Things are tough for Arizona Wildcats these days. A program which during recent years (which not coincidentally were our "dark years" in BN) was used to checking national polls and being preoccupied with high seeding chatter this time of the year is fighting just to get in the Big Dance. The swagger is kind of gone and now we are seeing a humbler version of Wildcats:
That will be easier said than done, as four UCLA players average double digits in scoring. Center Kevin Love leads the squad with 17 points and 11 rebounds per game - seventh and second in the Pac-10, respectively - going into yesterday. He scored 16 points and pulled down 11 boards against the Wildcats last time.
"How do we bounce back?" asked UA interim head coach Kevin O'Neill after the game. "We have no choice."
It is not a long one.
Double them. Triple them. Pressure them. Throw fresh body after fresh body in their face. And wrap the two in your triangle-and-two around their necks.
Just go after them and pretty much ignore everybody else, as USC did in its 70-58 victory over the Arizona Wildcats on Thursday night at McKale Center, and you'll probably be fine.
A week after Washington strangled Arizona's top scoring duo with layers of depth, USC employed both a stifling man-to-man and a triangle-and-two gimmick to derail them.
"That's the way I'd play us," UA interim head coach Kevin O'Neill said.
Bayless tied his season-low of eight points on just 2-for-6 shooting, and Budinger had seven hard-earned points on 3-for-8 shooting.
O'Neill is hoping that was not a sign of things to come.
"I do have a concern, but I don't know what I can do about it," O'Neill said. "If people play us to shut those guys down no matter what, then we're limited in what we can do. Very limited."
Arizona despite all its flaws is still an explosive basketball team which is leading the league in scoring offense, assists, and FG percentages. [See Pac-10 stats]
If we come into tomorrow's game against a team which is going to be hungry for emotional payback for what we have done to them in last three years with our guard down (and out of focus), it will not be a pleasant afternoon. And by the way I always have an uncomfortable feeling around these Sunday games. Two of our three losses this season for reason came on Sundays. Something about the timing perhaps throws our guys off rhythm? Who knows.
What we know that we need to have the same air tight D we showed in Tempe. DC, RW, and Shipp will have to bring the same tenacity with their on ball defense, as we can probably expect O'Neil to attempt to try out the same tactic some of our athletic opponents have tried this season by spreading the court and running one on one isolation plays.
We also need to use our physical advantages by doing what we need to do to maintain our edge in rebounds. Plus we gotta hit our FTs. Sportsline.com posted some mores notes on their roster:
--Freshman G Jerryd Bayless couldn't shake free against USC's defense, which really overplayed his right hand (Bayless' big development point is his left hand). Bayless had eight points on 2-of-6 shooting. That matched his career low.
--Senior G Jawann McClellan had 14 points against USC as the defense was focused elsewhere. With opponents intent on stopping Chase Budinger and Jerryd Bayless, other Arizona players, notably McClellan, just have to step up and be willing to take more shots. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't.