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Wednesday November 22, 2000

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Maui Invitational championship match-up

By Chris Martin

Arizona Daily Wildcat

LAHAINA, Hawaii - With the No. 1 Arizona men's basketball team squaring off against a very dangerous No. 8 Illinois squad in the championship game of the Maui Invitational, a hard fought contest and closely contested match-up will likely ensue. With tip-off scheduled for 7 tonight, sports editor Chris Martin broke down tonight's game between two powerhouses.

Arizona

PG: Jason Gardner - Gardner is a speedy player that likes to shoot a lot of three pointers. He does a good job of involving the team while finding his own shot. One of the best floor leaders in the country and is always steady down the stretch. The sophomore is not afraid to take the big shot. Gardner does have trouble finishing and defending against bigger point guards though.

SG: Gilbert Arenas - Arenas finally seems to be out of head coach Lute Olson's doghouse. Arenas, a sophomore, has the ability to break down defenders off the dribble as well as hit the three point shot. He can take over a game with his athleticism but must make sure to keep his teammates involved in the offense as he has a tendency to look for his own shot too much. At 6-foot-3 he can have trouble in the post against taller shooting guards.

SF: Richard Jefferson - Arguably Arizona's most athletic player. Is the smaller forward by default in the UA lineup, as the junior's game is more suited to play shooting guard. An extremely good slasher, Jefferson has worked hard to improve his outside shot during the offseason. His perimeter defense is suspect against quicker players.

PF: Michael Wright - A true power forward who has great positioning and strength in the post. Wright is UA's most consistent player who can quietly put up a double double. A lefty, Wright posses a nice outside shot and is good passing out of the double team. He can struggle against taller power forwards because he is only 6-foot-7. The junior's height also negates his presence as a shot blocker.

C: Justin Wessel - Without senior center Loren Woods, Wessel is counted heavily on for strong post defense. This is by far Arizona's weakest position because Wessel, a senior, is actually and undersized power forward. What Wessel might lack in talent and skill he makes up for in heart as he always gives Olson a strong effort. Wessel is a capable rebounder and has a nice touch on his shot.

Bench: Arizona - By far the deepest bench Olson has had in years. Most players on the Wildcats bench would be starters for other teams. Senior forward Eugene Edgerson will spell Wessel and Wright and sophomore forward Luke Walton is a great multi-dimensional player. Freshman guard Travis Hanour has a nice three point shot while senior guard Lamont Frazier is a quick slasher who is probably UA's top perimeter player.

Illinois

PG: Frank Williams - Williams has seemingly stepped up his game in his sophomore campaign. He is an extremely quick player who likes to penetrate and hit the short jumper. His is also a good on the ball defender who relies on his quickness to make steals. Williams is not a very good three-point shooter though and has a tendency to force the action too much instead of playing within the confines of the game.

SG: Cory Bradford - Bradford, a junior, is a good three-point shooter who was Illinois main offensive weapon last season. He is a very strong player he can play both outside and in the post. He has some trouble with quicker guards but will hold his own with help. Bradford has not yet begun to look for his own shot this season as other teammates have emerged to take some of the offensive burden away from him.

SF: Sergio McClain - McClain is somewhat undersized for a small forward but is a tenacious rebounder for someone of his size. He likes to back defenders down instead of play from the outside. He does a good job of closing down passing lanes but must cut down on his own turnovers to be effective. McClain is not much of a scoring threat but is effective when given the opportunity to score.

PF: Brian Cook - Cook provides the biggest match-up problems for Arizona because of his height (6-foot-10) and versatility. He likes to play down low but has a nice jump shot and can handle the ball well for a big man. The sophomore is a very good rebounder but can sometimes lack the aggressiveness to be dominating. Cook must be an intimidating presence down low for Illinois to be successful.

C: Marcus Griffin - Griffin is a very physical post player who is not afraid to mix it up down low. He does a good job of blocking shots for a center who is only 6-foot-9. His size can also be a disadvantage though against bigger center. Griffin is not a very good transition player who prefers to post up and let the action come to him. He normally makes a high percentage of his shots and does not force bad shots.

Bench: Illinois - The Fighting Illini are not a very deep team and usually uses two or three players √ junior forwards Robert Archibald and Lucas Johnson; and sophomore guard Sean Harrington. None of the bench players are great scorers; Harrington is a very good three-point shooter but doesn't get many opportunities. Archibald and Johnson like bang in the post and mix it up.

Advantages

PG: Jason Gardner - Gardner doesn't have much of an edge over Williams. The advantage Gardner does have is his ability to take care of the ball and his outside shooting. Both Williams and Gardner do an excellent job of running their prospective clubs. The winner of the point guard battle could decide the winner of the game.

SG: Gilbert Arenas - Both shooting guards are great scorers but Arenas ability to play in transition and in the half court gives him the advantage. Bradford can outmuscle Arenas in the paint but will have a tough time keeping up with Arenas≠ quickness. Turnovers at this position will also be key as both players must do a good job of protecting the ball for their teams to be successful.

SF: Richard Jefferson - Jefferson clearly has the advantage here, as he is the much better athlete than McClain. Jefferson ability not only to get to the basket but also to hit the outside shot should provide problems for McClain, who has trouble against quicker opponents. McClain could somewhat neutralize Jefferson by forcing him to bang down on the post while on defense and therefore tiring him out on the offensive end.

PF: Michael Wright - Wright barely gets the edge in this battle because of his tenacity around the basket. Cook has a big height advantage and is a better athlete than Wright but he doesn't like physical post play. Foul trouble to Wright would be extremely costly to Arizona but Wright should be able to handle Cook inside. For Cook to be successful he must mix both his inside play with his outside jump shot.

C: Marcus Griffin - Without Woods, Griffin will be able to make his presence felt in the paint against Wessel. Illinois will likely exploit its advantage here and Griffin could easily be the key to the game. Wessel will have to get help when defending Griffin because of his strength. UA will likely try and neutralize Griffin strength by making him play further from the basket than he would like.

Bench: Arizona - Unlike Illinois, Arizona has plenty of depth on its bench despite the absence Woods that causes Wessel to be listed amongst the starters. Walton, Edgerson, Frazier and Hanour have given Olson plenty of reasons to employ a nine-man rotation. Depth and Arizona's bench player's ability to come in and play solid defense along with limited offensive contributions could be the deciding factors in the game.