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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Cats tourney streak over?

    UA forward Jordan Hill backs down ASUs Jeff Pendergraph during a 53-47 Sun Devil win Wednesday night in McKale Center. ASU dropped the Wildcats to 2-5 in the Pacific 10 Conference, potentially putting Arizonas NCAA Tournament hopes in jeopardy.
    UA forward Jordan Hill backs down ASU’s Jeff Pendergraph during a 53-47 Sun Devil win Wednesday night in McKale Center. ASU dropped the Wildcats to 2-5 in the Pacific 10 Conference, potentially putting Arizona’s NCAA Tournament hopes in jeopardy.

    Twenty wins.

    That seems to be the magic number for the Arizona men’s basketball team this season in order to get into the NCAA Tournament for the 25th straight season. But at first glance, the Wildcats’ record (11-8, 2-5 Pacific 10 Conference) might give you the feeling that time is running out.

    For UA forward Jordan Hill, that couldn’t be farther from the truth, but it doesn’t mean it will be an easy milestone to meet.

    “”We’ve still got more games to go. We’ve still got a lot of learning to do,”” Hill said. “”We’re still learning the game, we’ve still got young fellas that ain’t getting a lot of minutes that are still learning.

    “”We’ve got to take it one step at a time and just keep working hard and getting better,”” Hill added. “”We’re going to get there, we’ve just got to keep working hard.””

    After dropping three straight conference games, the Wildcats will get a break from the Pac-10 as they face Houston (12-4, 3-1 Conference USA) Saturday at 4 p.m. in McKale Center.

    UA interim head coach Russ Pennell faced his team in the locker room after Wednesday night’s loss to No. 17 ASU and told them that even though they lost, if the Wildcats continue to play the way they did, the sky is the limit.

    “”We all took that (to) heart,”” Hill said.

    Pennell said he tries to appeal to the players’ competitive natures, to keep them thinking positively, even in the toughest times -ÿwith Lute Olson’s retirement, Arizona’s close losses and controversial foul trouble down the stretch this season.

    “”All these guys, they know what Arizona basketball means,”” Pennell said. “”They know that there’re traditions around here. They play with a lot of pride for their school, and I don’t think we’ll see anything different than their best, and that’s my job and my staff’s job to just keep that in front of them.””

    Time is valuable to the Wildcats, but as the sand in the hourglass continues to fall, Arizona relies heavily on its patience and pledge to improve each day, even when bumps in the road come.

    The Wildcats had a solid night defensively against ASU, holding the Sun Devils to their worst shooting night in a decade – 16-for-56 (28.6 percent) but Arizona was also off the mark – making just 14-of-47 (29.8 percent) shots from the floor.

    “”They were really good shots, they just weren’t falling,”” said Hill, who made just 5-of-16 shots on Wednesday. “”They’re gonna come. We just have to keep working on them, going to practice and taking extra shots, at night, in the morning, whenever you’ve got time. It was an off-night, but every team don’t shoot well every night.””

    With a win over Houston, the Wildcats would need eight wins to meet the 20-win mark, and they’d have 11 more conference games to get to that mark, with the possibility of a few more in the Pac-10 Tournament in Los Angeles.

    If there’s any rush for the Wildcats, they certainly aren’t showing it.

    “”While we know we have to get some things going,”” Pennell said, “”I think we have some time to get it going.””

    H-Town connection

    This game marks the fourth straight season with an Arizona-Houston matchup. There are two Wildcats -ÿNic Wise and Fendi Onobun – from Houston, and Garland Judkins is from Humble, Texas, which is about a half-hour north of the city.

    “”I love to have these games in the middle of conference play,”” Houston head coach Tom Penders said after the Cougars’ win over East Carolina on Wednesday. “”It gives you a chance to play somebody that doesn’t know you well and you don’t know too well. Arizona does some things that are different from most teams. They’ll run when it’s there but they’re a very smart team.””

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