On the eve of the Pac-12 tournament championship game, Arizona was beginning to understand where it’s at and where it wants to go.
Straight to Dallas, if possible, to solidify in stone the 2013-14 Wildcats’ place in program history.
Anything less than the ultimate prize would be a disappointment.
“We’re trying to leave a legacy, trying to make history,” Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said. “We’ve had past Arizona teams that have been great, but we’re trying to make a name for ourselves. We can’t live off those guys.”
How far do the Wildcats’ vanquished opponents think they can go?
“I’m assuming they can go to the top,” Colorado’s Wesley Gordon said. “I haven’t played teams in the SEC, but I’m pretty sure they can go far.”
As far, said Jordin Mayes — who scored six points in 10 minutes on Friday — as their effort will take them.
“If we go out there and play hard each and every game, do what we’re supposed to do on the defensive end, the sky is the limit for us,” Mayes said. “We can go as far as we want to go.”
Arizona dominated the glass once more on Friday, building a 41-25 rebounding advantage with a balanced effort led by Aaron Gordon, Hollis-Jefferson and Kaleb Tarczewski.
Gordon had nine rebounds, Hollis-Jefferson eight and Tarczewski seven, and no Buffalo had more than guard Askia Booker’s six.
“I’m a good offensive rebounder, and every time I go in for one, I see three white jerseys around me,” said Colorado’s Wesley Gordon, who had two rebounds. “They pay attention to the scouting report. They do everything right.”
On a roll
Colorado knew Arizona had a run coming, it just didn’t know when. Then the Wildcats went from a three-point lead to a 21-point lead in just more than 10 minutes.
“I wouldn’t say it was overwhelming,” Gordon said. “We knew it was going to happen at some point in the game that they were going to pick it up. And they did. They picked it up. In the second half, we just started falling apart.”
Arizona has had an absolute blast on the court in Las Vegas.
The rest of the time?
Not so much.
“We’re in our rooms locked up,” Gabe York said. “We don’t get to do anything. We went downstairs — I was probably downstairs for 10 minutes, saw my mom — and I’ve been in my room ever since.”
Not to worry, it’s not as if York so desperately wanted to hit the tables.
“I’m not a gambling man,” York said. “I like to save my money. I earned my money so I’m gonna keep it.”
Like Arizona, UCLA entered the Pac-12 tournament on a sour note, having dropped its regular-season finale in rather stunning fashion to Washington State 73-55.
Like the Wildcats, the Bruins bounced back in even more stunning fashion, first beating Oregon by 19 in the quarterfinals on Thursday and then Stanford by 25 (84-59) on Friday to set up a championship matchup.
Former Arizona and USC coach Kevin O’Neill believes the Bruins can make a game of it, given their talented lineup.
“UCLA has enough ability and enough talent — they have the same level talent and offensively they’re really, really good,” O’Neill said. “My question is can they stop Arizona at all? Sean Miller won’t let it be a track meet. He’ll slow it down with their defense and offensively UCLA had better be able to get some stops or they can’t win the game.”