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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

‘Cats suffer awkward loss

Sean Miller bathed in the golden sun with a green tropical paradise scene in the background. He looked comfortable and happy to be in Hawaii for the EA Sports Maui Invitational quarterfinal.

Then, speaking seriously even though he wore a magenta lei around his neck, the UA men’s basketball head coach told the ESPN2 telecast that his team’s trip to Lahaina, Maui, has been awkward — his word — because everything is so new to this baby-faced team.

True, coming into the third game of its young season, the UA men’s basketball team hadn’t experienced a road game before.

Or a 13-0 deficit to start a game.

Or extreme foul trouble.

Or a loss.

And first losses are always awkward.

Remember Arizona’s first loss last season — against UAB — when Jamelle Horne’s last-second diving foul at midcourt gave the Blazers a chance to win with a free throw?

Remember the season before, when the Wildcats lost 75-72 to Virgina after Cavaliers guard Sean Singletary supposedly called Arizona “”soft””?

To kick off the 2006-07 season — Lute Olson’s last year — Arizona began with a three-point loss at Virginia but then went on a 12-game winning streak.

First losses are what you make of them. They can be motivational or detrimental.

But whatever happens to Arizona (2-1) after its 65-61 loss to Wisconsin (3-0) Monday night, the Wildcats were able to show a nitty-gritty side of them that will be beneficial as this team grows, no matter how awkward the game was.

Three Wildcats fouled out and two others had four fouls apiece, but that wasn’t as big a factor as it would have been last year because Arizona has more role players this year.

They only made 16-of-44 field goals (36.4 percent), but they made up for it, mostly, at the charity stripe, making 26-of-37 free throws during a game with more whistles than a child’s train set.

Senior point guard Nic Wise had nearly three times as many misses as makes (3-for-11), but freshman Derrick Williams stepped up and scored a game-high 25 points.

“”More so than any other player, I think you’ll see great improvement (in Williams) as his freshman year continues to unfold,”” Miller told ESPN.

Despite the sloppy play as a team, the Wildcats displayed balance and proved they are able to claw their way back into relevance. They were able to make a comeback and even take a lead in the second quarter after starting the game 0-for-7 from the field over a nine-minute span.

Arizona’s first loss was a learning experience, especially for the four freshmen who played in the game. They’ll learn to win ugly games like these. It’s just going to take time.

The biggest lesson, however, was that awkward isn’t necessarily the end of the world.

— Lance Madden is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

 

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