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Arizona basketball notes: Wildcats begin ‘make or break’ stretch

Not everyone is sold on the idea of MoMo Jones leading Arizona into the NCAA Tournament.
Photo by Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE

Arizona’s game at Washington on Thursday will be a battle for first place in the Pac-10, a meeting of two ranked teams.

Hey … kind of how things used to be around these parts.

Arizona coach Sean Miller was asked Tuesday if this game is the biggest since he arrived for last season and he gave a coach’ response — he hopes the games get even bigger in the next couple of weeks.

For sure, the Wildcats haven’t climbed back to the top of the mountain. They’re climbing. They’re 15-3 overall and 4-1 in the Pac-10. They’re No. 25 in this week’s coaches poll. Long way to go.

Washington, which is 5-1 in the league, is ranked 20th in both major polls.

“Washington, to me, they’re the program that is on top of the Pac-10 right now,” Miller said.

“They’ve had the same coach for over a decade. Lorenzo and his staff have just done a great job recruiting and creating an identity in their program. They play at a frenetic pace. Playing on their home court, really feeds to that pace.

“Having been there one time now, it’s to me one of the hardest places to win at and they have a great crowd and environment. … We’re going to have to be at our best.”

This week begins a critical two-week stretch for the Cats. On the road for the Washington schools and back home for UCLA and USC.

“I think this is the series that makes or breaks us,” said sophomore forward Solomon Hill, talking about the four-game set. “This really shows who we are, where we stand in the Pac-10.”

Trash talking

Hill said that Washington star guard Isaiah Thomas is a big-time talker.

“He talks a lot. No matter if he’s coming in the game, leaving the game, in the game … he talks a lot.”

And who among the Cats is the best trash talker?

Hill initially said point guard MoMo Jones, but changed his mind to sophomore forward Derrick Williams.

“I’d say Derrick,” Hill said. “When he gets going, it’s hard to stop Derrick on the court, so he feels like he can say whatever he wants to to the other guys.”

Doubting MoMo

FoxSports.com senior basketball writer Jeff Goodman talked with FoxSportsArizona.com’s Jack Magruder before last Saturday’s Arizona-Arizona State. (Read the full Q&A here.)

Goodman does not include Arizona among his Top 25, and part of the reason is the point guard play.

“MoMo Jones is not a point guard, and he’s not good enough to be a point guard for a team that really wants to go into the NCAA tournament,” Goodman said. “Then again, the league is built in such a way that you really don’t need a point guard this year.”

I asked Miller on Tuesday about Jones’ progress.

“He’s getting better. Part of what you want to see from MoMo is just his willingness to get better. He gives great effort in practice. In the last three games, he’s had three turnovers, which is great.

“Sometimes, his lack of assists are not on purpose; he’s just more of a scoring guard than a pass-first point guard. With that, it’s not always easy for him to get assists. But he’s doing fine.”

Williams in maroon and gold?

Arizona Republic columnist Paola Boivin tracked down Arizona’s Williams following the postgame press conference Saturday and asked him being recruited by Arizona State after he was released from his letter-of-intent at USC.

“Coach (Herb) Sendek and (assistant coach Scott) Pera, they showed a lot of interest in me,” Williams said. “I liked the staff a lot. They were young, and I really felt like I would get along great with them there.

“It really came down to what offensive and defensive style I could fit in to. Nothing against them, but their zone and some of the offenses that they run, it’s not really to my type of style.”


Junior forward Jesse Perry on the team being ranked in the coaches poll this week: “It’s always a good feeling to be Top 25. Any of those numbers is a great feeling.” … Derrick Williams was selected to the Best in the West midseason All-American team from the San Jose Mercury News’ Jon Wilner. … SI.com projects the Wildcats as a No. 9 seed in the West in the NCAA Tournament, paired against No. 8 UNLV. … On CBSSports.com, Jerry Palm predicts Arizona as one of the last at-large teams, picking the Wildcats to be in one of the new First Four games in the expanded 68-team field.

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