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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Gunnin’ for the No. 3 spot

Guard Momo Jones drives to the basket against a California defender on Feb. 25 in Arizona?s 95-71 loss. The freshman?s buzzer beater against Stanford two days later not only lifted the Wildcats over the Cardinal, but also gave Arizona momentum going into the last week of Pacific 10 Conference play.
Guard Momo Jones drives to the basket against a California defender on Feb. 25 in Arizona?s 95-71 loss. The freshman?s buzzer beater against Stanford two days later not only lifted the Wildcats over the Cardinal, but also gave Arizona momentum going into the last week of Pacific 10 Conference play.

The seesaw of the men’s basketball teams in the Pacific 10 Conference has one last weekend to level off.

Where the Arizona Wildcats stand will be determined by two home games, starting with tonight’s 8:30 game against UCLA (13-15, 8-8 Pac-10) and Saturday’s 11:30 a.m. contest with the USC Trojans (16-12, 8-8).

“”I know there’s a lot of parity, but nonetheless we’re all in it,”” said head coach Sean Miller of the conference standings. “”To have 10 (conference) wins and be all in it would be a great accomplishment.

“”If you would have said at the beginning of the year, ‘Coach, you guys finished as the number-three seed in the Pac-10 Tournament,'”” Miller added, “”I would have signed up for that.””

The Wildcats, now 8-8 in Pac-10 play and 14-14 overall, are coming off a momentum-changing victory over the Stanford Cardinal. Miller said his team hasn’t taken a large step forward since the Jan. 28 and Jan. 31 home wins against California and the Cardinal.

Now in a three-way tie for fourth place with both USC and UCLA, Arizona has the opportunity to roll into the Pac-10 Tournament with a three-game winning streak and a No. 3 seed.

“”We look forward to playing all out, leaving it all on the court for the last two games,”” said senior Nic Wise. “”Winning three in a row before the tourney can boost your confidence.””

Wise, who has struggled down the stretch, will play his final two games in McKale Center this weekend. Against Stanford, the Wildcats were saved by freshmen Momo Jones and Derrick Williams while the elder Wise sat on the bench during crunch time.

The point guard finished with seven points and one assist, far away from his 14.4 point, 3.3 assist per game averages.

Hopefully for Arizona, Wise will have enough in the tank to play the final two regular season games.

“”When he doesn’t play well, it’s hard on this team,”” Miller said, adding that he expects to play Wise a good 34 minutes per game.

“”I can’t help but think we’ve worn him out a little bit,”” he added. “”He’s handled himself remarkably.””

With freshman forward Kevin Parrom highly doubtful for Arizona due to a foot injury, sophomore Brendon Lavender and Solomon Hill will likely see increased playing time. Miller also said Jones will play off the ball on defense to account for the loss of Parrom, whose absence could hurt Arizona’s defensive rebounding and perimeter defense.

In place of Parrom last weekend, Hill started and Lavender played 25 minutes; he hadn’t played more than 20 minutes since Arizona last played UCLA on Jan. 2.

“”I just think they’re all growing and they’re all comfortable with the system,”” Wise said of the younger players. “”They’re all coming into their own late into the season.””

Combined, Hill and Lavender pulled in 11 rebounds and scored 10 points against the Cardinal, but as a whole, Arizona’s wings struggled to contain perimeter players, something they have failed to do consistently all season.

“”The single biggest thing that could’ve helped us this year,”” Miller said, “”(was) being better at defending perimeter players off the dribble, off of screens. That ingredient is something that we missed.””

With a losing season staring the Wildcats straight in the eye, Jones said the Stanford game was an important pick-me-up coming into this final Pac-10 weekend.

Miller agreed, adding that it could possibly become the driving force into a successful end of the regular season.

“”You want to have some momentum and a good feeling going to LA and the Pac-10 Tournament because there’s a number of teams that can win it,”” Miller said. “”If we were to be one of them, I think this weekend will have a lot to do with how we feel going into that tournament.””

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