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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Wildcats still have chip on shoulder, but they don’t mind”

    Arizona forward Jordan Hill leaps for the bucket in a 69-64 win over then-No. 4 Gonzaga in U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix on Sunday. The team is still playing with a chip on its shoulder, but the Wildcats see it as motivation.
    Arizona forward Jordan Hill leaps for the bucket in a 69-64 win over then-No. 4 Gonzaga in U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix on Sunday. The team is still playing with a chip on its shoulder, but the Wildcats see it as motivation.

    Basketball Notes

    Russ Pennell stood before his men’s basketball team on Monday, fresh off of Sunday’s upset win over then-No. 4 Gonzaga in Phoenix.

    The interim coach was trying to put the victory behind them, but he wanted to make sure the Wildcats knew where they had come from: they were 7-2, with two painful one-point losses.

    “”I said, ‘You know guys, what I think about is, I’m still the dumb coach that couldn’t win the UAB game, according to some people,'”” Pennell said. “”And I said, ‘That’s the attitude that I want to keep.'””

    Since the beginning of the season the team has received criticism after criticism, stemming from multiple events. Arizona is playing without its Hall-of-Fame coach, Lute Olson, and with a very young roster that doesn’t include some of the elite players who once promised to suit up in the cardinal and navy.

    And yet, they’ve been able to shine brightly through the muck.

    “”You’re never quite as good as you think you are, you’re never quite as bad as you think you are,”” Pennell said, “”and I hope that we can keep that, we’re-a-little-bit-of-the-underdog chip on our shoulder, our coach is not here anymore and people are writing us off. I hope we can keep that attitude.””

    At this point, one key to success is to remain focused and humble, said UA forward Jordan Hill. Even if that means playing for a lesser audience than in the past. So far, the Wildcats are averaging 12,766 spectators in McKale Center over five games this season -ÿthe highest in the Pacific 10 Conference, but a generous figure for the amount of people who actually show up.

    “”People didn’t think we (were) going to do what we’re doing right now,”” Hill said. “”You can look at the fans that come to our games. It used to be crowded. The student section used to be crowded.

    “”But all of a sudden, nobody’s starting to show up,”” Hill added. “”They didn’t really have no trust in us. But we had to prove people wrong. We never gave up, we kept fighting, and at the end of the season we’re going to keep fighting, and we’ll just keep on talking basketball.””

    Hoops team won’t stay for football game

    The basketball team plays UNLV at 1 p.m. on Saturday, and the UA football team will take on No. 17 BYU in the Wildcats’ first bowl game in a decade at 6 p.m. The basketball team, however, has a flight back home scheduled for 6 p.m., so they won’t be able to take in the game on the gridiron.

    “”I wanted to go to the bowl game,”” said Hill, a regular at UA home football games. “”It’s the first bowl game in what, 10 years? I wanted to go to give (them) support, but we do got other big fish to fry. We’ve got Kansas coming up, so we’ve got to come back and prepare for them, so I understand.””

    Pennell, who said he received a call from UA football head coach Mike Stoops on Tuesday, said the basketball team just doesn’t have any time to burn with defending national champion Kansas coming to McKale Center on Dec. 23.

    “”I just felt like it was going to waste a day,”” Pennell said. “”The next day of practice would have been absolutely shot.””

    Wildcats may be going bowling in a different way

    The hoops team may in fact be going bowling in Las Vegas, but it won’t involve the football game.

    Pennell mentioned the team might do something low key before they turn in to their hotel on Friday night. Bowling – literally in a bowling alley -ÿcould be something the Wildcats may do.

    The coach said he likes to have to team do things together to build chemistry and give their minds a rest, if only for a short while.

    When the Wildcats were in Phoenix for the game against Gonzaga this past weekend, Pennell set up a pool tournament.

    “”Coach (Mike) Dunlap and my dad (Dewey Pennell) won,”” Russ Pennell said. “”But the guys seem to enjoy it. I think it’s important that, this is still a sport where you’re supposed to have fun. And a lot of times, the games, they’re fun when they’re over. They’re a lot of work when you’re going through them.

    “”But I think you have to give them an outlet; there has to be a way that I can just let my mind go for an hour-and-a-half to two hours,”” Pennell added, “”because you just can’t keep that mental edge, I don’t think, for long stretches of time.””

    The best part about the activities, Pennell said, is that it gives the players a chance to see their teammates and their coaches in a different light.

    “”They see that we’re not just these taskmasters all the time, but that we can also be a father -ÿI had my kids with me the other night -ÿa husband, a friend to them,”” Pennell said. “”I just think it’s healthy and lets us blow off a little steam.””

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