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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Historic sweep stuns hoops

    Surrounded by a horde of Cougar defenders, UA guard Mustafa Shakur attempts a shot in Arizonas 72-66 loss to Washington State last night in McKale Center. The Cougars swept the Wildcats for the third time in team history.
    Surrounded by a horde of Cougar defenders, UA guard Mustafa Shakur attempts a shot in Arizona’s 72-66 loss to Washington State last night in McKale Center. The Cougars swept the Wildcats for the third time in team history.

    Having lost five of its last seven games heading into the contest, the No. 20 Arizona men’s basketball team appeared to have finally turned the tide when Mustafa Shakur nailed a pair of free throws to cap a 7-0 run and give the Wildcats their first lead since the middle of the first half.

    But No. 18 Washington State (18-4, 7-3 Pacific 10 Conference) promptly answered with an 8-0 run to regain control of the game before holding on for a 72-66 win over the Wildcats (14-7, 5-5) last night in McKale Center to clinch the Cougars’ first sweep of Arizona since 1983.

    “”They’re a good team, but at the end of the day I still feel like we’re a better team,”” said UA guard Mustafa Shakur. “”Not to take anything away from Washington State, but I still feel like we’re better than a lot of the teams we’re losing to.””

    Trailing 66-63 with under a minute left, in what typifies Arizona’s stretch of now six losses in eight games, UA wings Marcus Williams and Jawann McClellan both missed open looks at 3-pointers that would have tied the game.

    “”It’s a big shock,”” said forward Chase Budinger, who was 1-of-5 on 3s but scored a game-high 19 points. “”All of a sudden we can’t make shots anymore. I can’t say why, I don’t have any explanation. It’s a curse or something.””

    After a Budinger free throw cut the lead to two, the Wildcats chose not to foul in hopes of getting the ball back for a last-second shot. Instead WSU forward Daven Harmeling struck again.

    Having scored a career-high 28 points on 7-of-11 3-point shooting in the Cougars’ Jan. 6 win over the Wildcats, Harmeling spotted up in the corner and put in a dagger of a 3-pointer to put the game away giving the Cougars a five point lead with 19 seconds left.

    “”Every time he plays against us he knocks down shots,”” Budinger said.

    Harmeling had struggled to that point, having scored six points on 3-of-10 shooting. But he followed his 3 with a 3-point play 12 seconds later to give him as many points in that stretch as the rest of the game.

    “”It’s time I hit one because I struggled all game long shooting the ball,”” Harmeling said.

    Once again the story for Arizona was its shooting, particularly from 3-point range where the Wildcats hit 4-of-19 (21.1 percent). Not including the ASU game Jan. 24, when the squad hit 9-of-21 from behind the arc, Arizona is shooting 19 percent (24-of-126) from distance in its past seven games.

    “”It’s been awhile since we really knocked shots down,”” UA head coach Lute Olson said, before joking that he’s going to hold a team meeting and tell his squad to “”make shots.””

    Although Arizona shot a respectable 75 percent from the free throw line, some of them were crucial misses late in the contest as the Wildcats drew eight team fouls halfway through the second half.

    Once again Arizona struggled in a close game, as it had chances down the stretch to win all five of the conference games it has lost.

    In fact, beside last week’s 28-point blowout at the hands of No. 3 North Carolina, only one of Arizona’s other five losses have been by more than four points.

    “”It’s tough, especially when they’re coming down to the last minute,”” McClellan said.

    Forward Jordan Hill started the second game of his career and continued his quality play of late in the first half, scoring all of his five points and blocking a pair of shots in 17 minutes.

    Hill started in place of forward Marcus Wiliams, who sprained his ankle Saturday against North Carolina. Williams entered with 13:12 left in the first half and immediately made his presence felt, scoring a couple buckets in his first couple minutes on his way to 12 in the game.

    After Arizona got off to a quick start to lead 13-6, the Cougars answered, going on a 17-5 run over almost eight minutes to take a lead they held for all but seconds of the rest of the contest.

    WSU used a balanced attack with four players scoring double figures, led by forward Ivory Clark’s 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting to prevent a UA comeback and make history for the Cougars.

    “”They have McDonald’s All-Americans, and we’re just average guys,”” Clark said. “”I didn’t think we would ever beat them twice in one season, but anything is possible.””

    And 1

    The Wildcats made one second-half field goal from 12:24 to 2:14 but attempted 14 free throws in the span, making 11 … They also dominated the paint, scoring 32 points in that area to WSU’s 12, including 22-2 in the first half.

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