Arizona Basketball: New game, new hero during 4-game win streak


The Arizona Wildcats are back in the NCAA tournament picture after an impressive 4-game win streak. They kicked off their win streak on a tough road trip to the Bay Area, beating Cal and Stanford. Then, they returned home to take down a Colorado Buffalos team that was ahead of them in the standings and outlast a pesky Utah team desperate for a win.

This 4-game win streak has given the Wildcats new life. A season in serious jeopardy is now a season with excitement and potential. Tucson is once again buzzing with Cat chatter. So, how did a team whose season was written off as a “rebuilding year” pull this off?

Last year, the Wildcats relied on one single player to get them through the tough times, a one man show. It was a blessing to have a player like Derrick Williams who could carry the team when called upon. Williams is now throwing down alley-oops from future All-Star Ricky Rubio in the NBA. The other guy that would relish the opportunity to be the star and throw the team on his shoulders in desperate times transferred and is now scoring at will at Iona.

So, how did these 2011-2012 Wildcats pull off a season-saving 4-game win streak?? Well, it was a collaborative effort. It was a different player or attribute in each game that got the Cats to this point. Let’s take a look at each game:

UofA at Cal:  Senior Kyle Fogg (23 points, 4 assists) stepped up and willed his team to victory at a hostile Haas Pavilion. Fans also watched freshman Angelo Chol transition from an awkward boy to a confident man in this game.

UofA at Stanford: The team defense won this game, holding Stanford to a season low 25.4 % field-goal shooting and 43 points. The last time the Cardinal was held to 43 points or less was the 1984-85 season. This was a defensive performance to take notice of!

UofA vs. Colorado: This was an important game and the upper-classmen stepped it up! The efforts of Solomon Hill, Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry were the reason the Cats won this game. Fogg had 15 points, Hill had a huge double-double (16 points, 14 rebounds) and Perry had his best game of the season with 17 points and 11 rebounds. The “old guys” put this one on their shoulders.

UofA vs. Utah: Look up “trap-game” in the dictionary. This match-up should be the definition. Arizona was coming off three huge wins and was facing one of the worst teams in the league…at home. Easy win, right? Not quite! The Cats came out asleep while the Utes came out with nothing to lose. Arizona got down by double digits quick and lacked heart throughout the first 30 minutes of this game. Freshman Nick Johnson woke up and carried this team to a come-back (must-win) victory. Johnson was cool, calm and collected as he took the big shots in the clutch moments of this game. I was extremely impressed with Johnson’s confidence. He has been struggling for the better part of the Pac-12 season but that didn’t phase him in leading his team to victory in a game they HAD to win. Johnson finished with 18 points, 3 assists and 3 steals. He was helped out by bench player Brandon Lavender who hit 4 of 5 three pointers to keep this team in the game.

As you can see, this team does not have a superstar but they do have guys with heart, guys that can play, who want to do their part. You never know who will step up and put this young team on their shoulders. It is exciting and fun to watch. So, as Arizona tries to enhance their resume for the big dance, who will step up as the team visits the Washington schools this weekend? Thoughts?

Thanks for reading!