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January 9, 2007Although Oregon State lost by over 40 points to USC on Saturday, UA head coach Lute Olson and the Wildcats are preparing as if the Beavers will be a formidable challenge.
Olson says that he is basing preparation for Thursday's game based on how the Beavers played against Oregon and UCLA, rather than the debacle against Ohio State.
"Our preparation for that game will be based on the UCLA," he said at Monday's press conference. "They had their nightmare game at home after a great effort against UCLA on Thursday and I think when you have games like that it is hard to understand how you can play so well on Thursday and so poorly on Saturday.
"I think it probably the ol' peak and valley thing where you are really excited to get a chance to play against that team on Thursday and they played extremely well and they were disappointed when they did not get the win and just did not get back up mentally where they needed to be on Saturday."
One thing that was noticeable against Washington State was that the Wildcats seemed tired towards the end of the game.
Although Olson would not admit that the team is starting to fatigue due to a large amount of minutes, he did say that the bench could be expected to see more time this week.
"The game is generally not any more demanding than a practice situation," he said. "The number of minutes they are playing in a game is not a problem, but we need to get that bench deeper and we will work very hard on having that happen when we are at home."
With that being said, one player of concern is Jawann McClellan. McClellan had his second tough Saturday game in a row and it is something that Olson hopes will turn around this weekend with an extra day.
"I think this week will be better for Jawann because there will be two days between the Thursday and Sunday game," Olson said. "Jawann has played really well on Thursday and struggled on Saturday in most cases. This will give him the extra day that we will hope will lead to a good solid performance from him."
Olson says that the bench often sees less of an opportunity on difficult road trips, but the fact that the Wildcats are at home allows him to work on playing the bench more.
Ideally, Arizona will be able to go deeper into the bench in addition to playing Jordan Hill and Daniel Dillon.
"Being back at home will give us an opportunity to give our freshmen more time and utilize our bench more than we have been able to," Olson said. "I thought Jordan Hill did a good job and Daniel did a good job.
"We really did not give Nic (Wise) much of an opportunity but he is going to get plenty opportunity this week with Fendi (Onobun) and Mohamed (Tangara) too. We hope we can extend that bench a little bit now."
One key to the success of Arizona will be the play of Mustafa Shakur. In what is becoming a pattern, Shakur was once again the focus of Olson's praise after his performances against Washington and Washington State.
"If there is a better point guard in the country then he is, I would like to see who it is," Olson said. "Just take a look at his numbers. He's shooting .530 from the field, 43 percent from three, over 80 percent from the line, 64 rebounds and 111 assists. The interesting thing is that as good as those numbers are, his leadership has just been so vital to us as a team."
Olson says that Shakur is quite different as a senior than he was in his first three years on the team.
"In coming back for his senior year, the things that we had talked about that he really needed to do to make that step to the next level is play lock down defense, which he is doing, and rebound because he's is an outstanding guard rebounder, create opportunities for his teammates and knock down open shots," Olson said.
"What's interesting is that he is scoring more points this year by not going out looking for points as he has in the past. He is really letting the game come to him, so I just can't think of a point guard in the country that I would rather have out there. He is playing like the great point guards that we have had in the past."
If there is one thing that is a certainty in relation to Thursday's game, it is that Arizona is surely not taking the Beavers lightly.
"We know when anybody plays us they are going to bring their 'A' game, so we are going to prepare for them based on how they played against UCLA," Olson said.