Friday, January 28, 2005

This Game Came Down to the Basics

Last night's showdown between #10 Washington and #11 Arizona came down to what every coach has their team practice every day: free throw shooting. Arizona hit an amazing 38 of 40 free throws, and at one point during the game made 31 consecutive to help them to a 91-82 victory. In the first half it looked as though Arizona did not belong on the same court as Washington was grabbing offensive boards almost every time down court. At halftime, Salim Stoudamire felt it was his time to speak up:

"I was cursing," Stoudamire admitted. "I was saying all kinds of thing, using some foul language. Maybe it woke us up. I might do it again."

Salim has been absolutely on fire the last month. Coach Lute Olsen suspended Salim for a week earlier in the season, which caused him to watch from the sidelines on December 18th when the Wildcats barely beat Marquette. The reason for the suspension was attributed to Salim not being a leader and having conduct detrimental to the team. Since the suspension Salim is averaging over 19 points a game, and shooting 64% from behind the arc. In his last five games he has scored 21, 32, 27, 25, and 25 and in one of those games he scored 24 of his 32 points after halftime including the game winner from 26 feet. In that game Salim scored 24 of the 29 points and after the game, Lute had this to say about him:

"He is the best shooter in the country, hands down," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "They talk about the guy at Duke (J.J. Redick), but I will put Salim up against him anytime."

In his senior year, Salim has come to realize that Arizona will go as far this year as he carries them. If he continues the pace he has been on, Arizona can contend with any team in the country. These two teams meet again in 28 days, and Tre Simmons, the leading scorer for Washington has already provided some motivation for the rematch:

"We're definitely going to get them back when we go back to Seattle," Simmons said. "There is no doubt about it in my mind."

Arizona fans hope their team can repeat what the Huskies did to them last year in beating the Wildcats three times. In order to accomplish this, the Wildcats must play as a team like they did last night, win the rebounding war, and limit Washington's three pointers. Washington last night had 14 three pointers and shot 38% behind the arc. If the Wildcats are successful in these areas, there is a good chance they will win the rematch in Seattle.



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