By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, February 14, 2005
It was not to be this time for UCLA guard Dijon Thompson, and Arizona was going to make sure of it.
In their first meeting, Thompson not only scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a near victory in McKale Center, but he was also talking trash the entire time according to Wildcat sophomore forward Ivan Radenovic.
This time though, the Wildcats knew what to expect and Thompson was held in check, scoring 10 meaningless points while shooting 4-of-13 from the floor and turning the ball over four times.
So was Thompson still talking during his less than stellar performance this game?
"No, probably because he wasn't scoring," said Ivan Radenovic, who was assigned to guard Thompson for almost the entire game.
At first glance, the matchup between 6-foot-7 Thompson and 6-foot-10 Radenovic seemed to favor Thompson, who is often able to attack bigger players off the dribble. Radenovic, however, stood his ground, moving his feet laterally and staying in front of Thompson, while also using his long arms to contest Thompson's shots.
"Ivan is not slow and he can move laterally and keep up with Dijon," said senior guard Salim Stoudamire.
Stoudamire took his shot at guarding Thompson, along with junior guard Chris Rodgers and sometimes even senior center Channing Frye, who found himself switched on to Thompson on the perimeter, but the bulk of the defensive game plan was centered on Radenovic.
Arizona head coach Lute Olson saw something in the game tape from the previous matchup that told him to put Radenovic on Thompson.
"In the game in Tucson, Ivan did the best job on Dijon than anybody on our team," Olson said. "He's a legitimate 6-foot-10 or bigger, and I think his length probably bothered Dijon."
"It was tough, he's a great player," Radenovic said. "I was mentally prepared to guard him. I tried to be off him and try to anticipate his shot, and try to stop his penetration. I think I did a good job."
Radenovic received help from the rest of his teammates because stopping Thompson would take a team effort according to Olson.
"We did a really nice job of switching out," Olson said. "Channing got out there a couple of times. The main thing we said with him is to get in his jersey. If he puts it on the floor, he puts it on the floor, we'll give help, but don't let him just catch and shoot the 3."
Thompson was unable to shoot the 3 effectively because the few times he was able to get around the initial line of defense, Frye was out there protecting with his 6- foot-11 frame.
"To have me on a 3-man like Dijon just shows that we work on those type of things at practice," Frye said. "He's a scorer, he's going to get shots up, so if we can get somebody long-armed and somebody to cut back his looks, it will help us out. I usually try to use my length and we work on defensive sliding."
Olson said he believed the Bruins were anticipating junior forward Hassan Adams to defend Thompson , but he wasn't going to oblige them.
"We probably shocked them too, because I think they were expecting Hassan," Olson said.
Throughout the game, Thompson looked flustered because of the surprising defensive adjustment and because his shots clanked off the rim with increasing regularity. Never was it more evident than in the midst of Arizona's 19-0 run.
After the Wildcats scored 14 consecutive points, Thompson found himself wide open for a 3-pointer but missed the shot. When the ball was rebounded, Thompson hung back and stole the outlet pass only to miss a seemingly open layup and then help UCLA guard Jordan Farmar knock the ball out of bounds.
"He missed a lot of shots, but that was from us putting a lot of pressure on him and taking him out of his comfort," Adams said. "He didn't get off real early because we got in him pretty effective because he was their main scorer so we took him out of his groove early."
Thompson didn't get on the board until more than 10 minutes into the first half. He also picked up two fouls early in the half and was forced to sit on the bench because of foul trouble. When he came back in, he failed to do any damage, scoring just five points in the first half in only 12 minutes. By the time the second half rolled around, Thompson lost the confidence he had coming into the game.
"Late in the game he kind of was flat, he didn't really assert himself too much. He was just kind of out there shooting it, just hoping it would go in," Adams said. "He wasn't being the Dijon I know."