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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Cats fighting for first road win

    Cats fighting for first road win

    Arizona at Oregon State

    You know that whole bit about home-court advantage?

    It’s true. At least for the Arizona men’s basketball team.

    The Wildcats (14-8, 4-5 Pacific 10 Conference) are 11-2 at home, but are the only team in the Pac-10 that hasn’t yet won a true road game. Arizona could get its first away win in seven tries tonight against Oregon State (10-10, 4-5) in Corvallis, Ore., but an 0-6 away record isn’t really something UA interim head coach Russ Pennell wants to talk to his team about.

    “”You don’t want to over-emphasize stuff,”” Pennell said. “”Let’s prepare like we have for every game, get out there and play well.””

    The Wildcats beat Mississippi Valley State and Santa Clara in Georgia, and upset then-No. 4 Gonzaga in the U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, but those were all considered neutral-site games.

    In the six true road games this season, Arizona has averaged just 61.5 points per game, compared to 74.9 at home.

    But with this game kicking off the second half of the conference season, the Wildcats don’t feel like this game is a ‘must-win,’ game by any means. The simple goal is to win every game.

    “”We don’t look at it like, ‘Oh we need to win this one if we lose this one,'”” said UA point guard Nic Wise. “”I don’t know who thinks like that. You play every game to win every game.””

    Arizona has improved its play tremendously over the past five games, but the exact turning point is somewhat hazy. After the Wildcats were pounded by 23 points at UCLA, they played a hard-fought game at USC, but lost by a point after committing a last-second foul.

    Arizona lost to ASU by 7, then beat Houston by 6 in overtime after being down by 10 with less than a minute to go. That was the same game in which Aubrey Coleman was ejected for stepping on UA forward Chase Budinger’s face, igniting the Wildcats’ play as a whole.

    The following week the Wildcats upset then-No. 23 Washington by 9 points, then downed Washington State by 10.

    “”We’re playing well. We’re playing more uptempo than we have in the past, so everybody’s playing more freely,”” Wise said. “”That gives everybody more confidence as well. Coach is giving us the OK to take shots if we’re open, even if it’s early in the offense.””

    But, again, when did everything begin to click for the Wildcats?

    “”I don’t know if it’s, like, one particular moment,”” Pennell said. “”I thought we played a very good game at USC. And when I go back and revisit the Arizona State game, we played really hard in that game. We didn’t shoot it well, but our level of competing was really, really high. And you could say that’s the rivalry – the bottom line is I like the way we competed.

    “”I just think the last four or five games,”” Pennell added, “”we’ve played a lot harder.””

    For UA forward Jordan Hill, the team’s boost in productive play was fueled by a desire to obtain a postseason berth.

    “”The whole team wanted to do something, and that’s to make it to the tournament and make it far,”” he said.

    Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure: Arizona is playing better. But will its latest surge be able to change its luck on the road?

    “”I think we’re going to win a road game,”” Pennell said. “”I don’t know when, but I think we will. So much of winning a road game is you’ve got to be playing well before you go on the road.””

    The Wildcats are thinking of the second half as a second wind. As their physical talent continues to increase, their frame of mind continues to improve.

    “”You always want to be playing your best ball at the end of the season,”” Wise said. “”That’s what we’re trying to do now.””

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