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Men's basketball faces test in No. 8 Gators

SAUL LOEBArizona Daily Wildcat
UA sophomore guard Hassan Adams (center) and junior forward Isaiah Fox will face their first top-10 team of the season in just their second game when they play No. 8 Florida on Friday in Massachusetts.
By Chris Wuensch
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
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Rick Anderson won't be around to bail the UA men's basketball team out of trouble this time when the Florida Gators look for redemption against the Wildcats.

Arizona will meet the Southeastern Conference school Friday night at 7 in the MassMutual Classic, held at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

The two schools last met Nov. 9, 2001, in the nail-biting championship game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. In that game, which the Wildcats won 75-71, it was Anderson, the former UA forward, who scored the final six points of the game, leading Arizona to its second upset of a ranked team in as many games.

Arizona is fresh off an emotional first regular season win that gave head coach Lute Olson his 500th victory at the helm of Wildcat basketball.

But win number 501 of his career promises to be a tougher challenge than Monday night's rout of Northern Arizona in McKale Center.

Arizona (1-0) looked sharp on its home court, dropping the Lumberjacks 107-73 behind Channing Frye's team-high 20 points.

The No. 8 Gators, who crushed Montana State 112-73 last night, could have a deeper bench than the Wildcats. The Gator depth will throw a different look at the Wildcats - a look they didn't see against NAU. Replacing the Lumberjacks' long-range jumpers will be Billy Donovan's quick squad that will attempt to run with the Wildcats, taking full advantage of its speed and depth.

"This could be a preview for an Elite Eight, Final Four or championship game," said UA forward Andre Iguodala of Friday's matchup. "You never know."

Iguodala, an avid student of the game, sees a lot of Florida in Arizona's style of play.

"They are a great team. They're talented," the sophomore said. "They play just the way we do, up and down the court. It's going to be like a track meet out there."

Donovan will likely implement a full-court press early and often against the Wildcats. Once Arizona crosses the timeline, the Gators could break down into a zone defense for the majority of the game.

Olson works on competing against both types of defense in practice, but even the Hall of Famer knows that nothing can substitute for game experience.

"We do (press) against ourselves, but it is always different to see somebody else's (defense)," he said. "They zone about half the time, and I think we need that."

Staying healthy and keeping fouls to a minimum could be the keys for the Wildcats to get past Florida.

Guard Salim Stoudamire will hope to rebound from his poor shooting performance in Monday's season opener. The junior went a dismal 1 of 9 from 3-point range and 2 of 12 from the floor overall, for a total of six points.

Despite his poor shooting, Olson said Stoudamire is beginning to show his maturity and leadership on the court, and looks to have the potential to take his game to another level.

"I think sometimes he gets impatient with the missed shot, so he has to get the next one in a hurry instead of making sure the next one is really wide open," Olson said. "He has shown a lot more maturity, and he recognizes there are a lot of other things he can do besides score. The defensive second half (Monday night) was really outstanding."

To counter his rare off night, the Portland, Ore., native found other ways to contribute, and he ended up with seven assists, five rebounds and only two turnovers.

Friday night will be the first real test for the Wildcats this season, and Olson believes his team is ready for the challenge. After arriving in Springfield, the Wildcats will spend Thursday enjoying a "real" Thanksgiving dinner, followed by a tour of the basketball Hall of Fame - where Olson was a recent inductee.

But on Friday, it will be back to business against a talented Florida squad.

"I think this should be an interesting game," Olson said. "It is going to be a big-game atmosphere at a neutral site, which will be similar with what you face in the NCAA Tournament. I'm glad we have the game scheduled."

Cats appeal NCAA rule prohibiting early travel

Representatives from the UA have filed an appeal to the NCAA in order to lift a rule that does not allow a team to travel over 48 hours in advance of a game.

The men's basketball team was inconvenienced by the rule this week, as league officials denied Arizona's request to leave today. The early departure would have given the Wildcats a chance to adjust to the time change. The Wildcats had planned to visit a children's hospital while in Springfield and hoped to get a practice under their belt before taking the court against the Gators.

Arizona would not say when the request was made, only stating that the appeal was under way.

"We are just waiting for a response from the NCAA," Olson said. "The school has put in for (an appeal)."

The six class hours the Wildcat players were planning to skip for the trip actually turned out to be only two, Olson confirmed yesterday.

Olson was confident that the NCAA will grant the appeal and allow the Wildcats an extra day to travel to the East Coast.

"I think we'll probably be leaving tomorrow morning," he said.

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