Scouting Report: Cats and Trojans

Arizona has a recent history of "handling" USC relatively easily but the Trojans are much better at this point of the season than they were at this time last year. Arizona is the only team to beat USC handily this year and if the Wildcats use the same 3-2 zone that befuddled the Trojans in Tucson, it could ensure Arizona its much needed split on the weekend.

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Arizona (17-7; 10-4) at USC (17-6; 9-4)

Saturday at 4 p.m. MST in the L.A. Sports Arena

Last time out: Arizona-Lost a heartbreaker to UCLA on Jason Kapono's last minute three-pointer. The Wildcats had a chance to win the game with the last shot but freshman Channing Frye missed an open ten-footer when his bank shot attempt went in and out. USC-Beat the dickens out of ASU, 83-61 and moved to within a half game of the first place Wildcats.

The first time these teams met, Arizona came out on a mission and quickly led 10-0. USC called a timeout to quell the momentum in McKale Center but it made little difference. At one point during the first half, Arizona went on a 27-2 run and put the game away before halftime. Luke Walton—who had his first career triple-double with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, led the Wildcats—he also had four steals and four blocks for good measure as Arizona won 97-80.

Just as Arizona struggled with UCLA big man Dan Gadzuric on Thursday night, the same can be said for USC's monster power forward Sam Clancy. In Tucson, Clancy scored 30 points and was the only Trojan that made his presence felt. There is little doubt he will be the go-to guy this time around also for Henry Bibby's club.

Will Arizona re-deploy the 3-2 zone defense it used in the first match-up and force USC to shoot from outside again? That is the question. The thinking here is that the Wildcats don't much fear the perimeter shots of Trojan freshman Errick Craven, the inconsistent David Bluthenthal or sophomore mystery Desmon Farmer. Make drivers into shooters, as Wildcat assistant Rodney Tention says.

To the match-ups:

PG-Jason Gardner vs. Brandon Granville

*In the game in McKale Center a month ago, Granville was the invisible Trojan. The senior leader didn't score and was immensely disappointing in what was supposed to be a battle of the two of the West Coast's premier point guards. It is not likely that Granville will duplicate his disappearing act at home on Saturday afternoon. The main challenge for Arizona is to limit his three-point looks and to get Gardner some open shots because he snapped out of his month-long shooting slump in a big way at UCLA Thursday night by making seven of ten three-point shots for 25 points. That was the Jason Gardner from the beginning of the year—the one that cannot be stopped…by anyone.

-EDGE: Gardner (Arizona)

SG-Salim Stoudamire vs. Errick Craven

*Craven was the more heralded freshman going into the first game but Salim outplayed him and is now one of the biggest challengers to Channing Frye for Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. Craven doesn't possess the outside shot that would make him a more complete, and thus, effective, all-around player. Stoudamire didn't shoot very well at UCLA but he is always a factor in the game and should bounce back with a big game against the Trojans. Craven is extremely strong and athletic and is a pest on defense, but so is Salim. This is a great match-up and very entertaining as one watches the two surefire stars of the future develop.

-EDGE: Stoudamire (Arizona) close.

SF-Luke Walton vs. David Bluthenthal

*I'll take Walton, and thanks for playing.

-EDGE: Walton (Arizona)

PF-Rick Anderson vs. Sam Clancy

*As much as I love Ricky's tenacity and aggressiveness on the boards and on the offensive end lately, he is in over his head against the Pac-10's most dominant player. Clancy should be able to score at will if he avoids foul trouble and should put up very impressive numbers once again against Arizona. However, last year at USC, Clancy didn't score at all and was 0-6 from the field. Could Lute Olson be planning something to take Clancy out of the game or at least to make him less of a factor.

-EDGE: Clancy (USC) large.

C-Channing Frye vs. Kostas Charrissis

*Frye has had two straight sub-par performances offensively. It's understandable that the freshman struggled against UCLA's Dan Gadzuric, who had his annual "look-how-good-I-should-be" game against Arizona, but Frye needs to get back on track in a hurry for Arizona to be the most dangerous in trying to capture the Pac-10 championship. Charrissis isn't much of a factor and that is because he doesn't get that many minutes. Usually Kostas will start the game, play a few minutes here and there but mostly Farmer will come in and play the three while moving Bluthenthal and Clancy to the four and five positions, respectively. Expect Frye to comeback strong and to get back on track towards winning the coveted Freshman of the Year award.

-EDGE: Frye (Arizona)

Predicition: Arizona 84-72.

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