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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Looking for redemption in Los Angeles

Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team hosted the USC Trojans in a Pacific-10 Conference game Saturday Jan. 29, 2011, in McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. The Wildcats rolled to an 82-73.

In Arizona men’s basketball team’s last trip to Hollywood, the stage proved to be too much.

Two weeks ago, the Wildcats traveled to Los Angeles as the No. 10 team in the nation, but by the end of the trip, they looked more like an unranked team.

The Wildcats opened with a 65-57 loss to Southern California on Feb. 24 and ended it with a 71-49 blow out loss to UCLA in the last game at the “”old”” Pauley Pavilion.

“”The last time, we left with two losses,”” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “”If we were honest with ourselves, we really got away from the things that make us a good team.””

Humbled by the last trip, the Wildcats are back in Los Angeles facing Oregon State in the quarterfinals of the Pacific 10 Conference tournament at Staples Center.

Arizona, a lock for the NCAA tournament, is going into this afternoon’s game to validate its regular season Pac-10 title.

“”Nothing against the other teams,”” forward Derrick Williams said. “”Whoever wins the Pac-10 tournament goes to the big dance. It’s our job to stop that. We won the Pac-10 title, so we have to defend it and win the tournament. All the other teams have nothing to lose.””

With Arizona’s spot in the NCAA tournament secure, the Wildcats will have to match the intensity of desperate teams whose only shot in March Madness is to win the Pac-10 tournament.

“”We have a lot teams in our conference that are playing well,”” Miller said. “”There are really six teams that really have a lot at stake and are playing really good basketball.””

While most teams need to do well or win the tournament to reach the NCAAs, the Wildcats are one of the few teams that can lose and still be in the running. Knowing that its name will be called on Selection Sunday, Arizona is susceptible to a let down this weekend.

“”I don’t really worry about it nearly as much because we really have gone through it three weeks ago,”” Miller said. “”If we’re going to lose this weekend, let’s do things the way we’ve done them all season long. If that’s not good enough, we’ll pack up and get ready for the next tournament.

“”We learned our lesson in a big way (a few weeks ago). That’s to the credit of USC and UCLA,”” he added. Arizona players know from their experience in last year’s Pac-10 tournament that although you beat a team in the regular season, nothing guarantees you a NCAA win.

“”Last year we beat UCLA twice and they got us in the first round,”” said forward Solomon Hill. “”It’s an opportunity for anybody to get in the tournament. You never know who’s going to make that push. It’s March Madness. You never know who’s going to come out on top.””

But regardless of the unexpected outcomes in March Madness, Miller’s players won their first conference title last Saturday, and he’d like them to carry that momentum to a Pac-10 tournament title.

“”It’s a great feeling to be a conference champion,”” Miller said. “”You want to keep it going.””

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