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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Commentary: Turning back the clock

First place runs through McKale Center on Sunday.

It’s not the first time. Nor will it be the last.

Need one indication Sean Miller’s system is clicking? Try the over-capacity 14,563 in attendance last night for a vintage Arizona-Stanford grinder.

The same series that showcased incredible recent duels between Jerryd Bayless and Anthony Goods, and Jordan Hill and Brook Lopez didn’t disappoint last night — even considering this season’s lackluster Pacific 10 star power.

Arizona’s Derrick Williams and Stanford’s Landry Fields each carried the torch for their respective teams and accounted for 54 combined points, 110 percent effort and 140-decibel crowd surges.

“”I thought it was the best crowd I’ve coached in front of at McKale,”” UA coach Sean Miller said. “”The students were energized and I thought our crowd was a big reason we won the game.””

Tucson scribes reference “”vintage McKale Center atmospheres”” in contests like Thursday night’s 76-68 win against the Cardinal — but did those atmospheres ever really leave?

Even under the interim head coaches, these marquee conference games against Bay Area teams always drew sellouts and high energy to match the high level of competition.

Now with the stability of Sean Miller and his foundation of freshmen, nobody worries about off-court outliers — just first place.

Tipoff against California is Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

“”We’re aware of it, but we just have to stay true to what has helped our team,”” Miller said. “”Everyone you could tell is trying to do what we’re asking. I’m glad it led to a victory. It’s exciting to be able to play (for first place). I’d rather be saying that than the alternative.””

Added UA point guard Nic Wise: “”We feed off their energy. Even though we play better on the road than in the past, the crowd just gives us that extra strength and energy to fight even though we’re down.””

Stanford’s Jeremy Green walked off the court with his hands over his face in a show of anguish as the crowd held their hands in the air.

The Wildcats — now riding a season-high three-game winning streak — survived through an abysmal 21-for-64 from the floor (32.8 percent) and the Cardinal’s conference-leading tandem of Green and Fields.

“”We held (Green and Fields) to 56 (points),”” Miller said, prompting a laugh for using the word “”held.””

Green and Fields torched the Wildcats from all over the court with hands in their faces and double-downs on defense.

Expect a similar single-man performance on Sunday. California’s senior guard Jerome Randle, regarded as one of the best shooters in the nation, has a similarly unlimited range on the floor.

Randle hit 39 points earlier this season against Washington State and averages almost 19 per game.

Wise and Randle are friends — except when the shot clock runs.

Especially with first place on the line.

“”We’re cool, but it’s just a competitive nature,”” Wise said. “”When you’re on the court, you just forget about that and want to win.””

So where does Saturday’s win rank in Wise’s career against the Cardinal?

“”It’s up there,”” Wise said. “”Considering what the team we have the young team. This game was to push us ahead of them in second in the Pac. We have a big game coming up to decide if we’re in first place or not.

“”We’re over the jump halfway through the season already.””

Feels like things are just getting started.

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

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