By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, December 18, 2005
After a week of off-court distractions the No. 24 Arizona basketball team (5-3) set everything aside and easily took care of Utah (5-3) 73-43 Saturday afternoon at the Huntsman Center.
Arizona led throughout after taking a 6-5 lead early in the first half, and the rocky shooting that characterized the Wildcats first 7 games did not travel with the team to Salt Lake City.
“I think it’s really important that we actually got a convincing win here,” associate head coach Jim Rosborough said. “I think it will be a great confidence builder for the guys.”
Senior guard Hassan Adams was dominant, scoring 27 points on 13-19 from the field, marking his fourth consecutive game scoring 20 or more points. Adams was 1-3 from 3-point range and had three plays where he scored and drew a foul, including an emphatic left handed dunk, but it was his mid-range game that accounted for the majority of his points.
“A lot of those were the mid-range game that we’ve been talking about. I thought he had good shots today,” Rosborough said.
Adams, who has gotten off to a few slow starts, led Arizona with 13 points in the first half. “That’s really a big offensive effort,” Rosborough said. “He was very aggressive with the ball, but I thought smart with the ball too.”
Adams was helped by two of his backcourt mates, junior point guard Musatfa Shakur (13 pts, six rebounds, 5 assists) and senior guard Chris Rodgers (13 pts, 3-8 3-point fgs, 4 steals). The three accounted for 71.2 percent of Arizona’s scoring output.
Rodgers, who struggled from the field after he was benched for part of the first half against Houston, bounced back after vowing to make shots on Wednesday.
“He’s a capable shooter and he spends a lot of time in the gym,” Rosborough said. “He really works on his game and he is a good 3-point shooter. If it is a game of percentages and he’s a 40 percent 3-point shooter, he’s going to start moving up to that level.”
Head coach Lute Olson had questioned Rodgers’ shot selection early in the season, but Rosborough thought Rodgers’ effort on Saturday was excellent.
“We really tried to emphasize with him, catch and shoot, and he’s better when he does that rather than putting the ball on the floor,” Rosborough said. “I don’t recall a bad shot that he took today.”
The Wildcats collectively shot 47.6 percent from the field, up from 40 percent on the season, although they still struggled from beyond the arc, shooting 5-20. After the game, Olson told ESPN’s Jimmy Dykes in a post game interview the shot selection was much improved.
“That’s been our biggest problem all along,” Olson said. “It didn’t give us an opportunity to move the defense to where we can get second and third shots. Tonight, I thought our selection was very good.”
Arizona also got help from the bench. Freshman forward Marcus Williams scored seven points, and sophomore guard Daniel Dillon played 12 minutes and made one 3-pointer.
“We had some pretty good shots go down,” Rosborough said. “Some kids that haven’t been shooting it well, made some big buckets for us. I did think that we had some good cuts offensively, we ran some pick and rolls that were pretty good.”
Defensively, Arizona was solid once again, forcing 24 turnovers, including 15 in the first half. The Wildcats led 28-21 at halftime and held Utah to just 43 total points.
“That’s been the one thing that’s been pretty much of a staple for us last year, which is the defensive end,” Rosborough said.
“We had great ball pressure, we were commendable in our help side defense, and those two things are critical,” Rosborough said. “Today I thought defensively we were very good.”
Olson said he was happy with the team’s performance and saw a lot of positives offensively.
“I felt all along this team was going to be a good team,” he said.