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For UA, Vikings resemble Washington

MIAMI – This is all one has to know about Cleveland State to send shivers up the spines of the Arizona Wildcats: The Vikings have “Washington tendencies.”

That’s Washington, as in Pacific 10 Conference champion Washington.

The good thing is Arizona was able to defeat the Huskies once and play close in another game. But Russ Pennell’s point has been made: the Vikings, a No. 13 seed, surely hasn’t played like a lower seed nor will it be considered one on Sunday.

“That’s more on the perimeter because they are quick and (will attempt) to drive it down our throat,” said UA interim coach Russ Pennell in describing the Washington-like Vikings for Sunday’s second round game here at America Airlines Arena.

A key will be how Arizona’s Nic Wise handles the pressure. He handled it to perfection in Friday night’s 84-71 win over Utah to advance. After a so-so first half, UA’s junior point guard took control of the game and the tempo, making the Utes play to UA’s pace. Wise finished with a season-high-tying 29 points. He had 29 against, alas, Washington.

Here he has to go again.

“You have to control the tempo if you want your team to win,” said Wise. “Every game is going to be like that the rest of the way in the tournament.”

Even if it’s against the likes of Cleveland State, a team many – if any – knew much about before Friday night’s upset win against Wake Forest.

Admittedly, UA players said, they didn’t know much about the Vikings.

When Jordan Hill was watching another game here in Miami (CBS didn’t show the game locally) a score flashed on the bottom of the screen and “I was in shock to tell you the truth,” he said.

Arizona coaches are attempting to make sure the shock wears off by Sunday morning. Pennell has told his team CSU is very underrated and “you can’t get fooled by the fact they don’t get much hype, because they’ve got great players.”

As Pennell said, you don’t “fluke” into three huge victories like CSU has. It beat Syracuse on the road, beat Butler to win the Horizon League Championship last week and then beat No. 3 seed Wake Forest.

Ironically, it was Cleveland State’s victory over Butler that had Wise worried.

“We thought they took one of our spots when they beat Butler,” Wise said, referring to an NCAA tournament bid. “That’s all we knew about them (at the time). (Friday) was an eye-opener, so we can’t take them lightly like Wake Forest did.

“They’re a small-name school but they have big-name talent.”

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