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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Cats aim to stay grounded after pulling off upset

    UA forward Chase Budinger dunks in Sunday afternoons 69-64 win over No. 4 Gonzaga in U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix. The Wildcats will focus on staying grounded after a win of such magnitude.
    UA forward Chase Budinger dunks in Sunday afternoon’s 69-64 win over No. 4 Gonzaga in U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix. The Wildcats will focus on staying grounded after a win of such magnitude.

    Game analysis

    PHOENIX – It didn’t take long for UA interim head coach Russ Pennell to feed his team a piece of humble pie after Sunday’s 69-64 upset win over No. 4 Gonzaga.

    Pennell sat down in the U.S. Airways Center locker room immediately following the game and delivered some less-than-favorable news.

    “”I told them I was so excited about the win that we were practicing at 2 o”clock tomorrow,”” Pennell said. “”You could hear a collective sigh and it was like back to work.””

    And that’s about how long the Wildcats (7-2) savored the program’s first victory over a top-5 ranked opponent since 2001.

    In a victory that could prove crucial to their NCAA tournament résumé come March, Pennell knows how quickly the tides can turn.

    Just ask last year’s team.

    A similar victory over then-No. 9 Texas A&M around this time last season proved that the Wildcats could compete with – and conquer – nationally touted teams. After coming back from as many as 20 points on Dec. 2, 2007, Arizona’s 78-67 win eventually cultivated into the premature peak – and brightest point – of its 2007-08 season.

    Texas A&M dropped to 7-1 with last season’s loss in McKale Center. One year later, Gonzaga has fallen to the same record, 7-1, in yet another season-boosting Arizona victory.

    “”We got a little too hyped, too big headed,”” UA forward Jordan Hill said of last season. “”That’s when it started going downhill.

    “”But this year we just gotta stay focused on every game every day,”” Hill added. “”Just stay humble, basically.””

    Added Pennell: “”I thought, walking down the hallway after the game, ‘Wow we just beat the No. 4-ranked team in the country,’ “” Pennell said. “”Then I thought, ‘Oh man, we gotta get ready for UNLV (on Saturday). That’s a coach’s life.””

    It only took a matter of minutes for Pennell to begin preparing for the next step on Arizona’s schedule. He wrote “”UNLV”” and “”Kansas”” on the locker room’s board after Sunday’s win – keeping the team focused on what lies ahead.

    “”I grounded them in the locker room as soon as we got done with the game,”” Pennell said. “”I wanted them to get that we’re 7-2 that’s fine, but you can turn around real quick and be 7-4.

    “”If we get overconfident in a game like this then a team isn’t worth its salt,”” he added.

    Commonly throughout the beginning of this season, the Wildcats have self-defined themselves as an underrated team looking to prove naysayers wrong and win back their traditionally loyal fan base. Crowds in McKale Center have fallen in comparison to previous seasons, along with Arizona’s high expectations.

    Pennell knows it’s not a traditional year for the Arizona basketball program. But the expectations will still linger, and so will today’s newfound confidence after Sunday’s win of such magnitude.

    “”Our expectations are to be able to play with (teams) like (Gonzaga),”” Pennell said. “”Are we a typical Arizona team bringing NBA guys off the bench? Absolutely not. that’s not us.””

    In practices every day, one thing UA associate head coach Mike Dunlap focuses on is the team’s ability.

    UA guard Nic Wise said Dunlap tells the team they can even beat UCLA in Pauley Pavillion.

    It’s not something to explode any egos, but rather, to remind the Wildcats of their abilities, contrary of what the top-25 polls might say.

    “”People are still doubting us. There’s no room for us to be arrogant or cocky about our win, Wise said of this team’s confidence after beating Gonzaga. “”We have no choice.””

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