eight assists.

    “”Jerryd played like a freshman,”” O’Neill said. “”I’m still getting a feel for our players and getting rotations down. We have a lot of question marks in our youth.””

    Forward Jordan Hill started and played 27 minutes, putting up 12 points, seven rebounds and two steals after sitting out the Red-Blue intrasquad scrimmage game because of a knee sprain.

    Hill said he felt good but was unhappy with how he played defensively.

    “”Jordan Hill will play better,”” O’Neill said. “”He’s been out for a week and it showed. In the condition he’s in, he’s not great right now.””

    O’Neill and the players said that they will continue to grow as the season progresses. The ultimate goal, they said, is for Olson to return to a great team.

    “”It’s hard not having your coach who’s been here for 25 years – a Hall of Fame coach – not out there with you,”” said guard Nic Wise. “”But we’re so used to K.O. (O’Neill) running the show in practice and being vocal.””

    And one

    Forward Fendi Onobun is still healing from shin splints and did not play or dress. “”Fendi was contending for a starting spot,”” O’Neill said. “”He was playing very well, and it’s unfortunate that he had that injury.”” … Freshman Zane Johnson said after the game that his head hurt and that he was going to get it checked out later in the day. … The Wildcats scored 68 or less in only six of their 31 games last season, losing four of them.

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