Coaches Corner: Cats enter Pac-10 play

With the new Pac-10 Tournament, Arizona starts conference play before Christmas. While Lute Olson is not a fan of the tournament or early conference play, he is preparing the Wildcats for a tough road trip into Oregon.

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Question: Are you disapointed with the Michigan State game or was it a good learning experience?

Lute Olson: "The game at Michigan State certainly was as tough as we projected that it would be. In terms of comparing it to places that we've played before, it is probably as tough a place as we've ever played in. They are very loud, and their crowd did a great job."

Question: The team shot poorly, was that a result of Michigan State's defense or your team struggling?

Olson: "In looking back at the tapes, we had a lot of really good looks that we did not knock down in the first half. We had three or four shots that I wouldn't want them to take again, but most of them were open looks. In the second half, we needed to have the guys be more patient and get more touches. We were not shooting the ball well in the first half, but our shooting percentage was a lot better in the second. In the first half, their defense didn't have as much to do with it as our inability to make shots that we should have made."

Question: How was your team's defensive effort?

Olson: "Defensively, we had some lapses, but we are going to have that when we are inexperienced like we are inside. The breakdowns that we had were freshman big-men breakdowns. I felt that during the course of the game, Channing Frye played really well. He was active and was a real factor in the basket area. The shot-blocking is going to continue to develop as he plays. Looking at the tape, his last blocked shot was as good as it was when I saw it the first time. Any contact that was made was by the guy driving to the basket. I thought Channing played well and competed hard."

Question: What can you tell us about the Oregon schools?

Olson: "Looking at Oregon State, they are very much improved. Philip Ricci is playing great, and it's not surprising that he is their best player. He is leading them in rebounding and scoring, and he has added a lot to Brian Jackson. I think they are solid through seven players."

"Oregon is really up tempo, athletic, quick and very experienced. They have a lot of key guys back for them."

Question: Salim (Stoudamire) must be excited to go home to Oregon?

Olson: "What you hope is that Salim gets wound up like Dennis (Latimore) did against Kansas. Dennis was really alive in that game and against Illinois. Those were his two best games. They'll be all over (Salim) him, but that's a tradition at Oregon if a kid leaves Oregon to play somewhere else."

Question: What do you think of your team as you enter conference play?

Olson: "With conference play, you want to be as ready as you can possibly be. We've been more impressive than what people would have expected. I don't think there is any question that when you look at who has a shot for the title, Stanford is one of the teams."

 

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