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ANALYSIS: Forty minutes of heaven

By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Saturday, March 19, 2005
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It's called 40 Minutes of Hell.

An entire game of trapping, pressure defense and athletes flying all over the place, deflecting passes and causing chaos from the opposing team's offense.

UA Senior center Channing Frye called it 40 minutes of controlled chaos.

Saturday afternoon, however, Alabama-Birmingham's style of play did not panic the Arizona Wildcats.

"If you go back in recent history, there's nobody that's ever pressed Arizona a full game, and we proved that today," freshman guard Jawann McClellan said.

In the 1997 NCAA championship game, Kentucky's style of play mirrored UAB, pressuring full court throughout the game, but the result was still an Arizona win.

The term 40 Minutes of Hell came from the Nolan Richardson-coached Arkansas teams. Mike Anderson, the head coach of UAB, was a player and an assistant coach under Richardson, and he brought the style of play over to his new team.

That style was the basis for a sweet 16 appearance in last year's NCAA tournament, when the Blazers defeated Washington and No.1 seed Kentucky.

Arizona came prepared though, with athleticism and guards who can handle the ball. The Wildcats practiced 5 on 6 to get ready for the frenetic pace and the quickness of the Blazers. Once the game started, it was just the pace the Wildcats wanted to see.

"We played Arizona basketball," junior forward Hassan Adams said. "It was like a big pick up game with everybody running. Boom! They pressure and we get the ball down the court, every possession two on one, three on one, getting dunks, lay-ups. We got whatever shot we wanted."

In the first round game against Louisiana State, UAB forced 21 turnovers. Although the Blazers forced 16 against Arizona, the difference was that the Wildcats attacked the pressure while LSU slowed the ball down once it got to half court.

"Breaking the pressure and attacking the basket, that's what we did," assistant coach Rodney Tention said. "We made them pay and we broke the press. I think LSU broke the pressure but they didn't attack the basket."

In the first half, UAB was able to get nine steals, although mostly when the ball was already in the front court. On a few occasions, the Blazers forced turnovers and turned them into buckets, but for every time they made a steal, Arizona scored twice as many easy baskets. Adams drove to the basket often, scoring 16 points, most off of penetration.

"He's quicker than a lot of these guards out here and a lot of these big men," senior guard Salim Stoudamire said. "He was the aggressor."

In the second half, UAB failed to get one steal as the Wildcats were stronger with the ball.

"Just being strong with the ball," McClellan said. "They really grab your arm, but when they do, you really have to guard it (the ball) with all your life and make better decisions. That's all we did in the second half."

In order to break the pressure, Arizona got the ball to the middle of the floor, often using the big guys in Frye, Ivan Radenovic, and Kirk Walters. Once one of them caught the ball, they were able to turn and kick the ball to wing players who were already running to the other end of the floor. "We had to get the ball to the middle of the floor either through a high post entry or throwing to the post and throwing it back out," Tension said. "Just get the ball to the middle of the floor because that's where they were most vulnerable."

"We've got ball handlers and quick, fast guys on the team, sophomore center Kirk Walters added. "Just keeping our cool and not letting the double teams and different things like that get to us (was the key).

When the Wildcats were not able to get the ball to the middle, they inbounded it to a side and passed it back to Adams, who arguably handled the ball more in this game than any other this season. Adams used his body to shield away defenders, while advancing the ball up the court, and even though UAB double teamed him, he had zero turnovers on the afternoon.

"If you pitch it back to me, I'm going to bring it up," Adams said. "I feel comfortable bringing it up. I'm a pretty good handler and I have a lot of confidence in my handling. I've worked on it."

Arizona's handling of the pressure took UAB out of their usual style of game and each time the Wildcats broke the pressure and scored, an ounce of energy was taken out of the Blazers.

"When a team traps that much, you're going to get tired at some point," sophomore point guard Mustafa Shakur said. "You can't trap with your starters for 40 minutes. They're a good team but we just kept pushing it."

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