Different day, different team

By Shane Bacon
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, January 20, 2006

It was a different team that took the floor in McKale Center last night in the Arizona uniforms, plain and simple.

They played better set defense, shot better from outside and made better decisions about when and where they were going to take it the basket. The team made shots when it mattered, got the production from certain ghosts in the lineup and even had a louder crowd with the beginning of school and the resurgence of the Zona Zoo.

Arizona (11-6, 4-3 Pacific 10 Conference) didn't play a spotless game against Stanford (7-7, 3-3) last night and did have a point in the second half when they gave up a double-digit lead the Cardinal, but it was a defining game, one everyone in that stadium knew must end with a win.

It did when the Wildcats beat the Cardinal 90-81 in overtime last night

"We came out with a lot of intensity from the get-go," freshman forward Marcus Williams said. "In the first half, the rim kind of felt like a big bucket from 3-land, and I kind of got in a groove and just kind of fed off of that."

Williams led the team with a career-high 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting and said that the change in this game was the players off the bench.

"We've needed that all year, coming and not missing a beat, so whoever came in we knew it was the same intensity," Williams said.

With the release of senior guard Chris Rodgers by Arizona head coach Lute Olson and three losses in the last four games, the Wildcats were entering this Stanford game with a lot of baggage to carry, but junior point guard Mustafa Shakur said sometimes that is a good thing.

"Sometimes it takes adversity for you to get in the right frame of mind," Shakur said. "When you have five guys on the court at the same time on the same page, that's what makes up a team."

Shakur said that this was a statement game for a new Wildcat ball club.

"This is a night where we really came together and played like a team," Shakur said. "Everyone had energy from one on down to 13."

The surprising sparkplug for the Wildcats came in the form of a freshman forward who was quick to take off his redshirt when the team found out that sophomore guard Jawann McClellan's season ended after undergoing left wrist surgery.

Fendi Onobun contributed six crucial points on 3-of-4 shooting in his 13 minutes of play, something Shakur said was amazing.

"Fendi played great coming off the bench," he said. "He showed a lot of confidence. He's been through a lot coming in as a freshman having to deal with the bumps and bruises of a freshman, but he responded well coming out of redshirt."

Onobun said when he heard the news Olson gave him of coming out of redshirt he was completely taken back.

"My mouth was to the ground," Onobun said. "It kind of hit me like a blindside screen."

The Wildcats overtime win against Stanford might not be enough to make a season, but it was sure enough to save it.