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MATCHUPS: The 22nd ranked Longhorns return seven players, including three starters. The Cats return only two contributors, one starter. The Cats are relying on six freshmen and a redshirt who sat out last season/
All-America candidate Chris Owens, a 6-foot-7, 238-pound senior forward is the marquee player for Rick Barnes' squad. Owens averaged 14.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots last season. Arizona will counter with Rick Anderson who is a taller, more mobile player, but lacks the strength and explosiveness that Owens possesses.
The Wildcats main guy has been Jason Gardner. The junior point guard served notice to the nation by averaging 23.0 ppg against Maryland and Florida. Gardner is the glue that binds the Cats and can both score and run the team. Texas will most likely use true freshman T.J. Ford. A highly regarded recruit, Ford can score from the perimeter. If Ford is not playing, expect to see Fredie Williams running the team. Williams is known as a defensive stopper and not much of a scorer.
James Boddicker and James Thomas are the Longhorn's other key post players. Their versatility and athleticism will be the challenge for the Wildcats' young post players. Jason Klotz is the Longhorns tallest post player and could see some action.
Expect to see Brandon Mouton and Deginald Erskin should be the most likely candidates to play on the wing. Both are considerably taller than Salim Stoudamire and Will Bynum, the Arizona two-guards.
Arizona will rely on the talented freshmen. Isaiah Fox and Channing Frye will see the bulk of the work at center and should see time together. Fox is a bulky bruiser, while Frye is a more lithe, finesse shot-blocker. Stoudamire and Bynum will struggle with the taller Texas guards, but with their quickness they will give the Texas players some difficulties as well.
LAST TIME OUT: Texas defeated Alaska-Anchorage, 122-72, in an exhibition game on Nov. 7, as six UT players finished in double figures. The 'Horns limited the Seawolves to just .353 (24-of-68) shooting for the game and forced 29 turnovers.Jason Gardner earned tournament MVP honors with his 23-point, five-assist effort in leading Arizona to the Coaches vs. Cancer IKON Classic championship courtesy of a 75-71 win last Friday over fifth-ranked Florida. Gardner's leadership was key once again, as he assisted on UA's final three baskets, all by Rick Anderson, including the clincher, a driving lay-up with 26.1 seconds to go. Freshman Will Bynum joined Gardner on the all-tournament team after scoring 16 points and adding two rebounds.
LAST MEETING: A solid defensive effort keyed Arizona's sixth straight win, as the Cats downed No. 20 Texas, 80-52, Jan. 27, 2001, in Tucson. UA held Texas scoreless for more than seven minutes in the first half and used a 23-5 run over 7:22 of the second to build as much as a 29-point second half lead. UA's defense limited Texas to 31.4 percent shooting in the game, including just 30 percent after the break. Gilbert Arenas and Michael Wright led a balanced offensive attack, as both poured in 16 points.
OUTLOOK: Arizona has confidence. Defeating two top-10 teams will do that. This time the Cats have to go into a hostile environment on the Longhorn's home court. Texas won't be surprised by the Cats and will look forward to facing the 12th ranked Wildcats. Arizona has had the upper hand in this series and expect Texas to want some manner of revenge.