Pre-Game: Houston @ Arizona

Despite their inconsistent play, the Wildcats have an air of confidence about them that they can play with and beat any team on their schedule. The unfortunate side effect from that have been a couple of quotes by Nic Wise and Zane Johnson producing bulletin board material for two of the tougher opponents they’ve faced. This time the Wildcats were given some bulletin board material of their own. “We just need to go out there and play hard,” Houston Cougar’s starting power forward Qa’rraan Calhoun told the Houston Chronicle. “We need to go out there and play our game. If everyone plays like they played tonight (vs. East Carolina) we’ll walk out of there with a victory.” Those are pretty bold words by the power forward who is yet to see a team as talented as Arizona yet this season – and on the road no less.

Kelvin Lewis goes up for a dunk. Photo from

Kelvin Lewis goes up for a dunk. Photo from

For the Wildcats Saturday’s game against Houston could be a warm welcome from the rigors of the PAC-10 where their troubles have continued to mount. Arizona is accustomed to playing a non-conference game this late in the season – as they have done five of the past seven years. Lute Olson scheduled these games as measuring sticks to see where the ‘Cats stand and what things they need to work on. This year however, their woes are painfully obvious, and the game will be a nice change after facing a tough three-game stretch against UCLA, USC, and ASU.

This is the fourth-straight year that Houston and Arizona will face off with Arizona winning the last two by an average of 20 points. But the Wildcats can’t jump ahead and consider this an automatic or even easy win. Houston is a very athletic team with a great inside-outside game. The bulletin board feeder (Calhoun) is a long, athletic player in a 6’8” frame that can pound inside and has a nice stroke from beyond the arc

Calhoun is joined in the frontcourt by Marcus Cousin. Cousin, a 6’11” senior, is a good balance of power and decision making. He knows how and when to muscle up his shot, get to the rim, or kick it out for an open wingman. The one-two punch of Calhoun and Coleman will be the best frontcourt combination the Wildcats have seen and will be a true test on Jordan Hill.

The Cougars frontcourt is nicely accented by their backcourt players, especially Kelvin Lewis. Lewis is a great slashing guard with phenomenal body control and athleticism who is averaging 19.8 points per game. If you need a mental image of how the guy plays – think of Nic Wise with more ability to finish around the rim. Aubrey Coleman fills another wing spot for the Cougars and attacks the rim more often and harder than Lewis. Coleman is also a great rebounded, pulling in 7.9 boards a game.

Defensively the Cougars are very good. Heading into the game Houston is averaging 8 steals a game and 4.4 blocked shots, and forcing 15.2 turnovers per game, while limiting their opponents to under 40% from the field. So as the Wildcats have their backs against the wall, they need to start their push towards the NCAA Tournament by winning decisively against a team that won’t go quietly.

Keys to the Game

  • Defensive Recognition: Arizona needs to recognize who they are guarding and where they are on the floor. The Wildcats can’t afford to over play Coleman or sag off of Lewis.
  • Attack Inside: Calhoun and Coleman are both solid in the paint, but have struggled with foul trouble this year. Arizona needs to attack them down low for two reasons. First in hopes of getting them in early foul trouble. Secondly, Arizona needs to win the paint if they want to protect their home court.
  • Cat in a Corner: Arizona needs to play like they are an animal that’s been cornered and fighting for survival – because that’s exactly what they are. They need to make harder cuts, attack the rim more, and look to dribble-penetrate against Houston.
  • Use the Baseline: This is perhaps one of my biggest complaints. Anytime the ball goes down low to Jordan Hill or Nic Wise starts edging his way to the basket there needs to be a cutter attacking on the baseline instead of having a picnic lunch in the corner.
  • Hit ‘em early & Hit ‘em Hard: Arizona has struggled to score early points recently. They need to come out quick and hard to put any confidence that the Cougars have to bed early. This is an experienced Houston team that won’t make mistakes late in a close game.

For a complete statistical breakdown of the teams, check out Joe’s game preview over on Arizona Desert Swarm.


2 Responses to “Pre-Game: Houston @ Arizona”

  1. 1 Anonymous January 24, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    UH did beat UAB, a team that took down the cats

  2. 2 naterb January 24, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    UH beat a “different” UAB team.
    Before Houston played UAB, UAB had 5 or 6 of their players just abandon ship. Because of the massive changes that took place because of those departures, there is no way you can consider the game comparable. Because of that reason I didn’t compare UAB’s games against Arizona and Houston.

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January 2009
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