NCAA third round: Arizona Wildcats (28-7) vs. Texas Longhorns (28-7)by Javier Morales on Mar. 20, 2011, under Sports
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A look at what to expect Sunday at 3:10 p.m., Tucson time, as No. 5-seeded Arizona Wildcats and No. 4 Texas Longhorns (both teams 28-7) play for the right to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament
What’s going right: Texas freshman point guard Cory Joseph is the team’s “most complete guard”, according to coach Rick Barnes. Through his first 35 collegiate games, Joseph leads the Longhorns in assists (3.0 a game), steals (36) and minutes played (32.3), and ranks fourth in scoring (10.5) and rebounding (3.6). Joseph has reached double figures in scoring in 21 games. He posted 11 points and three assists in 35 minutes during Friday’s victory over Oakland.
What’s going wrong: Texas off-guard Dogus Balbay plays within his limited role of scoring (only 4.1 points a game) because he is known more for his defense. But his 26-of-47 shooting at the free-throw line limits his contribution late in
Texas coach Rick Barnes said Saturday: ‘I’ve always said in recruiting that you never really know what you’re going to get until you get on the floor with it every day. I would say that those guys (Joseph and post player Tristan Thompson) far exceeded — I wouldn’t say far exceeded — but they’re the two hardest working guys on our team. They’re the last ones to leave the gym every day. They are very mature. Both of them really understand the game. Both of them have a really good basketball IQ.”
What’s going right: Led by Derrick Williams (9-of-9) and Lamont “MoMo” Jones (7-of-8), Arizona made 26-of-31 (.839) free throws Friday against Memphis and outscored the Tigers 26-17 from the line. Arizona has not had 30 or more attempts in a game in the previous 11 games. It’s the ninth time this season that Arizona has attempted 30 or more free throws in a game. The Wildcats average 24.
What’s going wrong: Kyle Fogg‘s late-season problems continued against Memphis. He finished 1 of 5 from the field with only four points in 24 minutes. Texas’ guards are known for their defense, so Fogg (beset by a quadriceps strain in his left leg the last two weeks) will find it difficult to get out of his funk against the Longhorns. He has only 13 points in his last four games after scoring 20 against Oregon on March 5.
Williams said Saturday: “Most people think New York players like Kevin (Parrom) and MoMo are a little tougher. But that’s what they bring to our team. They bring that toughness and that swagger about them, and they’re the toughest players on the team. And MoMo’s been great for us this year filling in for Nic (Wise). He’s hit a lot of big shots and taken over a lot of games this season when I couldn’t, when I get double teamed in the game. So for that point guard to have that take-over role has been really helpful for us this year.”
Who has the edge? Texas. The roles for Joseph and Balbay are clearly defined. Jones is a proven leader, but he made erratic decisions against Memphis that changed the flow of the game. Fogg’s health problem with his leg looks like it has affected his mental outlook. Joseph will be critical in setting up Texas’ offensive execution, which was suspect against Oakland in the second half.
What’s going right: This is one of the best, if not the best frontcourts in the country in terms of overall production. The trio of Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton and Gary Johnson is arguably the most imposing Arizona has faced, challenging UCLA’s trio of Nelson Reeves, Josh Smith and Tyler Honeycutt Thompson, Hamilton and Johnson are averaging 43.5 points, 22.4 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots a game. Reeves, Smith and Honeycutt finished the season averaging 37.6 points, 22.6 rebounds and 3.4 blocked shots a game.
What’s going wrong: The Texas trio combines to shoot 47.6 percent from the floor, which is not impressive. Interior players, especially with the skills of these guys, should be shooting over 50 percent. UCLA’s trio shot 50.5 percent from the floor.
Hamilton said Saturday: “I think it opens up the floor (having to defend all three). Especially it opens up the lane. I think if we can continue to play inside out by giving Tristan the ball, and once a double comes to him I know he’ll kick it out and find the right read. So that being said, it’s kind of hard to guard. ”
What’s going right: Physical play inside, which should result in fouls, means the team that shoots the best free-throw percentage has a decent chance. Thanks to UA sports information specialist Richard Paige for this note: Williams moved into eighth place on the Arizona career free-throw attempts list in less than two full seasons with 530, passing both Miles Simon (524) and Al Fleming (522) during the game against Memphis. The sophomore forward has now converted 382 free throws in his career (.721), and is just six makes behind Salim Stoudamire (388) for 10the place on the UA career free-throws-made list. A good day could move him as high as seventh on the list, as Sean Rooks currently occupies that spot with 392 successful tries from the stripe.
What’s going wrong: Jesse Perry was nowhere to be found against Memphis, going scoreless with only four rebounds in 21 minutes. Perry, a JC transfer, has not played well against some of Arizona’s best opponents, including Kansas and BYU. In those games, he went scoreless against the Jayhawks and had eight points against the Cougars, but was 1 of 7 from the field in that game. Solomon Hill was also unproductive against Memphis with five turnovers and only seven points. If Perry and Hill play similarly unimpressive, it will be a long day for Arizona.
Hill said Saturday: “Coming into this game Jordan Hamilton is our primary three-point shooter (to defend). He does it coming off screens and transition. Just the key to where finding where he is in transition. We’ve got to get half back, fullback, get guys on the ball, stopping the ball. Just finding him in transition will be the biggest thing because he’s capable of going from 9 to 12 any given night. He’s by far their best three-point shooter (38.3 percent shooter from there). ”
Who has the edge? Texas. The inconsistent play of Hill and Perry should be a real concern for Arizona coach Sean Miller. Texas’ starting frontcourt are thoroughbreds who will continue to attack the Wildcats even if shots are falling. Are Hill and Perry up to the task of matching that intensity for 40 minutes so the onus will not only be on Williams to produce?
What’s going right: Texas reserve guard J’Covan Brown (21 points against Oakland in the second round) topped the 20-point mark for the fourth time this year and seventh time in his career (68 games). He reached double figures in points for the 17th time this year and 32nd time in his career. Brown also tied a season high in rebounds (six). Brown set a career high in free throws made (12-of-12). The 12 free throws without a miss are the most in UT history in a NCAA Tournament game (previous high was 10-of-10 by Joey Wright in 1991).
What’s going wrong: Texas senior guard Jai Lucas is always dangerous because of his Florida background. He was part of the All-Freshman team in the SEC in 2007-08, starting all 36 games for the Gators that year. His production this season, however, indicates Lucas has slipped since playing for Florida. He is shooting only 36.8 percent from the field, including a frigid 25.5 percent from three-point range.
Hamilton said Thursday: “I think (Brown) is doing a fantastic job as far as growing up off the court, and I think it definitely helped him on the court. He’s been doing a fantastic job as far as working hard and knowing he has to play both ends of the court.”
What’s going right: Kevin Parrom again assumes his prominent sixth man role with Fogg back in the starting lineup. Parrom’s contribution today, especially on the defensive end, willl be critical in how the Wildcats subdue Hamilton on the perimeter. His size (6-7, 205) and intensity will be important to match Texas’ frontcourt with rebounds and blocking the passing lanes. Overlooked: Parrom’s assist-to-turnover ratio impressive for a forward. He has 73 assists to go with 41 turnovers. Reserve point guard Jordin Mayes has strong together his best three games of the season over the last week. Against USC, Washington and Memphis, he has averaged 7.3 points. His season average is 4.7.
What’s going wrong: Jamelle Horne‘s three-point shooting has cooled considerably over the last 11 games. He has made only 11 of 32 (34.3 percent) from three-point range in that span. Before that, he made 30 of 69 attempts from beyond the arc, 43.5 percent.
Parrom said Saturday: “Like Derrick said, guys always call me and MoMo the toughest guys on the team. But we’re not only the two toughest guys on the team. I think everybody’s tough collectively. Me and MoMo just bring the New York swagger to the game, and that’s what we’ve done this season.”
Who has the edge? Arizona. Brown can be a load. He draws fouls despite his listed height of 6-1, and he makes teams pay at the free-throw line. Parrom and Mayes, however, are two of the most reliable reserves in the Pac-10, and Horne and Kyryl Natyazhko are capable role players — Natyazhko on the defensive end with fouls to give and Horne’s athleticism.
Texas coach Rick Barnes, whose strength is recruiting, came under fire from the media again after the Longhorns suffered another late-season collapse. The Longhorns were 4-4 in their last eight games before the NCAA tournament after starting 23-3 and reaching No. 1 status in the country. The Longhorns’ late-season struggles resemble last season’s team, which after a 17-0 start and No. 1 ranking unraveled into a 7-10 record to close the season, ending with a first-round NCAA tournament loss. Barnes is 1-7 against Arizona while at Texas, with all those games against Lute Olson. Miller has already done something Olson did not accomplish at Arizona — win his first NCAA tournament game. It took Olson four tries to finally make that happen. Miller is also 7-4 in the NCAA tournament with an Elite Eight appearance in 2007-08, also the last time Barnes went that far. Miller gets the edge here, especially in the X’s and O’s category. You won’t find too many in the know who would say Barnes can outcoach Miller.
Barnes said recently: “I would have cared 10 years ago (about criticism regarding late-season collapses and his unimpressive 20-18 NCAA tournament record). This is not the most important thing in my life. It’s what I do, but it’s not the most important thing in my life.”
Miller said Thursday: “You don’t want to be the new coach at Arizona if (pressure) bothers you. Pressure, in terms of being the one that breaks the NCAA Tournament streak or worrying about can we ever get it back. If that’s the case, then I probably shouldn’t be up here representing Arizona. Part of what you have to do as a new staff here is believe in who you are and how you do things and understand that we’re coaching at a spectacular place. If you’re at a home game in McKale Center, there are very few that resemble it. ”
The game will be won or lost by Arizona by how it is able to offset Texas’ inside presence of Thompson, Hamilton and Johnson on the defensive end. The Wildcats’ obvious weaknesses this year — and Memphis coach Josh Pastner exploited them Friday — is their transition defense and defending cutters to the basket. CBS analyst and former Wildcat great Steve Kerr questioned Arizona’s help-side defense repeatedly. Pastner routinely had his guards penetrate into the lane on halfcourt sets and attacked the basket as much as possible in transition. The Wildcats can not get into a track meet with Texas because the game will get ugly. This is a game in which Arizona’s defense will win the game more than its offense. If the UA gets its defense set and forces Texas into a halfcourt game, anything can happen. This will be a tussle to the end. The Wildcats are playing with house money. Their regular-season Pac-10 title and victory in the NCAA tournament exceeds what many expected after a 16-15 season last year. Texas 75, Arizona 72.