By Roman Veytsman
Jacob Konst/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior guard Hassan Adams swings off of a dunk during No. 24 Arizona's 81-51 win over Virginia on Nov. 27. The Wildcats face NAU in McKale Center tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, December 7, 2005
The No. 24 Arizona men's basketball team looks to regain some of the momentum it lost during the beginning of the season when it faces NAU tomorrow night at 7:30 in McKale Center.
In Saturday's 69-65 loss to Houston, the Wildcats (2-3) had their ups and downs, falling behind by 18 at one point only to battle back several times, but ultimately falling short.
"We definitely feel a sense of urgency right now," said junior center Kirk Walters, who scored one point in the loss to the Cougars. "We did during the (EA Sports) Maui (Invitational), but we did not play our best basketball against Houston. So we have to step it up, and we've been doing that in practice. It was a real tense day (Monday), and we just have to keep that up."
NAU (4-3), from the Big Sky Conference, makes its first trip to Tucson since 2003, when the Lumberjacks suffered a 107-73 defeat.
NAU brings five players who score in double figures, led by 6-foot-5 senior Kelly Golob (11.8 points per game). As a team, NAU shoots 47.1 percent from the field and has fired up 140 3-pointers, connecting on 36.8 percent of them.
"They have a couple of really fine 3-point shooters that will be a concern to us with Golob and (Steve) Sir," said Arizona head coach Lute Olson. "They shoot the ball well and shoot the ball quickly, (and they have a) couple of good penetrators at the guard spots."
Sir, a transfer from San Diego State, is shooting 50 percent from behind the arc, while Golob is making 41.4 percent of his 3-pointers.
Point guard Josh Wilson dished out nine assists in NAU's win over Northern Colorado on Saturday. He's averaging five assists per game but has turned the ball over 25 times in seven games.
Meanwhile, Arizona will go back to its usual starting five after senior guards Hassan Adams and Chris Rodgers were displaced in the starting lineup for being late to a pregame meal Saturday.
"(It was a) miscommunication," Adams said. "It wasn't purposely done."
Adams said he spoke to his teammates about the incident and received encouragement from freshman forward Marcus Williams and sophomore guard Daniel Dillon, who just told him to go out and play hard.
"It was kind of shocking for them because it came at an unexpected moment," Adams said.
Adams came off the bench against Houston to score 21 points and grab nine rebounds. He leads the team in scoring at 16 points per game.
Arizona's struggles shooting the ball have persisted through the first five games and have prompted Olson to tweak the offense. He is re-establishing the 3-out, 2-in motion offense the Wildcats used last season.
"There's a lot more room on the floor for everyone to work, and there's also a lot more screens being set because the guards are always bringing their men down to us big guys," said sophomore forward Bret Brielmaier. "So you'll see a lot more jump shots from the midrange instead of so many outside perimeter shots."
Even with the change offensively, the Wildcats are not blaming the system for their poor shooting.
"I think it's just shots aren't falling," Dillon said. "We watched tape watching the shots. Every shot was good, (the ball) just went in and out. So I don't know what you do about that."
Olson said he has seen some similarities between this season's poor start and last season's poor start, when the Wildcats lost two of their first five games, including a road loss at Virginia and a neutral-court loss to then-No. 1 Wake Forest.
"I think it's real similar to last year where we felt like we were a good team and we lost to some close games to top-ranked teams in the country," Walters said. "We just have to keep our heads up and keep playing hard."
Arizona is 87-27 all time against NAU and is 58-5 in Tucson. The Wildcats have scored 80 points only once this season, but in games when they score more than 80, the Wildcats are 143-18 since 1997-98.
"I feel good about where we are and what we've accomplished," Olson said. "Now we just need to gain some momentum."