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Men's Hoops: To live and die with Salim

KEVIN B. KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA senior guard Salim Stoudamire attempts to drive past Washington State's Thomas Kelati during Saturday's game in McKale Center.
By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, February 1, 2005
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Cats' success this season falls squarely on Stoudamire's shoulders

There are two sides to Arizona basketball senior guard Salim Stoudamire, and both can be seen in that quick moment after his shot either splashes through the net or clangs off the rim.

There's the satisfied look when he makes a shot - the look of "I did what I'm supposed to do."

On the opposite side, there's the other face he's sometimes better known for, the disgusted look when his left-handed jumper veers away from the hoop and hits metal.

The satisfied look is becoming more common as Stoudamire's shooting percentage continues to rise putting him near the top of the nation in 3-point percentage, making more shots than he misses.

However, the other face comes out when everything about Arizona basketball isn't a perfect swish and being the Wildcats No. 1 scoring threat, at 17 points per game, UA benefits when he's on the court.

In 16 Wildcat wins (he missed the Marquette game because of suspension), the Portland, Ore., native he's averaged 17.8 points per game.

He's more than four points per game lower when the Wildcats are on the losing end.

In the four UA losses, Stoudamire managed to score only 13.5 points per game while shooting just 36 percent from the field.

"When I play well, usually the team follows," Stoudamire said. "I have to find a way to put the ball in the hole."

Stoudamire has always been a solid 3-point shooter, making 54.1 percent of his 3-point attempts, but he has also added a mid-range game, which he used to help the Wildcats defeat UCLA.

"I feel like I can take my man off the drive. I did that and was able to hit those shots," Stoudamire said after the UCLA game.

So where would the Wildcats be without Stoudamire?

He hit the game-winning 3-pointer against UCLA, a game in which he also scored 32 points, many of which gave Arizona the lead at the time. He scored 25 points and went 9-of-9 from the free-throw line in a win over then-No. 10 Washington. He had 27 points on the road at Oregon and came up with 23 against Manhattan after his suspension.

Stoudamire has not been the same in UA losses.

In the Wildcats' 70-63 loss to Washington State, the defense of Thomas Kelati caused Stoudamire to shoot only 4-of-14 from the field.

"I felt he was getting more into the rhythmic movement instead of making good, hard, sharp cuts," UA head coach Lute Olson said. "It was not a matter of screens - the screens were there this time. It was a matter of him executing. Salim needs to be harder to guard and that's up to him, that can't be anybody else."

Defenses don't just play tough against him, but they do almost anything to stop Stoudamire, including keying their entire defense on one player as Utah and California did in their games against Arizona.

Cal, who the Wildcats play on Thursday, focuses in on Stoudamire by face-guarding him, which consists of having a player shadow the Portland, Ore. native with and without the ball.

"I know that they're going to have (Richard) Midgley face guard me the whole game, and try to frustrate me, push me, hold me, grab me, bite me," Stoudamire said.

Despite situations where it's tough for him to score Stoudamire believes he must still find a way to get open shots.

"I have to find ways to play through that," he said.

While Arizona has a potent offense, the losses have proven that Stoudamire sets the tone for the team. His transition to the go-to player has been difficult at times but he does like the responsibility.

"It's really important to me because I feel like I've been a leader my whole life," he said.

Stoudamire has been able to succeed despite being the focal point of opposing teams' defenses, but Olson expects more out of him in certain games.

"The difference between a good player and a really good player has to do with how hard he is to guard the entire possession and that's something we talk about prior to every game," Olson said.

The good news for Arizona is that every time Stoudamire struggles it is a short time before the senior forgets about it.

"(It only takes) about 24 hours, then it's out of my system," he said.

Brett Fera contributed to this report.

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