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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Hard fight by UA men’s hoops yields tough result


    After any loss in McKale Center, the UA men’s basketball locker room is expectedly quiet. Only the sound of players rustling through their wooden lockers and an occasional cough cuts through the silence until reporters hesitantly ask questions they already know the answers to.

    But after Stanford edged the Wildcats by a point Saturday afternoon, the atmosphere was even more hushed in the locker room because of the given circumstances to the loss – the team’s third in the last four games.

    Not only did the Wildcats have the lead until two free throws by Robin Lopez with 18.9 seconds left gave the Cardinal the lead for good, but they had it after being down by eight with less than four minutes to go. They had it with 38 personal fouls whistled in the game – many of them disputable. They had it against the No. 7 team in the nation.

    Then it was gone.

    “”We felt like we deserved to win,”” said UA guard Jawann McClellan, sitting in front of his locker with his head down. “”It wasn’t like the ASU game (a 59-54 loss Feb. 10) where we didn’t fight. We fought – dove on loose balls.

    “”That’s the main thing,”” McClellan added. “”I can see if we didn’t play hard and we lost. But we gave it everything we had.””

    Just over 10 minutes into the game, UA guard Jerryd Bayless attempted a jumpshot near the foul line only to be blocked by 6-foot-5 forward Fred Washington. But the rejection only stoked the fire inside Bayless, as he got the ball back and hit a 3-pointer at the top of the key with the shot clock at .7 seconds to tie the game at 16. It was just three of his 103 points over the last three games.

    “”The effort was there,”” Bayless said. “”We fought the whole game. Everybody saw that. (Forward) Chase (Budinger) struggled a little in the first half and came out in the second half him. Jawann hit that big shot in the corner (to tie the game at 62 with 2:41 left). (Forward) Fendi (Onobun) and (center) Kirk (Walters) gave us some big minutes off the bench as the big men. We definitely fought.””

    That UA forward Bret Brielmaier was watching the game from the bench in a yellow shirt and a tie and guard Nic Wise did the same sporting a white collared shirt under a gray sweater only hurt the Wildcats’ case.

    The two key contributors, both of whom have combined for 15 starts this season, were sidelined with lingering injuries and could only watch as their team fought only to come up short in the final seconds.

    “”I told our guys that I was extremely proud of their effort in every way,”” said UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill. “”And if we play like that, although we’re a little short-handed, we’ll have a chance to win some games and have a chance to keep playing at the end of the year. That’s what our goal is.””

    But if they want to reach that goal, the Wildcats have to step up their game over the next month. The team only has six regular season games remaining, with a road trip to the Washington schools later this week, then a homestand against USC and No. 6 UCLA, followed by a pair of away games in Oregon. Arizona, a 16-win squad, knows the road ahead could be a bumpy one.

    “”Everybody’s good,”” O’Neill said of the Pacific 10 Conference. “”We’re 6-6. We need to win two or three games down the stretch here and see what happens in the Pac-10 Tournament and just take it a game at a time like we’ve been doing.

    “”That’s all we can do.””

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