Arizona basketball: Cats see themselves in Buffs

Colorado freshman Xavier Johnson drives to the basket against Oregon State defenders Devon Collier, left, and Eric Moreland in the Buffaloes' first-round Pac-12 tournament victory. Colorado will face Arizona today.


Here's how you really know the Arizona-Oregon State dustup was charged with emotion: After he was done serving as a de facto bouncer for his simmering team, Wildcats coach Sean Miller was caught on camera removing his tie.

And he had no idea how that happened.

"Somehow, my hands got to my tie and took it off," Miller said. "I'm not sure how that works. Glad I hung in there."

Then again, Miller isn't the type to worry much about neckwear. He said he rotates in a "few J.C. Penney ties," and mostly concerns himself with the color.

"I always have red in my tie because that's what somebody told me to do when I got here," he said.

That's the kind of look his players can appreciate: When the red is in Miller's eyes, not around the neck.

"You know coach, man, he's a real intense guy," said guard Brendon Lavender said. "He loves to win so to see that passion it really pumps us up also. It's a great feeling."

The reality is, too, that passion may be a necessity for the Wildcats if they hope to contend for the Pac-12 title and return to the NCAA tournament this season. Arizona is 12-5 overall and 3-1 in the Pac-12 after beating OSU in overtime on Thursday, and Miller said the Wildcats are likely to have another tough time of it today against Oregon.

That's the way this season is just going to be, Miller said.

"So much of it comes down to being able to finish," Miller said. "For our team this year, we don't have a lot of margin for error. We're always going to be in these hard-fought games, and being strong at the end of the game is an important quality to have."

It's a quality last season's Wildcats had, going 8-3 in games decided by five points or less. But it isn't yet clear if Arizona will have it this year, lacking the kind of "closer" that Derrick Williams was.

"Each team is different," Miller said Friday. "The older teams, the more experienced teams, the more success from a year ago, you tend to have it early on. You would think because of what we did a year ago that it would be the case with this year's team, but with new additions and new roles, and we played a challenging nonconference schedule, we've won a lot of those dogfights and others we didn't.

"With each team you try to keep a pulse, you generally sense the togetherness and watch how hard they work in practice. But every team needs confidence, and winning gives teams confidence."

Miller said he does have emerging leaders to take charge late in the games with forward Solomon Hill and guard Kyle Fogg.

Hill had only four points against the Beavers but collected eight rebounds, one block and one steal while dishing five assists. Fogg had 23 points and helped ignite the late-game melee.

"Kyle and Solomon played well, and Solomon played well in spite of the fact that he didn't have a lot of shots," Miller said. "You look at his rebounding and what he does for our team, and the same with Kyle and the effort he gives on defense. Those two guys, in a nutshell, played to win and that kind of attitude can be contagious."

Well, as long as that energy is channeled properly.

"We want to be a team that competes really hard between the lines," Miller said, when addressing the OSU incident. "You have to keep your cool and in a very emotional game, keep your emotion attached to what it's all about - and that is winning."



• What: Oregon at Arizona

• When: 1:30 p.m.

• TV; radio: Ch 13; 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)