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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 10 Wildcats now the target

Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats hosted the Washington Huskies in a battle of Pacific 10 Conference basketball leaders Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011, in McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. A defensive stop highlighted by a Derrick Williams block with 1.8 seconds remaining sealed the 87-86 Arizona win.

When Arizona men’s basketball appeared in the national top 10 on Monday, forward Jesse Perry’s phone started blowing up.

“”I got a lot of phone calls,”” Perry said. “”I got calls from cousins, my mother, everybody is really excited about what we’re doing, and they want us to keeping winning.””

The Wildcats are riding an eight-game win streak, and with that, have taken a new role.

“”Now we’re considered as a target,”” Perry said. “”I don’t think nobody expected Arizona to do the things it did this year, coming off the season they had last year.

“”I think we’re more of a target now, and guys are looking forward to playing and beating us.””

As the Wildcats have surprised most in the college basketball world and some national media will debate whether Arizona deserves to be ranked this high, Perry said he believes it’s a sign of the team’s effort.

“”I wouldn’t really say surprised, but I can say I’m excited,”” he said. “”Anything is really possible with the hard work we put in over the summertime, I feel we deserve where we are right now.””

Though Perry isn’t surprised by his team’s success, he’s getting more than he bargained for when he first arrived at Arizona.

“”Coming from junior college, I never really expected to be in this position,”” Perry said. “”In the top-10, starting, playing pretty good and playing with a bunch of good guys on our team, I never really thought of it like that.””

Now that the Wildcats move amongst the elite teams in college basketball, it comes with added pressure. Though, according to head coach Sean Miller, his team is anxious for the next game.

“”Nobody is more excited about playing right now than we are,”” Miller said. “”We’re fortunate to have a lot at stake with four games remaining.””

Arizona is a weekend sweep away from its first Pacific 10 Conference championship since 2005. The challenge for the Wildcats now will be to not let the attention distract them from the task at hand.

“”We can’t control the ranking or the standings outside of our next game,”” Miller said of the pressure to continue winning. “”What keeps our team focused is we’re playing for a Pac-10 championship.””

“”We can’t deviate from what’s gotten us to this point.””

Miller, having won three Atlantic 10 Conference championships at Xavier, knows what it takes to win a conference championship but believes winning one at Arizona will be different.

“”The one thing about when I became the head coach at Xavier is we had a number of guys that played on an elite eight team and won a conference when they were younger,”” Miller said. “”In our locker room, in terms of winning a Pac-10 title, we don’t have anybody. Part of these next four games is keeping our team focused.””

Arizona appears to be in the perfect position to win the Pac-10, but, according to Miller, it’s not that simple.

“”It’s never quite as easy as you think it is,”” he said. “”The reason why you feel good about being able to accomplish it is how hard it is. These next two weeks will be as hard as any.””

Williams returns to practice

Forward Derrick Williams returned fully to practice after missing the last few to protect his injured hand. Williams was told by doctors he may be able to play with a smaller wrap on his hand this weekend in Southern California.

“”I think he’s feeling better now than he has,”” Miller said. “”Hopefully we can continue to get clearance, and he’s playing with it wrapped but less.””

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