Men's Hoops Analysis: Salim shines in return

By Brett Fera
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, March 1, 2004

UA 72 WAZZU 60

When all was said and done, the only person who had a chance to cool down Salim Stoudamire was teammate Kirk Walters, who lightened the air in the UA locker room by dousing his teammates with ice water during their postgame showers.

"It feels like we've got a huge monkey off our backs," Walters said.

Walters' reaction, coupled with a few new displays of team unity among his teammates, spoke volumes for the type of changes the Arizona men's basketball team made before and during its 72-60 win over Washington State Saturday in McKale Center.

While beating Wazzu (12-14, 6-10 Pacific 10 Conference) for the 38th consecutive time was anything but monumental for the Wildcats (18-8, 10-7), it snapped a two-game losing streak that dropped Arizona to third in the Pac-10. Arizona controlled the game from the opening tip with much more ease than the final 12-point margin would indicate.

Stoudamire, fresh off a one-game suspension for failing to uphold team responsibilities, led the way for the Wildcats, dropping 16 of his team-high 21 points in the second half.

Stoudamire's greatest contribution, however, wasn't the shooting touch Arizona missed during a five-point loss to second-place Washington two days earlier. Instead, he provided a newfound defensive intensity that had long been lacking from any UA player.

"Sitting out, I realized that we didn't play any defense," the junior shooting guard said. "I saw it from the coach's perspective."

The 6-foot-1 Stoudamire spent most of his 35 minutes on the floor matched up with Cougar leading scorer Marcus Moore, a 6-foot-6 guard who torched Arizona for 29 points during the Wildcats' four-point win earlier this season in Pullman, Wash. Stoudamire held Moore to just three first-half points, forcing Washington State to leave Moore on the bench for more than 11 minutes in the second half, even as the Cougars closed the gap with a late-game 13-0 run.

Stoudamire's leadership showed through on both ends of the court, bookmarked by a pair of emphatic dunks that ignited the otherwise listless McKale Center crowd. On defense, he joined Shakur in slapping the floor, a gesture meant to signify defensive intensity.

"It was something we started in practice yesterday to just get us to step up our defense," Shakur said.

Stoudamire's return didn't necessarily result in gaudy numbers for himself, but did translate into a resurgence among some of his teammates. Junior center Channing Frye (20 points, seven rebounds) and sophomore forward Andre Iguodala (12 points, 16 rebounds) posted solid efforts.

"When Salim is on the floor, it adds another dimension on the court for us," added Shakur, who went scoreless after the game's opening bucket, but added five assists and six rebounds. "He is another person we can look to for leadership."

Shakur added that despite the rumors of Stoudamire's suspension being tied to the backcourt mates' relationship, the two have no issue with each other.

"We are fine. You can see it on the court that we are fine," he said.

Stoudamire said he's learned his lesson and the events of last week are something he'd like to put behind him.

With Arizona State on tap for the regular season finale next Sunday in McKale, Stoudamire said this week is about preparing to add one last win before hitting the Pac-10 and NCAA tournaments in the coming weeks.

"I want to get back out onto the court. I don't know about anybody else," Stoudamire said. "I think we have a couple days off next week. I'm not going to be taking any days off. I already did."