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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Streak is over

After speaking to the media freshman guard Momo Jones takes a minute to compose himself. When asked about the NCAA Tournament Momo had this to day, “”Unfortunately, we’re not going to make it this year, but I guarantee we’re going to get back there next year.””

LOS ANGELES — Under the bright lights of the Staples Center, it was like a bad ending to a good movie as the nation’s longest NCAA Tournament streak came to an end on Thursday.

The Arizona men’s basketball program’s 25-year streak ended in a 75-69 loss to UCLA in the quarterfinals of the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament, likely sending the Wildcats to the National Invitation Tournament.

“”It’s a terrible feeling. I never wanted to be a part of that ‘ending the streak’ team,”” said freshman guard Momo Jones. “”It’s not something where I want to look back and say I was a part of that team.””

UA head coach Sean Miller, ending his first season at Arizona with a 16-15 record, came short of reaching the Big Dance.

“”Any coach who came to Arizona to make the NCAA Tournament for a 26th time is going to find he’s going to be a paranoid coach,”” Miller said. “”The reason I came to Arizona is to rebuild our program, and hopefully one day get it back to the level that everybody has watched.””

Throughout the season, Miller and his players alike said that they rarely talked about extending the streak, but as the players walked off the court with long faces and blank stares, it was obvious what “”The Streak”” meant to the team — and to the entire Tucson community.

“”We talked about it sometimes and we knew we had a lot work to do,”” Jones said. “”We weren’t the team that had four or five seniors that could lead the way and teach all the young guys the ropes. Everybody was young and learning coach Miller’s system and (senior) Nic Wise didn’t even know what to expect.””

The disappointment lingered around the locker room after the game as players tried to come to grips with the fact that “”The Streak”” was over.

“”We knew it would be tough. A whole new system, a whole new staff again,”” said point guard Nic Wise, the team’s only senior. “”With the five freshmen, it would be a mountain to climb for us to the tournament.””

The Wildcats, who swept the Bruins in the regular season, started the game off slowly just as they had last Thursday against the Bruins. But this time, Arizona was unable to get the second-half push it needed.

Each time it seemed that the Wildcats would break out, the Bruins found a way to answer.

“”It was very frustrating; that was the tale of the game,”” said forward Jamelle Horne. “”We just couldn’t come up with a stop or a rebound. We couldn’t find a bucket, so it was really tough.””

Horne finished the game with only three points, shooting 1-for-4 from the field and fouling out with 7:56 remaining in the game.

UCLA big man Reeves Nelson, who didn’t play during the teams’ last meeting in McKale Center, made the difference in the first half, scoring 12 of his game-high 19 points and adding 10 rebounds. The Bruins killed the Wildcats in transition, pushing the ball at every opportunity.

“”In the end, it was (Nelson, Nikola Dragovic and Michael Roll) that we didn’t really have an answer for,”” Miller said. “”And uncharacteristic for UCLA, I thought they really got out in transition and got some easy ones, and that hurt us.””

Miller said that he expects better results in his second year.

“”I’m confident that (with) the price that we pay through 31 games and the 80-plus practices that we’ve had, it is a system that will continue to grow and develop,”” Miller said. “”Young players will get bigger, stronger and older, and the more depth and size that we add certainly will help.””

When Miller was asked whether he was ready to start his own streak, he gave a simple answer.

“”That’s my only choice,”” he said.

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