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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    9 games scheduled for break

    UA forward Jordan Hill absorbs the blow of Texas A&M forward Bryan Davis during the Wildcats 78-67 win over the Aggies on Sunday in McKale Center. Arizona plays No. 2 Memphis on Dec. 29.
    UA forward Jordan Hill absorbs the blow of Texas A&M forward Bryan Davis during the Wildcats’ 78-67 win over the Aggies on Sunday in McKale Center. Arizona plays No. 2 Memphis on Dec. 29.

    The No. 22 Arizona men’s basketball team has shown a lot through its first seven regular-season games, from heart-wrenching losses (see then-No. 4 Kansas on Nov. 25) to fist-pumping triumphs (then-No. 9 Texas A&M on Sunday).

    The Wildcats (5-2) are comfortable with a freshman and a sophomore in Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger, respectively, running the offensive show, while senior Jawann McClellan has taken on a new role as a defensive stopper.

    With nine games scheduled during the holiday break, Arizona has a few showdowns on tap before starting Pacific 10 Conference play while school is away.

    Holiday schedule

    Dec. 8 vs. Illinois (in Chicago)
    10 a.m., ESPN
    Record: 5-2

    Key player: Center Shaun Pruitt, averaging 10.3 points and 7.4 rebounds, will test Arizona’s interior players.

    Why to watch: Few Wildcat fans can forget what happened the last time these teams matched up in Chicago, with Illinois advancing to the 2005 Final Four when Arizona blew a 15-point lead with four minutes to go. The Wildcats got a bit of revenge last year in Phoenix, coming back from a 16-point first-half deficit, but a win in Chicago would be twice as nice.

    Dec. 16 vs. Fresno State
    1 p.m., FSNA
    Record: 4-3

    Key player: Guard Kevin Bell is one of five Bulldogs averaging double digits in scoring, contributing 17.4 per game.

    Why to watch: A classic ‘Dogs and ‘Cats fight in which the Wildcats will have to battle rustiness, with it being the team’s second game in a two-week span because of final exams. Eight Bulldogs standing 6-foot-8 or taller may also give Arizona some trouble.

    Dec. 19 at Nevada-Las Vegas
    8 p.m., CSTV
    Record: 6-2

    Key player: Wink Adams is a 6-foot guard who knows how to create shots for himself and get to the line. The second-leading scorer for the Runnin’ Rebels (12.9 ppg) is 21-of-23 from the free-throw line.

    Why to watch: Arizona beat UNLV by 14 in last year’s contest in Tucson, but the Rebels ran on to the Sweet 16 while the Wildcats were stranded in the first round of NCAA Tournament play.

    Dec. 22 vs. San Diego State
    1 p.m., FSNA
    Record: 8-1

    Key player: Forward Lorrenzo Wade leads the Aztecs in 3-point percentage (.520), points (14.4), assists (3.0) and – oops – turnovers (2.75) per game.

    Why to watch: Arizona forward Chase Budinger looks for redemption against his hometown college after he was held to just five points last season – a point more than his season low. A win for the Wildcats is vital heading into Memphis – their toughest matchup of the winter break.

    Dec. 29 at No. 2 Memphis
    8 p.m., ESPN2
    Record: 7-0

    Key player: Freshman guard Derrick Rose, a consensus top-five player in the class of 2007, makes the type of impact Jerryd Bayless does with Arizona. The all-around player averages 15.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.

    Why to watch: Another brutal road test, similar to the Kansas game, in which a close loss would be considered a moral victory for those outside the Arizona locker room. The Tigers are legitimate Final Four contenders after falling just short in the Elite Eight last year, but if the Wildcats play as well as they did in the second half against then-No. 9 Texas A&M, anything’s possible. Memphis also has revenge to serve after a UA win in Tucson last year.

    Jan. 3 vs. Oregon State
    6:30 p.m., FSNA
    Record: 3-3

    Key player: Forward Marcel Jones averages 14.2 points and 8.5 rebounds, and guard Seth Tarver leads the team with an average of 15.0 points per game. But they don’t get much help.

    Why to watch: There really isn’t much reason, with the Beavers having already lost to Colorado State, Alaska and Iowa State. This game should serve as an appetizer for the Ducks, with Oregon State last beating the Wildcats in Tucson when Lute Olson coached Iowa.

    Jan. 5 vs. No. 19 Oregon
    Noon, FSN
    Record: 6-1

    Key player: If the Wildcats only focus on one player they’ll be in trouble, as the Ducks feature four players averaging at least 15 points per game. That list includes guard Malik Hairston (17.9 ppg), forward Maarty Leunen (15.7 ppg, as well as 11.0 rebounds per game), guard Tajuan Porter (15.7 ppg) and guard Bryce Taylor (15.0 ppg). That’s not to mention forward Joevan Catron (11.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg).

    Why to watch: Kevin O’Neill’s defense will get its biggest test yet against an Oregon squad leading the Pacific 10 Conference in scoring by a large margin, averaging 91.3 ppg. The game could be a shootout, with the Wildcats second in the conference at 79.7. The last time Arizona faced Oregon, Budinger went off for 30 points and 10 rebounds.

    Jan. 9 at ASU
    7:30 p.m., FSNA
    Record: 4-2

    Key player: Stud freshman guard James Harden has impressed, averaging a team-best 16.0 points to go with 5.3 rebounds per game. He gives Herb Sendek’s squad a scoring threat it missed last season.

    Why to watch: It’s ASU. Every game against your rival is a big game, even when you have beaten that rival 24 times in your past 25 meetings.

    Jan. 12 at Houston
    2 p.m., ESPN2
    Record: 8-1

    Key player: In his new stopper role, guard Jawann McClellan will be sure to get the assignment on Cougars guard Robert McKiver. He can shoot the lights out, leading Houston with a 20.9 points per game average on 40.9 percent shooting from 3-point range (36-of-88).

    Why to watch: It’s a homecoming game for McClellan, guard Nic Wise and forward Fendi Onobun – who all hail from Houston. Besides it being a revenge game for Arizona’s court-rushing loss in Hofheinz Pavillion two years ago, none of the Houston natives saw the court last time around: McClellan was academically ineligible, Onobun was redshirting and Wise was still a senior in high school.

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