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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Tempo, tempo”

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Arizona head coach Sean Miller said he thought McKale Center would blow its top before the game even started.

Crediting the crowd atmosphere, Miller’s team began Saturday’s win over the Washington Huskies with the energy and swagger expected by the 14,619 in attendance. And with a 12-point lead soon after the halftime break, it appeared the Wildcats might put the dagger into the Huskies for good.

Unfortunately, Arizona wasn’t able to close the door.

The Wildcats, caught up in the emotions of redemption, tried to play at the Huskies’ fast-paced tempo. A 12-turnover second half gave life to UW and made for a down-to-the-wire affair.

But this time around, the Wildcats won because they realized their folly.

“”When we went on that first run, we were just playing,”” said forward Solomon Hill. “”Second half, we tried to get out and run, but it didn’t work. Once (point guard Momo Jones) started slowing it down, we started running some plays. It started working in our favor.””

With its perimeter defensive pressure, Washington stole the ball from Arizona seven times in the second half, providing for lay-ups, open 3-pointers and at the very least, defensive mismatches. It caused the Wildcats to push the tempo themselves, leading to more forced play and missed shots that allowed the Huskies to take a four-point lead with eight minutes to go.

Calming themselves down, the Wildcats regained their brand of basketball.

“”(We were) starting to get D-Will (forward Derrick Williams) involved in the post, running plays to get guys open,”” Hill said. “”Once we started forcing our pace, we were able to get things going.””

On the defensive end, Miller played chess with Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar. Both because of strategic changes and the pace of the game wearing on his players, Miller used all of his timeouts before the pivotal final minute.

“”I ran out of timeouts because I just almost sensed that our team needed a couple breaks,”” Miller said. “”We had a lot of things we were trying to fix on offense and defense. They really force you to do that.””

One of those fixes came against UW ball screens. Instead of picking and rolling, Washington big men like forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning began slipping screens and the Arizona defense failed to collapse in time, while also leaving outside shooters wide open.

“”It was very hard,”” Miller said. “”You know you have a guy with the ball who’s an unbelievable passer, then you have a guy running to the rim who’s as good as it gets catching and finishing. And then on the wings you have guys who really can shoot.

“”It’s like I said up in Seattle, it’s not easy answers.””

But Arizona’s adjustments worked well enough once the players regained their composure. The emotion didn’t get the best of them down the stretch, a lesson learned from the Wildcats’ last loss.

“”Everybody knows how we felt in the locker room after the game up there,”” Hill said, referring to Arizona’s loss in Seattle, Wash. “”It just came out on the court. It got the best of us, and we just had to keep our composure.””

 

Positive light

Televised nationally on ESPN, Saturday’s contest perhaps gave the nation’s most looked-down-upon conference an improved image.

“”If anyone doubted a couple teams in our Pac-10 Conference … you saw just a great, great college basketball game,”” Miller said.

But this wasn’t the first noteworthy conference game that Arizona has played this season, according to Miller.

“”I thought our game against Cal was about as good as it gets,”” Miller said.

“”I’m happy for our conference,”” Miller added. “”The quality of basketball that everyone just watched … with this type of game, certainly will come with a lot of respect.””

Miller said he believes the exposure was positive for two reasons: firstly, because of the high-scoring nature of both Washington and Arizona — that always helps with recruiting; and secondly, because of the whiteout. The head coach hinted that he might implement another whiteout or even a red-out for one of the Wildcats’ two remaining home games.

“”I’ve never seen a whiteout where everyone wears white,”” Miller joked. “”Usually, some people don’t care.””

Williams Pac-10 Player of the Week again

The Arizona men’s basketball team jumped to the No. 10 spots in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll on Monday.

It was the first time the Wildcats have been ranked in the Top 10 since Jan. 8, 2007. The Wildcats also made headway in the RPI rankings, moving from No. 17 to No. 15.

The RPI rankings will become a factor on Selection Sunday, when coaches will see two of Arizona’s losses came versus No. 3 Kansas and No. 7 BYU, which have higher RPI rankings of No. 1 and No. 3, respectively.

Meanwhile, forward Derrick Williams was named the Pacific 10 Conference Player of the Week for the third time this season.

The sophomore averaged 26 points and 9.5 rebounds to go along with two assists in the wins against the Washington schools.

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