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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Wildcats make a statement

That dunk by Derrick Williams would make Blake Griffin’s jaw drop.

That win against UCLA would make Lute Olson fist pump.

Heck, last night’s 85-74 win in McKale Center might even have ESPN executives thinking twice about airing “”Winter X-Games: Snowmobiling and Snowboarding”” on ESPN and leaving Pacific 10 Conference hoops to ESPN2.

Maybe. Maybe not. First-half turnovers gave the sleepy-eyed East Coast viewers a sloppy first impression of Arizona basketball in its Pac-10 debut on ESPN this season.

But to us, that’s just this season’s brand of Pac-10 basketball, and who wouldn’t take a second-place team heading into February?

The 14,528 fans in McKale Center rocked for most of the night, eating up UCLA’s soft defense and responding to the swagger that Williams brought as he — more importantly — approaches 2,500 followers on Twitter.

Before the game, Williams asked his followers to reach the social media plateau in time for tipoff.

Maybe the viewers of tonight’s SportsCenter Top 10 can help him out.

His four powerful dunks lit up Twitter. First, a rubberband alley-oop jam followed by a salute to the ZonaZoo.

Second, a sledgehammer to the rim.

Third, a 360 pivot then a two-handed jam. (Imagine that on ESPN3D?)

Fourth, another sledgehammer.

Each time, it threw McKale into a frenzy.

“”It’s really hard,”” said UCLA’s big man Joshua Smith, forced to guard Williams some of the night. “”With me, I’m basically guarding a three man in the (NBA). With me being a true center and him playing a lot of positions, I just had to do what I had to do.””

A reporter asked Smith if it’s an unwinnable matchup covering Williams.

“”No, it’s not an unwinnable matchup,”” Smith said, as if he would say otherwise. “”It’s not impossible.””

UCLA coach Ben Howland added: “”He’s definitely one of the top two or three players in the league.””

Arizona needed both of its momentum-shifting scoring spurts to fend off UCLA. To begin the second half, the Wildcats put up five points in about 30 seconds, forcing Howland to call a timeout on a deficit that jumped to 10.

Then UA guard Kyle Fogg received an elbow to the head that gave him four free throws from the line — all of which he made.

Those were four of Fogg’s 12 made free throws from the line — a place he visited so much that one time the ZonaZoo sang in unison “”Happy Birthday”” to No. 21 turning 21.

“”It definitely felt like a big game, being on ESPN, going for second place in the Pac-10,”” Fogg said. “”We knew what we had to do, and we came out and executed really well.””

The ZonaZoo showed up well on national television, especially with the addition of enormous cut-out posters of Arizona’s starters, reserves and even Sean Miller.

Distracting? Not really. Entertaining? Certainly, especially since Jesse Perry’s cut-out included his dreadlocks.

The four-foot cut-outs stretched across the entire Zoo and featured almost the entire bench.

After a win on national television with new uniforms, Miller must make sure his players’ heads don’t swell up that big in real life.

— Bryan Roy is an interdisciplinary studies senior. He can be reached at sports. arizona.edu

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