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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Game notes: Arizona was just ‘another game’ for USC coach Kevin O’Neill

Even though he served as an assistant coach at Arizona under Lute Olson in the 1980s, and spent the 2007-2008 season at the helm of the Wildcats’ basketball program, USC head coach Kevin O’Neill said the trip to Tucson doesn’t really bring about any emotions.

“I’ve been back so many times,” O’Neill said. “I loved my time in Tucson … but it’s just another game really.”

O’Neill seemed to pass that message onto his team before Thursday’s game, which ended in a 70-54 Arizona win that was jump-started by a 12-0 run by the Wildcats to close the first half.

“It’s just like any other place,” USC guard Greg Allen said of playing in McKale Center. “We don’t read into it too much.”

On the boards

Arizona guard Kyle Fogg filled up the rebounding column on the box score for the third straight game against USC on Thursday, grabbing 12 boards to go along with his team-high 16 points.

“It’s cool, it’s funny seeing him get like 16 points and 12 rebounds,” Perry said. “It’s good for our team to have guys going hard at the glass even though we’re not a big team.”

Fogg’s 12 rebounds are a career high, and Thursday’s win marked the second time in three games the senior from Brea, Calif., has set a new high-mark when it comes to rebounding.

“I wish I would have known this a long time ago,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “We would have held him to a higher standard along the way.”

UA needs to be in Pac-12’s top four

While finishing in the top four of the Pac-12 Conference’s final standings and securing a first-round bye in the conference tournament is important for any school in the Pac-12, it means even more to Arizona.

The Wildcats play at ASU on Sunday, March 4 — meaning that if Arizona can’t earn one a coveted first-round bye, the Wildcats may need to win five games in seven days to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“I wish we weren’t playing on a Sunday the week of the conference tournament,” Miller said. “(But) we are, so we have to be ready. Getting into that top four for us will mean a lot.”

Perry said that while no one likes to think of games as a do-or-die situation, he and the rest of the Wildcats know that their postseason chances hinge on the outcome every time they take the court.

“I don’t want to say it’s nerve-wracking, but it’s definitely tough,” Perry said. “I know that we’re going to keep going and finish out the season strong.”

Arizona will get a boost from sophomore guard Jordin Mayes, who saw his first action on Thursday since injuring his foot on Feb. 2 against Cal. Miller said Mayes will be available again against UCLA on Saturday but likely won’t see extensive action until the March 4 game against ASU.

Slowing down UCLA

Before Arizona’s 65-58 loss to UCLA on Jan. 5, the Wildcats spent the majority of their time on one thing: figuring out how to stop Josh Smith.

But the problem was that Smith didn’t play because after suffering a concussion in practice, and the Wildcats didn’t find out until just before game time.

Twin forwards David Wear and Travis Wear abused Arizona to the tune of 34 points and 10 rebounds on 13-of-16 shooting, but Arizona forward Jesse Perry said that shouldn’t be the case when the two meet at noon on Saturday in McKale Center.

“We had four days just to scout UCLA and the majority of the scouting was about Josh Smith,” Perry said. “They pretty much ran different plays that we didn’t scout because both of the twins was in together, so it was definitely hard for us.”

Perry said that a key to stopping UCLA’s size is playing an up-tempo style of basketball to wear the Bruins down.

One more time

Saturday’s game will be the last time Arizona’s seniors take the court in McKale Center, and Perry said he has some family in Tucson for the occasion.

“My mom, my daughter … everybody,” Perry said. “I’ll definitely miss McKale, the crowd … the fans definitely and my teammates and coaching staff.”

Seniors Alex Jacobson and Dondre Wise entered Thursday’s game when the score was out of reach for the Trojans.

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