TUCSON, Ariz. – A good memory of a bad game and a good memory of what it takes to win on the road will help the University of Arizona men’s basketball team.
It must remember that one game – the last one, a 73-66 loss to California in McKale Center – won’t define its season. Losing consecutive games only creates more doubt in those who already have questions.
Arizona hasn’t lost two straight games all season. It’s in jeopardy of that this week.
What ninth-ranked Arizona (20-3, 8-3 in the Pac-12 Conference) must prove now – to itself and perhaps to others that, yes, it may have taken a fall, but hasn’t fallen apart.
Proof will have to come Thursday in Boulder, Colo., where Arizona couldn’t find a way to win against the Buffaloes a season ago, and where Colorado figures to have some extra incentive because of how it lost earlier this year in McKale Center.
Few need to be reminded that Colorado’s Sabitino Chen’s 3-pointer was denied at the buzzer (after lengthy video reviews), giving UA a chance to go into overtime and get an unfathomable 92-83 win.
Colorado coach Tad Boyle said the Buffaloes are long over the loss, although pundits will look at the experience and what came after it as a hangover as the Buffs started the conference race at 1-4. They’ve won five of their last six — including a sweep of the Oregon schools last week — and enter Thursday’s game at 16-7 overall and 6-5 in the conference.
“We have rebounded from it and we have put it behind us,” Boyle said. “We’ve moved forward and are playing pretty well right now.”
Colorado’s recent play has thrust it back into the NCAA Tournament conversation. Lest anyone forget, the Buffaloes got hot late last season to win the conference tournament.
“From a confidence perspective and you’re coming of (5 of 6) and a road sweep and in front of that crowd where they have been very successful, I’m sure they are very confident,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.
And pretty good. Miller describe the Buffaloes as “great in transition, and they play excellent man-to-man defense, and they play their bench.”
When asked if he felt Colorado will come out aggressive given its outcome against UA earlier this year, Arizona sophomore Nick Johnson took the understated approach.
“I guess so,” said Johnson, when asked about the Buffaloes being fired up. “Nobody wants to lose or lose that way in overtime. At the end of the day it’s a game and prepare for it like any game.”
Motivation comes in different forms. Arizona has its own demon to deal with in Boulder, falling to Colorado 64-63 last year after shooting just 35 percent from the floor and missing the game-winner on the final possession.
“We felt we gave that game away a little bit,” Johnson said. “We are definitely looking forward to it.”
UA senior Solomon Hill said there are no more excuses, “We have to go out and match their intensity and play hard.”
And forget what happened Sunday in only its third loss of the season.