UA HOOPS

Arizona basketball: Wildcats lose grip on title hopes

Loss means UA needs help from others in quest for Pac-12 crown
2013-02-28T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:33:10Z Arizona basketball: Wildcats lose grip on title hopesPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 28, 2013 12:00 am  • 

LOS ANGELES - Two years ago, the Arizona Wildcats came to the Southland and were humbled. Standing 23-4 with two weeks of conference play left, then-No. 10 UA fell to USC by eight and UCLA by 22.

The Wildcats traveled home, swept the Oregon schools, won the then-Pac-10 Conference and eventually reached the Elite Eight.

Ask Solomon Hill if the Wildcats can expect the same after a borderline-stunning 89-78 loss to USC at Galen Center on Wednesday night, and he makes a correction.

There's a difference between the two teams.

One was elite. This year's version, maybe not. At least yet.

"We're not in a place where we can still win the Pac-12 championship if we lose these two," the senior forward said. "We're not even in a position since we lost this one."

The Wildcats could still coast to a title in 2011. Not this year.

"This trip two years ago was a great lesson," UA coach Sean Miller said. "It was a springboard to our success.

"But each team's different. I have no reason to believe that what just happened is going to be a springboard or we're going to get killed on Saturday (at UCLA)."

One byproduct of the UA's defeat, in which the Trojans shot 61 percent, and the Wildcats (23-5, 11-5 Pac-12) allowed USC to block eight shots and steal eight passes, is the fact the UA no longer controls its own fate.

Oregon, with whom the Wildcats were tied atop the Pac-12 before losing Wednesday, can win the league by winning out.

"We were in a situation where we could have controlled our own fate and won the Pac-12 if we would have won two key games here and went home and won against ASU," Hill said. "Now it's out of our hands."

It makes Kevin Parrom uneasy.

In likely his last season in Tucson, Parrom, like Hill, set winning a conference title near the top of his goals.

"I like to control my own destiny," said Parrom, who had 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting. "I'm sure my teammates, I'm sure the seniors, like to control their own destiny."

Losing at UCLA - which was tied with the Wildcats in the loss column before Wednesday - on Saturday would further hurt the Wildcats' chances of taking the conference trophy.

If Oregon wins out, it doesn't matter, anyway.

"It's a horrible feeling, to have to depend on somebody else to beat somebody," Parrom said. "Instead of taking care of business here, we let it slip away tonight as a team. We've got to get better defensively.…

"At the same time, it's not the end of the world. Who knows? Somebody else might lose. It's a position we didn't want to be in, but we're in it. Still got some more basketball to play."

Hill was asked if an elite team would have lost at USC the way the Wildcats did.

"I don't know - I can't really speak for ourselves being an elite team," he said. "We came to L.A., we lost two here (in 2011), and we still won the Pac-10 championship. "We had a great first half (this season).

"I think in our first 12 games we were an elite team, but we lost our way."

With the conference title out of the Wildcats' control, they can simply control the next game.

"When you do what we just did, it's not about winning the conference," Miller said. "It's about winning the game.

"And we're faced with an immense challenge on Saturday. If we don't play harder on defense and better on defense, I don't think the game will be close."

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