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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Media wars

LOS ANGELES — These mind games are getting crazy.

Former Arizona head coach Kevin O’Neill didn’t want to jump to conclusions after his USC squad drilled California 70-56 to advance in the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament. It was before Arizona beat Oregon State, and after mentioning his team’s assumed preparations for the Beavers “”to be fair.””

Then, he said this of the Wildcats: “”The Arizona team, we’re talking about a legitimate Top 10 or 12 team that shoots the 3 better than anybody.””

O’Neill wrote the book on blowing kisses at competition, and can simultaneously bring the opponent down.

Last time out, it was his mention of UA forward Derrick Williams receiving the “”Michael Jordan treatment,”” getting to the foul line anytime he was touched, brushed or breathed upon. But at the same time, O’Neill told ESPN Radio’s Stephen A. Smith that he thought the Wildcats were also a national championship contender.

He still says Arizona is pretty darn good. Whether to believe him or not, well, I don’t know. Especially after his Trojans beat up on Arizona last time the two faced off.

“”We can’t outscore them,”” O’Neill said Thursday. “”We’re going to have to defend and defend and defend until the end of the game.””

That they will.

Even though the Wildcats dropped the Oregon State Beavers 78-69 in Staples Center, UA head coach Sean Miller was in protection mode afterward. A reporter asked, not to anyone in particular, about the Wildcats’ postgame comments in their loss to USC last month, when some UA players said the officials might have been influenced by O’Neill’s criticisms.

“”I’ll answer that question. Tomorrow’s game is about USC and Arizona,”” Miller said bluntly. “”No one here’s going to answer to the question about the officials or something that was said.

“”If you’ve listened to our comments, I think it’s very easy to distinguish how much respect we have for USC. And that’s it.””

After a week in February with center Kyryl Natyazhko as the only player available for a two-minute chat with the media, after the Twitter accounts of the Arizona

Wildcats went silent this past week and after Miller jumped into answering questions directed at his players Thursday, it all makes sense.

This team is young.

Maybe they’re not media savvy yet. But the fact of the matter is that even if Williams hits his third 3-pointer in the row and turns to the Oregon State bench, smiling and jawing his way down the court as he did against OSU, he and the Wildcats are vulnerable against the Trojans.

Miller knows it. So does O’Neill, who had casual, fun banter with forward Alex Stepheson and guard Donte Smith after his team’s win. It was a complete contrast to Miller’s almost fatherly watch over Williams and forward Kevin Parrom at their press conference.

The Trojans found themselves down 11-3 to Cal almost nine minutes into the game.

“”We knew that everything was going to be OK,”” Stepheson said of the deficit.

“”Why didn’t you tell me?”” O’Neill dryly responded.

The Trojans, who’ve played with a shallow bench all year, will not even hold a shootaround before their 7 p.m. game against the Wildcats today.

“”We’re not going to do anything,”” O’Neill said. “”It’s helped us to not practice.

“”They’re tired of me, and I’m frankly tired of them.””

If the Wildcats don’t come out ready to play against USC, they may get tired of the Trojans, too.

— Kevin Zimmerman is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

 

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