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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Lead scorer Brooks catalyst for Oregon

    Arizona forward Marcus Williams grabs a rebound over Oregons Maarty Leunen in the Wildcats 79-77 loss Jan. 14 in McKale Center. Williams and the Wildcats have struggled in close games this season.
    Arizona forward Marcus Williams grabs a rebound over Oregon’s Maarty Leunen in the Wildcats’ 79-77 loss Jan. 14 in McKale Center. Williams and the Wildcats have struggled in close games this season.

    If any team could understand Oregon’s recent struggles, it’s got to be Arizona.

    When the No. 24 Wildcats (16-7, 7-5 Pacific 10 Conference) play at No. 13 Oregon (20-4, 8-4) tomorrow at 1:30, it will be facing a team coming off a brutal 1-3 road trip to the Washington and Los Angeles schools before beating ASU 55-51 last night.

    Sounds something like Arizona’s 1-3 stretch on the road against those same squads, with a loss to Oregon in McKale Center sandwiched in between, that led to Arizona losing six of eight games last month.

    “”The Pac-10 is so tough this year, we can’t take any game lightly,”” said UA assistant coach Josh Pastner. “”They’re going to be ready to play against us like we’ll be ready to play against them.””

    In the teams’ first meeting, Arizona allowed the Ducks to hit 50 percent of their 3-pointers, tied for the worst percentage Arizona has given up all season. Every Oregon starter, each of whom averages double figures in scoring, hit a long shot in that game, led by guard Bryce Taylor’s four triples.

    “”We’ve got to make sure we do a better job of pressuring their shooters,”” Pastner said. “”We can’t give them open looks. We really need to be there any time they’re open on the perimeter.””

    If the game is close at the end, the Ducks figure to have the advantage as they sport a 10-2 record in games decided by eight points or less this year. Arizona, on the other hand, is 3-6 with no wins by less than six, with one of those wins coming last night.

    A big reason for Oregon’s success in tight contests is guard Aaron Brooks, who has scored the winning or tying points in the final minute of overtime five times this year – that includes a layup he hit with two seconds left to beat Arizona in McKale Center Jan. 14 and a game-winning jumper to hand then-No. 1 UCLA its first loss of the year Jan. 6.

    “”He’s had a wonderful, wonderful year, particularly when you look at the games he’s won and how he’s handled himself and how he’s helped this basketball team get to where we are today,”” said Oregon head coach Ernie Kent.

    Entering the weekend Brooks’ name appeared all over the Pacific 10 Conference leader board. He led the league in scoring at 18.7 points per game and ranked third in free-throw percentage (86.7), fourth in steals (1.62), fifth in assists (4.38) and sixth in 3s made (2.29).

    “”I’d say right now Aaron Brooks is the Pac-10 Player of the Year,”” Pastner said. “”He’s earned it and deserved it. He’s extremely, extremely good.””

    Perhaps most impressive in racking up those numbers is that Brooks seldom rests, as he leads the conference in minutes played (37.0). Last weekend he played all 80 minutes against the L.A. schools after putting in 44 minutes of work in an overtime win over No. 14 Washington State Jan. 27.

    Kent called Brooks a unique player due to his durability, comparing him to former UA guard Jason Gardner, Arizona’s career leader in minutes played and minutes per game (35.5).

    “”He just has an extra gear, extra motor,”” Kent said. “”He loves to play, he has relentless energy, and he’s been every day in practice your hardest working practice player ever since he’s been here. He plays just like he plays in the games.””

    For the Wildcats to get their first road sweep of the year, it may come down to making sure Brooks does not have the ball in his hands at the end of the contest with the game on the line.

    “”Hopefully we can come out of there with two wins,”” guard Jawann McClellan said.

    And 1

    Before shooting 57.4 percent against Washington Saturday, the Wildcats had hit the 50 percent mark only once in its past eight games, winning just one of those seven contests.

    “”I don’t care what team you play against, you’ve got to shoot well,”” Pastner said. “”In our seven losses we didn’t shoot well. That’s the bottom line. If we make our shots we’re probably sitting at 20-2.””

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