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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Commentary: Wildcats, Wise just aren’t the same”

    BERKELEY, Calif. — “”Who are these guys?””

    I wrote that in the first half when Arizona trailed 41-17 knowing it would work regardless of the outcome. Never had that question felt more appropriate, not through the ups and downs — and far downs — this season has taken.

    Throughout the game, the entire bench, from team managers to Team Miller, shot glossy, blank stares into an uncharted dimension.

    That dimension probably involves weightlifting while CBS airs the NCAA Tournament.

    Heads in towels and hands over heads — this wasn’t what they imagined 26 days ago.

    This wasn’t even the same team which, 26 days ago, won 76-72 against thes Golden Bears to put Arizona atop the Pac-10 standings.

    Are they?

    “”We’re not,”” said UA head coach Sean Miller.

    So this isn’t the team that shook an over-capacity McKale Center into a first-place frenzy, giving Nic Wise his most successful late-season push in all four years?

    “”No. Our team is not the same. We need to figure it out,”” said UA forward Derrick Williams. “”It’s a little frustrating after we started the Pac-10 6-3.

    “”This is a team we were tied for first with. To come out like this and lose by 20-plus, it’s frustrating.””

    The taste of success makes Thursday night’s 95-71 loss that much more bitter, not to mention it being broadcast in ESPN’s primetime slot.

    The sprint to the top burned out the Wildcats too early. It was an 18-game marathon, and they’re now on empty.

    “”There’s no easy solution to our situation right now as much as just continuing to work,”” Miller admitted at 8:26 PST in a hallway in Haas Pavilion. “”This is a time that you’re able to learn a lot about your future and individual players. It sticks out. “”

    The game started and ended with senior Jerome Randle’s can’t-miss swagger beyond the arc — some of his shots should’ve counted as

    four points.

    Poised and confident, Randle overmatched Arizona’s now-aging point guard Nic Wise, once considered the most dangerous in the conference.Randle finished with 24 points. Wise had seven.

    “”I look at Jerome Randle as one of the best point guards in college basketball,”” Miller said.

    Nobody can dispute the importance of Wise, who means as much to Arizona as anybody does to any team in any league — this team would be 4-23 without him.

    But counting on the senior too much down the stretch has caught up. The once-fearless Wise, who drove through lanes and knocked down 3s, now drives his team

    on empty.

    “”It’s worn on him,”” Miller said. “”I almost feel like we’ve asked him to do so much from start to finish, and when I watch him out there, he doesn’t quite have it.

    “”Part of what you’re seeing is a guard asked to do everything for 25 (games) and five months,”” Miller added.

    Naturally, Wise remains poised as a senior leader, not letting his emotions get into post-game interviews like the freshmen do. This is a player who took a team to the Sweet 16 with an interim head coach.

    “”The season’s not over. We have a lot of basketball left,”” Wise said. “”It’s about guys sticking with it and not giving up.

    “”We’ve been there before. It’s just something we have to get through.””

    You can measure Wise’s imprint on this team through the following post-game bit: While both Williams and Miller said this “”is not the same team”” as before, Wise and his prodigy, freshman Momo Jones, didn’t buy into it.

    “”We (are) the same team, we just gotta continue to believe in each other,”” Jones said. “”At the same time, we have to go back to the drawing board and bring everything back together and hopefully turn this thing around.””

    That’s what you want out of a point guard, past and present.

    — Bryan Roy is an interdisciplinary studies junior.

    He can be reached

    at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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