The Arizona Wildcats football team lost a huge road game against Stanford and proceeded to fall apart.
The hoops squad could have done the same after a double-digit loss at first-place Washington.
I’m happy to report the UA’s wheels remain firmly intact.
Things didn’t look good at the start of the Washington State game. The Cats were sloppy with the ball, getting their shots blocked, and they were lost on defense. They looked like a team that was worn out after a tense battle in Seattle.
But then Wazzu started missing, and Arizona started connecting from three-point land. Kyle Fogg, Jordin Mayes, Solomon Hill, MoMo Jones (?!), Jesse Perry (!!?!). None of them made more than one but they combined to make 5 of 10 from deep. Add in Brendon Lavender, Jamelle Horne and Derrick “Steve Kerr with Hops” Williams and you ended up with 61% shooting from beyond the arc. I guess their legs weren’t tired after all.
Offensive rebounds are another sign of energy and desire. Williams had nine of them against WSU and I think seven were on one possession.
After this past week’s games the Pac-10 Player of the Year leaderboard has to read Isaiah Thomas > Derrick Williams > Klay Thompson. Team results matter, plus Thomas had the outstanding performance with first place on the line. Williams averaged 19.5 points and 15 rebounds in the two games while Thompson struggled all night in the head-to-head contest and capped it off by missing an open shot in the lane that would have tied it.
Williams will have to continue his statistical dominance (he’s averaging 23 points and 12 boards his last five games) to overcome Thomas’ lead in the standings.
Should Cat fans concede the conference title to Washington? Not at all, but it’s still a biking-Mt.-Lemmon uphill climb. I think the UA has a good shot at beating the Huskies on Feb. 19 in Tucson but it’s the rest of the games where UW has the distinct advantage.
The Huskies have already swept the L.A. trip and they play at Wazzu this week. After that the only remaining road games are against the Oregons and Arizonas. Washington is set up very nicely to do no worse than 15-3 in conference play. It’s just not reasonable to expect the UA to go 10-1 the rest of the way. I expect there to be another Oregon State or two.
And that’s OK. The primary goal this year remains making the NCAA tournament and the Wildcats are playing from in front in that regard. Hold serve at home, split the road trips, beat ASU, budget a random loss and that’s 13-5 in the conference and 24-7 overall. That gets you in with a couple games to spare.
Let’s also not forget that last year at this point the Cats were 10-9 overall and 4-3 in league play, with losses to all three States still coming. Things are trending toward the happier end of the spectrum this year.
It was fun hearing all the talk about the first-place showdown with Washington. It’ll be fun seeing the “Arizona and UCLA are back!” stories before the battle for second place on Thursday.
That doesn’t make the close games any less nerve-racking (Fogg was the free-throw opposite of himself in Nic Wise’s final home game) but all’s well that ends in your best win to date.
Thursday is a chance for a better win to date.
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I would be dishonoring my cardinal and navy roots if I didn’t mention Kansas’ home winning streak ending at 69 games. The Jayhawks set a school record with a streak that would only be the third longest at Arizona. Congrats!
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