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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Staples Center is ‘House of Horrors’ for Arizona men’s basketball

Rebecca Noble
Arizona head coach Sean Miller argues with a referee during Arizona’s 69-62 loss to Gonzaga at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016.

Los Angeles — The Arizona men’s basketball team has had a history with the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and it hasn’t been all good as evidenced by their 69-62 loss to No. 8 Gonzaga on Saturday.

For a venue that should represent as close to a home court advantage as there can be, Staples Center is a virtual house of horror for Wildcat fans, rivaling only the Honda Center in Anaheim, California as most disappointing venue.

Against the Bulldogs, the Wildcats were lost, short-handed and battered in a game they never came any closer than five points. 

While the 2014 Elite Eight loss to the Wisconsin Badgers was in Anaheim, the Wildcats have struggled in big games at the Staples Center as recently as 2015 when Arizona lost for the second consecutive year to Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker in Los Angeles. Those two years especially, the 2015 Elite Eight game still stews in the back of Arizona fans’ minds of what could’ve been if the Wildcats had gotten over the plateau of beating Wisconsin.   

That game alone isn’t enough to deem L.A. a city where dreams go to die for head coach Sean Miller’s team, but looking back at the history of the venue provides a better idea of how below average the Wildcats have performed according to their standards in this place.

From the time the inaugural tournament for the Pac-12 Conference began at Staples Center in 2002 to the final buzzer of the last championship game played there in 2012, Arizona had only won one tournament championship in four chances. 

To make matters worse, the average margin of defeat for the Wildcats was just over four points with two of the losses by two. Even in the hay day of Hall of Fame head coach Lute Olson and a plethora of NBA players competing together, the Wildcats were cut short of greatness. 

The most excruciating defeat coming in 2011 against Washington as guard Isaiah Thomas hit a buzzer beating 3-pointer in overtime to send Derrick Williams and company home, 77-75.

Of course the Wildcats have more history in Staples Center than just the Pac-12 Tournament. In 2013 Arizona battled with Ohio State in the Sweet 16 and came up short when UA forward Grant Jerrett misplayed a screen leaving LaQuinton Ross wide open for a NBA range 3-pointer to send the Wildcats packing. 

Yes, Staples Center has been that kind of venue for the Wildcats. The Wildcats overall record at Staples Center is 13-13, but the heartbreak they have received, especially in the NCAA Tournament, has left many Wildcat fans befuddled and devastated time and time again. Saturday’s game against Gonzaga was just another example.

Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter.

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