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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Playing for 40 minutes

    Hill rejects a layup attempt by Houstons Desmond Wade during a 96-90 UA overtime win on Jan. 24. The forward is an imposing defensive force for the Wildcats as evidenced by his 2.3 blocks and 7.6 defensive rebounds per game.
    Hill rejects a layup attempt by Houston’s Desmond Wade during a 96-90 UA overtime win on Jan. 24. The forward is an imposing defensive force for the Wildcats as evidenced by his 2.3 blocks and 7.6 defensive rebounds per game.

    Arizona vs. No. 23 Washington

    Talk to any level-headed coach, and he’ll tell you every game is a must-win game.

    But the phrase hasn’t meant so much for the Arizona men’s basketball team as it does now. The Wildcats (12-8, 2-5 Pacific 10 Conference) host conference-leading Washington (15-4, 6-1) tonight at 6:30 in McKale Center, with a sanguine frame of mind regarding the NCAA Tournament.

    An 8-3 record in the games heading into the Pac-10 Tournament would put the Wildcats on the safe side of the bubble with 20 wins.

    “”We need wins to kind of crawl back in this thing and keep our hopes alive for the postseason,”” said UA interim head coach Russ Pennell. “”The biggest thing is we’re still in a point of the season where there’s enough games to get something accomplished.””

    Outside of road games, in which Arizona is 0-6, an obvious deficiency in the Wildcats’ play, until recently, has been finishing down the stretch.

    Arizona has lost four games by 6 points or less -ÿthree of them by one point each. The Wildcats’ luck turned around on Saturday, however, when they came back from a 10-point deficit with less than a minute to go against Houston and went on to win in overtime.

    “”One thing we said in practice: Stop losing the close ones because we’re going to need those, starting this weekend with Washington and Washington State – they’re two really good teams,”” said UA guard Nic Wise. “”But we feel like we can take care of both of them on our home court.””

    Since it has become somewhat of a trend for the Wildcats, the UA coaching staff has implemented end-of-the-game situations each day in practice.

    “”Every game we’ve played has pretty much gone down to the wire,”” Wise said. “”We’re learning to close out games and finally finish them.””

    The Huskies score the most in the conference (78.9), and allow the least (52.5). But that doesn’t mean they are exempt from a close game here and there.

    The UW has two one-point wins, and two of its four losses were by three points or less.

    But Washington will surely have confidence coming into McKale Center after beating then-No. 13 UCLA on Saturday.

    “”Washington’s a good team, but just because they beat UCLA doesn’t mean they can beat us or they’re going to beat us,”” said UA forward Jordan Hill. “”We just have to go out there and play hard.

    “”Oregon State beat USC, and we beat Oregon State,”” Hill added. “”It doesn’t matter. Whatever teams go out there and compete harder, they’re going to come up with the win. That’s what we got to do.””

    Even if this game really is a must-win game for the Wildcats to keep their postseason hopes alive – and even if Pennell knows it – he’s not using those exact words to prep his players.

    “”The guys are smart, they know what’s going on, they can read the papers just like anyone else,”” Pennell said. “”The biggest thing is to build momentum off the last two games.””

    Hill’s NBA Draft status high

    With a couple of months still left in the Arizona men’s basketball team’s season, it may be premature to start looking at the NBA Draft.

    Nevertheless, it’s hard to ignore the fact that UA forward Jordan Hill is projected by many mock drafts to be chosen as a lottery pick (top 14) in June. has Hill as a third overall pick. ranks Hill as the eighth overall pick.

    Hill didn’t even play organized basketball until his senior year of high school. If you were to tell him then that he’d be this big a mark on the national radar as a college junior, he probably wouldn’t believe you.

    “”I guess I came so far from my high school skills to now, when I look back and think about how I was in high school, it was not nearly as good as I am now,”” Hill said. “”All it took was hard work and listening to coaches.””

    Hill averaged 9.3 points and 6.2 rebounds last season and currently averages 18.4 points and 11.9 boards per game this year. He has also proven he can play with some of the best big men in the country, and has solidified his 19-foot jumper.

    “”I’m not the strongest dude in the nation, but I’m not the weakest either,”” Hill said.

    Maybe more important than impressing mock drafters around America, however, is the fact that he has really impressed UA interim head coach Russ Pennell.

    “”I don’t know that Jordan Hill could do a whole lot more than he’s doing,”” Pennell said. “” He’s one of the better big guys in the country.””

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