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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

WSU rout could spark Pac-12 run

WSU+rout+could+spark+Pac-12+run

The strangest things can spark a team in college basketball.

It can be a hard foul. It can be a coach calling his players out in the media. It can be a players-only meeting. It can be a star forward getting a face full of Nike. Hell, it can even be a bar fight.

Arizona is hoping to add a 24-point rout of a white-hot Washington State team to that list.

Somehow — almost miraculously — after splitting their first three full weekends of Pac-12 play — the Wildcats are only a game back in the loss column from the conference’s leader, Cal.

All of the ingredients are there for the Wildcats to go on a tear through the Pac-12. They have a freshman point guard playing the best of his career in Josiah Turner, who scored nine points and dished out four assists before being ejected for his second technical foul half way through the second half.

They have a pair of senior guards who, with an early make or two, can go on a 3-point shooting rampage — see Brendon Lavender and Kyle Fogg’s combined 8-for-11 shooting effort from 3-point range and 34 points against Washington State.

They have Kevin Parrom, who’s one of the conference’s best wing players when he’s healthy, almost back to form, both mentally and physically.

Arizona also has a 6-foot-6, 235-pound forward in the form of Solomon Hill who can take the ball to the basket, knock down a shot from outside and anything in between. Last night Hill scored 12 straight points for the Wildcats during a second-half streak against the Cougars.

Then there’s the national stage that Arizona basketball is going to be on.

For about 12 hours on Saturday, Tucson is going to be the center of the college basketball world, starting at 8 a.m. and finishing when 14,000 white-clad fans are leaving McKale Center.

That’s a stage that the Wildcats and third-year coach Sean Miller have had a boatload of success on — advancing to last year’s Elite Eight and winning nationally televised games against UCLA, Washington and Oregon.

“We’re excited,” senior guard Brendon Lavender said.

Then, to top it all off, Arizona is playing its best basketball of the season. As Miller said, the Wildcats are a cold-shooting night away from being tied atop the conference.

“There’s such a fine line between a few plays with where we’re at, and where we could be,” Miller said.

With a young team that’s making strides in about every game it plays, what’s not to like about Arizona’s chances of catching fire while the rest of the conference sits idly by?

Last year, the Washington game was the culmination of an eight-win streak that vaulted the Wildcats to the top of the conference — at least until they came crashing down in Southern California.

This year there’s a chance that welcoming the Washington schools into McKale Center could play almost the exact opposite role in Arizona’s season — acting as a launching point instead of a landing zone.

Stranger things have happened, haven’t they?

— Alex Williams is the sports editor. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatHoops.

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