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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Wildcats poised for trip to USC

    UA forward Chase Budinger drives around guard Lodrick Stewart in an 80-75 loss to USC in McKale Center on Feb. 15, 2007. Budinger said the Wildcats have confidence heading into Los Angeles that they didnt have last season.
    UA forward Chase Budinger drives around guard Lodrick Stewart in an 80-75 loss to USC in McKale Center on Feb. 15, 2007. Budinger said the Wildcats have confidence heading into Los Angeles that they didn’t have last season.

    Arizona at USC

    A year ago the Arizona men’s basketball team limped into its Los Angeles road trip having lost two of three games, only to be battered in a sweep courtesy of the Trojans and Bruins.

    This time around the Wildcats (14-6, 4-3 Pacific 10 Conference) enter with the confidence of a three-game winning streak, including a blowout of then-No. 6 Washington State, when they head to the City of Angels to face USC (13-6, 4-3) tonight at 8:30.

    “”I think it’s completely different from this year and last year,”” said UA forward Chase Budinger. “”Last year we didn’t have any confidence going into the LA schools. This year we’re playing better as a team right now, (but) it’s still going to be very tough.””

    The Wildcats hope to continue their excellent play from last weekend, when they won a pair of games by a combined 27 points and hit 58.8 percent of their shots, including 58.1 percent from long range. With guard Jerryd Bayless looking healthy and forward Jordan Hill frequently swatting the opposition, it made for an impressive show.

    “”We’ve got to come out Thursday and Saturday and do what we did against Washington State and Washington,”” Hill said. “”Play good defense, attack the rim like we’re always doing, get to the free-throw line a lot. We’ve just got to go in there and play hard and play Arizona basketball.””

    Added Budinger, “”If we keep on hitting shots like we’ve been doing, playing the defense we’ve been doing, hopefully it will just carry over to these next couple games.””

    That won’t be easy, because USC is playing just as well as Arizona has, winning four games in a row, beating the Bruins in their only conference loss of the season Jan. 19.

    Most recently the Trojans won an emotional overtime game Saturday at Oregon in which the team blew a seven-point lead with a minute left in regulation.

    For that, UA guard Jawann McClellan said the Trojans are “”probably the hottest team in the Pac-10 right now.””

    USC generally starts three 6-foot-5 guards in O.J. Mayo, Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis, but UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill will still likely give heavy minutes to his small lineup that includes 5-foot-10 guard Nic Wise in a three-guard unit.

    Wise played 34 minutes Saturday at Washington, which sometimes left the 6-foot-4 McClellan on Washington 7-footer Joe Wolfinger. But that didn’t slow the Wildcats.

    “”Our small lineup has been our best,”” O’Neill said. “”When we have our small lineup in, we have our most talented group.””

    Against a team like the Huskies, that meant Washington also had to match up with Arizona on the other end, but being that the Trojans feature tall, athletic guards, that could cause problems for the Wildcats at both ends.

    “”They do a few different things,”” O’Neill said. “”It’s important for our guys to recognize those things and execute offensively whatever we want to do against those.””

    On the other side of the ball, O’Neill expects team defense to be really important against an athletic USC attack.

    O’Neill refused to call this any kind of a statement weekend in which the Wildcats could jump back into the polls and announce to the nation they’re back, instead continuing his cliché line that every conference game is of the same importance.

    He insinuated, however, that a split of the trip would make for a successful weekend.

    “”We’d love to go over there and sweep. I don’t see that happening, maybe it will, maybe it won’t, I don’t know,”” O’Neill said. “”We’ve got to take our thing one game at a time, because if we don’t, if we look ahead long term, that could be as distracting as anything can be.

    “”(But) that’s a big weekend, we’re playing two good teams on
    the road.””

    And 1

    O’Neill said UA forward Bret Brielmaier would try to suit up for the USC game, but the separated shoulder that has caused him to miss four of the past five games still might not be ready to go.

    “”We miss Bret a lot, a lot more than we even know,”” O’Neill said.

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