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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona Wildcats basketball season ends with disappointing loss to Bucknell

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Colin Darland
Arizona junior forward Kevin Parrom looks on as the Wildcats trail the Bucknell Bison late in the second half of the Wildcats’ first round NIT loss to the Bucknell Bison in McKale Center on Wednesday, March 14, 2012. Parrom was injured earlier in the season after being shot at his father’s home in the Bronx, New York. Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat

If Arizona fans thought missing the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years and accepting a bid to the NIT was the lowest low for the program, they were wrong.

That came when the No.1-seeded Arizona men’s basketball team lost to No. 8 seed Bucknell 65-54 in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament in McKale Center on Wednesday night.

The Wildcats couldn’t hold off the visiting Bucknell Bison (25-9), who continue on in the tournament to face the winner of Oral Roberts and Nevada.

Head coach Sean Miller said he was more disappointed in the result of this season, where Arizona finished 23-12, compared to his first season as the Wildcats head coach when the team finished 16-15 and weren’t invited to any sort of post season. The Wildcats are the first No. 1 seed to be upset by an 8-seed since ASU was ousted by Jacksonville in 2010.

Miller said that part of the reason for Arizona’s lackluster performance stemmed from the Wildcats’ loss to the Colorado Buffaloes in the championship game of the Pac-12 Tournament.

“I thought today’s game was about, in many ways, the grave disappointment we experienced in the Pac-12 tournament, playing three games in three days and being right there last second shot to win it,” Miller said. “I don’t know if we entered today’s game as a group completely over that.”

Guard Kyle Fogg agreed and said the lingering effects from the Pac-12 Tournament not only left the team tired, but also demoralized.

“We left a lot in LA,” the senior said. “I know I’m still hurting. I know everybody else is hurting too. It’s hard to go down like this.”

Arizona trailed for nearly the entire game, with small leads disbursed throughout. The Wildcats’ biggest lead was just two points while Bucknell had leads as big as 13 points.

The Bison shot a higher percentage in every statistical category. They outrebounded the Wildcats 36-28, and got a better showing from their bench, 14 points. Arizona in turn, got help from freshman Angelo Chol, the only bench player to score for the Wildcats.

Chol’s five points and five rebounds helped Arizona keep the game close, but his contribution made up for disappointing performances from Fogg, freshman Nick Johnson and senior Brendon Lavender. The combination of Johnson, Lavender and Fogg only combined for 12 points. Johnson seven points came mostly through free throws.

Fogg only had five points on 2-of-5 shooting. The senior didn’t take his first shot of the game until the 5:22 mark of the first half. Lavender finished the game with no points on 0-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc.

The Bison had big performances from their key players. Center Mike Mascala fouled out of the game, but not before putting up 20 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore Cameron Ayers and junior Joe Willman contributed with double-digit performances, with 12 points and 10 points respectably.

The Wildcats’ performance was indicative of their mindset.

“We don’t really know the history of the NIT. We really wanted to make the tournament,” senior Jesse Perry said. “That kind of we were kind of still down. We weren’t really as riled up as awe should have been. Bucknell just came out and they beat us.”

The Wildcats will lose Perry, Fogg, Lavender, Alex Jacobson and Dondre Wise to graduation. Miller said that while the team is optimistic for next season, Arizona isn’t ready to move on quiet yet.

“We have a young group coming in to join some really experienced returners. We have some things that we have to address this spring, both with our returning guys and to add to that group of four,” Miller said. “But we’re not there yet.”

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