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March 6, 2009Arizona's 83-77 loss at home to California on Thursday night has made today's game against Stanford a must-win if the Wildcats want any hope of getting an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.
That will be no easy task as the Cardinal is coming off of one of the biggest wins of its season as it knocked off No. 21 Arizona State in Tempe Thursday night by a score of 74-64.
That was Stanford's first Pac-10 road victory of the season and the team currently sits at ninth in the conference standings with a 6-11 record and has gone 17-11 overall this year.
The Cardinal took the last meeting with the UA in Maples Pavilion at the beginning of the Pac-10 season 76-60 led by junior guard Landry Fields, who had 19 points and 14 rebounds.
However, it is senior guard Anthony Goods that leads the team in scoring this season with 15.9 points per game. His 40.4% shooting from behind the arc is third on the team and he chips in with 3.3 rebounds each time out.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder had 13 points and connected on three three-pointers last time against the Wildcats.
Fields is the biggest of the three guards that head coach Johnny Dawkins uses in his starting lineup at 6-foot-7 and 210 pounds. He is third on the team in scoring with 12.7 points per game and is Stanford's top rebounder with 6.5 boards per game.
He shoots the ball well from all over and hits 50.8% from the field.
Senior Mitch Johnson runs the point for Stanford and rounds out the starting backcourt. He is the top assist man on the team with 4.4 dimes per contest and while he is primarily a facilitator, he can also knock down the open shot.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound guard shoots 38.8% from deep and 41.4% from the field, which translates into 6.9 points per game.
Dawkins' frontcourt consists of 6-foot-8, 220-pound senior Lawrence Hill and 6-foot-8, 215-pound sophomore Josh Owens.
Hill is a guy that Arizona fans should know well by now as he has had some big games against the UA in the past. This season, the forward is second on the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game and is second in rebounding, hauling in 5.4 each time out.
Last time against the Wildcats, Hill had 14 points and three rebounds and is one of the top field goal shooters on the team at 50.2%.
However, the highest field goal percentage on the team belongs to the forward/center Owens. He hits at a 55.4% clip and averages 7.5 points per game. Owens also contributes 3.8 rebounds per game and leads the team in blocks with 22 this year.
The top reserves for the Cardinal are guards Jeremy Green and Kenny Brown.
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Green averages 15.3 minutes off the bench and is No. 2 on the team in three-point percentage at 42.7%. Just a freshman, he averages 5.4 points and 2.2 rebounds per game.
Brown provides quality minutes off the bench and can shoot as well. He connects at a 38.2% clip from deep and 43.9% overall. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior contributes an average of 5.3 points each time out.
Sophomore center Will Paul and junior guard Drew Shiller also figure into the regular rotation.
This is a game that may ultimately determine the Wildcats' postseason fate and it is absolutely a must-win game if they hope to reach the NCAA tournament with an at-large bid.
A loss would be the fifth-consecutive to end the season and it would be a bad one as Stanford has been one of the worst teams in the Pac-10 this conference season.
The Sun Devils found out Thursday night that the Cardinal can punish you if you come out flat and they were held to only four total points through the first 10 minutes of the game. Arizona can ill afford to come out the same way and have to have the sense of urgency that a season-determining game deserves.
While Stanford can't shoot the three like Cal can, it still has plenty of guys who can hit an open three and if the perimeter defense was as awful as it was on Thursday, it will once again be a tough game to win.
The Wildcats have been playing okay offensively, but have seemed either lost on defense or have definitely lost focus defensively for long periods during the past few games and they need to collectively pick it up and close out the season on a positive note.
The UA takes on Stanford tonight at McKale Center at 5:30 pm MST.
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