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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats ready for first big challenge in Southern California for Wooden Legacy

Rebecca Noble
Slut Walk began at the Women’s Plaza of Honor on campus and ended at The Hopyard on 4th Avenue on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015.

Arizona men’s basketball will try to wipe away some bad Southern California memories when it travels to Orange County, California, this weekend to compete in the DirecTV Wooden Legacy.

The No. 11 Wildcats’ first two games will take place Thursday and Friday in Fullerton, California. The tournament concludes Sunday in the Honda Center in Anaheim.

Arizona opens up the tournament against Santa Clara on Thanksgiving night. It will be the team’s first game away from McKale Center.

The Wildcats struggled in their final home tune-up game, scraping by Northwestern State 61-42. It didn’t help that forward Ryan Anderson sat out the game with a lingering ankle injury.

Arizona head coach Sean Miller said on Tuesday that he is hopeful Anderson will be ready to go for Santa Clara.

“Ryan’s improving every day,” Miller said. “It was not a high ankle sprain or one of those where he could miss a long period of time. We’re optimistic he’ll be able to play Thursday or certainly in the tournament.”

The Wildcats struggled to get into any sort of offensive rhythm, without Anderson, against Northwestern State.

Arizona might not need too much scoring to beat Santa Clara, though, as the Broncos enter the tournament with an 0-5 record and have yet to score more than 65 points in a game.

Santa Clara’s 57 points per game ranks 342nd in the country. Santa Clara most recently fell to UC Irvine on Monday by a score of 79-61.

Junior Jared Brownidge is the only Bronco to average double digits in scoring, with 15 points per game.

For the Wildcats, Gabe York has been the team’s go-to scorer early on this year. York scored a career-high 23 points against Boise State before dropping another 18 on Northwestern State.

The trip to Southern California will be a homecoming of sorts for the West Covina, California, native, but York ensured that this is strictly a business trip.

“We’re all going out there for one reason and that’s to get another tournament championship under our belt,” York said. “That’s all we’re really about.”

Ironically, Arizona’s last few trips to Southern California have ended its chances at earning a championship.

Each of the Wildcats’ past three seasons have ended with NCAA Tournament losses at either the Staples Center in Los Angeles or the Honda Center.

If Arizona defeats Santa Clara on Thursday and takes care of business Friday against either Evansville or Providence, the Wildcats will be right back at the Honda Center on Sunday for the tournament final.

Who might Arizona play in the championship game?

Michigan State leads the other half of the bracket, which also features UC Irvine, Boise State and Boston College.

The Spartans are coming off a big win over Kansas last week and just moved up to No. 3 in the national rankings. A Michigan State vs. Arizona final would provide players and fans alike the feel of a March matchup in a March venue.

All Wooden Legacy games will be televised on the ESPN Networks. Start times can be found at the tournament’s website.

Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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