By Shane Bacon
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
The Wildcat basketball team’s dismal shooting ended Monday night as the team drubbed Sam Houston State and also found its shooting touch.
Arizona (6-3) hit 52 percent of its shots from the field and 50 percent of its shots beyond the three-point arc, routing visiting Sam Houston State (6-3) 87-51 in the first round of the Fiesta Bowl Classic.
Arizona’s field goal percentage hovered around 40 percent prior to Monday’s contest, which marked the team’s fourth win in a row.
“I thought the guys played really well, played great together,” head coach Lute Olson said. “We shot it well, but we shot it well because we ended up with great shots due to ball movement.”
The Wildcats never let up on the Bearkats, forcing 29 total turnovers with a full court pressure defense Sam Houston never felt comfortable against.
Senior Chris Rodgers led all scorers with 19 points on 7-13 shooting and said that the relentless Wildcat defense will continue to motivate the offensive side of the ball.
“Our defense has to stay consistent all year,” Rodgers said. “Shots sometimes they are going to fall, but as long as our defense is there we will be ok.”
Playing in front of 14,577 fans at McKale Center, Arizona spread time on the court evenly, with all but walk-on David Bagga racking up more than 13 minutes of playing time.
“Out of 11 guys, we had 13 minutes or more from 11,” Olson said. “That is great for the reserves so they can feel they get into the flow of the game.”
Coaches last week said the team’s shooting struggles came from taking difficult shots and not allowing open shots to develop. That wasn’t the case Monday night.
Rodgers was 5-8 from three-point land, receiving praise from Olson who continued to speak of the Portland, Ore. native’s ability to hit the open jumper.
“He can really shoot the ball, the biggest thing is making sure he lets the game come to him, but the shots he hit tonight were great shots,” Olson said. “If he takes great shots he’s going to be a great shooter.”
Freshman Marcus Williams also helped the shooting statistics, going 8-9 from the field with 18 points.
“I’m just shooting with more confidence,” Williams said. “I struggled a little in Utah, but now I made a point to come out and shoot with confidence, shoot open shots.”
The game was all but over with more than 10 minutes left in the second half, with all the starters sitting on the bench donning ice packs on their knees and shins.
With 4:15 left, red-shirt freshman Mohamed Tangara fouled out, causing Olson to look down a bench without anyone else available.
Sophomore Jawann McClellan hopped up of the bench in street clothes as if to enter for Tangara, something that caused some laughter from the crowd.
“He was ready, he looks really good on the bench,” Olson said with a smile. “Nice shirt I told him, my size.”
Olson said that he thought about finishing the game with a four-man rotation because of junior Ivan Radenovic’s sprained wrist, but had Radenovic and Williams split time to end the game.
“I almost opted to go with just four guys because Ivan didn’t practice yesterday because of that wrist and we didn’t’ want to take any chances,” he said. “I seriously considered it. We could have played a zone.”
The Wildcats will face Western Kentucky, who knocked off Central Florida 73-68 before Arizona took the court, Wednesday night at 6:30 in the championship game.
Wildcat drop from AP top-25 for first time in 312 weeks
Arizona dropped from the Associated Press regular-season top 25 rankings for the first time in 312 weeks yesterday, something head coach Lute Olson said is in the back of the team’s mind at this point.
“With the game at Utah and this one, I don’t think you should be dropping spots,” Olson said.
Arizona has been in every regular season top-25 poll since the start of the 1987-88 season, with the only exceptions coming in the pre-season polls in 1995-1996 and 2001-2002.
“There is nothing we can say, we feel out and didn’t lose,” freshman Marcus Williams said. “We just need to keep collecting our wins.”
Williams continued by explaining how positive he is about this team’s momentum at this point.
“I don’t think we’re going to slow down at this point,” Williams said. “We’re on a good streak and our team is playing with more confidence.”