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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


’Cats becoming road warriors

Colin Darland
Junior forward Solomon Hill attempts a layup in the second half of the Arizona Wildcats’ 64-63 road loss to the Colorado Buffaloes. Hill had 10 total points and two blocks in the game.

Junior Kyle Fogg can’t wait to get on the road again.

“My mind is already on next week,” Fogg said after Arizona’s ugly win against Utah at home.

Forward Solomon Hill wasn’t as gung-ho about the trip north.

“In the past, that Washington swing has always been hard,” Hill said. “I always think the Washington road trip is always harder, especially with their fans.”

But time away from Tucson may be just what the doctor ordered for head coach Sean Miller.

In conference play, typically the team with the homecourt advantage comes out on top, but that hasn’t been the case for Arizona so far this season. The Wildcats have struggled at home, falling to Oregon and Washington in McKale, the arena once considered the most feared in the conference. Not only has that hurt UA’s chances to improve its Pac-12 record, but it also made many unsure whether the Wildcats would return to the NCAA Tournament this year.

What’s even more upsetting for Arizona fans is when you add in the close calls against Oregon State (an overtime win) and most recently Utah (where Arizona was down by as many as 13 points in the second half). Miller was obviously frustrated and talked about his players’ lack of confidence, especially at home.

“There’s only so much you can do,” Miller said. “We’re coaching through it, we’re fighting hard. We don’t have a confident team and it’s disappointing.”

Instead, Arizona has played much better away from McKale Center, where Pac-12 opponents average nearly 63 points per game. When the Wildcats play on the road, they hold opponents to an average of 57 points per game.

“What makes us successful is to be a good defensive team,” Miller said. The Wildcats have managed to unsettle opponents at home with pressing pack line pressure defense that has been most effective on the road.

And while Arizona scores more at home, the Wildcats have tended to start slow in McKale this season, only to come back with a second half surge that falls just short. The average scoring margin in the losses at home have been significantly smaller than those on the road (four points vs. eight points), giving some cause to the concern that the Wildcats play better away from Tucson.

The Wildcats have been able to pull out those late wins in games at Stanford and at Cal, two road wins critical for Arizona’s place in the Pac-12 standings.

That’s not to say that the environments at Washington State — where the fans are practically seated on the court — and Washington — where the student section is seated across the entire length of the court behind the benches — are welcoming. But the Wildcats have proved resilient on the road this year, pulling out a late win at Cal and faring well at Florida where they nearly pulled off an upset in overtime.

Miller said that, especially in conference play, he always has the goal of stealing one game a weekend on the road, and for the Wildcats to finish off the regular season in a position to play in the postseason, he’ll need the confidence of a four-game win streak that started away from McKale Center to keep building.

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