Men's Hoops: Wildcats want faster tempo tonight at WSU

By Amanda Branam
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, February 24, 2005

The No. 9 UA men's basketball team hasn't lost a game since a 70-63 home loss to Washington State on Jan. 29 and wants to prove it was all a fluke.

The Wildcats get the chance, as they face Washington State today at 6:30 p.m.

The Cougars (10-13, 5-9 Pacific 10 Conference) beat the Wildcats (23-4, 13-2) by dictating the pace of the game, namely a very slowed-down pace. WSU head coach Dick Bennett has admitted that his team does not have the players to compete with the more athletic Wildcats, so the key, he said, is to not let the Wildcats get their rhythm going.

"Washington State, they slow it down. They shoot with three seconds left on the shot clock. That's not our game. That's never been our game," said junior forward Hassan Adams, who scored 10 points and added nine rebounds in the last meeting with the Cougars. "We really can't let them dictate (the flow)."

Last time out against the Wildcats, senior guard Thomas Kelati scored 27 of WSU's 70 points, draining a career-high seven 3-pointers. The Wildcats had no answer for Kelati, offensively or defensively.

Offensively, UA senior guard Salim Stoudamire scored his lowest point total of a stretch in which the Wildcats have won 11 of 12 games.

Stoudamire has failed to reach 20 points only twice in that stretch, and went 0-for-5 from behind the arc against the Cougars, scoring 11 points.

Stoudamire said he is looking forward to the rematch.

"I love road games," he said. "I love shutting people up."

Defensively, the Wildcats were without arguably their strongest defensive presence in sixth man Chris Rodgers.

Rodgers, co-defensive player of the year last season for the Wildcats, sat out the entire game after head coach Lute Olson said he did not like Rodgers's response to the team's win over Washington two days before.

Olson said having Rodgers on the floor will be important in keeping Kelati in check but added that he hopes the junior guard can become more consistent offensively.

"There have been peaks and valleys. We need Chris at this point to balance things out," Olson said.

"Defensively, he's always going to do a great job. The only way he gets limited at times is if he uses very poor judgment on the offensive end."

The Wildcats will need another good defensive effort to overcome Washington's high-powered offense when they face them Saturday at 2 p.m.

The Huskies (21-4, 11-3) average 86.6 points per game, second in the nation to North Carolina.

"These two right here are our biggest games because Washington State beat us, and Washington, you know, they're always a good team, athletic," Adams said.

Senior guard Tre Simmons and junior guard Nate Robinson both average nearly 16 points per game to lead the Huskies, who were tied for first in the Pac-10 with the UA for almost the entire conference schedule.

They lost to Oregon State on Feb. 13, and now are 1 1/2 games behind the Wildcats.

In their 91-82 win over the Huskies on Jan. 27, the Wildcats held Simmons and Robinson to 13 and 10 points, respectively. The Huskies shot 38.6 percent from the floor, well below their average of 48.6 percent on the season.

The Wildcats need to convert on free throws, which they have done well lately. Arizona converted 38 of 40 (95 percent) against Washington, and have shot 80.8 percent (80 for 99) in the six games since the WSU loss.