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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

‘Cats mediocre once again

His homemade sign simply said: “”13-13. March Sadness.””

With a grin the size of Interstate 10, the ASU fan waved it around, sticking it to the masses heading for the exits as the final seconds ticked off Arizona’s 73-69 home loss to the Sun Devils.

The Wildcats returned to a .500 record and the mediocrity many Wildcat fans never thought they’d see again during the Sean Miller era.

Surrounded by an electric atmosphere of 14,631 paying customers, nobody could count the days until the NCAA Tournament faster than the fans prepped for Sunday’s showdown.

Less than 20 days until the NCAA Tournament, and now there isn’t enough time to muster a sufficient résumé in the win column for an at-large berth.

It’s another loss and another inch lower in the Pacific 10 Conference standings, which are suddenly beginning to take a structured balance with Arizona (13-13, 7-7 Pac-10) in the lower half.

“”Our team has to get better,”” Miller said. “”We’re mediocre. I don’t want it to be OK to lose.””

The locker room was somber, according to the lone Wildcat to speak to the media. Derrick Williams, who destroyed the Sun Devils last month, said it was quiet.

Williams finished with 15 points and five rebounds but struggled to touch the ball in ASU’s matchup zone defense designed to collapse on him.

“”Real quiet. You don’t want to lose to a rival school,”” Williams said. “”Nobody really said anything. You just come back to practice and work a little harder.””

Of everyone, ASU’s Ty Abbott wanted to show up his rival school the most after becoming the centerpiece of this season’s unofficial slogan: No Easy Buckets.

The UA’s Kevin Parrom took Abbott down in Tempe and later wrote, “”I’m from the Bronx … No Easy Buckets!”” on his Twitter page.

Students wore T-shirts representing Parrom’s hard-nosed mentality.

At the end of the day, Abbott was the one with buckets — many of them.

He finished with 28 points.

“”There was nothing easy about this game,”” said ASU head coach Herb Sendek, a statement fitting to UA’s slogan.

Abbott’s performance reflected a few Arizona mental lapses.

It came down to inconsistent officiating and a failure to adjust aggressiveness to the way the referees were making calls.

It came down to too many fundamental turnovers, like stepping on the baseline after snagging a steal late in the game.

It came down to poor communication on transition defense, leaving wide-open 3-point shots uncontested because nobody picked up the ball.

“”Those are the possessions you really wish you could have back,”” Miller said. “”And you can’t.””

Williams called the game “”frustrating”” at least a dozen times.

“”That’s just the case because we’re a young team making mistakes just like that,”” Williams said.

The Wildcats get a day off today, but return Tuesday for their 78th practice of the season. Four games left on the docket, all of which are no easy task.

If the Wildcats can win their first game of the Pac-10 Tournament, that would mean Sunday’s ASU game began a stretch of seven remaining games — a record the NCAA Selection Committee puts stock into when assessing at-large bids.

Very slim odds, but crazier situations have occurred in the field of 65.

Otherwise, it’s Pac-10 Tourney or bust for NCAA Tournament hopes.

And Arizona will be left with March Sadness.

—Bryan Roy is an interdisciplinary studies junior. He can be reached

at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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