High-scoring Cougar firing up

Once burned, Cats leery of defending WSU hot shooter
2010-01-07T00:00:00Z 2014-07-24T09:31:21Z High-scoring Cougar firing up Bruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 07, 2010 12:00 am  • 

One nightmare was bad enough. Sean Miller hopes he doesn't have another Friday night.

Washington State sophomore wing Klay Thompson will enter McKale Center carrying the third-highest scoring average in the country - 24.3 points - and UA basketball fans know what that could mean.

"Our last experience playing against a high-scoring player was Jimmer Fredette," Miller said, "and I think that story has been well-documented."

Fredette dropped 49 memorable points on the Wildcats during BYU's 30-point rout of the Wildcats on Dec. 28, prompting Miller to scrape his kitchen sink this week in defensive preparation for Friday's game with the Cougars.

Obvious guys such as Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Brendon Lavender likely will guard Thompson, a 6-foot-6-inch, 200-pound son of former Laker Mychal Thompson. So will Jamelle Horne.

"You have to make him miss. He's not going to miss on his own," Miller said. "I really believe five different players will have to guard him. Usually three would, but I think we'll add two more, and Jamelle Horne will be one of them. We'll add what I hope is a fresh body and a lot of concentration, because that's going to be our best bet in defending him.

"Our goal would be not to let him have a great night. If he scores 24 points, then let's make sure he shoots a lot of shots to get them. That's our focus."

Without a true defensive stopper, the Wildcats may be finding a tag-team approach works best, after they managed to keep UCLA perimeter threats Malcolm Lee and Michael Roll to a combined 0-for-10 shooting in the first half Saturday.

"You hope our team just keeps getting better at all the things we do every day," Miller said. "It's not like we're tricking anyone. We play man-to-man defense, and we're trying to get better at it.

"We did do a good job against UCLA. But this challenge, every team that plays Washington State says the same thing (about guarding Thompson), but after 14 games, he still leads the nation. We have our hands full."

Thompson has scored 20 or more points in all but three games, the last when he had just seven while in foul trouble against Oregon State on Saturday, and it often doesn't matter what gets thrown at him.

"Sometimes, it'll be somebody quick, sometimes a physical player, sometimes small, sometimes long," WSU coach Ken Bone said. "This season, he's really improved, because he's seen a lot of different looks. He's having to change his game and not be a jump shooter. He's getting to the free-throw line as well."

The Wildcats managed to hold Thompson to eight points on 3-for-13 shooting in their 66-56 win over WSU last January at McKale Center, but Thompson is a different player in a different system this time around.

Thompson averaged 12.5 points a game while making the Pac-10 all-freshman team last season - though Washington's Isaiah Thomas was the freshman of the year - under former coach Tony Bennett.

Then Bennett left after the season for Virginia, and Bone came over from Portland State with a more up-tempo offensive philosophy.

So far, Bone's system has proven a good match for Thompson's all-around scoring ability.

"Offensively, he's really difficult to handle," said UA assistant coach Book Richardson, who is scouting the Cougars. "He's arguably going to be one of the best basketball players we play against."

Jones reinstated

Miller said freshman guard MoMo Jones would return Friday, after sitting out the UA-UCLA game for disciplinary reasons.

Jones, who has not been available for comment since the suspension, played just nine minutes with two points on 1-for-3 shooting at USC on Dec. 31 before being suspended.

It was the first time Miller has suspended a UA player for a game.

"To run a program, to build and improve, everybody's got to be on the same page," Miller said. "When an individual player isn't, it's our responsibility to right the ship and make sure his attitude is great.

"MoMo has learned his lesson. He's practiced every day since UCLA and he's played very well. His attitude has been good. I hope in the long list of things in his career, it's a lesson he looks back on that he learned a lot from."

Judkins status unchanged

Miller said nothing new has developed with sophomore guard Garland Judkins, whose traveling team coach said Tuesday he would transfer to Texas-San Antonio.

Judkins has left the team to return home to Texas following the death of his grandfather and has been unavailable for comment.

"If anything further develops where he wouldn't be a part of our future, I'll make sure that we have a release," Miller said. "We're not at that point right now. Now he's just home dealing with his grandfather's passing."

Meanwhile, Miller said center Alex Jacobson has not practiced with the team after back spasms kept him from making the trip to Los Angeles.

"His back is just slowly getting better," Miller said.

On StarNet: Follow the Cats on Bruce Pascoe's blog at azstarnet.com/pascoe

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