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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Yet another must-win game

    The Wildcats begin their annual trip to the Bay Area schools this weekend, starting with California tonight. Senior guard Hassan Adams led his team in a new way against Oregon State, dishing out a career-high nine assists.
    The Wildcats begin their annual trip to the Bay Area schools this weekend, starting with California tonight. Senior guard Hassan Adams led his team in a new way against Oregon State, dishing out a career-high nine assists.

    The Arizona men’s basketball team takes its final road trip of the regular season tonight in hopes of continuing its recent winning streak.

    The Wildcats (15-9, 8-5 Pacific 10 Conference) take on California (15-6, 9-3) tonight at 8:30 in Haas Pavilion with a chance to showcase a new look to the lineup with the recent emergence of Kirk Walters before a national television audience on FSN.

    The junior center tallied 18 points against Oregon Thursday and 10 points against Oregon State Saturday and has shot 75 percent from the field in his last six games.

    “”He is playing great compared to when we went into those games however many weeks ago,”” Arizona head coach Lute Olson said. “”Kirk is a very different player right now than he was when we played them the first time.””

    Along with the new-look inside game, senior guard Chris Rodgers was reinstated this week at practice after being dismissed from the team Jan. 18 and missing the past eight games.

    Olson said he is uncertain how much Rodgers will play this weekend, saying he will decide “”once I see the practices and see how things go.””

    Rodgers was averaging 10.8 points a game and 2.5 steals per game, which is second in the conference, behind teammate and fellow senior guard Hassan Adams, before he was dismissed. Rodgers wasn’t in the lineup when the Wildcats beat California 60-55 in McKale Center on Jan. 21.

    His return should only help a team that has played more of an inside-outside game in helping junior forward Ivan Radenovic score a career-high 26 points against the Beavers that included 44 of the team’s 80 points being scored in the paint.

    “”We have focused on getting Kirk and Ivan the ball and getting them a lot more involved,”” freshman forward Marcus Williams said. “”They are shooting a great percentage from the field, and it keeps them a lot more involved offensively and defensively, (and) that is a big reason with our success.””

    Freshman forward Fendi Onobun, who scored six points against the Beavers, said that the weekend’s wins have improved the team’s confidence in the inside guys.

    “”I feel like these two wins got our team just feeling real good about the post guys,”” he said. “”Ivan and Kirk did a great job, and I think it really executes the inside-outside presence of our team, being able to take care of business down low and as well on the wing.””

    The team’s struggles have seemed to subside for the moment after the two home wins, but Williams said that they are exactly that, home wins, and that the Wildcats need to improve their road play.

    “”We know that we’re not satisfied with these two games,”” Williams said. “”These were good wins, but they were at home. In the past we can’t hide … that we’ve struggled on the road so far as getting the job done, so coming in, these are big to prove to ourselves that we can win on the road.””

    While Arizona is 10-1 at home and 5-1 in Pac-10 games in Tucson, the Wildcats have dipped below .500 on the road, going just 4-6 over the year and 3-4 in conference play.

    “”We know we have to win these games,”” Walters said. “”We know we have to keep making statements that we are ready for the tournament and that we’re ready to go.””

    Arizona will have to beat a Golden Bears team that has only dropped one home game all season, but Williams said that playing on the road doesn’t bother him.

    “”I like playing on the road because you make a shot and the crowd goes quiet,”” he said. “”Playing on the road doesn’t really bother me.””

    Onobun said that his squad’s goal is not to lose again.

    “”Yeah, we got (those) wins (last weekend), but those games are over with,”” he said. “”Our plans are to win seven in a row. We have two under our belt and have five more to go.””

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