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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Cats renew old rivalry after 17 years

    Senior forward Ivan Radenovic (right) drives past Randall Gulina of Samford in Arizonas 86-57 win over the Bulldogs Wednesday in McKale Center. Radenovic, who is second in the nation in field-goal percentage, leads a Wildcat squad that ranks fourth in field-goal percentage against UNLV today in McKale Center.
    Senior forward Ivan Radenovic (right) drives past Randall Gulina of Samford in Arizona’s 86-57 win over the Bulldogs Wednesday in McKale Center. Radenovic, who is second in the nation in field-goal percentage, leads a Wildcat squad that ranks fourth in field-goal percentage against UNLV today in McKale Center.

    Kenny Lofton sank to the ground in his last game in an Arizona uniform as UNLV guard Anderson Hunt’s 3-pointer sent the Wildcats home from the 1989 Sweet Sixteen. Lofton, who unsuccessfully tried to take a charge on the play, was part of what UA head coach Lute Olson called “”certainly one of the most disappointing (losses) of all of them.””

    The Runnin’ Rebels and the Wildcats had quite the rivalry in the late 1980s, featuring players like Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon, Larry Johnson, Armon Gilliam, Hunt, Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr, Jud Buechler, Tom Tolbert and Anthony Cook, as well as two Hall of Fame coaches in Olson and Jerry Tarkanian.

    “”Two of the best teams in the West,”” according to Olson, met six times in the 80s and once in 1990, with UNLV winning six of the seven meetings, but for the last 17 years the two squads have not seen each other at all.

    “”Every game that UNLV and Arizona played was at the very highest level that you could play,”” Olson said. “”Both teams played well, both teams played with great passion.””

    Now the series is back for four years. Lon Kruger, with whom Olson is familiar, coaches the Runnin’ Rebels, and James E. Rogers, a Las Vegas resident who donates money to both schools (Arizona’s law school bears his name), supports the matchup. Both were contributing factors, Olson said.

    After today’s game at 8:30 p.m. in McKale Center, the No. 16 Wildcats (3-1) will visit Las Vegas for the next two years before playing one game in Tucson the year after that.

    “”I had no idea it had been that long since the series, but I think it’s a good time for it to get started,”” Olson said.

    While Arizona has thrived since the 80s, UNLV (4-1) has reveled in mediocrity recently, finishing either in third or fourth in the Mountain West Conference in each of the last six years.

    The Wildcats enter the game second in the nation in scoring at 94.8 points per game and fourth in field-goal percentage at 55 percent. UNLV is just as capable of putting up big numbers, scoring 96 points in its last game against San Francisco Saturday.

    Forward Ivan Radenovic, Arizona’s second-leading scorer at 17.3 points per game, is shooting a scorching 75 percent from the field, good for second best in the country.

    After practicing Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Olson said he thinks Arizona’s defense is getting better too.

    “”It seems at this point that some of the things we’ve struggled with, they’re starting to get the idea of what we want,”” he said. “”Defensively, we’ve been getting better, and we’re trying to adjust what we normally do to better fit our personnel.

    “”This is not a team that can get out and deny people way out on the floor. I think we’re going to have to become more of a containment team.””

    Olson found more time for backup guards Nic Wise and Daniel Dillon in Arizona’s win over Samford Wednesday, playing them each 19 minutes. Wise found his stroke, leading the bench in points with nine, while Dillon, whom Olson has called the team’s best defender, hasn’t played up to the coach’s standards.

    “”Nic looked much more at ease in terms of doing what he can do,”” Olson said. “”We just want him to be a guy that’s going to be an attacker rather than stand outside and wait for a 3-point opportunity to come up, and I thought he did a much better job of that last time around.

    “”Daniel, we need to get him to stop reaching and move his feet because he should be one of our defensive stoppers.””

    Meanwhile, the J.P. Prince saga continues. Arizona’s third guard off the bench “”won’t be ready to play for some time,”” according to Olson.

    “”He’s been losing weight from some kind of an infection, so he’ll be in that situation for a while,”” Olson said.

    Prince was not in attendance for Wednesday’s game and was not in the gym at the start of practice yesterday. Olson said he doubts that Prince, who has been seeing the doctor, would be on the bench today.

    Amid speculation that there was more to the Prince story including a possible transfer, Olson only said, “”He’s not healthy; he can’t play.””

    “”We’ll go with the people we got,”” he added.

    And 1

    Center Kirk Walters (mononucleosis) will not travel with the team to New York for Dec. 5’s game against Louisville, Olson said, in order to regain strength through rehabilitation.

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