By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Sophomore guard, Cats take on Beavers
The No. 24 Arizona men's basketball team will receive a boost tonight with the addition of sophomore guard Jawann McClellan when it visits Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore.
McClellan will play his first game of the year for the Wildcats (10-4, 3-1 Pacific 10 Conference) after regaining his academic eligibility and will come off the bench against the Beavers (8-6, 1-2) in the game scheduled to tip at 8 p.m. on FSN Arizona.
"He'll help us a lot right away," Arizona men's basketball head coach Lute Olson said. "If you look at what he did a year ago in the second half of league play and in the NCAA playoffs, he was a key player for us. He's used to the pressure.
"I don't think there's any question he'll have a big second half for us. He'll be our first wing man off the bench."
McClellan averaged 5.8 points and 3.0 rebounds last season and was looking forward to an increased role this season before he became ineligible.
"He can really shoot it, so it's going to help stretch out defenses," Pastner said. "We're excited to get him back, and it will be a big boost to our squad."
Pastner said it's unclear whether McClellan will eventually find himself in the starting lineup.
"It's something that coach Olson determines and it's determined by production at practice and production in the games," Pastner said.
McClellan and the Wildcats will face a squad coached by former Arizona assistant Jay John, who led last year's Beavers squad to the program's first winning record in the last 15 years but has struggled against his former team, losing to the Wildcats five of six times.
"They run a lot of similar stuff, and (John) runs a lot of really good stuff too, to try to get mismatch situations," Arizona assistant coach Josh Pastner said. "They're extremely well-coached."
Oregon State is coming off a big win over the weekend against conference leading California, defeating the Golden Bears 72-64 on their home floor to hand them their first conference loss, and create a three-team logjam atop the Pac-10 standings that includes Arizona.
This year's Beaver team features an experienced bunch led by seniors Chris Stephens (14.4 points per game) and Nick Dewitz (11.1 ppg) along with sophomore forward Sasa Cuic (11.6 ppg), whom Olson compares to Arizona junior forward Ivan Radenovic.
"Last year he reminded me a lot of Ivan at the same stage," he said. "He's good inside and out (and) a little bit bigger than Ivan."
Dewitz, a Chandler native, scored 40 points in three games against Arizona last season and shot 50 percent on 3-point field goals during the year.
"(Nick) DeWitz gave us fits a year ago," Olson said.
"He's a very mobile four man who can really shoot it (and is) a very, very good athlete," Pastner said.
Stephens, however, concerns Olson the most because of his perimeter skills, and thus Olson will give the defensive assignment to Arizona's best perimeter defender, senior guard Chris Rodgers.
"He's a real problem with the way he shoots the ball both from the field and from the line," Olson said. "Chris Rodgers will have the assignment, but as we have with most teams, there will be a lot of switching, so it will be the responsibility of all the perimeter guys (to guard Stephens)."
For Arizona, the rotation has been cut significantly since the beginning of the season with the Wildcats using only freshman guard J.P. Prince and junior center Kirk Walters off the bench for significant minutes. Sophomore guard Daniel Dillon also saw spurts of playing time over winter break.
Freshman forward Marcus Williams has been starting at one of the wing positions in McClellan's absence and has impressed, averaging 14.4 points in his last nine games, while ranking No. 6 in the conference with a 54.2 field goal percentage.
Radenovic has picked up his production, looking more like the player he was last season. In the past three games Radenovic has averaged 13.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
Oregon State is undefeated at home (4-0) this season and is coming off of its first Pac-10 road win since Feb. 12, 2004.
However, in the last meeting Arizona jumped all over Oregon State at the Pac-10 tournament, beating the Beavers 90-59.
Pastner said he believes the Wildcats need to get off to a good start once again to be effective.
"The only way to eliminate the home-court advantage is to jump on the team early from the tip-off and get a lead and not let them hang around and destroy their confidence from the very beginning," he said. "You want to stomp on them and not let them up."