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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Fast tempo gives ‘Cats better shot

    UA forward Chase Budinger pulls up for a jump shot during a 66-56 Wildcat win on Jan. 31 in McKale Center. The Wildcats face ASU on Sunday afternoon in Tempe but will need to shoot better than the 29.8 percent that Arizona posted when it lost 53-47 to the Sun Devils in Tucson on Jan. 21.
    UA forward Chase Budinger pulls up for a jump shot during a 66-56 Wildcat win on Jan. 31 in McKale Center. The Wildcats face ASU on Sunday afternoon in Tempe but will need to shoot better than the 29.8 percent that Arizona posted when it lost 53-47 to the Sun Devils in Tucson on Jan. 21.

    It’s hard to find a worse combined shooting performance between two teams than the UA-ASU game on Jan. 21 in McKale Center.

    Neither team broke the 30 percent field goal mark from the floor; and 3-point percentages were in the teens.

    “”That’s probably one of the ugliest games that I’ve played in,”” said UA wing Chase Budinger. “”Low scoring game, slow tempo – just everyone was missing shots.””

    Added UA wing Zane Johnson: “”I don’t think either team will have that bad of a game like that (again). It was pretty bad.””

    Numbers don’t lie: ASU shot 8-of-35 from the floor and 2-of-17 from beyond the arc in the first half. Arizona hardly felt comfortable with its lead heading into half time, 21-18, based on 6-of-21 from the floor and 1-of-9 from 3-point land.

    Second half free throws made the difference for the Sun Devils. After playing the first 20 minutes without getting to the line, ASU made 16-of-19 from the charity stripe, giving it a 53-47 win over the once-reeling Wildcats.

    So why does Johnson believe it’ll be different this time around?

    “”The coaches have just let us run more,”” he said. “”I think that’s helped us out scoring wise.””

    Throughout Arizona’s seven-game winning streak, the Wildcats have averaged 82.6 points per game, which is 10.4 more than its season average.

    During the winning streak, Arizona has reached the 80-point mark five times, and is a perfect 8-0 when reaching that plateau.

    More high percentage baskets can be correlated with the Wildcats’ quicker tempo over the past few weeks. Against the Los Angeles schools, Arizona shot a combined 54.1 percent from the field, in large part due to UA point guard Nic Wise’s 70.8 percent of his own from the floor.

    Through the eyes of UA interim head coach Russ Pennell, it was both teams’ defensive effort that attributed to poor shooting.

    The Sun Devils rank second defensively in the Pac-10 by allowing just 58.5 points per game.

    “”I don’t know if I remember a game where both teams shot that poor of a percentage,”” Pennell said. “”Though the defense was awfully good in that game. I expect both teams will shoot the ball better.””

    Keeping the team down to Earth

    After completing the sweep over the Los Angeles schools last weekend, the Wildcats earned an immense amount of respect on the national level.

    ESPN.com named Arizona the Team of the Week, while recruiting Web site Rivals.com gave Nic Wise National Player of the Week honors.

    The victory over then-No. 11 UCLA gave Arizona a breakthrough signature win on the national level, as columnists from CBSSports.com and ESPN.com featured stories on the job that Pennell has done turning the team around from its 11-8 start.

    With all the attention, it’s easy for any team to get caught up in the limelight. Especially Arizona, a school that was written off early in the season after Lute Olson retired and Jeff Withey transferred. Point Guard U, known for its national prestigiousness, didn’t capture the national eye until this week.

    But at 18-8, the Wildcats realize they haven’t accomplished anything yet.

    “”Our record still shows we can’t be cocky,”” Budinger said. “”We’re still only 18-8. That’s not that impressive of a record. We still have some work to do having to win the league. We really can’t get too cocky in that sense because we still have a lot to work on and to stride for.””

    Added Pennell: “”You’re only as good as your next game. I’ve tried to be real consistent with that.

    “”I’ve felt this team, ever since I’ve been the head coach, has been judged by former teams here. I think it’s real easy to do. … Winning validates everything you talk about or what you do. I don’t think we’ve topped out on what we can do as a team.””

    Week off ideal for resting

    Big Three

    Pennell didn’t personally make this season’s schedule. But if he were to, this week would’ve been his perfect timing to play in Tempe.

    Since Jan. 2, the Wildcats have played on Thursday and Saturday ever week – with the exception of Jan. 21 against ASU, which was a Wednesday.

    That’s seven consecutive weekends of 14 games, not including travel to the Oregon, Bay Area and Los Angeles schools.

    Relying heavily on the three juniors, Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise play nearly all 40 minutes for the Wildcats.

    Budinger leads the Pac-10 in minutes, averaging 37.4 per game, while Hill (35.2) and Wise (36.4) aren’t far behind.

    Since the game isn’t until Sunday, the Wildcats received an extra opportunity to rest from the typical practice cycle.

    Wednesday was Arizona’s first full-scale contact practice after spending Monday and Tuesday working on shooting and walk-through drills.

    “”It could make a difference, just getting me, Nic and Jordan the extra rest,”” Budinger said. “”Before the season, me, Nic and Jordan really had to increase our conditioning because we knew we would be playing such long minutes throughout the season.””

    Added Pennell: “”I really believe the rest is going to be beneficial. I really believe this time of year, there’s nothing better than having a little bit of rest. I’m not sure this break could’ve come at a better time. We’ll really get back into full scale practice today.””

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