The Arizona coaching staff remarked after Sunday's game against Virginia how they thought Budinger deferred to the elder statesmen on the team in the second half. Budinger, who had scored 15 points in the first half of the first game of his career, only scored two in the game's final 20 minutes.
Tonight, Lute Olson showed why he's a Hall of Fame coach by calling Budinger's number on an out of bounds play in the game's opening minute. Budinger rubbed off a screen and knocked down a wide open baseline jumper that gave the Wildcats a 2-0 lead. Moments later Budinger knocked down the first of his five 3-pointers and the highly touted San Diegan was well on his way to another stellar first half, scoring 23.
Olson again went small to start the game, going with Mustafa Shakur, Jawann McClellan, Marcus Williams, Ivan Radenovic and Budinger. The line up did not hold for long though as Radenovic picked up a silly second foul just minutes into the game. Hill stepped in for Radenovic and immediately made his presence felt with his first of three blocked shots.
Not to be outdone by the underclassmen, senior PG Mustafa Shakur nearly posted the first triple double of his collegiate career. The four year starter scored 20 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and dished out 10 assists.
Shakur looked a bit shaky at first as he did a little bit of everything. He sank a free throw to finish a 3-point play, had two turnovers, one assist, and a rebound. Shakur quickly settled down and was successful in driving to the lane and drawing fouls on NAU defenders.
NAU guard Tyrone Bazy was supposed to give the Wildcats fits tonight. Instead, Shakur's attacking style got Bazy into early foul trouble and the senior guard (averaging 14 ppg this season) left the game with five fouls and only seven points with 9:37 to play.
The Wildcats up-tempo style prevailed tonight, but things weren't always pretty. The Wildcats had 18 turnovers and plenty of lapses on defense that led to easy baskets. A handful of each came in the game's closing minutes when the deficit for NAU was too much to overcome but still, the at times lackadaisical play will give the Arizona coaches much to talk about during the next film session.
The Wildcats led 48-40 at the half, mainly because NAU out rebounded them 19 to 15.
Olson wanted height on the floor and went with Hill to start the second frame in place of McClellan. Hill again responded. He finished the game with three blocks, four rebounds and eight points on 3 of 4 shooting.
The Wildcats again showed offensive balance with four starters scoring in double figures. Sophomore F Marcus Williams only played 19 minutes and was not much of a factor, scoring only six points.
The Wildcats' ability to win easily tonight despite low numbers from Williams speaks to the team's depth this season. Unlike last year, Arizona doesn't need every single one of its weapons to play well in order to win. That being said, Williams is not just any weapon. He's arguably the team's most talented player and will be called upon for his production and leadership in the game's ahead.
Up next for Arizona is Saturday's contest against visiting New Mexico State. A preview of this game will be posted on Friday. Before then, here's the good, the bad and the ugly from tonight's win over NAU:
Shakur set the tone for the second half when he snatched a defensive board and then raced up the court for a coast-to-coast lay up. He'd convert on five driving lay ups in the next 10 minutes (a pleasant reminder of his play against Villanova in the second round of last year's NCAA Tournament). He still looked a bit rushed to start the game but once he settled down, Shakur played probably his most well-rounded game as a Wildcat. The two freshmen, Budinger and Hill, not only played great but they were fun to watch. The third frosh, Nic Wise, had a pretty quiet game. Still, the three of them are quickly becoming, if they aren't already, crowd favorites because of their hustle, attitude and performance.
Arizona showed marked improvements from game 1 to game 2 and I thought Coach O made several good strategic decisions tonight which I'll discuss in a brief article to be posted in the next 24 hours.
Arizona's coaching staff can't be pleased by the play of the second stringers in the game's final eight minutes. The Wildcats led by as many as 31 points with less than 10 minutes to go and watched the lead drop all the way to 15 before finally closing out the Lumberjacks and winning by 22. Not to get greedy, but those are valuable minutes for player development and with the exception of Hill and Brielmaier I don't think the others on the floor took full advantage of the opportunity. Plus, Arizona's bench is not your average bench. Wildcats fans won't be watching a clumsy 12th man enter a game in the final 35 seconds of a blowout and cheer as he jacks up shot after shot trying to get his name in the box score. This is evidenced by the last player to take the floor tonight for the Wildcats, David Bagga. Bagga moved within the flow of the offense, got a good look at a deep three and without hesitation, knocked it down to put the Wildcats over the century mark.
Arizona is traditionally a solid free throw shooting team. Tonight they only converted 25 of 41 (.610%). Shooting at this clip from the line might work against NAU, but it won't work against mightier opponents in upcoming games and it certainly won't work on the road. It appears that concentration is the problem. The Wildcats shooters are chatting at the line with teammates and falling off the line on their release. These should be correctible problems that the coaches can address in practice sessions. Eventually the players will have to knock ‘em down in games, though. So, we'll have to keep an eye on this.