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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Ring in the new year

Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat boys; basketball;

The Arizona Wildcats are one of the lucky teams when it comes to the start of Pac-12 Conference play.

For starters, the Wildcats only have to play one game this weekend instead of the normal two that conference play entails. Arizona has also had nine days off since its last game.

“We are trying to take advantage of it and, so far I think, our guys have,” head coach Sean Miller said of the break.

The added rest is something that should benefit the Wildcats today as they open conference play against rival ASU at 3:30 p.m. in sold-out McKale Center.

The Wildcats won their last two games against Oakland University and Bryant University thanks in part to a faster pace that allowed them to find success in transition and off fast breaks. Today’s game will test the Wildcats’ ability to continue that pace as the Sun Devils bring a zone defense that Miller said would force Arizona to play with “purpose and patience.”

“We have to move the ball and while you move it, you can’t turn it over,” Miller said. “You have to make good decisions.”

While ASU’s record stands at 4-8, the Sun Devils have had more of a problem with closing out games than anything else. ASU’s last four contests have been decided by three points or less.

In contrast, the Wildcats have found breathing room toward the ends of their last few games, epitomized by the 40-point win over Bryant.

Junior Solomon Hill, who is leading Arizona with 12 points per game average, said ASU’s scores have been deceiving and the fact that the Sun Devils have lost three straight games make them dangerous.

“They have nothing to lose, so you want to get that game under your belt,” Hill said. “You’re talking about a team that can go out there and fight because they’re tired of losing.

“You never know when they can come out and change,” Hill continued. “Who knows what’s going through their mind.”

Miller said the rivalry is obviously important to the team, but he didn’t want the players to make the game bigger than it needs to be.

“I think if both teams are in the same conference there’s just so much more at stake,” Miller said. “It’s a conference game and any time you play a conference home game, you only get nine of them and you want to be your very best at home.”

Hill agreed, saying the conference record was what really was at stake. There was also a point of pride for Arizona’s seniors and alumni.

“We’ve lost to ASU before I came here,” Hill said. “You just want to give them that same feeling. (Kyle) Fogg, he has a losing record (against ASU). You can’t let Fogg go out like that.”

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