Column: Wildcats regroup and conquer past Washington

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Sydney Richardson

Arizona guard Gabe York (1) pushes back a Washington player as he passes to a teammate in McKale Center on Thursday, Jan. 14. York helped fuel the Wildcats’ offensive attack in the second half of the WIldcats 99-67 victory.

Matt Wall

Last season, I asked Rondae Hollis-Jefferson what it meant to be a teammate on this team.

“We preach [as a] team, together everyone achieves more,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “Before we can roll out a basketball on the court, we have to be a family.”

This statement resonated with me as I watched Arizona men’s basketball claw back from all the hate and disappointment that came from their road trip through Los Angeles. Sure, the Wildcats lost two straight: two games that in past seasons they almost certainly would have won.

In all honesty, this team appeared to be down and out. Throughout most of the week, many Arizona fans had lost faith.

Could the longest home-winning streak in the nation be cut short due to injury?

In Thursday’s blowout victory over the Washington Huskies, Arizona men’s basketball managed to become that family Hollis-Jefferson preached about last season.

Through all the nitty-gritty, this Arizona team has faced a ridiculous amount of adversity. Their win against Washington was needed, to say the least.

On what planet would Arizona head coach Sean Miller predict that his two best players would go down for extended periods of time? But that’s exactly what happened.

It’s the story of losing, and then single-handedly crushing, opponents. After losing to Providence and Kris Dunn at the DirecTV Wooden Legacy, the Wildcats defeated Boise State for the second time in one season by nine points.

After two straight losses, we all saw Arizona beat the Pac-12 Conference leading Washington team by 32 points. That’s 32 points of heartbreak and anger after two straight losses.

The team finally understood what Miller had been preaching.

Kaleb Tarczewski was out from November to January. Within that time, the Wildcats managed to regroup without their star center and players all around stepped up, including the now-injured Allonzo Trier.

Dusan Ristic stepped up. Gabe York hit clutch 3-pointers. Ryan Anderson grabbed rebounds and excelled with putbacks. And through all that, Arizona won seven games straight without Tarczewski anywhere in the lineup.

The same can now be said of Wildcat favorite and explosive scorer: Allonzo Trier.

After suffering a hand injury, Trier did all he could for Arizona while sitting on the bench in street clothes. He screamed. He shouted. But he was unable to play in the game.

His presence wasn’t needed.

Tarczewski, Anderson and York collectively outrebounded the entire team of Washington 28-26 by themselves. More than that, Arizona continued the longest home-winning streak in the nation with 48 games.

Every UA starter finished in double figures in points scored. Parker Jackson-Cartwright finished with a career high of 11 assists.

“If we want to be the best team we can be, we have to have that type of effort through a 40-minute game,” Miller said. “I think when we do that, that’s when we really have a chance to jump up.”

In the middle of the second half, Miller actually sat down for once. Sure, his jacket came off a few times, but Arizona may have just found the rhythm it has desperately been seeking.

Miller was finally able to take a deep breath as Arizona’s defensive intensity finally showed. The same defense Miller called “terrible” held the conference’s leading scorer to single-digit points scored.

Miller worked his magic.

“I don’t question anything coach Miller does,” Anderson said. “He’s one of the best coaches in the game.”

You can take one man down, maybe even two; but you can’t take out an entire family that has put its heart and soul into the sport it loves.

Arizona’s new motto of the season should probably be: regroup and conquer. It seems to be working for a team that has been battle-tested and just keeps finding ways to win.