Everything went right for the Cats

It could not have gone any better for Arizona in their first round game against Cal. Almost everything they wanted to happen, happened. It was as if Lute Olson himself scripted Thursday's events.

First and foremost the Wildcats got the win, but the good news started earlier in the day. The Wildcats have an outside shot at a top seed but have to leap frog a number of schools. One of those schools appeared to be Boston College. The Eagles fell to West Virginia in their first game of the Big East Tournament. Now the Cats need some losses by the likes of Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Duke or Wake Forest and possibly all of them.

Better news for the Wildcats was the fact that the team won convincingly. They had to battle back against both Washington State and ASU and it was nice to get a decisive win.

The Cats got the lead built up early and that was a huge benefit. With the possibility of having to play three games in three days the coaches wanted a chance to rest their regulars and were able to do just that. Only one starter played more than 25 minutes (Mustafa Shakur logged 30) and most were right around 20.

The Wildcats were able to get quality minutes for some key reserves. Jawann McClellan, Jesus Verdejo and Kirk Walters all logged at least 15 minutes. McClellan was 6-8 from the field with 14 points. Walters was a perfect 2-ofr-2. Verdejo shot just 1-5, but played decent defense and didn't really hurt the Wildcats on either end.

Better news is that Isaiah Fox played nine minutes, some with the first teamers. On a negative note he had three turnovers, but he did score a bucket and grab a pair of rebounds. Chris Rodgers looked better, playing a solid 13 minutes, but he did not play in the first half. Since his 11-point, nine assist game, Rodgers has been in a bit of a slump.

About the only thing that did not go in the Cats' favor was Washington and Stanford getting knocked off. Both got taken to the limit by their first round foes, but the Cardinal and Huskies escaped with wins. The good news is that both teams, along with the Cats' second round foe Oregon State, expended a lot of energy in getting out of the first day.

Another positive sign is that the Cats won, and won in a walk, without having to rely on Stoudamire having the hot hand. Stoudamire scored a modest seven points on 2-6 shooting, but the Cats still won by 25. They have already proven that they can win without Stoudamire, the road win at Marquette showed that, but on Thursday they proved they could dominate an opponent, though inferior, without the senior shooting the lights out.

Things could not have been any better on Thursday, but the competition will be better. Cal had little to play for, but Oregon State believes they can shock the world and earn a birth in the NCAA Tournament with two more wins. The good news is the Cats should be well rested, with a lot of reserves getting their feet wet. The three remaining teams are not so lucky. The other three are coming off tough, hard fought battles.

The Cats still have something to play for. They know a number one seed is out there and at the worst a Pac-10 Tournament title should give them a spot in the west.

The Cats would love nothing more than another lopsided win and a chance to rest their starters a bit more. A week from now they won't have that luxury.


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