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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA seeking revenge on neutral court

    UA guard Nic Wise runs up court during a 70-68 ASU win on Feb. 22 in Tempe. The Wildcats take on the Sun Devils for the third time this season today at noon in the second round of the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament in the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
    UA guard Nic Wise runs up court during a 70-68 ASU win on Feb. 22 in Tempe. The Wildcats take on the Sun Devils for the third time this season today at noon in the second round of the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament in the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

    No. 4 seed ASU vs. No. 5 seed Arizona

    Playing away from the friendly confines of McKale Center never looked so good.

    The No. 5 seed Arizona men’s basketball team heads into today’s 12 p.m. Pacific 10 Conference Tournament matchup with No. 4 seed ASU in The Staples Center with a 3-0 record on neutral sites this season.

    That certainly beats the Wildcats’ 2-9 away record, which marks the team’s most away losses since Lute Olson’s first season with Arizona in 1983-84, when that team lost the same number.

    But if you ask members of the Arizona program if carrying a perfect neutral-site record into Los Angeles will help them, you’ll get mixed answers.

    “”The goals are 10 feet, the court is 94 feet (long) and 50 feet wide,”” said UA interim head coach Russ Pennell. “”Besides playing in an NBA arena that is maybe more spacious, I think it still comes down to, can we guard James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph? And can they guard our Big Three?””

    Wildcat big man Jordan Hill said playing in Staples will be a favorable situation for Arizona, but it won’t guarantee a UA victory right away.

    “”(Neutral court is) a pretty good advantage,”” Hill said. “”But it’s going to be a tough game either way; whether we’re playing on a neutral court, home court or their court.””

    One thing is certain: Arizona is out for redemption against the Sun Devil, winners of four straight games against the Wildcats.

    “”We’re looking at revenge,”” said UA guard Nic Wise. “”We let two slip away down the stretch (this season). We feel that we are a better team, we just have to pull it out in the end.

    “”You don’t want to lose to one team three times in a row,”” Wise added. “”We’re going to put all our chips into this game on Thursday.””

    ASU brings a 4-1 neutral-game record into Staples Center, but has to battle with history. The Sun Devils are 0-6 in the Pac-10 Tournament since its reinstatement in 2002.

    In that streak, ASU was mauled by Arizona, 73-56, in the tournament’s 2002 quarterfinals.

    “”I think it’s going to be a good tournament,”” Wise said. “”Pretty much every team in this league has the talent and potential to beat anybody. It’s going to be a battle throughout the whole tournament. It gives teams something to look forward to, even after the whole Pac-10 regular season.””

    Pennell didn’t look at the game as any kind of cosmic circumstance, given the fact that he is a former ASU coach, and Arizona must go through its long-time rival to make a statement to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.

    To Pennell, it’s just the next game on the schedule.

    “”I think the big thing for us is that this is the game that -ÿhowever you want to say it, fate, whatever – is in front of us,”” Pennell said. “”It’s a game that we need to win, and I’m sure they feel they need to win.

    “”Really, what we’re doing right now, is we’ve got one-game seasons,”” Pennell said. “”You win, you keep going. And to me, that’s the exciting part of March Madness.””

    It does seem karmic, however, that the Wildcats are fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives. Last year ASU was kept out of the Big Dance, despite beating Arizona twice.

    “”They feel that they got screwed out of the tournament last year beating us twice, so we’re going to have to come out and battle,”” Wise said. “”They’re not going to want us to win and get into the tournament this year, like they didn’t last year.””

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