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Wildcats need to control home court

Citizen Staff Writer



It’s come down to this for the Arizona men’s basketball team: win at least two or three more games and the Wildcats’ chances of getting in the NCAA Tournament for the 25th consecutive time will greatly improve.

Get swept at home this week against the Bay Area schools and it could be curtains for the Cats, meaning the NIT or another lesser postseason tournament.

UA has at least three games – including at least one in the Pac-10 Tournament – remaining before a trip to a postseason tournament.

And 20 in the wins column looks much better than 18 or 19.

The Wildcats are 7-3 in their last 10 games, although they have a three-game losing streak after falling 83-78 at Pac-10 leader Washington on Saturday.

“We’ve got to go home and close the deal,” UA interim coach Russ Pennell said. “Your last couple of games are usually measured different by the committee.

“We usually play well at home – we can’t just say we’ll be home and everything will be OK – but we have to go home and play good basketball.”

First up is Cal on Thursday at McKale Center. Former UA Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson is scheduled to be honored during that game.

Twelve years ago the Wildcats ended the regular season by getting swept in the Bay Area.

Despite the losses there, the Wildcats came away so impressed with themselves that they thought they had a chance to not only get to the NCAA Tournament but also do well.

UA eventually won its only national title.

A national title is a long, long, long shot this year. But the Wildcats, like they did in 1997, gained some confidence in a loss.

This time it was against the Huskies, one of the better teams in the country.

“I was proud of our team and right now I feel as good about our team as I’ve felt all year even though we lost,” Pennell said. “As we are moving into the final two games and the Pac-10 (Tournament) we’re playing good basketball.”

Pennell said to discount Thursday’s disappointing second half at Washington State, which resulted in a loss, and portions of UA’s game with Arizona State, the other defeat in the three-game skid.

He thinks for much of the year his team has “been pretty good. I expect us to be the same way (this) week.”

All season it’s been about confidence and execution. UA knows that. After Saturday’s loss, junior Nic Wise said what the team needs to do is put “this behind us.”

A reason UA played so well against No. 21-ranked UW was that it had a team meeting Friday, one that “rejuvenated us,” Wise said.

“There was a lot of soul searching,” Wise said. “That helped us more than practicing on the court. We just talked about things within ourselves and not about what everyone else needed to do to be successful.”

Two wins this week will help the cause.


Thursday: California (21-8, 10-6) at Arizona (18-11, 8-8), 8:30 p.m. TV: FSNA. Radio: 1290 AM, 107.5 FM

Saturday: Stanford (16-11, 5-11) at Arizona, 5:30 p.m. TV: FSNA. Radio: 1290 AM, 107.5 FM

> Wildcats fall short at Washington, 6C

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