Citizen Staff Writer
MEMPHIS – If Arizona is to play well in the Pac-10 season, the Wildcats will need sophomore Jordan Hill to stay out of foul trouble.
The 6-foot-11 sophomore forward picked up two quick fouls in UA’s 76-63 loss at No. 2-ranked Memphis on Saturday – something he hadn’t done in more than a month.
“I just have to stay out of foul trouble. That’s all I can say,” said Hill, who had 14 points, all in the second half. “I got two dumb fouls. That really hurt us.”
Hill’s early trouble left interim coach Kevin O’Neill with a difficult decision.
“I should have kept Jordan out there, looking back at it,” O’Neill said. “I just felt they were going to go right at him and he’d pick up his third (foul).”
O’Neill said that at some point every team has to lose, and that streaks end.
Without injured starters Jerryd Bayless and Bret Brielmaier, the 17th-ranked Wildcats weren’t good enough to end Memphis’ 37-game home court winning streak before 17,965 fans at the FedEx Forum.
It was Arizona’s winning streak that was stopped at six. UA is 9-3; Memphis remains undefeated at 11-0.
The Wildcats stayed close in the first half and cut the lead to 51-44 with 8:44 left to play.
“We played hard but we had a lot of miscues,” Arizona’s Jawann McClellan said. “We didn’t get stops when we needed to. They are a good team, being the No. 2 team in the country. But you can’t have miscues like that and expect to win.
“We did play hard but hard wasn’t good enough.”
O’Neill took offense to a reporter’s comment that UA was competitive.
“We lost by 13. Competitive? We’re supposed to be competitive,” O’Neill said.
One of UA’s problems was trying to stop 6-foot-9 junior Robert Dozier. McClellan called Dozier the “X-factor.”
He said earlier in the week that if UA could keep Dozier from “going off,” the Cats had a chance.
Instead, Dozier finished with 18 points.
Arizona had three players in double figures. Chase Budinger led the way with 20 points.
Budinger kept UA in the hunt late, hitting a 3-pointer with 2:21 left to make it 66-58.
Dozier’s three-point play with 1:53 left made it 69-58 and all but sealed UA’s fate.
Bayless has a sprained right knee that could keep him out indefinitely. A time frame won’t be determined until UA returns home and more is known.
Brielmaier is out with a shoulder sprain. He should return for Thursday’s game against Oregon State in UA’s Pac-10 opener.
“It was very difficult (to watch),” Bayless said. “I could have helped out a lot.”
O’Neill said, “We played with basically three starters basically not in the game; it’s hard. We had a lot of things against us, but we still didn’t execute things offensively in the first half and that put us in a hole.”
“It was very different out there,” said Budinger, “especially on the offensive end where you have 40 percent of the offense not out there.”
O’Neill went to his bench early and often.
Kirk Walters played a season-high 25 minutes. Daniel Dillon played 13. Fendi Onobun logged 13 minutes and freshman Jamelle Horne played 12.
“I did think we did wear them down,” Memphis coach John Calipari said. “But then I get mad at our guys because we start to walk (the ball) up and start playing like them. I said, ‘Stop. We don’t play that way. They are down two guys and we want to keep the pressure on them.’ ”
Arizona trailed at halftime 34-24. UA played admirably in the game’s first 10 minutes before the pressure got to it, giving up the lead 13 minutes into the half.
Memphis outscored the Cats 10-0 in a 3 1/2-minute span to take control after UA jumped on the Tigers at the start.
UA scored just four points – all on free throws – in a more than nine-minute span after taking a 14-6 lead in the first six minutes.
In that span, the Cats missed 12 straight shots from the field.
“We had the wrong guys taking the shots,” O’Neill said. “We struggled. We didn’t have Jordan to go to on the inside. We couldn’t do anything in the paint.
“Every time we’d get back from it, we’d have a turnover or a missed easy basket.”
Turning point: Up 18-15 and holding No. 2 Memphis on defense, UA’s offense went south, missing 12 consecutive shots in a seven-minute span. UA had just two baskets in the final 13:52 of the first half, falling behind 34-24 at halftime.
Player of the game: Memphis forward Robert Dozier, who scored near the basket and far from it. He had a team-high 18 points.
Cheers: To UA’s Jordan Hill, for coming back in the second half and playing well after picking up two quick fouls.
Jeers: To UA’s weak punch, with Jerryd Bayless and Bret Brielmaier out with injuries.