Men's Hoops: Cats, Huskies fight for top spot

By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, January 27, 2005


First place in the Pacific 10 Conference will be up for grabs when the No. 10 Washington Huskies battle the No. 11 Arizona Wildcats tonight at 6:30 in McKale Center.

Because Washington (16-2, 6-1 Pac-10) handled Arizona (16-3, 6-1) three times last season, including once in the Pac-10 tournament in March, this game figures to be more than a matchup between two highly ranked teams.

"A person would have to be really out of it if they don't realize that this is a big game," said UA head coach Lute Olson.

If the three losses weren't bad enough, the Huskies won while playing Arizona-style basketball, a high-tempo running attack predicated on elite athletes. Olson called Washington the "most athletic team in the conference, with us being second."

The Huskies lead the Pac-10 in scoring at 88.1 points per game, shooting at 49.8 percent from the field and 3-point percentage at 41.6 percent.

Guard Nate Robinson (23 points per game against Arizona last season) leads the attack for Washington.

"Nate Robinson is (the Huskies') heart and soul," Olson said.

Another Husky who's played well this year is senior guard Tre Simmons. Simmons is third in the Pac-10 in scoring at 16.8 points per game.

"He's always been a really good athlete," Olson said. "He's probably shooting the ball better than what we expected right now. He's a real load ... inside and out."

Junior guard-forward Hassan Adams will likely draw Simmons on defense. Adams scored 30 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Arizona's loss to Washington in the Pac-10 Tournament, and averaged 24 points in the three losses to the Huskies.

"I just do as much as I can to help us win," Adams said. "They play aggressive and they play hard."

While the Huskies appear to be more athletic this year, they lack the Wildcats' size. Senior Channing Frye (6-foot-11) and sophomore Ivan Radenovic (6-foot-10) will go up against smaller frontline players in 6-foot-8 Mike Jensen and 6-foot-6 Bobby Jones.

"They have great quickness. We have better size," Olson said.

Another difference this year may be the Wildcats' depth off the bench, allowing them to keep up with the Huskies throughout the game.

"We got in foul trouble and we couldn't go to our bench to get the help," Olson said of last season's efforts.

The Wildcats say they have forgotten about last year and are focused on the UA's biggest game of the year.

"It's a big game because we're playing for the No. 1 spot. But at the same time we need to take care of our business," Frye said. "This is just as big as us playing Oregon State or Oregon. Every game is huge."

Senior guard Salim Stoudamire said time has wiped the slate clean between the two teams.

"People are hyping it up because they beat us three times last year, but that was last year," said senior guard Salim Stoudamire.

"This is a new year. It's 2005."