By Roman Veytsman
CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Channing Frye looks to block Stanford's Dan Grunfeld's shot during Stanford's game against No. 13 Arizona in McKale Center Saturday.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Intensity, toughness keys to success
The No. 12 Arizona basketball team has had trouble playing in empty buildings in recent years, especially in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.
This time, they say they feel ready for the squeaking of shoes and the sound of the ball bouncing, as the Wildcats (19-4, 9-2 Pacific 10 Conference) take on struggling Southern California (9-13, 2-9) tonight in Los Angeles.
Coming off two convincing home wins against California and Stanford, positive energy has once again filled the Arizona locker room.
"It was a good weekend for us," said UA head coach Lute Olson. "I thought we played our two best games back-to-back that we have played this year."
Arizona hopes to take that energy and channel it in a game that is not always easy to get up for.
"We want to keep going in a positive manner right now," junior guard Hassan Adams said. "We want to keep everyone together for one, and basically go out there and play our game."
Arizona has been playing their game and playing it well, outscoring their last two opponents by 39 points while averaging 93.5 points per game.
The team's senior leaders have come out to the forefront, and the nation has given them their due. Both Channing Frye and Salim Stoudamire made the cut for the top-30 midseason Naismith Player of the Year Award.
Frye is averaging 15 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this season, leading the team in the latter department as well as in blocks.
Stoudamire, meanwhile, leads the nation in 3-point percentage and has become a defensive stopper as well.
The two have encouraged a team attitude and have focused on being unselfish.
"People (are) making extra passes, people are hitting good shots and we're thinking about the team and not as individuals," Frye said.
Five Wildcats scored in double digits against the Cardinal, including guard Chris Rodgers, who seems to be crawling out of Olson's doghouse.
Rodgers has averaged nine points a game in the two games since his suspension, and matching his season pattern, has given the team a spark off the bench.
"I'm just going to continue to play, whatever my role is on the team," Rodgers said. "I try to create energy, that's my game."
When Arizona utilizes all their options offensively, they have been tough to beat, as they are 10-0 this season when scoring more than 80 points.
"That's the formula for success," Frye said. "A lot of people having the ball, a lot of touches and unselfishness. Look at the teams that are the best in the country - North Carolina, Illinois, Wake Forest. It's those type of teams that are succeeding because everyone is touching the ball."
The formula for success should also include playing mentally tough on the road, and that's precisely what Olson believes will happen.
"The biggest thing we have tried to get across is that we have done everything we can do in terms of physical preparation," Olson said. "Now it all gets down to how mentally focused we are. I think if we are going to make a good run here, we have to have everyone focused on what needs to be done mentally, because physically, I think we are where we need to be."
Olson also hopes to see a big Arizona following at the game so the Wildcats don't feel like strangers in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, where they have lost two of the last three years.
"I would expect we would have a good turnout again," Olson said. "It's a different kind of place to play."
Different or not, the road trip is important because before long, the Wildcats will find themselves back in Los Angeles for the Pac-10 tournament.
"Playing on the road is big. It's going to be just like tournament time," Adams said. "Playing on the road helps us to have a feeling of playing under pressure, playing in someone else's house."