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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Santa Clara frontcourt poses threat to ‘Cats

    Arizona vs. Santa Clara

    Just one week ago, both the Arizona and Santa Clara men’s basketball teams shared a common court in the Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tipoff tournament.

    The favored Wildcats, host of the west regional in McKale Center, brought high aspirations of advancing to Madison Square Garden.

    Santa Clara, on the other hand, came in as the tournament’s 11th seed.

    It was a doubtful scenario that the two schools would share a chartered flight to the next round of the tournament – whether that be Santa Clara’s unlikely advancement to New York or the Wildcats’ unlikely loss in Tucson.

    But it’s Alabama-Birmingham that will spend Thanksgiving weekend at the basketball mecca in New York City, leaving a reseeded Arizona and Santa Clara together once again – this time to face each other.

    The Wildcats (2-1) face the Broncos (2-3) in Athens, Ga., for the consolation bracket’s second and final game.

    “”You can’t worry about what you do in the past,”” said junior Chase Budinger before departing for Georgia. “”You just have to move on and try to learn the things that you’ve done, and try to improve on those.””

    The Broncos bring talented big man John Bryant, who averaged a double-double this season with 20.3 points and 11.0 rebounds per game going into Monday. In his fourth year at Santa Clara, the 6-foot-11, 275-pound senior led the West Coast Conference in rebounds and blocked shots last season, while finishing as the second-leading scorer.

    Since his first year – when he arrived as a 360-pound freshman – Bryant has registered 26 double-doubles, including three already this season. Last week in Tucson, Bryant scored 17 and 25 points against UAB and Florida Atlantic, respectively.

    UA interim head coach Russ Pennell said Bryant leaves the Wildcats’ front court in a dangerous position, given the foul trouble that forward Jordan Hill often finds himself battling against.

    Entering Monday’s consolation games, Hill averaged 12.5 points and 16.0 rebounds per game.

    “”He presents a problem because one of the places we’re a little vulnerable, one of the big ones, is Jordan fouling too much,”” Pennell said. “”Jordan will have to be on (Bryant) a lot. We’ll have to do a good job of scheming against him, too, because he’s long and he’s well coached.””

    It may be a case where Pennell relies on freshman Alex Jacobson and senior Fendi Onobun in the case of Hill’s foul trouble.

    Santa Clara’s big-man presence comes just one game after Pennell’s recent shift to a smaller lineup by starting guard Garland Judkins over forward Fendi Onobun Monday afternoon against Mississippi Valley State. The move gave Arizona two quick guards (Nic Wise and Judkins), two wings (Budinger and Jamelle Horne) and a forward (Hill).

    “”That’s where Alex and Fendi have to step up in that game,”” Pennell said. “”They’ve got to be able to come in and give us some good productive minutes.””

    Arizona seemed to finally find its stride on the glass after being out-rebounded in the first three contests.

    In their second exhibition game and first regular season game, the Wildcats failed to dominate the boards – Sonoma State had a 37-33 rebounding advantage followed by Florida Atlantic’s 37-28 advantage.

    Last Tuesday, though, an oversized Wildcats team out-rebounded their opponent with a 47-27 advantage over UAB, thanks in large part to Hill’s tournament-record 22 rebounds.

    “”Hopefully our zone will be able to help us,”” Pennell said, “”especially if Jordan gets in early foul trouble.””


  • Arizona vs. Santa Clara all-time series: 4-4 since 1936.
  • When: 3:45 MST
  • Where: The Stegeman Coliseum, Athens, Ga.
  • TV: none
  • Radio: 1290 AM, 107.5 FM
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