By Amanda Branam
EVAN CARAVELLI/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Salim Stoudamire drives to the lane during the Wildcats' most recent loss, a defeat at the hands of Washington in Pac-10 Tournament final earlier this month. Stoudamire scored 37 points in the game.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Men's NCAA Tournament • Sweet 16 • Chicago Regional
Analysts and fans alike are saying that tonight's matchup between No. 3 seed Arizona and No. 2 seed Oklahoma State easily could have been for the national championship.
Nevertheless, the Wildcats (29-6, 15-3 Pacific 10 Conference) and the Cowboys (26-6, 11-5 Big 12 Conference) meet up in the regional semifinal in Chicago at 8:15 p.m. The game will be televised on CBS.
"We are very pleased right now to be going on to the Sweet 16," Arizona head coach Lute Olson said. "We are also pleased with how our team is playing right now. I think we're playing the best that we have played."
Olson said he likes the way his team is playing on both offense and defense. The Wildcats shot exactly 50 percent as a team from the floor over their first- and second-round games. Defensively, they held Utah State and UAB to 36.4 percent and 32.8 percent shooting, respectively.
OSU shot 48.6 percent in its first-round game against Southeastern Louisiana, and 54.3 percent in its second-round win over Southern Illinois. The Lions shot 44.4 percent, while SIU shot 41.1 percent.
"I think it will be a matchup of two outstanding teams, two outstanding defensive teams," Olson said. "I think from an offensive standpoint, I think both teams match up well with the other team."
The Cowboys are somewhat of an anomaly in today's college basketball, starting four seniors and having four more on the bench.
Olson said he doesn't think OSU has an advantage in experience or maturity over his team. With senior center Channing Frye, senior guard Salim Stoudamre and junior forward Hassan Adams, Olson thinks his team has plenty from both categories.
Both teams are hoping to get more out of one of their top scorers.
Frye dealt with foul trouble throughout most of the UAB game, scoring six points with only five shots from the floor. Frye had averaged 17.5 points per game since the start of the Pac-10 Tournament.
For the Cowboys, senior forward Joey Graham, who led the team in scoring during the regular season, averages 17.5 points a game, but scored seven points in the first round and eight in the second.
"He's a very good player, very quick," Olson said of Graham. "He's active to the glass, and he takes the ball to the basket really well."
Luckily for OSU, senior forward Ivan McFarlin decided to have the best game of his career against SIU Saturday to take up where Graham left off. McFarlin scored 31 points, well above his 12.4 nightly average.
"He's very physical. He's definitely the type of player that you have to keep your eye on all the time," Frye said. "He's crafty, and has a great knowledge of the game. It's going to be a nice challenge."
Senior guard John Lucas is another key player for the Cowboys and is arguably one of the best point guards in the country. Lucas leads OSU with 17.8 points and 4.1 assists per game.
The winner of this game takes on the winner of the Illinois/Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the No. 1 seed and No. 12 seed, respectively. That game (6:25 p.m.) precedes Arizona's game on CBS. All games in the Chicago Regional will be played at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill.