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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Guard play pivotal for Wildcats’ future

Guard+play+pivotal+for+Wildcats+future

College basketball revolves around guards.

Good guard play can take a team deep into March, and poor guard play can hinder March dreams.

Arizona has known what to expect from its frontcourt all season long — dominance from Derrick Williams and great effort from Jesse Perry. In contrast, the Wildcats haven’t been as fortunate in the backcourt.

Until recently, UA’s guards have been wildly inconsistent throughout the season, whether it was shooting 1-for-14 from the starting backcourt against New Mexico State or being outplayed by Washington’s guards a few weeks ago.

At certain points this season, it was only natural to wonder if Arizona’s best guard play would come with the 2011 recruiting class next season.

However, the guards have managed to hush their critics in the last three games.

As No. 21 Arizona takes on Stanford tonight, the backcourt is playing their best basketball of the season.

Since being outscored 51-17 by Washington’s guards on Jan. 2, the guards have responded in all facets of the game.

Sophomore point guard Momo Jones being named Pacific 10 Conference Player of the Week is a sign that the team’s guard play is moving in the right direction.

Jones has been a point guard-in-training all season, trying to find a balance with scoring and setting up his teammates, which has often led to over-thinking and having more turnovers than assists.

In the last three games Jones has averaged 15 points, including back-to-back 17 point outbursts against UCLA and Southern California.

“”We talked about how both of us have to step up. He’s been aggressive,”” said shooting guard Kyle Fogg after Saturday’s win against USC. “”He’s always had confidence, his shots are falling, and he’s driving and kicking. He’s doing a great job.””

Jones’ improvement in the second half reminds Sean Miller of the Harlem native’s improvement last season.

“”Very similar to a year ago at this time, he really started to be consistent with his role,”” Miller said. “”His play (last weekend) was the best weekend we’ve had with consistent play, with both Momo (Jones) and Jordin (Mayes).””

Mayes, a freshman, has scored eight points per game as Jones’ backup this season, serving as a nice complement coming off the bench.

Though Jones has improved Arizona’s guard play by scoring, it’s Fogg who started the improved guard play two weeks ago against Washington State with his defense.

Fogg held Pac-10 Player of the Year candidate Klay Thompson to 4-for-16 shooting with nine points.

“”Not many people can hold Klay to nine points,”” Williams said. “”That’s the reason why we won that game. People said it was my 19 rebounds, but if he didn’t hold Klay (Thompson) to nine points, we don’t win that game.””

Fogg leads the team in assists and knows how to find Williams on the floor better than any Arizona player.

“”Kyle is one of the key cogs to our wheel,”” Miller said. “”He defends, plays team ball and I really think he can become a double digit scorer for us.””

Miller, who’s been patient with his guards even through the early season struggles, knows that no matter how brilliant Williams is, the play of his guards will determine how far the team goes this season.

“”When we get that production from our point guard,”” Miller said. “”We enter a different category as a team when they play well and play

confident.””

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