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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Arizona men’s basketball in position for Pac-12 title run following home sweep


USC guard Julian Jacobs (12) stands prepared to attack the Arizona hoop in McKale Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 12. The Trojans were defeated 86-80.

The early stretches of the Pac-12 Conference season saw a lot of things go against the Wildcats in terms of results and luck.

After this weekend, it seems things are getting back to normal in the Old Pueblo. The Wildcats took care of business in McKale Center this weekend and earned some revenge in the process. They avenged their rough road trip from over a month ago and defeated both UCLA and USC, giving the Wildcats five straight victories in the Pac-12. 

These victories, coupled with two Oregon and USC losses over the weekend, helped leap frog Arizona back into a first place tie with the Ducks in the conference standings.

Let’s rewind to two weeks ago: Arizona was coming off a loss at home against Oregon and it seemed that the sky was falling. 

The 49-game win streak was snapped; but worse, the Wildcats were a dismal 4-4 in the conference. Ryan Anderson apologized to the fans and head coach Sean Miller called his team’s performance against the Ducks one of the most disappointing he had seen.

Two days later, the Wildcats came back to McKale and defeated a pesky Oregon State team. The pressure and weight of the streak was gone. Instead, a fresh start to get back on track in the conference. 

Last weekend could arguably be called the turning point of the season for Arizona. The Wildcats swept the Washington schools, giving them their first road sweep of the season. Anderson was named the conference’s player of the week and the team seemed to finally be hitting its stride. 

This weekend’s sweep of the Los Angeles schools was a validation of this turnaround. 

Arizona was down 10 to UCLA on Thursday at halftime, yet turned it around to win the game 81-75. Despite a late resurgence from USC, Arizona took the win 86-78.

There is still plenty of work left, though. Miller has mentioned the defense needs improvement. The team has also been inconsistent with putting a full game together. Arizona usually proves to be a second half team.

“We’re trying to put both halves together and we have just not been that team this season,” Miller said. “We have to eventually become that team, because when we get into those elimination moments, you lose, you go home. We’re going to go home and we’re not going to get a chance to talk about needing to play better defensively in the second half.”

But despite the early season hiccups, Arizona is hitting a stride and rhythm at the right time. 

In a season where ranked teams have fallen regularly, time will tell if this Arizona team can keep up a winning pace. Five remaining regular season games and the impending Pac-12 Tournament will show everyone what team the Wildcats have grown to be over the course of the year,

Follow Kyle Hansen on Twitter

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