By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, January 31, 2005
Stunned Wildcats should shoulder blame for defeat
The No. 11 Arizona men's basketball team was stunned by Washington State Saturday afternoon in McKale Center - the Wildcats' first loss to the Cougars in 19 years - and there was no good explanation for the defeat.
"We just didn't come to play today," said center Channing Frye, who grabbed two rebounds and shot 2-of-7 from the field.
"We weren't ready as a team," guard Mustafa Shakur added. "I can't pinpoint it, but (we) just weren't ready."
There were no positives from this lackluster loss, a 70-63 game in which the Washington State Cougars followed their game plan and did exactly what the Wildcats knew they were going to do.
Arizona was unable to get crucial defensive rebounds and unable to find open looks for guard Salim Stoudamire, who was 4-of-14 from the floor and didn't make a single 3-point shot in five attempts.
Arizona took a 54-50 lead with 6:44 remaining but the Wildcats' execution down the stretch was poor and Washington State's Thomas Kelati made the Wildcats pay, knocking down 6 - of - 7 3s and 22 of his 27 points in the second half while Arizona's defense watched.
"We gave him a lot of good looks. He lit it up," Shakur said.
While the execution wasn't exactly the way UA head coach Lute Olson might have wanted it, the bigger concern was that certain players did not come prepared to play.
"We had some guys that weren't mentally into it, and when you're not mentally into it, you won't be physically into it,"Olson said.
Olson said he was disappointed in the experienced players on the team who should have been aware of a possible let down after a big win against Washington Thursday.
"It was obvious; our most experienced players should be smart enough to understand that every game people are going to come with fire in their eyes," Olson said.
Frye said he took the loss upon himself and fellow senior Stoudamire, who had to search for shots instead of finding them in the flow of the offense.
"Everybody has to go and look at themselves," Frye said. "Salim and I will take the blame because we are the senior leaders."
Some of the blame also had to go to junior guard Chris Rodgers, who sat the game out due to disciplinary problems. Although Olson said the Wildcats had the ability to win without him, it was obvious his presence as the team's best defender was lacking, as the Cougar guards torched Arizona from the perimeter.
"I wasn't happy with his response to Thursday," Olson said of Rodgers, who was also held out of practice the Friday before the game. "This is not about me, it's about us."
"If somebody else earns his seat on the bench, I don't care whether we win or lose because of that," Olson said.
As joyful as Arizona was after the Washington win, the Wildcats apparently couldn't handle all the hype that came with it. Arizona was looking at moving into the top 10, while excitement, as well as cockiness, became the team's attitude.
"Everywhere they're going on Friday after that great game on Thursday, they're hearing how great they were and they're hearing that all day long," Olson said.
The Wildcats were far from great on Saturday.
"We'll go back to practice and stay focused," Shakur said. "We need to come focused for every game.
"As a team, we failed."