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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona Wildcats take on Colorado Buffaloes in Pac-12 Conference Tournament Championship

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Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat

LOS ANGELES — No one summed up the Arizona men’s basketball team’s win over Oregon State and the possibility of dancing in March better than guard Kyle Fogg.

“Just kind of stay levelheaded and know that we came here to get three, and we’ve only gotten two, so there’s work to do,” the senior said.

The fourth-seeded Wildcats (23-10) have moved past UCLA and Oregon State in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament, but the sixth-seeded Colorado Buffaloes (22-11) stand in Arizona’s way of an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Although they ended up in the finals together, the Wildcats and the Buffaloes have had opposite roads to get through the tournament bracket.

The Wildcats have been the higher seed in each of their two games and earned a first-round bye. The Buffaloes ended up in the championship by defeating Utah on Wednesday and then upsetting third-ranked Oregon in the quarterfinals and second-seeded California in the semifinals. But Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said he isn’t worried about fatigue.

“It’s a quick turnaround, but I know our guys are ready to go,” Boyle said. “We’re going to be playing with a lot of emotion … I’m sure (the Wildcats) are, too. A lot’s at stake.”

The UA is no stranger to conference tournament championships. This marks the seventh time Arizona has been in final game of the tournament. Arizona has posted a 4-2 record in those games. For the Wildcats, nothing would be sweeter than to reverse the outcome of last year’s championship game outcome.

“Last year we lost a heartbreaker in the finals and we’re going to be ready for this tough game tomorrow,” Fogg said. “It’s going to be a tough battle. It’s going to be a great game to watch. Hopefully we can come on the winning side.”

The Buffaloes are a little greener when it comes to conference tournaments — the last time Colorado played for a conference tournament title was in 1990 when it was part of the Big Eight Conference.

“We’ve never been in a position like this,” said Carlon Brown, CU’s leading scorer. “Now it’s all about one game, one time (Saturday) and we’re going to come out and give it everything we have.”

For the different ways Colorado and Arizona ended up in the tournament championships, both teams are very similar. The Buffaloes, like Arizona, are relying heavily on three veterans — seniors Brown, Austin Dufault and Nate Tomlinson. The Wildcats counter with the trio of Fogg, senior Jesse Perry and junior Solomon Hill. All six players finished in double figures for their respective teams on Friday.

Both Arizona and Colorado rely on stingy defensive efforts. The Buffaloes and the Wildcats rank first and second, respectively, in defensive field goal percentage. The two teams are separated by just one tenth of a percentage, 40.7 to 40.8.

UA and Colorado split the regular season series, with the Buffaloes hanging on to a 64-63 win in Boulder on Jan. 21, and Arizona winning 71-57on Feb 9 in Tucson.

Fogg said the Wildcats wouldn’t need much motivation to get up for the chance to secure a NCAA bid.

“Honestly, I think that there doesn’t need to be a huge pregame speech. There doesn’t need to be anything to fire each other up because this is the championship game,” Fogg said. “This is why we all come to Arizona to play basketball to play in these big time games.”

Perry echoed Fogg’s sentiment.

“Got to finish,” the senior said. “It’s the championship game and that’s what it’s all about. It’s bigger than any other game.

“We want to go to the NCAA tournament and if we win this next game, there’s no question about nobody saying anything about they might get in,” Perry continued. “We’re in.”

Students’ loyalty pays off

Colorado has by far had the most student support at the Pac-12 tournament, and it’s making an impact.

“It feels great to have the support,” Colorado forward Andre Robeson said. “It just really helped us out a lot on the court, giving us the energy and enthusiasm to go out there and play that much harder. We just do it for them.”

In addition to the Buff Band, about 50 of the most loyal members of Buff Nation traveled with the team to Los Angeles courtesy the Colorado Athletic Department.

And they’re making noise. Between belting Colorado’s fight song and original chants like “We don’t need no altitude,” the Buffaloes faithful are the loudest, and most persistent, cheering section in Staples Center.

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