The Arizona Wildcats basketball team beat Arizona State at the McKale Center in Tucson.
That’s more like it.
The Sun Devils made a run (or at least a brisk jog) in the second half but at the end of the day the Cats led for the final 30 ½ minutes of game time to give Sean Miller his second win against our neighbors to the north.
Only 41 more to go.
Lute Olson went 43-6 against ASU. When Olson took over, the UA had lost nine straight to the Devils. He won his first game in the rivalry by 22 points. He was victorious in his first five UA/ASU contests and 16 of his first 17. You don’t get to an .878 winning percentage against somebody by starting slowly.
Arizona’s “other” hoops coaching legend, Fred Enke, beat Arizona State 72 times in his 36 years. Before you have visions of going undefeated for three-and-a-half decades, the schools played each other four times a year through the mid-‘40s. Still, 72 games’ worth of bragging rights sets the bar pretty high for the current UA coach.
Miller’s goals certainly go beyond beating ASU, but you can’t get to the top of the conference if you can’t win your state. In football, when UCLA hired Rick Neuheisel the talk was that USC’s monopoly in Los Angeles was in jeopardy and the Bruins were going to close the gap on their in-town rival. It hasn’t happened and now Neuheisel is fighting for his job.
In the state of Arizona it looked like the “Two More Years™” were finally over for ASU basketball fans. For about 24 years the mantra from Tempe was, “Just wait until Lute retires!”
At first, they were right. The Devils went a perfect 5-0 against the UA interim coaches, Kevin O’Neill and Russ Pennell. But in Sean Miller’s rivalry debut he engineered a 19-point win. ASU evened the season series last year but as of this past Saturday Miller is now 2-1 with two double-digit wins. It gives Cat fans hope this is the start of a new trend. The dream is a trend that looks a lot like the old ones.
Another dream is the Wildcat offense attacking zones this well the rest of the year. It was great to see the team being patient and still ending up with inside shots. The Cats only attempted 12 three-pointers against ASU compared to 20 in the loss to OSU and 17 in the slim victory vs. Cal.
Does this indicate a breakthrough for the team, or does it just mean ASU’s players aren’t good enough to execute their zone? We’ll find out soon enough.
We’ll also find out very soon if we have a first-place team on our hands. With Washington falling to Stanford the Cats and Dawgs are the only one-loss teams in Pac-10 play. The winner of Thursday’s game in Seattle will get to wear the yellow jersey in this bike race.
The pressure is on the Huskies to defend their home court but it’s the young UA roster’s first taste of a truly significant Pac-10 game.
This is the type of rivalry game we Arizona basketball fans have missed the most.
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