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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Achilles Heel exposed in Arizona win

    Arizona forward Ivan Radenovic tries to lay the ball up over Stanford center Robin Lopez Saturday in the No. 7 Wildcats 89-75 win over the Cardinal in McKale Center. Radenovic and the other UA big men struggled defensively and in keeping Lopez and his twin Brook Lopez, both seven-footers, off the offensive glass, an Achilles Heel for Arizona all season.
    Arizona forward Ivan Radenovic tries to lay the ball up over Stanford center Robin Lopez Saturday in the No. 7 Wildcats’ 89-75 win over the Cardinal in McKale Center. Radenovic and the other UA big men struggled defensively and in keeping Lopez and his twin Brook Lopez, both seven-footers, off the offensive glass, an Achilles Heel for Arizona all season.

    Even in running to win after win, the supposed Achilles Heel of the No. 7 Arizona basketball team has been interior defense and rebounding.

    Sure the fast-breaking style is fun and with Arizona’s athletes will lead to a number of wins, but what will happen when the Wildcats face a legitimate post player or two?

    After struggling with Stanford big men Brook and Robin Lopez Saturday, the question remains on the table, although the Wildcats once again played together offensively and shot well enough (61.2 percent) to overcome any interior shortcomings.

    “”It’s extremely hard,”” forward Ivan Radenovic said of having to deal with a pair of seven-footers. “”I’d compare them to (275-pound forward Derrick) Caracter of Louisville and some other big guys. They don’t look that strong, but they’re really extremely strong.””

    Brook had his coming out game against the UA front line, scoring 17 points – including nine straight at one point – and grabbing nine rebounds after coming in with respective averages of 6.6 and 1.8, while his twin Robin went for 14 and seven.

    But the impact was felt most on the offensive boards, where the Cardinal grabbed 21 of their 36 rebounds, a high for offensive rebounds for a UA opponent this year. In fact, Brook (seven), Robin (three) and forward Taj Finger (five, all in the first half) combined to more than double Arizona’s total (seven), while collecting more than any Wildcat opponent as a team except Louisville.

    During a second-half possession, Brook rebounded a Stanford shot, missed a short jumper and then Robin rebounded the ball on the other side of the basket and put in a layup. Many variations of that sequence also occurred.

    Stanford often sent one of its big men to the weak-side glass, many times being Brook. It was one of the two biggest problems UA head coach Lute Olson foresaw entering the contest.

    “”They are a very good offensive rebounding team…because they keep one of those two guys on the weakside glass,”” Olson said. “”They hurt us down low. They’re going to create a lot of problems for a lot of teams.””

    Forward Marcus Williams sat out for about eight minutes of the second half after picking up his fourth foul with the Twin Towers on the floor much of that time together going up against forwards Bret Brielmaier and Jordan Hill, as well as Radenovic. When Williams returned to the floor for crunch time, the 6-foot-7, 205-pound sophomore found himself looking at a 7-footer in Brook.

    “”I could barely see what else was going on on the floor he’s so big, so I’m just kind of sitting there hanging in front, trying to use my quickness a little bit,”” Williams said. “”He’s a big body, keeping him off the glass (is important). That’s kind of been what I’ve become accustomed to…just go in there banging, show him that I can go down there and bang with him a little bit.””

    With the UA lead at five with just over three minutes left, Williams took Brook outside and calmly hit a jumper over the big man.

    “”Seven footers have to guard (Williams) at the other end,”” Olson said. “”That was a real problem (for the Cardinal).””

    After Brook answered with a basket, Radenovic hit a jumper in the face of Robin to keep the lead at a comfortable seven points with just under 2:30 left.

    Olson also pointed out that Radenovic often played outside in the contest, leaving the middle open for back cuts and layups that the Wildcats took advantage of. Radenovic still managed to score 22 points, one less than Williams’ game-high 23 points.

    “”That’s obviously something we need to do,”” Olson said. “”We need to make big guys who are not accustomed to playing outside play outside.””

    Next up for the Wildcats is a trip to the Washington schools, starting Thursday against the No. 14 Huskies. When Williams goes home to his native Seattle for that contest, he gets to face 260-pound power forward Jon Brockman, who was among the conference’s rebounding leaders averaging 10.2 per contest entering Sunday’s game at No.1 UCLA.

    “”There’s a lot of big power forwards in this conference,”” Williams said, “”and Coach feels that I’ve matured enough to be able to handle that responsibility, so he’ll just let me down there at any moment.””

    After playing only one true road game during the winning streak, now the Wildcats will get a taste of a crazy environment at Washington as well as the slow-down style of Washington State, who won at USC Saturday and nearly pinned the first loss of the season on the Bruins Thursday.

    Guard Mustafa Shakur said he expects a “”grind-it-out type of weekend,”” adding that the Stanford win prepared the squad for what it will see this week.

    “”It’s going to be two great games,”” said guard Jawann McClellan. “”We have to come out of there with two wins.””

    That will be no easy task with the Washington schools a combined 22-4 pending the UW-UCLA game.

    Just like with the success of the season as a whole, a major factor will involve whether Arizona’s perimeter big men Radenovic and Williams, with a bit of help from Hill and Brielmaier, can hold their own inside defensively and on the defensive glass while making their opponents pay offensively.

    “”We’ve got to just play Arizona basketball,”” Radenovic said. “”We’re not worried about other teams.

    “”We know what we have to do.””

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