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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Wildcats embark on Pac-12’s toughest trip

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Colin Darland
Colin Darland

A lot has changed in the year since the Arizona men’s basketball team defeated the California Golden Bears in a triple overtime game last February in Berkeley, Calif.

“It goes by fast,” senior Kyle Fogg said. “A lot of things happened in that time span.”

The Wildcats (14-8, 4-5 Pac-12 Conference) take on the Golden Bears at 8 p.m. in Haas Pavilion, but will do so with a man down.
Forward Kevin Parrom broke his foot during the Wildcats’ loss to the Washington Huskies on Saturday, and will be one of four players no longer on the team after the 107-105 thriller. Former Wildcat Jamelle Horne graduated, Momo Jones transferred and Derrick Williams got drafted.

“Taking those four off of our team, and it’s a brand new deal, and it’s one of the reasons we are where we’re at right now,” head coach Sean Miller said.

Arizona is coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Huskies and a string of last minute what-ifs that could have swung the momentum of the season in a completely different direction. Instead of building on the success of last year’s Elite Eight run, the Wildcats have been stymied by inconsistencies and growing pains from some of their younger players.

On the flip side, Cal (17-5, 7-2) has only improved. Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe and Harper Kamp have become household names around the Pac-12 and have produced one of the best home-court records in the conference. Cal has not lost at home this season, proving why Miller called the Bay Area trip the hardest of the all the trips in the Pac-12.

The Golden Bears were on a four-game win streak before losing by two points at Washington State on Jan. 21, but bounced back with a win over Stanford on Sunday. Cal currently sits in first place in the conference.

“They have a great system, older players executing it,” Miller said about Cal’s jump to the top of the conference. “They really have a way of identifying single players and roles. Cal does a great job of screening and getting shots. They play at a good pace.”

With the veteran leadership of Gutierrez — who Miller called a “clever” player ­— and Kamp’s size, the Wildcats will have their hands full containing the Bears.

Arizona will have to survive an aggressive man-to-man defensive style that is the second in the conference in terms of scoring defense, and will test the Wildcats’ ability to get second chance shots.

Cal also will test the Wildcats’ biggest strength this season — defense. The Bears lead the conference in 3-point field goal percentage and scoring with a 12 margin.

The Wildcats travel to the Bay Area with a team hardly reminiscent of last year’s, but Hill said this gives players the chance to write their own history.

“We really need them more than ever. They should see this as an opportunity to work hard,” Hill said. “The minutes are going to be there. When we get out on the court, it’s going to speak for itself.”

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