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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wildcats take care of ‘Jacks

    UA forward Jordan Hill rejects NAU guard Cameron Jones during a 74-57 Wildcat win in McKale Center on Sunday afternoon. Hill scored a game-high 23 points to go with his 10 rebounds, marking his fourth double-double of the season.
    UA forward Jordan Hill rejects NAU guard Cameron Jones during a 74-57 Wildcat win in McKale Center on Sunday afternoon. Hill scored a game-high 23 points to go with his 10 rebounds, marking his fourth double-double of the season.

    Arizona 74, NAU 57

    It was nothing too fancy, unexpected or out-of-the-ordinary.

    No unusual breakouts, glaring letdowns or bizarre twists – Sunday afternoon’s 74-57 win over NAU gave the Arizona men’s basketball team a standard victory.

    Polished, ugly or just average – a win was all they asked.

    “”Coach (Russ Pennell) tells us in the locker room, a lot of times we’re not going to win pretty, we’re limited,”” said UA guard Nic Wise. “”It’s necessary for us to win ball games. It’s just that much more of a challenge for us to take care of the game.””

    In recent years, veteran Arizona teams have often closed large margins of victory over NAU – even by halftime.

    Take a 101-79 win in 2006, a 107-73 win in 2003 and a 101-66 win in 2002 for instance. Arizona hasn’t suffered even a mere scratch against NAU – never mind their last loss to the Lumberjacks in 1968.

    But such anticipated dominance wasn’t the case in its 25th straight series victory Sunday, nor has it been all season for Arizona’s

    inexperienced squad.

    “”That’s something when you have a young team, you’re not going to really blow teams out,”” said UA forward Chase Budinger. “”When you have a young team, it might be close. All that matters is getting the win.””

    In what has also become a well-known expectation, the Wildcats have heavily relied on their Big Three juniors – Sunday’s win was no exception.

    Just as needed all season long, they executed their dynamic roles and scored 63 of the Wildcats’ total 74 points.

    UA forward Jordan Hill registered a double-double with his game-high 23 points and 10 rebounds; Budinger followed with 22 points and nine rebounds; and Wise scored 18 points and dished out seven assists.

    “”That’s something that me, Nic and Jordan have to consistently do each game,”” Budinger said. “”We know we have a role each game. Everybody knows their roles, and us three really need to respond each and every game.””

    Their supporting cast only scored 11 points – seven of those coming from UA forward Jamelle Horne.

    “”Me, Jordan and Chase have already established ourselves – we’re trying to find our role players behind us,”” Wise said.

    Added Pennell: “”They’re an awful good threesome. We’ve got three guys that are rock solid in the lineup night in night out, through the thick and thin. I would say just about anybody we play, if we wanted to play three-on-three, we could win just about every game.

    “”Each one of them is different, so that presents a problem when you’re trying to match up,”” Pennell added. “”They have to set the example. The leaders can prevent some of the things that happen.””

    Arizona led by an 8-point cushion throughout much of the second half to take care of the Lumberjacks comfortably after a lackluster first half.

    Whether Arizona played down to NAU’s level or vice versa, the two teams ended the first half with nearly identical stats – even going beyond the tied 31-31 score.

    Both teams had 13 rebounds, five turnovers a piece and two steals for the first 20 minutes. Arizona had a better margin in assists (8-7) while the Lumberjacks committed more fouls (8-6). From the floor, Arizona shot 47.8 percent (11-for-23) compared to NAU’s 52 percent (13-for-25).

    “”There’s no way we should be tied with NAU at halftime,”” Wise said.

    Wise sparked a newfound momentum swing five minutes into the second half with an alley-oop dunk to Horne, which brought a relatively quiet McKale Center to its feet for the first time all game.

    Budinger nailed two 3s in a one-minute span with 12:35 remaining, putting Arizona up 51-39 and capping off a 16-4 run in the first half.

    Arizona ended the game with a 14-4 run.

    “”You know a run’s usually coming, and once you’re in the middle of the run, you try to prolong that by talking about shot selection,”” Pennell said. “”We don’t want to get caught up in the emotion, take a quick shot, then come down and we’ve negated the run. You try to lengthen those runs when you’re in the middle of one.””

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