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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Notebook: Arizona snags L.A. sweep, sets sky as the limit

Kadeem+Allen+%285%29+shoots+during+the+UA-UCLA+game+in+Pauley+Pavilion%2C+Jan.+20.
Simon Asher
Kadeem Allen (5) shoots during the UA-UCLA game in Pauley Pavilion, Jan. 20.

Heading into their two-game Los Angeles road trip, the Wildcats were riding a 10-game winning streak and were undefeated in conference play.

Something wasn’t quite right, though. The team’s buzz revolved more around what was happening off the floor, rather than on it.

The vibe surrounding the team was just different than it was for the 2014 and 2015 Wildcat teams. In those years, Arizona was consistently ranked in the top 10 and was No. 1 for eight straight weeks in 2014. But this year’s squad was missing their best player and had no signature wins.

Well, sometimes life comes at you fast.

The Wildcats played their best game of the season against the UCLA Bruins on Saturday because sophomore Allozno Trier was back in the lineup. He scored 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out four assists in his first conference game in a little over 10 months.

The Bruins student section did everything they could to get into Trier’s head, and he responded. After a slow start in the first half, he made it clear he was back going coast-to-coast for a buzzer-beating layup to end the half.

(Courtesy CBS)

His return to the lineup was seamless and he showed almost no signs of rust. Besides the addition of his scoring ability, Trier allows head coach Sean Miller to have a full set of colors on his palette, and he was already painting a masterpiece before Trier’s return.

The sweep began with a 73-66 victory over the USC Trojans on Thursday night. The Wildcats, in typical fashion, led by as many as 23 points in the game but allowed the Trojans to come back and cut the deficit to as little as three points with a minute left. Arizona has had a penchant for allowing teams to come back all season long but it has yet to fully bite them. Against USC, they needed a little bit of luck from freshman Lauri Markkanen to pull out the victory.

(Courtesy Pac-12)

“I didn’t call bank, but we needed a little bit of luck,” Markkanen said.

If only the Finnish star knew the luck he and the Wildcats were about to run in to.

When the news broke on Friday that Trier was going to play, the entire outlook for Arizona’s season changed. Their handling of the Bruins will have the whole nation on watch, and the Wildcats will become a sexy pick to make a Final Four run.

With Trier back, every aspect of the team has changed. His ferocious slam dunk with just over seven minutes to play marked the start of a new beginning for the Wildcats.

(Courtesy CBS)

The sweep in L.A. completed a four-game road sweep of the California schools, something the Wildcats had not done since the 2003 season. That year the Wildcats made a run to the Elite Eight where they lost a 78-75 nail-biter to the Kansas Jayhawks, much like the 2014 and 2015 Wildcat teams who lost to the Wisconsin Badgers in the Elite Eight.

Miller was excited after the UCLA game. After weeks of having no comment on Trier and having to deal with injuries, Miller wore his excitement on his sleeve and said that having Trier back “means the world.”

He said UCLA has the best offense he’s ever seen and remarked that he truly believes they can win it all.

When asked if he thought Arizona could win it all, Miller smiled from ear to ear and cheekily said “we’ll see.”

This year’s team has the ability to take the next step. The Final Four is the team’s aspiration, and after the weekend it will be Tucson’s expectation.


Follow Christopher Deak on Twitter 


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