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Longhorns look a lot like the Wildcats

Texas has a reputation for a fast-paced offense, but a tenacious defense is the key to its 4-0 record and No. 18 ranking.

STEVE RIVERA Citizen Sportswriter

Those planning on watching the University of Arizona men’s basketball team play tonight shouldn’t be surprised if they do a double take.

Arizona’s opponent, No. 18 Texas (4-0), does a lot of the same things as the Wildcats. But what fans may want to do is brace themselves for a a breakneck pace and a lot of points.

”They just run, and that’s how we play,” Arizona’s Michael Dickerson said. ”It should be a high-scoring game.”

Texas coach Tom Penders agreed.

”We like to run, and we run whenever we can against anybody we play,” Penders said. ”The main thing we stress is defense, although the reputation of running and gunning sells a lot of tickets. Our defense has been our most constant.”

And so has Arizona’s – outside of perhaps a couple of first halves in games this season. But Penders, who is UT’s all-time winningest coach, with 180 wins, acknowledged that the Longhorns and Wildcats are like twins.

”We’re very similar,” Penders said. ”I know Lute (Olson) and I’ve watched them play. We were in the Maui Classic a few years ago (1993) and I was seeing the same kind of stuff we play. And that’s on both ends (of the court).”

What Olson and Penders do best is work with what they have. This season Arizona is more a perimeter team. Texas is the same, relying on the outside more than the inside while using a group of very good athletes.

”Offensively, I think we’re pretty flexible,” Penders said.

Defensively, because of injuries, Texas hasn’t been so flexible. Texas doesn’t press as much due to injuries to starting forward Kris Clack (a scratched cornea), guard Reggie Freeman (a sprained wrist) and guards DeJuan Vasquez and Brandy Perryman (groin pulls).

So tonight’s Texas team may not be the same squad come NCAA Tournament time. And tonight’s Arizona team may not be the same one come March, either. That is assuming that Miles Simon returns to the UA lineup after sitting out this semester with academic problems.

”Come March, I think this is going to be an outstanding ballclub,” Penders said of his Longhorns. ”We have a good mix of veterans. We’ve got three new players trying to fit into the mix. We’re trying to see what we need to work on and seeing what works. Unfortunately for us, we don’t play too many teams we can fool around with.”

Arizona feels the same way. Texas is the Wildcats’ fourth opponent this season ranked in the Top 25.

”That’s good, because I don’t want to play cupcake teams,” UA freshman Eugene Edgerson said. ”In order to be the best, you have to play the best. So why not play the best?”

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