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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Fast-paced Cats meet slow-down Samford in contrast of styles game

    Senior point guard Mustafa Shakur pushes the ball up the court in Arizonas 102-87 win over New Mexico State Sunday in McKale Center. Shakur, whos second in the nation in assists, may have more difficulty pushing the tempo tonight against a slow-down Samford attack.
    Senior point guard Mustafa Shakur pushes the ball up the court in Arizona’s 102-87 win over New Mexico State Sunday in McKale Center. Shakur, who’s second in the nation in assists, may have more difficulty pushing the tempo tonight against a slow-down Samford attack.

    Arizona has hit the century mark in scoring in its last two games, but the Wildcats’ patience will be tested against Samford tonight at 7:30 in McKale Center.

    The Bulldogs are admittedly not the quickest or most athletic team, but their Princeton-style, slow-down offense that focuses on back-cuts and a slow tempo has made them the pick to win the Ohio Valley Conference.

    “”It’s sort of like going to the dentist,”” said UA head coach Lute Olson, who compared the Bulldogs’ desired pace to Arizona’s games against Washington State.

    The Wildcats (2-1) are averaging 97.7 points for the first three games, and all five starters average no less than 13.3 points per game. Samford (1-2) on the other hand would like to keep the game in the ’60s, scoring 66.3 points per game in its first three contests.

    “”You can’t say if you’re going to score 100, 90 ; you just have to go out there and play,”” said Mustafa Shakur, who is averaging 8.3 assists per game.

    A large part of the offense’s resurgence has been the perimeter shooting, thanks to wings Chase Budinger and Jawann McClellan, who have combined to shoot 60 percent from 3-point range (18-of-30). But the bench has been less effective, especially in Sunday’s contest against New Mexico State, when Olson was hesitant to pull his starters against a pressure defense.

    In practice Monday, Olson gave the starters essentially a day off with light shooting and free throws and excused them early while the bench players did a large share of running and 3-on-3 half-court scrimmaging.

    “”The problem against New Mexico State was that they were a very aggressive pressing team, and when we did go to the bench, we made mistakes, turnovers. But I don’t think we’re going to be in the same situation,”” Olson said. “”Samford is a much more standard contain-type defense.””

    Forward Bret Brielmaier leads the bench in scoring with three points per-game, tied with walk-on guard David Bagga, who has played just one minute this season. But starting forward Marcus Williams said the Wildcats will need their bench guys come later in the season.

    “”The biggest thing is to get the people who are a little newer, to get them involved and to make sure they’re comfortable out there so when March comes around we don’t have anyone wet behind the ear,”” he said.

    On the defensive end, where the Wildcats have struggled thus far, giving up 86.3 points per game on 45 percent shooting, Arizona will be tested in a different way than its first three games.

    “”It’s going to be tough for us because that’s how we play,”” Budinger said. “”We overplay and get in passing lanes and try to make steals, but this game is going to be a little bit different because they’re going to be doing a lot of back-cuts.””

    Arizona’s six steals per game as well as its sometimes gambling style can play right into the hands of Samford, and Olson said the Bulldogs have been immune to pressure, averaging only 8.7 turnovers per game.

    “”We need to learn patience on the defensive end,”” he said.

    “”Very basic basketball: If you overplay them too much, they do a great job of executing the backdoors, a lot of give and go’s,”” Olson added.

    But offensively, Shakur said Arizona won’t divert too much from its normal style.

    “”(We will) just keep playing like we’ve been playing and not try to change too much outside of things we can do against their defense to get easy baskets,”” he said.

    Although Samford’s style doesn’t suit what the Wildcats try to accomplish offensively by consistently running, scheduling the Bulldogs as a nonconference opponent was far from a coincidence. With Herb Sendek coming in to coach ASU and bringing his version of the Princeton offense to the Pac-10 as well as Washington State’s grind-it-out style, Olson believes the game will be good preparation for conference play.

    “”We attempt to get teams that are going to help us get ready for teams that will be similar in terms of how they play once league starts,”” he said.

    And 1

    Quoteable: “”I think what he was referring to was that particular game because he obviously came here and lost by 30 the other year. Think about that.””

    Shakur, responding to a question about Virginia guard Sean Singletary calling Arizona soft.

    Brielmaier received six stitches in his lip after Sunday’s game but practiced Monday …Forward Mohamed Tangara was poked in the eye Saturday and was held out of practice yesterday, but Olson said he should be available to play…the team will have the day off Thursday for Thanksgiving and will have dinner at Olson’s house before being back at practice on Friday.

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