Player of the Game: Chris Rodgers

An unlikely candidate stepped up Saturday for Arizona and paved the road to victory against the Marquette Golden Eagles. Chris Rodgers has had a problem finding his niche and place on the Arizona team his past two years, but Saturday he found it. Rodgers helped lift the team back up and to a big win in the second half.

In the first half it appeared that Hassan Adams was the Wildcat's main man. He scored eight points and had two rebounds in the first, but it was Rodgers who took control in the second half. Rodgers is known for his great defensive skills but he let his offense do the talking against Marquette. Rodgers tallied sixteen points by game's end.

Arizona played good early defense, which held Marquette to only nineteen points in the first half. They played great team basketball early on and didn't allow Marquette, or their star player Travis Diener, score for seven and a half minutes. The Wildcats had a 15-3 lead at one point.

At the half Arizona led the game 25-19. Adams was the team leader with eight points and Rodgers wasn't far behind with five. You could see something was different about Rodgers during this game. He was playing with more heart, intensity, hustle, and determination than he ever has.

At the begging of the second half Arizona looked good and refreshed. Mustafa Shakur helped give Arizona a ten point lead after a huge dunk. However, Marquette battled back by drawing fouls and grabbing big rebounds. Rodgers had the toughest defensive assignment by guarding Travis Diener. Diener is one of the best point guards in college hoops. Still, Rodgers wouldn't be denied. He matched Diener move for move and point for point.

Rodgers stopped an 11-2 Marquette run by sinking a lay up and then heading to the foul line for the extra point. Diener then hit a three at the ten-minute mark, which gave Marquette the lead in the second half. Rodgers then matched him with a three and tied everything back up at 39.. Rodgers followed up by sinking another three pointer and putting Arizona back on top 42-39. Then came the most beautiful drive I have seen all season by a Wildcats player. Rodgers blew right by his defender for a beautiful lay -in with about a minute left. Then Adams went to the foul line and put the game out of reach.

The win against Marquette showed a lot about this Arizona team. They have heart and play with heart. Marquette was undefeated going into Saturday's game. They had won thirty-four straight games against non conference opponents, they play outstanding at home, and they have Travis Diener. Arizona showed a lot about themselves and picked up a big win against them. They did all this without Salim Stoudamire too.

With Stoudamire being suspended for a week coach Lute Olsen has turned to Chris Rodgers to fill the spot. Stoudamire is averaging fourteen points per game and Rodgers is averaging three point eight points per game this season. Many have doubted Rodgers in the past, but he put all doubts to rest and proved himself against Marquette.

Without Chris Rodgers Arizona could not have beaten Marquette. Rodgers ended up with sixteen points and gained the respect of his other teammates after the game. Rodgers should get the nod from Olsen to start Tuesday against Manhattan. If Rodgers puts on another performance like he did against Marquette the Wildcats will be a very tough team to beat and give Manhattan a big headache.


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