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Arizona’s big shot ‘to go out strong’

Citizen Staff Writer



Junior Chase Budinger says it’s a “new season” for the University of Arizona basketball team.

Junior Nic Wise says, “Friday can’t come fast enough” for the Wildcats, the Midwest’s No. 12 seed, who face No. 5-seeded Utah in Miami’s American Airlines Arena.

The agenda on Arizona’s “business trip,” as Budinger put it, is to “play ball” and win games.

Gone and forgotten are the tough losses and close calls that left UA 19-13 and one of the last at-large teams to make the NCAA Tournament.

“When you go into this tournament, you go in 0-0,” Budinger said. “This is our chance, our shot to go out strong. We have to show everybody that we’re better than what people are saying about us.”

Some national media members said Arizona didn’t deserve to make it to its 25th straight NCAA Tournament.

“We’re in the tournament,” Wise said, when asked what he’d say to those who say the Wildcats don’t belong.

Las Vegas likes UA. The oddsmakers made the Wildcats a slight favorite, the lone 12 seed picked to win.

“I don’t pay attention to the lines or who’s favored,” said UA interim coach Russ Pennell.

Arizona was on the verge of mediocrity less than two months ago when it was 11-8.

Then lightning struck and Arizona found the right combination of aggressiveness and poise to go on a season-saving, seven-game winning streak. It was enough to offset a 1-5 finish.

“When we are playing well, we are a very tough opponent to beat,” Budinger said. “We are probably one of the best teams in the country when we are playing well. When we have eight or nine guys playing well, that’s when we’re the most dangerous.

“We need that effort from everybody each and every game. For us to make that (type) of run, (it) starts in practice.”

Pennell is looking for the defense to improve because “it has not been as good as it was during the (winning) streak.”

Now it’s about winning in the tournament and silencing the critics.

“I guess you can use that as fuel,” Wise said. “There were doubters, and there were doubters in our own group. You can’t take too much in what other people are saying.”

The $1 million question is: Can the Cats make a deep run?

“Of course,” Budinger said. “I feel we are capable of beating any team in the country.”


No. 12 Arizona (19-13) vs. No. 5 Utah (24-9)

When: 4:10 p.m. Friday

Where: Miami


Radio: 1290 AM, 107.5 FM

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