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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Cats hoping for replication

    Arizona forward Jordan Hill lunges to the basket in the Wildcats 79-75 win at California on Jan. 19. The 6-foot-10 Hill will be going up against a large Golden Bear lineup.
    Arizona forward Jordan Hill lunges to the basket in the Wildcats’ 79-75 win at California on Jan. 19. The 6-foot-10 Hill will be going up against a large Golden Bear lineup.

    California at Arizona

    The Wildcats experienced their first taste of life without Nic Wise last week against ASU, and the results weren’t pretty.

    Arizona (15-8, 5-5 Pacific 10 Conference) gets a chance to redeem itself against California (14-8, 5-6) tonight at 6:30 in McKale Center, but it will likely need guard Daniel Dillon and the bench to make some kind of offensive contribution, as opposed to the ASU game where they didn’t score in 60 minutes of action.

    Without Wise, who UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill has said made the difference in the Wildcats’ first meeting with the Golden Bears, and forward Bret Brielmaier (separated shoulder), the onus is on their unproven reserves.

    “”We’ve missed Bret tremendously, more than anyone knows, and the fact that Nic is out also – again, I’m not making these as excuses, I’m giving you plain and simple facts,”” O’Neill said. “”We’ve got to figure a way to win without those guys.””

    O’Neill knows he can’t control injuries, but he said besides the Toronto Raptors team he led in 2003-04 that lost Vince Carter, Jalen Rose and Chris Bosh at different times, he has never coached a squad hit harder by the injury bug.

    That led him to play Dillon for 38 minutes – and watch him hit the side of the backboard with one of his two shots in his scoreless outing.

    “”That’s asking a lot of Daniel, who in the past has never been a starter,”” O’Neill said. “”His role has changed considerably, and then it changes everybody else’s role. Nic’s not in there, (guard) Jerryd (Bayless) has to do more on the ball, (forward) Chase (Budinger) has to do more on the ball.””

    O’Neill said it’s “”very difficult”” for a player to change his role on the fly like Dillon has been forced to do this season.

    Dillon, a senior who

    It’s unfair to a player to be put in a role he’s not capable of handling. Some people are built to start, some people are built to play 12 minutes.

    – Kevin O’Neill,
    interim head coach

    had never played more than 23 minutes in a game or averaged more than 11 minutes per game in a season before this year, has played at least 37 minutes four times but has averaged around a more familiar 10.4 minutes per game in his other 16 appearances while missing three games by the coach’s decision.

    “”It’s unfair to a player to be put in a role he’s not capable of handling,”” O’Neill said. “”Some people are built to start, some people are built to play 12 minutes, some people are built to play eight. When you move people’s roles up it’s hard for them.””

    O’Neill pointed out that when you replace Wise with Dillon, Bayless and Budinger receive more defensive attention, which makes things more difficult for them as well.

    Besides Dillon, “”the other alternative is to play (forward) Zane (Johnson),”” O’Neill said. “”In fairness to Zane, he’s a freshman, he’s a first-year guy that probably isn’t ready for that role either.

    “”But it is what it is.””O’Neill is left to hope his bench produces, Johnson hits a few shots and plays good defense, forward Fendi Onobun rebounds and guards his man and center Kirk Walters provides something of a presence inside.

    Walters, who took a medical redshirt last year to recover from mononucleosis, said he feels fine physically now, although he has played sparingly this year.

    He could have a chance to make an impact this weekend against Cal and Stanford teams that feature big front lines in games that the fifth-year player knows are important.

    “”We know we’ve got some big games that we’ve won in the past, and we’ve played well against some good teams,”” Walters said, “”but you’ve got to have those marquee wins late in the season that really help you out, so that’s what we need to focus on.””


    BREAKDOWN
    Tale of the Tape: California at Arizona

    Guards
    Although missing Nic Wise will hurt,
    Jerryd Bayless is playing like a man on a
    mission, and the Bears’ Patrick Christopher is battling some injuries of his own.
    Advantage: Arizona

    Forwards/Center
    The Wildcats could not stop Ryan Anderson, the conference’s leading scorer, last time during his 30-point afternoon. There’s no reason to think they’ll do any better this time.
    Advantage: California

    Intangibles
    With No. 7 Stanford looming before a trip to Washington, Arizona knows how important this one is. Plus, the Bears have not won in Tucson since 1995, although UA fans looking for bad omens may be interested to know that was a month before ASU had last won in McKale Center before Sunday.
    Advantage: Arizona

    Prediction
    The Wildcats’ season seemed to be on the ropes the last time they faced Cal having lost three straight in league play before coming up with a hard-fought win that ignited a four-game winning streak. Although a repeat streak is doubtful without Wise, expect Arizona to stop this skid, just barely.
    Arizona 72, California 68

    – compiled by Michael Schwartz


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