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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Cats off to NorCal for final weekend

    The consequences of Arizona’s next two road games are not of great significance on paper.

    Arizona’s seed in the upcoming Pacific 10 Conference Tournament is unlikely to fluctuate much unless Oregon loses to Oregon State, and the likelihood of earning a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament rests more on the Wildcats’ performance in the conference tournament than in the Bay Area.

    Still, in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament selection committee, this late in the season, every game becomes either a boost or a blemish on the resume.

    “”Hopefully, we can do well in these next two games and do well in the Pac-10 Tournament to really show the committee we’re up there,”” said freshman forward Chase Budinger, who led the Wildcats with 23 points in Sunday’s win over ASU.

    Before heading to Palo Alto, Calif., to face Stanford Saturday, Arizona (18-9, 9-7 Pacific 10 Conference) faces a California team that’s lost eight of its last 10 games but took care of the Oregon schools at home two weeks ago.

    On Dec. 28 against the Golden Bears (14-14, 6-10), the Wildcats’ first Pac-10 game of the season, the starters got an extended period of rest in the second half, only to watch the lead evaporate because of poor bench play.

    Freshman Jordan Hill was a backup that day but contributed six points and six rebounds.

    Hill has come a long way since then, entering the starting lineup, but he “”reverted on some things”” against ASU last week, UA head coach Lute Olson said.

    The Atlanta native picked up his third and fourth fouls less than one minute apart early in the second half. But Olson didn’t let him pick up a fifth and final one, taking out Hill for good with 18:35 left to play.

    “”It wasn’t a good game for him, but it’s unusual if freshmen have consistently good games away from home,”” Olson said.

    Hill hadn’t been in foul trouble since the North Carolina game Jan. 27 and had committed three fouls once in the previous six games.

    “”We got to the point where we felt very comfortable with his staying out of foul trouble because he was not trying to attack the ball on somebody’s hands,”” Olson said, “”and all of a sudden (on) a couple of his fouls, there he was slamming at the ball instead of letting the guy release the ball and then blocking it.””

    After Hill jumped to block ASU guard Christian Polk’s shot, receiving his fourth foul, Hill knew right away he made a mistake, but couldn’t determine why he did it.

    “”I was so disappointed in myself,”” Hill said.

    Defensively, Hill, who leads the team in blocks, may have a hard time against the Bears, whose perimeter style Olson equated to USC’s. Both teams feature a four-guard set, making Hill’s defensive assignment a difficult one.

    Cal’s lone big man, Ryan Anderson, is a perimeter-oriented player, making things tougher on Hill.

    “”Similar to what we had with USC, where it was hard for us to play Jordan at the same time as Ivan, it creates a similar kind of situation for us,”” Olson said. “”There’s no question that the guys that do the best job for us on Anderson are Radenovic and (forward Bret) Brielmaier.””

    Playing a zone defense is likely out of the question as well, considering Cal burned Arizona during the five minutes of zone it played the first time around.

    Because Olson said he doesn’t like changing his starting lineups at this point in the season, Hill will get the nod, but he will need help containing a squad that attempts the second-most 3-point field goals in the Pac-10 and shoots at a 36.5 percent clip.

    Whether the Wildcats continue in the right direction defensively remains to be seen, but their play in the Bay Area may be a precursor for what they show in the Pac-10 tournament.

    “”I don’t think it’s a do-or-die situation for us that we have to, have to, win these next two games,”” Budinger said, “”but we know that these two games are probably our two most important games.””

    And 1

    Marcus Williams was voted to the National Association of Basketball Coaches all-District 15 first team, and Ivan Radenovic and Chase Budinger made the second team. Williams, who’s averaging 16.8 points per game is joined by UCLA’s Arron Afflalo and Darren Collison, USC’s Nick Young, and Cal State Fullerton’s Bobby Brown.

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