Citizen Staff Writer
MIAMI – The Arizona basketball team arrived here, unpacked and went to work.
Practice lasted about 1 hour, 40 minutes in preparation for Friday afternoon’s game with Utah at American Airlines Arena. Arizona practiced at Florida International.
“Everything is fine,” said team spokesman Richard Paige. “Things are good and practice was relatively smooth.”
Paige said Arizona did some stretching, shooting and drill work. “It was game-day stuff,” he said.
The team took a charter flight from Tucson to Miami, which took about 3 1/2 hours. The Wildcats will hold an open practice Thursday at 2:55 p.m. Tucson time. The squad meets with the media 45 minutes earlier.
Meet the press
Arizona, in its session with reporters, is prepared to talk about its up-and-down season.
The Wildcats stumbled into the tournament at 19-13, having gone 1-5 in the last six.
From Lute Olson’s retirement to barely getting into the tournament, it has been that kind of ride.
This is when old news becomes new news to those who haven’t covered the team on a regular basis.
“The big thing is, this is a group of guys, players and men coaching that came together and gave themselves to each other and somehow put it all together, somehow made it work,” interim coach Russ Pennell said.
“That is what I’m most proud of and happy about. . . . Certainly we wished we would have won a few more (games), but it could have been something that was not nearly as positive. That should be the story.”
This is Pennell’s debut as a head coach in the NCAA Tournament.
He’s ready, having served as an assistant during the Big Dance at Oklahoma State, Mississippi and Arizona State.
“The biggest thing is there is a certain buzz or atmosphere about the NCAA Tournament, and when you walk in for the first time as a young coach you think, ‘This is the coolest thing I’ve ever been around in my whole life,’ ” he said. “(Now) you know what to expect.
“I don’t know if anybody consciously sits there and says, ‘I am in the NCAA Tournament and all eyes of the college basketball world are looking at us.’ Once you get in the game, you are fine.
“I don’t think our approach or my approach as a coach will be any different.”