Miller’s turn to take crack at ASU’s win streakby Steve Rivera on Jan. 22, 2010, under Sports
So, the Arizona Wildcats go into Saturday night’s game with Arizona State on a five-game losing streak. Where in the world has the time gone? Two or three, but five?
“(The) five-game streak is unacceptable given the NBA players we have had in the past three seasons,” said former UA player and FSNAZ broadcaster Corey Williams. “No excuse.”
Of course, Williams was referring to Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill, Jerryd Bayless. To be fair, Arizona State has had Jeff Pendergraph and James Harden, but you get Williams’ point.
But not since the late 1970s and early 1980s has Arizona State been so dominant, having won nine straight back then. It was even hard to write that simple sentence, but it’s true. Arizona has still been the more prominent program in the last few years – NCAA tournaments, including a Sweet 16 appearance – all the while Arizona State has the bragging rights.
Tells you what bragging rights are good for … nothing.
They’ll play the game anyway on Saturday. First in Tempe and then in Tucson on Feb. 21. ASU is no doubt capable in making it six in a row. Who would have ever thought it possible in Lute Olson’s days? Heck, he went 43-6 against the Sun Devils in his 24 years. He’s the last UA coach to beat the Devils, having ended his career on a 12-game winning streak against the rivals. He started his career with a five-game streak against the Devils back in 1984.
Point is: UA has owned ASU up until the last two years. The streak would have continued under Kevin O’Neill had he found out a way to close out a sure UA win in the final minute up by five points, despite not having Bayless. ASU won 64-59 in OT. The rivalry hasn’t been the same since. Interim coach Russ Pennell dropped three to the Devils.
Defense has been the key. And it will be again on Saturday night.
“Arizona’s struggles against zone defense has been noted all season,” Williams said. “AZ freshmen will be baptized in the rivalry, ready or not.”
Williams added if the freshmen are not scared, UA will have a chance and UA could win. Prediction: foul shooting and the 3-point line will be the difference,Williams said.
We’ll see. But now, it’s Sean Miller’s turn. He goes up against old friend and former mentor Herb Sendek, who will slow the Cats down to a crawl on Saturday. First one to 50 wins. First one to 60 wins by double digits. Arizona is playing better these days – Miller said that this week and I think people would have to agree – but UA still goes up and down emotionally and in ability. Young teams usually do. It would not be a surprise if Arizona goes down again in Tempe against a team I thought wouldn’t finish in the top three in the Pac-10 Conference this season. That said, I didn’t think UA would either. Fourth maybe.
In my mind, Arizona is still more talented than Arizona State, but it’s not about talent. Not anymore. It’s about playing together and playing defense. Arizona hasn’t been able to string enough good games with those two things. I’m not sure it’ll happen in Tempe on Saturday. ASU by … 5