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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

Arizona WBB looks to rebound at home against UC San Diego
Jason Dayee, Assistant Sports Editor • December 7, 2023
 

Confidence has hoops winning

Confidence+has+hoops+winning
Gordon Bates

Eight days ago, Arizona’s back was up against the wall.

The Wildcats were 5-4 in the Pac-12 Conference, had split every weekend of the conference season and it seemed like it was win the Pac-12 Tournament Championship or head to the NIT.
The Wildcats’ time was running out.

Fast-forward a little more than a week, and Arizona is in the thick of the conference race and looks to be a colossal collapse away from making the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row, after a 71-57 win over Colorado on Thursday.

Angelo Chol has arrived as the big man that was desperately needed to anchor the paint. Josiah Turner has continued his evolution into the man capable of running Arizona’s offense. Kyle Fogg is putting together the best stretch of basketball he’s played in his career.

For its second season in a row, Arizona couldn’t be peaking at a better time.

“Confidence is a big thing,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “I don’t have any serum or any way of injecting it into the players. It comes from within. It comes from success. It comes from a locker room that really believes.”

Confidence is something that Arizona — winner of its last three with the only loss coming by two points to conference-leading Washington — couldn’t be playing with more of right now.

Chol is the perfect example. Before Thursday’s game, he was averaging 2.4 points and 0.75 blocks per game. But in his last three contests, he averaged 6.3 points and 2.67 blocks.

Arizona fans got a look of what’s to come the next few seasons when Turner found Chol with a slick one-handed pass that the 6-foot-9 forward turned into a thunderous slam.

Need another example of Arizona’s rejuvenated swagger? Look at Fogg. After “disappearing,” as he put it, at times for the last three-plus seasons, he’s finally putting together a consistent streak.

“We lose a big part of our team if I disappear like I’ve been doing in the past,” Fogg said.

Arizona is turning into a team that steals opponent’s will to play through stingy defense and timely shots. The Wildcats used a 12-3 run midway through the second half to catapult themselves to a nine-point lead — one they wouldn’t relinquish throughout the rest of the game.

Solomon Hill finished one play with a put-back dunk off of a missed Fogg 3-pointer. On another, Jesse Perry followed Brendon Lavender’s missed 3 with an easy bucket. For the second straight game, the Wildcats blasted their opponent until it gave in.

That’s a sign of a team that’s finally coming into its own after an offseason that ravaged last season’s Elite Eight squad.

“We’re a lot more confident because of the simple fact that guys know their roles,” Hill said. “Guys know their roles, and they’re going out and doing it.”

But Miller cautioned against columns like this one. As well as Arizona is playing, he said, it’s all about “honoring the process,” and not letting one game overshadow another.

“I’m not just saying this because it’s my only out, but if we make every game life or death, it’s no fun,” Miller said. “If anything is life or death around here; it’s tomorrow’s practice.”

But there comes a point it’s more than coincidence that Arizona has played its best basketball of the season for three consecutive games. The Wildcats felt that wall against their backs. Then they scaled it, took off running and haven’t looked back.

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

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