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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Trading spaces, changing places”

    Senior point guard Mustafa Shakur goes up for a lay-up as Washington State forward Daven Harmeling backs off in Arizonas 77-73 loss to the Cougars Jan. 6 in Pullman, Wash. Hamerling didnt back down from the Wildcats scoring 28 points in the contest, and Washington State comes into tonights game ranked ahead of Arizona in the standings and national rankings.
    Senior point guard Mustafa Shakur goes up for a lay-up as Washington State forward Daven Harmeling backs off in Arizona’s 77-73 loss to the Cougars Jan. 6 in Pullman, Wash. Hamerling didn’t back down from the Wildcats scoring 28 points in the contest, and Washington State comes into tonight’s game ranked ahead of Arizona in the standings and national rankings.

    Oh, how things have changed since the last time the Wildcats met up with Washington State.

    Entering its Jan. 6 contest in Pullman, Wash., then-No. 7 Arizona was riding high with a 12-game winning streak and coming off its biggest win of the season, a 96-87 victory at then-No. 24 Washington, in which the Wildcats shot a season-high 65.3 percent from the field.

    But after losing to the then-unranked Cougars, Arizona hasn’t been the same, losing five of seven, including Saturday’s 92-64 thrashing at the hands of then-No. 4 North Carolina in which the Wildcats shot a season-low 33.9 percent from the field.

    “”It kind of feels like that game kind of got like a curse on us or something like that,”” forward Chase Budinger said. “”Ever since that game we’ve been in a shooting slump.””

    No. 20 Arizona (14-6, 5-4 Pacific 10 Conference) enters tonight’s rematch in McKale Center with No. 18 Washington State (17-4, 6-3), trying to shake off that recent dry spell and turn things around to start the second half of Pac-10 play.

    “”This is definitely a chance to rectify everything that has happened,”” said guard Mustafa Shakur. “”I’m really looking forward to playing against them and getting back on the right track. I know we will, and I think this is a good opportunity to get back with a win.””

    Going into that last game the Wildcats were a top-10 team, with Cougar fans thinking so much of the then-upset that they rushed the court, celebrating what would be their first entrance into the national rankings since 1983 in the next poll.

    Now the tables are turned with the Wildcats looking up at the Cougars in the conference standings and the national rankings. But WSU head coach Tony Bennett said that doesn’t mean a thing once the ball is in the air.

    They’re “”as dangerous ð- maybe more dangerous”” than last time, Bennett said. “”They’re a high-level team that’s capable, but they’ve hit a tough patch. … You go through these times, and you find out what your team’s made out of. I’m sure (UA head) coach (Lute Olson) will get them playing at a high level for us, but we respect them and we’ve got our hands full, we know that.””

    Washington State’s methodical pace in which they drain much of the 24-second shot clock helped clog Arizona’s running game. This style threw the Wildcats off balance to start the contest, leading to a 15-5 WSU lead eight minutes into the game.

    No stat describes how the Cougars controlled the pace better than the fact that the neither squad scored a single fast-break point in the overtime contest. Zero. It’s no surprise that Olson observed that the Wildcats didn’t convert on fast-break opportunities with WSU often sending multiple players back on defense.

    To prevent a repeat performance, Shakur said Arizona needs to set the tone of the game early on and not let the Cougars get into a rhythm, just like WSU did in stifling the Wildcats’ high-powered attack a month ago.

    “”I think we need to come out the first five, seven minutes and really set the tone,”” he said. “”I don’t think we did a good job of that against them, and we didn’t do a good job of that last game (against Carolina), so I think we need to set that tone the first five to seven minutes, and it’ll be a better outcome.””

    The Wildcats, who average 6.3 steals per game as a team, stole the ball just once in the first meeting, one more reason why their fast break stalled all game.

    “”We’ve just got to get out there on the defensive side, just try to get steals to lead to our transition breaks,”” Budinger said. We need to “”get out in transition, and I don’t think we ever did that”” last time.

    As Arizona turns to WSU and the second half of the conference season, Olson said he takes solace in the fact the difficult road trips to the Washington and Southern California schools are out of the way. He considers the upcoming schedule easier than the front nine as the Wildcats start to concentrate on playing for a seed in the NCAA Tournament.

    Olson also said that of Arizona’s four losses, one was at the buzzer, another in overtime and the other two competitive games as well.

    “”We just need to see whether we can do things a little bit better the second time around than we did the first,”” he said.

    Now the Wildcats have their hopes set on having tonight’s game blow them back on course. The previous Washington State game led to a month-long slump with the only winning coming against conference cellar-dwellers Oregon State and ASU, both at home.

    “”There’s nine more games in the Pac-10. We’re focused on that,”” said forward Ivan Radenovic. “”We’ve got to wake up that sense of urgency and try to win every single game to the end of the year.

    “”We definitely need to win.””

    And 1

    Olson said Tuesday he expects forward Marcus Williams to play today despite spraining his ankle against the Tar Heels. Williams has been undergoing treatment three to four times a day but practiced yesterday.

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