Jan 5, 2013; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller directs his players during the second half against the Utah Utes at McKale Center. The Wildcats beat the Utes 60-57. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Wildcats Kick Off Conference Play with Two Close Wins

The Arizona Wildcats entered the Pac-12 season 12-0 and ranked No. 3 in the nation in the AP Poll. The wrapped up their first weekend of conference play with two wins, beating Colorado on Thursday and Utah on Saturday, to get to 14-0, yet on Monday they dropped a spot (no. 4) in the AP Poll.

I can’t say I disagree with the AP voters on this one. The Cats (at home) were down 17 points in the second half against Colorado and didn’t have a real lead in the game until overtime. On Saturday, they led by just one point as Utah had the ball with the shot clock turned off. The Utes, projected to finish near, or at, the very bottom of the Pac-12 had a chance to beat the Wildcats on their home court. Something is not quite right there…and certainly not No. 3 in the country worthy. I’ll chalk Saturday’s performance up as a hangover from a thrilling and exhausting win against Colorado on Thursday night. But this team is not playing like a top 5 team right now and I hope the high rankings are not getting into these players heads. At some point the luck will run out and it will take hard work and 150% energy and passion to win these games. The Wildcats will have quite a test on their hands as they take on the 11-2 Oregon Ducks on Thursday in Eugene.

My Stamp of Approval for the Colorado game goes to….the home crowd. I was in attendance on Thursday and McKale Center was as loud as it has been in many years. Despite getting down by 17 points in the second half, the crowd never gave up on this. They fueled the Cats to their furious comeback and the guys rode the momentum in overtime and never looked back. Coach Sean Miller opened his post-game radio interview praising the crowd.

“”I thought our crowd, especially in the last twelve minutes, never gave up. Sometimes with crowds people leave the game or are disenchanted that we could lose a home game and leave. One of the great things about the McKale crowd is that they stay until the finish,” said Miller.

My Stamp of Approval for the victory over Utah goes to…free throw shooting. Arizona was 11 of 12 from the foul line and made three more free throws then Utah. Those three points would be the difference in the game as Arizona won, 60-57. Arizona point guard Mark Lyons hit clutch free throws in both games in the final minute.

“I credit Mark Lyons. Making clutch free throws is not an easy thing, and he’s done it so remarkably well for 14 games. That alone is a huge reason why we are undefeated and in the position we are in,” said Miller after the game.


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Tags: Arizona Wildcats Colorado Buffaloes Mark Lyons Oregon Ducks Sean Miller Utah Utes

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