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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Perry’s emergence sparked Elite Eight run

Mike+Christy+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AThe+Arizona+Wildcats+mens+basketball+team+took+on+the+Connecticut+Huskies+in+the+NCAA+West+Region+Final+on+Saturday%2C+March+26%2C+2011%2C+in+the+Honda+Center+in+Anaheim%2C+Calif.+The+Huskies+advanced+to+the+Final+Four+with+a+65-63+win.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team took on the Connecticut Huskies in the NCAA West Region Final on Saturday, March 26, 2011, in the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. The Huskies advanced to the Final Four with a 65-63 win.

 Silence.

That’s what reporters walked into when Arizona’s locker room opened up after the Wildcats’ 65-63 loss to UConn in the Elite Eight on Saturday.

Hardly anybody moved from their lockers. Hardly anybody wanted to answer questions.

UA forward Jesse Perry took the bullet and spoke.

He was asked about Jamelle Horne’s shot. He was asked about coming within seconds of going to Houston for the Final Four.

“”Sometimes it turns out like that,”” Perry said. “”That’s how the games go.””

Then, Perry was asked how he could maintain such composure next to his teammates, who were burying their heads in their uniforms.

“”Man, I’m an older guy,”” he said.

He certainly played like an older guy. The junior college transfer sparked Arizona with critical stretches of gut-check effort, just as he had done all season.

But this wasn’t just another regular season breakout against an Oregon State or Stanford. This was UConn and Jim Calhoun.

This was the Elite Eight.

In the second half, Perry went on a personal 6-0 run against UConn — his right-handed layup, left-handed lay-up and two-handed jam ignited the Honda Center and kept the Wildcats within striking distance.  

Perry finished with 14 points against Connecticut after shooting 7-for-9 from the floor. Other times he was all over the defensive end with seven rebounds.

The most remarkable part? One year ago, Perry was playing junior college basketball in Cartersville, Ill.

“”I couldn’t imagine (this),”” Perry said of playing in the Elite Eight. “”With hard work and dedication, in the gym a lot, with the great coach that we got, it’s possible.””

For as quickly as Derrick Williams rose on the national college basketball landscape, Perry’s successful development at Arizona could be considered an even bigger pleasant surprise.

And whether Williams decides to enter the NBA Draft early or not, UA head coach Sean Miller knows he can rely on Perry and Solomon Hill to fill the void while Miller’s heralded incoming freshman class adjusts to college basketball.

“”Jesse (Perry), like he did against Duke in the beginning of the second half, seized control and just played really hard,”” Miller said.

Miller began the year saying Perry was the missing piece to last season’s team that finished 16-15. He needed an older, tougher, willing-to-do-anything hustler and Perry embraced his role as the cleanup man until Miller needed him to do more.

Perry began starting over UA senior Jamelle Horne but continued his mantra: Provide energy, fear nobody.

“”We don’t stop here,”” Perry said. “”We’re going to keep our head up, keep pushing from here. Being my first year here, it’s amazing. I’m happy for all my teammates.””

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