By Roman Veytsman
CHRIS CODUTO/ Daily Wildcat
Arizona head coach Lute Olson gestures to assistant coach Josh Pastner during the second half of the Wildcats' 11-point win over USC last night in McKale Center.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, January 14, 2005
As sophomore center Kirk Walter stepped on the floor for the Wildcats' 77-68 win over USC last night he received a slight applause, but the biggest reaction he got was from the puzzled faces.
Walters, who was previously set to redshirt this year, saw his first action of the season and last his chance to only practice this season and gain anther year of eligibility.
"(Head) coach (Lute) Olson said that he thought I was ready, and he thought that a little more depth in the post would help us out a lot," Walters said.
About four hours before tip off, the Grand Rapids native said he met with Olson and was told he would be playing that night, but had a suspicion he might go in when he was told by the coaching staff earlier in the day he should lift before the game.
Walters played 12 minutes but did not score, going 0-for-1 from the floor and grabbing a rebound. Olson said he expects Walters to play more minutes in upcoming games.
"From a consistency standpoint, he's probably next to Channing (Frye) as the most consistent inside guy in a practice situation," Olson said.
With Walters gaining over 25 pounds, lack of bulk was a reason for his redshirting, and with freshman forward Mohamed Tangara out with an injured back for the season , Walters was forced to show off the added pounds earlier than expected.
Olson made a concerted effort to try different combinations in the first half, not all of which worked out as the game went back-and-forth, including 13 lead changes and neither team going ahead by more than four.
"I wanted to try to take a look at different guys," Olson said. "I thought we could wear them down some. Now with Kirk there, we're going to need to look at what our rotation is going to be. As of right, as he was tonight, he was the first big guy off the bench."
At one point in the game, the Wildcat lineup had Walters and sophomore forward Ivan Radenovic down low and junior Chris Rodgers, senior Salim Stoudamire and freshman Jawann McClellan at the guards. Even with so many different combinations, Rodgers wasn't bothered as he went on to score 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting.
"All of our guys work well together," Rodgers said. "In practice we switch up lineups all the time, so I thought we had experience with that."
Even with that experience, Rodgers said he was a little stunned to see Walters in the game.
"I was a little surprised to be honest with you," Rodgers said. "I thought he did a great job when he came in, gave us some rebounds and great help-side defense."
With Walters added to the roster, freshman forward Bret Brielmaier and junior forward Isaiah Fox saw a decrease in minutes. Brielmaier did not play in the game, while Fox, visibly disappointed after the game, only logged six minutes.
"I was a little surprised," Fox said.
When asked if he was in the doghouse, he replied "It looks like it."