By Patrick Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
When they faced off with Georgetown in the finals of the preseason NIT one week ago, Arizona wanted to avoid getting into a running game with the Hoyas. But tomorrow against Houston, head coach Lute Olson's Wildcats hope for a track meet.
Not only does Olson think his big men are faster than the Cougars' post players, but Houston is not a deep team, so Arizona's players should be fresher to push the ball.
"We feel in watching their tapes Houston is vulnerable to transition, I think our big guys run better than theirs do," Olson said. "This will be a game different from say, Georgetown, where we wanted to make sure we didn't get into a chase up and down. This one we feel would be better for us if it was more up-tempo."
The Cougars have only seven scholarship players on their roster for their first six games because of injuries and suspensions. Preseason all-Southwest Conference first-team selection Tim Moore is the biggest loss. The senior forward must sit out the first semester (until after Dec. 17) to meet academic requirements.
Arizona also has to fill a hole. Sophomore Michael Dickerson, out the last two games with a sprained left ankle sustained four minutes into the Georgetown game, is doubtful for Saturday's game because the injury is taking longer than expected to heal.
"He's not well, the injury is coming along very slowly," Olson said. "He's doubtful at best."
Into Dickerson's spot at the three position will go seniors Joe McLean and Corey Williams. Freshman A.J. Bramlett, and perhaps redshirt freshman Donnell Harris, will back up post players Ben Davis and Joseph Blair. Olson also said freshman guard Jason Terry could expect more playing time than usual.
Olson was unsure whether Williams or McLean would start. He said it was "a distinct possibility" that what happened Tuesday against Marathon, when one (McLean) started the game and the other (Williams) started the second half, would happen again Saturday.
The good news that has come out of Dickerson's injury has been the play of McLean, who has received extended minutes as a result. He has scored 29 points and 10 rebounds in the two games (Georgetown and Marathon), while averaging almost 20 minutes in the contests.
"He's gaining confidence. It may end up that with Michael out, it may end up as sort of a blessing in disguise for he and Corey to really get their confidence levels up there," Olson said.
This is the first regular-season game UA will play as the No. 4 team in the nation, and the Wildcats are sure the Cougars will be ready. Arizona is ranked fourth in both The Associated Press and the USA TODAY/CNN polls.
"Houston will be pumped up to play us," guard Miles Simon said. "They've got the number four team in the country coming to play them."
Olson feels the teams have similar offensive styles. Houston runs a motion game with a high-low post set, similar to what UA uses. Kirk Ford, a preseason second-team all-SWC selection, mimics a lot of what Corey Williams does for Arizona, playing both inside and on the perimeter, Olson said.
Davis will guard Ford, while Reggie Geary will get the assignment to stop junior swingman Kenya Capers, who scored 23 points in the Cougars' first game against Houston Baptist, Olson said.
"There are not a lot of things we need to do to prepare for it," Olson said about the Cougar attack.
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