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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

PACIFIC 10 CHAMPIONS

Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The No. 18 Arizona Wildcats hosted the Oregon Ducks in a Pacific 10 Conference basketball game Saturday, March 5, 2011, in McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. The Wildcats finished a perfect 17-0 at home and locked up the regular season Pac-10 Championship with a 90-82 win.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The No. 18 Arizona Wildcats hosted the Oregon Ducks in a Pacific 10 Conference basketball game Saturday, March 5, 2011, in McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. The Wildcats finished a perfect 17-0 at home and locked up the regular season Pac-10 Championship with a 90-82 win.

The Wildcats took what wasn’t supposed be theirs on Saturday at McKale Center. Beating Oregon 90-82, the Arizona men’s basketball team won its first Pacific 10 Conference championship since the 2004-05 season.

In a league that was supposed to be Washington’s to lose, the Wildcats were the team that stood on top in the end.

“”It’s amazing,”” said forward Derrick Williams. “”It’s the reason I came here, it’s the reason we all came here, to try to win a Pac-10 title.””

As each player climbed the ladder to cut the net, most of them went from being a part of team that broke the streak to the team that brought a Pac-10 championship back to Tucson.

“”Nobody wants to be remembered as that team (that) stopped the streak,”” Williams said. “”We want to be remembered as the team that started a new streak, a new era in Arizona basketball.””

Despite the Ducks’ rally in the second half on Saturday, the Wildcats clinched their conference title in the way in they did everything all season.

“”We have a team of interchangeable parts, we get a lot of contributions from a lot of guys,”” said head coach Sean Miller.

The collective mindset that the Wildcats exhibited all season and into Saturday’s home finale is one that started in the Pac-10 tournament a year ago.

“”The mood started as soon as we lost to UCLA (in the tournament),”” Williams said. “”I’m not saying nothing is wrong with the National Invitation Tournament, but Arizona teams don’t go to the NIT, and we didn’t even get an invite to that.””

So what’s different with this team than the one a year ago?

“”Everybody knows their role,”” Williams said. “”Last year, we didn’t know our role. We just wanted to do so much as individuals and try and win. Sometimes you have to give to get what you want.””

Every Arizona player was designated a role in the off-season by Miller, and each stuck to his role throughout the season.

“”Shooters have to shoot,”” Williams said, “”and if you come in to play defense, that’s what you have to come in and do.””

On Saturday, Arizona followed that same blueprint to get past a persistent Oregon team.

Kyle Fogg, a shooter, had a team-high 20 points. Jamelle Horne, a utility man, added 10 points in his game at McKale Center and even Kevin Parrom, an enforcer, added 11 points off the bench.

Not to mention forward Solomon Hill adding 14 points, carrying the team during significant stretches when Williams was in foul trouble.

Usually teams that win championships, no matter what level, have a moment in the season where the team knows it can really do it. For Arizona, it was no different.

“”It was after the Washington State game,”” said forward Kevin Parrom of when the team truly believed. “”After that it was like, ‘OK, we can do this.'””

Williams agreed.

“”We were down like 11 points and coach had just got a technical,”” Williams added. “”We brought everybody into the huddle and we were like, ‘We’re not going to lose this game.’

“”After that, we were like, ‘We can do this. We can be that team in the end, just like we are right now.'””

In just year two of the Miller era, Arizona has a Pac-10 title under its belt, more than what Miller could’ve expected this soon.

“”Our expectations were to improve, to set ourselves on the things that could help us win more,”” Miller said.

Now that Arizona has secured the top spot in the conference, there is still some unfinished business in the Pac-10 tournament and in the NCAA tournament.

“”We’re just going to feed off this win,”” Parrom said. “”Keep playing hard and keep winning.””

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