Kyle Fogg was sick, everyone else had a reason to be tired, and yet the Arizona Wildcats' midnight bus ride from Pullman to Spokane, Wash., last month carried plenty of reason for optimism.
Despite shooting poorly and turning the ball over 16 times, the Wildcats managed to shake off a 17-point loss at Washington two nights earlier and edge Washington State 65-63.
They have not been the same since. They've been better.
The Wildcats opened a current six-game winning streak that night and head into a rematch with the Cougars on Thursday at McKale Center.
"When we left that game, I thought that was a big turnaround for us," UA coach Sean Miller said. "Not that things weren't going well, but we kind of seized some momentum from that win right there. You could almost sense that that happened."
It was, at times, a difficult game to watch. The lead changed five times, Derrick Williams missed 4 of 13 field shots, Fogg missed 2 of 9, and post starters Williams and Jesse Perry had nine turnovers combined.
But Fogg managed to hold WSU standout Klay Thompson to just nine points on 4-for-16 shooting. Point guard MoMo Jones began his midseason turnaround with five assists to one turnover while scoring 11 points and grabbing four rebounds. And forward Jamelle Horne hit three clutch three-pointers in the second half.
"That game could have gone either way a number of times," Miller said. "We needed a lot of resiliency; we didn't have a great offensive night. We won with some late-game execution - a couple of our players made some really key shots - but our defense was in place."
In early February last season, Arizona went to Pullman after a six-point loss at Washington two days earlier. Then the Wildcats were blown out by 18 points - and their season quickly spiraled downhill.
After returning home to beat Oregon, the Wildcats lost four of their final seven games.
"The team from last year - you saw what happened," forward Solomon Hill said. "I think this team this year took a different approach to the game, even after the U-Dub loss, pulled together and we were able to get a good win."
Basically, the Wildcats put their 85-68 loss at Washington quickly in perspective. Miller said before the WSU game that he didn't want the Washington game "to affect us in any negative light," and it didn't.
"We didn't need to turn our confidence around," Miller said Tuesday. "It wasn't like the ship was broke. We were doing just fine."
Two weeks after the WSU game, armed with the extra fortitude, the Wildcats went three overtimes at California - and won again. It was another "key moment," Miller said, in a season that continues to gain momentum.
"Sometimes it's those games, two or three, that can really turn your season into a special one or put you in position to compete for a championship, instead of almost getting there," Miller said. "When you look at those two road wins (Stanford, Cal), the way we won them, how hard they were, how easily both games could have gone to our opponent, you leave there filled with more confidence."
• Miller said Williams is missing some practice time this week and will wear the same protective wrap he has since spraining his right pinky Jan. 27. But next week, Miller said, Williams might be cleared for most practice drills and wear less protection in games.
"I would be confident in telling you he will return to form" at that point, Miller said, referring to Williams' 19 fouls in four games since the injury.
• Top-75 big man Angelo Chol of San Diego eliminated Washington and Alabama on Tuesday and will now choose among Arizona, North Carolina and Kansas on Thursday, said Ollie Goulston, his coach at Hoover High School.
• WSU coach Ken Bone said center DeAngelo Casto is "50-50" for Thursday's game with a sprained ankle suffered last Saturday. But Casto practiced Tuesday and appeared OK, according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review.
• UA signees Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson were left off the Jordan Brand Classic rosters Tuesday, after neither made the McDonald's All-American teams last week.
Good, then Better
Differences during the UA's current six-game winning streak and its first six Pac-10 games:
First six Next six
Record 4-2 6-0
Three-point shooting .398 .428
Assist-turnover ratio 0.79 1.08
Scoring 73.2 80.6
First six Next six
Three-point shooting .000* .428
Assist-turnover ratio 0.93 1.8
Scoring 8.7 14.0
* Jones was 0 for 5 from three-point territory over UA's first six Pac-10 games.
• What: Washington State at Arizona
• When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
• TV: FSAZ
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Sp.)