BASKETBALL

Arizona basketball: Back to business

With a big win behind them, Cats seek to avoid letdown vs. Oral Roberts
2012-12-18T00:00:00Z 2014-08-01T11:22:51Z Arizona basketball: Back to businessBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 18, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Almost immediately after they knocked off then-fifth-ranked Florida on Saturday, the Arizona Wildcats gathered in the locker room to discuss Mark Lyons' winning shot.

Not just that he hit it. But how it fit into the big picture, the one UA coach Sean Miller and his staff are always discussing with players.

"We said, 'Know that if Mark Lyons missed that shot, we're the same team,' " UA associate head coach James Whitford said. "You have to have a professional approach to the games. That's the way we are all year."

So, after that talk, despite what was UA's biggest nonconference win in four years, here's how one of the Wildcats spent his evening:

"I hung out with family all night," sophomore guard Nick Johnson said Monday. "I didn't go out and party or anything. I know a lot of guys didn't go out and party. Just hung with family."

The Florida win, which boosted UA to a No. 4 ranking in the AP Top 25 poll, was fun for the Wildcats, to be sure. But it was also business, which resumes tonight when UA hosts Oral Roberts.

"It definitely was a big one," Johnson said of the Florida game. "But we couldn't overlook that we had to get to bed - we had film the next day and we had to get ready for Oral Roberts.

"We don't wanna be the one-hit wonder or anything like that. We want to let the nation know we're the real deal, and keep on going off after wins."

That kind of approach could help the Wildcats tonight in what could be a classic "sandwich" game against Oral Roberts.

It's that other game in between two big events on the schedule: UA is not only coming off the big win against Florida but is also just two days away from hopping on a plane over the Pacific to compete in the Diamond Head Classic - where the Wildcats could meet No. 18 San Diego State in a Christmas evening final.

In between, there's tonight's home game with Oral Roberts.

It could be easy to overlook.

But the Golden Eagles, during coach Scott Sutton's 11-plus years at Oral Roberts, have beaten big-name teams such as Arkansas, Georgetown, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Stanford and USC.

Last month, they led Oklahoma by 10 points midway through the second half before losing by a point.

They probably aren't the kind of team you want to overlook.

Not, at least, to UA's Miller.

"That's the storyline moving forward for us - can we handle what happened (against Florida) and prepare for the next couple of days," Miller said after Saturday's game. "Because Oral Roberts is the medicine for a team that can't. They're very good. They're very well-coached.

"They won 27 games last season and they're playing much better right now than when they began the season."

Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton, the son of longtime college coach Eddie Sutton and the Golden Eagles' winningest coach in history, said it's hard to tell how a team will do coming off of a big win.

But he said he also has known Miller for a long time.

"He'll have his guys ready to play," Sutton said. "That was such a great game (with Florida) … but I'm sure their coaches will get them ready."

The Golden Eagles have a different mental challenge. They haven't played since Dec. 5, when they won at Texas State.

That's almost two weeks to rest. Or rust.

"I think coming out of finals and off the break, you never know," Sutton said. "We've had teams come out of breaks great, and sometimes come out of breaks awful. But I know they'll be focused. They have to be."

Maybe Arizona's win over Florida helped in that sense. The Golden Eagles know exactly what they have to do.

"It was just a great game," Sutton said. "Even if we didn't have Arizona coming up, that was a great game to watch, if you love college basketball. Most of our guys watched it. They were familiar with Arizona before. Now they're more familiar."

On StarNet: Follow Bruce Pascoe and Wildcat fans during tonight's game in a chat at live.azstarnet.com

Today

• Who: Oral Roberts (5-4) at No. 4 Arizona (8-0)

• When: 7 p.m.

• TV: Pac-12 Arizona

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)

Cats vault into Top 5 for 1st time since 2004

The Arizona Wildcats have cracked the Top 5 of both major college basketball polls for the first time in nine seasons.

After beating then-No. 5 Florida 65-64 on Saturday, the Wildcats moved from No. 8 to No. 4 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll behind No. 1 Duke, Michigan and Syracuse.

The Cats also moved to No. 5, up from No. 8, in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll.

In the AP poll, Arizona (8-0) finished a spot ahead of Louisville (9-1) and in the ESPN/USA Today poll, Louisville was No. 4, a spot ahead of UA.

The last time Arizona landed in the Top 5 of the polls was Jan. 3, 2004, when both polls had the Wildcats at No. 3.

The Wildcats finished that regular season ranked No. 22 by the AP and 18 by ESPN/USA Today, then lost to Seton Hall in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The highest UA was previously ranked under coach Sean Miller was No. 10, on Feb. 21, 2011. The Wildcats finished that season ranked No. 17 in the AP poll and, after reaching the NCAA tournament Elite Eight, were No. 9 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll (The AP poll does not rank teams after the NCAA tournament).

Guard Nick Johnson said this week's ranking was "a great thing," but meant little at this point of the season.

"I haven't been in this situation and this is as high as anybody's been ranked on our team," Johnson said.

"You definitely hear about it, but we've just gotta stay focused, and keep level-headed.

"Our main goal coming into this season wasn't just to beat Florida. We want to keep on winning."

Arizona could face another ranked team, San Diego State (18 AP/15 USA Today), in the championship of the Diamond Head Classic on Dec. 25 if both teams win their first two games in the Honolulu-based tournament.

Bruce Pascoe

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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