By Roman Veytsman
CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Channing Frye (right) and Jawann McClellan try to block a shot by Oregon State's J.S. Nash during the first half of Arizona's game against Oregon State Saturday in Corvallis, Ore.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, January 24, 2005
As good as the No. 13 Arizona basketball team has been in McKale Center this season, consistency on the road has been tough to accomplish.
The Wildcats hope that issue was addressed over the weekend with the road trip to the state of Oregon. The Wildcats escaped with two Pacific 10 Conference road victories for the first time since the 2002-2003 season, a year in which Arizona did not lose a single Pac-10 road game and finished first in the conference.
"We can't have any slip-ups if we want a chance at the Pac-10 title," assistant coach Josh Pastner said.
While Arizona did slip-up in the second half of the Oregon game and in the first half of the Oregon State game, the Wildcats had enough in the tank to overcome mistakes and to beat the Beavers 92-83 Saturday night in Corvallis, Ore.
The Wildcats are now tied for first with Washington in the Pac-10, with a battle against the Huskies looming Thursday night in McKale Center.
For the second weekend in a row, senior guard Salim Stoudamire put up impressive offensive numbers for Arizona. After pouring in 20 first-half points against the Ducks, it was his strong second half against Oregon State that pushed the Wildcats to their fourth straight win. Stoudamire scored 16 points in the second half, when Arizona outscored OSU 49-39 after trailing going into the break.
"He's the best player in America, hands down," Pastner said of Stoudamire. "And no one's even a distant second to him."
As Stoudamire has proven he can be the leader on the court, UA head coach Lute Olson has proven that midseason changes will serve to make the entire team better in the long run.
Freshmen Jawann McClellan, Jesus Verdejo and sophomore Kirk Walters all played big roles supporting Stoudamire's hot shooting.
"They've worked hard in practice, and Jesus has been getting better and better," said assistant coach Jim Rosborough.
Verdejo scored four points in eight minutes against the Badgers and gave Arizona the energy and spark it needed after falling to a 15-point first-half deficit.
McClellan played 22 minutes and put in eight points along with four rebounds, and Walters had four points and three rebounds.
"We throw him into the mix, and he was critical tonight in winning and the other night as well," Rosborough said of Walters. "The young guys need to understand their time may come and you don't know when it is, but they have to stay ready. They saved the day (Saturday)."
Although Oregon State has struggled at times this season (3-4 in the Pac-10), they were coming off an 88-66 drubbing of ASU and dealing with the return of head coach Jay John, who missed the ASU game because of ill health. The Wildcats came into the game knowing its importance.
"I thought it (was) a must-win game," Rosborough said. "We come into a tough place, Oregon ... and play a really good game. Then, you can't go out and stub your toe."