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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Young ‘Cats look for better starts

    Being young has its downsides, but for many more reasons, youth is advantageous.

    The No. 21 Arizona men’s basketball team has struggled to play well in the opening minutes of games this season, but came back from 20-point and 13-point deficits in its last two games, respectively.

    “”We can’t keep digging ourselves in these 20-point holes and trying to come back,”” said senior guard Jawann McClellan. “”We’re not experienced enough, for one. We are young. But that might (be) a reason behind it, as well.””

    And still, youth is one of the reasons for the team’s wins.

    In trying to veer off the repetitive road of slow starts to games Sunday afternoon at 1 in McKale Center against Fresno State (5-4) in a game televised by FSNA, the Wildcats (6-2) will rely heavily on their younger players to get the job done.

    Freshman guard Jerryd Bayless leads the squad with 19.9 points and 4.9 assists per game and sophomore forward Chase Budinger has posted an average of 17.1 ppg.

    Even when he only scored three points in the first half of Arizona’s last game, an overtime win against Illinois in Chicago, Bayless finished the game with 20.

    “”I’ve got to do that,”” Bayless said of leading the team. “”That’s the way I’ve played my whole life, and I’m going to try to bring that attribute onto this team. … I just want to help out this team in whatever way I can.

    “”It’s just the way I am and the way I’ve been brought up. It’s the way I’ve always been.””

    But what happens when Bayless shows signs of being the freshman that he is, going 1-for-7 from the floor in a half, like he did last Saturday, and Budinger scores a season-low eight points?

    More underclassmen come to the rescue.

    “”We have to have other guys step up,”” said UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill. “”Jerryd and Chase have to realize that anyone we play against is going to try to take them out of the game, initially. Illinois did a really good job at that. And we didn’t react very well to it. Chase had some points where he just turned the ball over in traffic. But we’ve got some guys on this team that can play.””

    Forward Jordan Hill and his roommate, guard Nic Wise, both played large roles in the Wildcats’ win over the Fighting Illini. The two sophomores helped in different ways, as Hill scored 23 points and pulled down 14 rebounds and Wise recorded 11 points and eight assists in an enthusiastic and energy-laden effort.

    “”Nic’s a good player,”” Hill said. “”He just needed a chance to go out there and perform like he should. And he can play better, I know he can.””

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, Fresno State starts four seniors and a sophomore and uses just one underclassman off the bench.

    The Bulldogs shine from behind the arc, firing an average of 25 3s per game, hitting more than nine in each contest, which is good for 24th best in the nation. Guard Eddie Miller has attempted 66 treys, tickling the twine 30 times (45.5 percent).

    Four of the Bulldogs’ projected starters average double-digits in scoring, with senior guard Kevin Bell leading the way with 18.1 ppg. He has also dropped an average of 6.1 dimes per game as the team’s leading assists man.

    “”They’re a team that looks like they can beat you if you don’t play,”” O’Neill said. “”(Bell) is a great shooter. We go into every game trying to stop the other team’s best player or best two players. … We’ve got to stop their transition game, we’ve got to attack their zone, we’ve got to take their 3 out of the game.””

    To do that, the Wildcats all agree that it starts when the first whistle blows.

    “”I don’t think it’s anything more than a lack of execution,”” O’Neill said of the team’s slow starts. “”I’m aware that we’re not starting games well, but I’m very happy with how we’re finishing games and how hard we’re fighting.””

    And 1

    Fresno State and Arizona are meeting for the first time since 1981. The Bulldogs lead the series 3-2 and are 2-2 in Tucson. …

    The Wildcats have been practicing in Bear Down Gym this week, with Lute and Bobbi Olson Court set up for graduation. …

    The contest against Illinois was Budinger’s sixth career game in which he scored under 10 points. Arizona is 4-2 when he fails to reach double digits.

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