Olson wary of last meeting's mistakes
Whatever went wrong in its Jan. 29 loss to Washington State, the Arizona men's basketball team already has heard it over and over again.
As they take on the Cougars (10-13, 5-9 Pacific 10 Conference) at Friel Court tonight at 6:30 p.m., the No. 9 Wildcats (23-4, 13-2) believe they will show what they have learned.
"I think the big thing we learned is we have to go out and every time play our hardest," sophomore forward Ivan Radenovic said.
With three regular season games remaining and a daunting matchup against Washington Saturday, it can be easy to overlook the low-profile Cougars.
The senior leadership of center Channing Frye and guard Salim Stoudamire has the Wildcats more conscious of the opponent at hand.
"I think we're going to be a lot more focused than we were last time, and we know what we want to accomplish in the next two weeks," Frye said.
After the loss to the Cougars, Arizona head coach Lute Olson had the players stay in a hotel the night before the game so the entire team could be together.
They won't have to worry about that aspect because this game will be far from the spectacle of McKale Center, a situation Stoudamire has said he enjoys.
But Pullman is still a tough place to play. The Wildcats found that out last season when they squeaked by with a 61-57 win despite shooting 39.6 percent from the field on Jan. 31, 2004.
Olson is hopeful that Washington State's recent success will draw a larger crowd.
"I would assume that they are drawing better now (8,600 attended Jan. 19 vs. Washington). Hopefully that's the same situation for us. I hope we draw well. We play better when there is a lot of noise, regardless of who the noise is for," Olson said.
The Wildcats have been making noise of their own, averaging 90.2 points per game in six wins since putting up 63 against Washington State.
"We're going to try to play faster than last game, and I think we have the ability to do that," Radenovic said. "We can run them."
Arizona is 15-0 this season when scoring at least 80 points, but in their last four games against the Cougars, they have failed to score more than 75, averaging 67.8 points per game.
Olson believes the Wildcats can speed the game up if they continue to keep the pressure on Washington State's slow-down attack.
The addition of Chris Rodgers off the bench, who was suspended for the last game against the Cougars, will help establish a pressure defense.
"The key thing at Washington State will be our ability to keep pressure on them. In order to do that, we have to feel comfortable with our bench as well," Olson said.
Defense and pressure are the two keys to the game, said Frye, who had two rebounds in the first game. Since then, Frye has averaged 7.8 rebounds per game and the Wildcats have either matched or out-rebounded opponents in all six games.
Radenovic, Frye's frontcourt partner, has been a consistent force for the team and was the lone bright spot in the last matchup, putting up a double-double, with 11 points and 10 rebounds. He is averaging 8.6 points per game and 5.8 rebounds this year.
Stoudamire, the reigning Pac-10 Player of the Week, has been even more consistent, scoring at least 20 points in five of the six games since the loss.
Olson is happy with the way Arizona is currently playing and hopes that it carries over into the last stretch of the season.
"I'm happy at this point with the way we are defending, communicating and scrambling when somebody does get open. Guys are very alert and quick to the ball," Olson said.
If the Wildcats do get the win, Olson will tie John Wooden's mark of 304 career Pac-10 wins.
Arizona looks to stretch their winning streak to seven games. If they don't, they will have to hear all the talk again.
"You have to learn from your mistakes, that's it," said junior forward Hassan Adams.