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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona switches up routine looking for wins in Washington

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With rowdy crowds and long-distance travel awaiting the Arizona men’s basketball team this weekend, head coach Sean Miller is trying to make his third trip to the Washington schools better than the first two.

The Wildcats are staying in a new city and using charter flights to travel more quickly between Washington State — which the Wildcats face Thursday — and Washington.

Earlier this season, junior Solomon Hill said the Washington trip was the most difficult in the Pac-12 Conference, not only because of the atmosphere both schools provide, but the sheer time it took to travel between the two of them. Miller’s changes have Hill thinking a little differently about the journey.

“He’s changing it up,” Hill said. “I think it will be, this year, one of the better trips staying in the city. Coach is taking steps to take away from (the results of) that first year’s trip.”

Miller’s motives are clear. During the 2009-2010 season, the Wildcats were swept in Washington, losing by six points to the Huskies and getting blown out by the Cougars two days later — a particularly tough loss because it knocked Arizona out of first place in the Pacific 10 Conference at the time while breaking a four-game winning streak. The trip left Miller with a bad taste in his mouth and led to the alterations of the Wildcats’ travel plans this season.

Arizona (18-8, 9-4 Pac-12 Conference) will play Washington State (13-12, 5-8) first rather than starting the trip at Washington (18-8, 10-3). That gave Miller the option to change up how the Wildcats would travel to and from the games.

“We’ve never played Washington State first. We’ve always played them second,” Miller said. “This trip is much different than our previous two.”

The Wildcats will stay in Spokane, Wash., rather than in Moscow, Idaho, where they have stayed the past two seasons. Arizona will then charter to Seattle after Thursday night’s game, something Miller said would be “beneficial” because of the extra resting time before the Washington game.

“You just try to put your team in the best position,” Miller said. “I believe staying in Spokane is the best position.”

Senior Brendon Lavender, who has seen his minutes increase due to sophomore guard Jordin Mayes’ injury, said that the travel plans didn’t concern him because of the number of times that he has made the trip to the state of Washington.

“It doesn’t really matter,” Lavender said. “If you’re not ready to play the game, you’ve got something wrong with you.”

But the biggest impact may be on Arizona’s freshmen who have never made the trip to Washington State. Miller said because of the difference between high school and college basketball, the chartered flights and direct transportation would be beneficial. Hill agreed.

“It’s different this year. Instead of staying in Moscow — that’s always different — the middle of nowhere,” Hill said. “Now we have to take that long bus ride.”

But Miller is hoping staying in a city and cutting the travel time will benefit the Wildcats turnaround time between the games, especially against two teams that feverishly guard their home courts.

“It’s a tough place to win at,” Miller said, “and we’re going to have to be ready to go.”

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