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Friel Court, Pullman, Washington, 8:00 p.m. MST
Last time out: Arizona-Overcame a 21-point deficit to defeat Oregon State 93-87 in Tucson behind Jason Gardner's 34 points…Washington State-Lost 71-59 at UCLA while allowing Bruin shooting guard Billy Knight to score a career-high 32 points on 6-9 three-point shooting.
F Luke Walton (12.0ppg, 7.5rpg, 5.2apg)-The "glue" that holds Arizona together is finally back after missing the last three and a half games with a strained right Achilles' tendon. Though Walton probably won't be at full speed, it's not speed that his game is predicated upon. His game is based on intelligence, decision making and pinpoint passing while letting the offense flow through him like the Force flowed through another Luke (Skywalker). Okay, that was dumb. Let's move on.
G Salim Stoudamire (15.8ppg, 56.3 FG%, 51.7 3pt%, 100% FT pct over the last five games)-Stoudamire has finally started to show what an outstanding shooter he really is, but now comes his opportunity to prove that he can maintain his hot hand on the road. Stoudamire has also made 20 consecutive free throws stretching back to the second half of the Texas game and leads the Pac-10 with his 96.7% mark (29-30).
G Will Bynum (12.5ppg on 44.4% shooting during the last two games)-Bynum looked much more comfortable and aggressive in games against the Oregon schools and that is a great sign. No one creates his own shot for the Wildcats as well as Bynum does and, as soon as he has confidence in his game full-time, there will not be many teams who can stop Will "The Thrill".
G Marcus Moore-One of the best all-around guards in the Pac-10, Moore will be a huge challenge defensively for whichever Wildcat guard is assigned to him defensively (probably Stoudamire). Moore is very tall for a point guard (6-6) and unlike UCLA's 6-6 Ced Bozeman, Moore is fast too. Moore will require a lot of help defense and will undoubtedly be the Cougars go-to guy.
G Mike Bush-Now that he's done burning opposing defensive backs as a receiver on the football field, Bush is back as a full-time basketball player. Bush led the Cougars in scoring last season and is still capable of scoring a lot of points in a very short amount of time. Unless Luke Walton guards him, Bush will also have a big size advantage over Arizona's guards with his 6-6 frame.
C J Locklier-That is not a misprint, his given name really is "J". He can also shoot his namesake very well from out to 18-feet so Channing Frye or Isaiah Fox will have to put a hand in his face when he roams out to the perimeter. Locklier is a skilled big man who is also an adequate rebounder, although Frye is better on the boards and as a defensive presence down low.
Keys to an Arizona victory:
*Play smart and avoid stupid mistakes:
Walton and Gardner are the two Cats that rarely make mistakes on the court, but the other guys need to learn from Luke and Jason just how important it is to value each and every possession. When Arizona is playing with fire and with a sense of desperation, it seems to make fewer mistakes. When that is the case, Arizona is as good as just about any team in America. Having Walton back will be very beneficial to the Wildcats' progress in this area.
*Allow Dennis Latimore more playing time to develop further:
Latimore looked great in his time on the floor against Oregon State on Sunday night. He started out by making consecutive 16-footers that he shot with confidence and—more importantly—without hesitation. The freshman from Kansas finished with a respectable six points and three rebounds in only 17 minutes. The more time he plays and the better he gets the better Arizona will get. It's appropriate to bring back a quote from Arizona assistant Jay John regarding Latimore: "He's about to be scary good."
*Get Ricky Anderson more than three shots a game:
Wildcat coaches have said that Anderson is the team's best pure shooter and although that may be debatable with Stoudamire's shooting prowess, it's a given that he should take more than three shots per game. Chances are that the Oregon State game will be the last time Anderson ever shoots as few as three shots in a game while he's at Arizona. While Stoudamire is the best shooter (arguably) and Gardner is the most explosive scorer, it's Anderson who is the most creative scorer. He can shoot threes, hit 15-foot bank-shots, drive for lay-ups and hit 12-foot floaters in the lane. The Cats need to get him more looks.
*Walton will be the calming hand that helps Arizona's offense run more efficiently and the Cats will get more easy buckets in this game than the last three combined.
*Bynum gets really hot against the taller, slower Cougar defenders and scores a career-high in points (current high is 16 vs. Florida).
*Frye continues his excellent play in the post and out-duels Locklier with another double-double.
*Jason Gardner will be Jason Gardner, which basically means he'll be the best player on the court without question.
*Arizona builds on the emotional comeback from Sunday and beats Washington State 83-74.
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