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January 30, 2007

Olson ready for second half of Pac-10 season

With the way Arizona has been playing there are a lot of questions facing the Wildcats as the UA enters a very important week with home games against the Washington schools. Lute Olson had a chance to sit down with the media on Monday and talked about many of those questions.

The first thing that people want to know is the status of Marcus Williams. Williams hurt his ankle against UNC, only to return for a short amount of time before leaving again.

Olson says that he fully expects him to play on Thursday.

"We're expecting that Marcus will be ready to play," Olson said. "We will know a lot more about that in a couple days."

As for the other injured players, Olson says they are making progress, and the Wildcats could actually be at full strength by the weekend.

"Bret (Brielmaier) got through the week fine and so we expect to be at full strength," Olson said. "We will work Jawann (McClellan) out (Monday) and Wednesday but we need him to be out there more with our guys when we're working on our stuff. The normal procedure has been to have him take Monday off but that won't be the case this week."

Olson says that Arizona has put the UNC game behind it as the main focus now should be on the rest of the conference season. With the parity that the conference has shown, UA still has a good chance of making some noise.

"With Washington State coming in, they have been playing extremely well," Olson said. "They really played well enough to beat Oregon but lost that lead, which I am sure they are very disappointed at. Oregon has done that to a number of people this year and that certainly again indicates how closely matched teams in this conference are.

"Washington beat Oregon, of course without (Aaron) Brooks, but the Washington State game and the Stanford-UCLA game is pretty indicative what the conference is like and what the second round will entail."

Although Olson previously said that the team would not watch video of the UNC game, he does admit that the Cats have been watching video from the entire first part of the contest. According to Olson, Arizona is trying to learn what is wrong in order to fix it for the second half of the season.

"Our primary emphasis now is that we have been through the Pac-10 first round," he said. "We know where we stand as far as the league is concerned and the people in the league and that is where our focus is on now. Through tapes and other things, we are going to see if we can correct the problems that we had within the league, whether it was in games we won or games we lost."

One thing that the coaches have noticed is that Arizona is having trouble adjusting to different defenses, something that the Wildcats have been working on.

"The primary thing that we need to do is execute better against a team that plays us strictly containment as opposed to the kind of defense you face against UCLA or USC or Oregon where they are quick and really out on you," he said. "With Washington State, they play tough on the ball but everyone else is really playing help type defense."

One positive that can be taken away from last week is that Jordan Hill seems ready to contribute in a big way.

"Jordan Hill has played really well the last week," Olson said. "He figures much stronger in the second round of conference than he was in the first round. We need to figure out a way with him to keep him out of foul trouble because we definitely need him in the game. It is part of growing up in terms of what you are doing."

One more thing the Wildcats have going for them in the second half of the season is that it is likely that the team has an easier schedule than it did in the first half.

"I would rather have the second half schedule that we have instead of the first half schedule, although we play five on the road including the ASU game," Olson said.

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