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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Bruin beat down

    UA guard Nic Wise drives to the hoop during an 84-72 Arizona win against No. 11 UCLA on Saturday in McKale Center. Wise scored a game-high 26 points to lead the Wildcats to their seventh-straight win and first against the Bruins in their last nine tries.
    UA guard Nic Wise drives to the hoop during an 84-72 Arizona win against No. 11 UCLA on Saturday in McKale Center. Wise scored a game-high 26 points to lead the Wildcats to their seventh-straight win and first against the Bruins in their last nine tries.

    McKale Center oozed with old-school tradition Saturday morning.

    Two teams, traditionally consistent in their postseason ways, went head-to-head. The No. 11 UCLA men’s basketball team brought with it a three-year streak of Final Four appearances and an eight-game streak of complete domination over Arizona.

    Hall-of-Fame coach Lute Olson – the man who took the Wildcats to 24 straight NCAA Tournaments -ÿwas in the stands and two of the Wildcats’ 10 alumni currently in the NBA – Jerryd Bayless and Jason Terry – sat courtside.

    Then tradition was tweaked.

    Arizona upset the Bruins (19-6, 8-4 Pacific 10 Conference) 84-72, putting the once-struggling Wildcats (18-8, 8-5 Pac-10) two games behind first-place Washington in conference play and just a half-game below UCLA, which suffered its first two-game skid of the season after losing to ASU on Thursday.

    For the 14,611 in attendance, the win over the Bruins was a cure – at least temporarily – to all ailments surrounding the program.

    “”I can sense the excitement,”” said UA interim head coach Russ Pennell. “”I’ve had a lot of people tell me they’re having fun watching the guys. And I’m going to tell you honestly, that’s what I envisioned.””

    After starting the conference season 2-5, the Wildcats struggled slightly with attendance in McKale, and struggled even more with gaining national respect. The players and coaches knew it, too.

    “”I wasn’t mad at anyone personally, I just thought my team was being a little bit disrespected,”” Pennell said. “”And then people just kind of caught on.””

    That’s what winning will do.

    Behind Nic Wise’s game-high 26 points on 9-for-13 shooting, Jordan Hill’s 22 points and 13 rebounds and Chase Budinger’s 17 points, Arizona’s junior class got its first win over the Bruins, avoiding an ugly performance like the Wildcats’ 23-point loss in Los Angeles last month.

    From halftime, when the Wildcats led 49-31, to 9:28 left in the game, when Arizona went up by 25 with a jumper by Hill, the UA’s hustle gave the program a traditional feel.

    Zane Johnson ran four rows up a stairwell to retrieve a loose ball and Hill, who is 6-foot-10, dove on the floor doing the same thing.

    This was a game they were determined to win.

    “”We came out with a real purpose, on point from the time the ball was tipped off,”” Pennell said. “”I was proud of the effort and the mindset that we had, especially how we played them the first time.””

    Even when the Bruins were able to cut their deficit to 9 with 1:33 left in the game, there was a sense that the Wildcats wouldn’t surrender. This was not a point where Arizona wanted to end its impressive streak -ÿone that has received national attention.

    The Wildcats have been on America’s watch since Olson retired in late October, but for the first time all season, they’ve been put in a positive light.

    “”I think we’ve found ourselves as a team, Budinger said. “”It took us a while to get to this point but it’s really paying off.””

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