For six hours after his Wildcats squeaked by USC on Saturday, Arizona coach Sean Miller still had no idea what team he would face in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament.
He didn't appear to care.
It turned out that Washington's win at Oregon State meant the Wildcats would face UCLA in a 4-vs.-5 game on Thursday, instead of the Beavers, but Miller said he wasn't concerned about the exact matchup.
"It's not about your opponent," Miller said. "It's about when you enter the court are you revved up to play, are you going to play with great effort? Are you going to do the things you've worked on?
"Our defense will be much more about us than who we're playing. There's some matchups that may be favorable but a lot will depend on how that team is. Sometimes you catch a team at the right moment."
That right moment, he hopes, could be now. The Wildcats have confidence after rattling off three straight close wins and they could get a critical component of their oft-sputtering defense back if Kevin Parrom's foot keeps improving.,
"I just like the fact we're going into tournament having won three in a row," Miller said. "I like the way we've won the games and hopefully we have more in us."
Miller put the freshman Parrom through pregame warm-ups Saturday despite a stress reaction in the forward's left foot.
Parrom, whose toughness and defensive ability Miller values highly, has sat out the last four games after experiencing pain in the same foot that suffered a stress fracture in November and cost him 10 games.
"That was part of the progression of hopefully getting him back to the Pac-10 Tournament," Miller said. "We wanted him to warm up and see how he felt. We may let him run Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
"If he continues to experience no pain running underwater we're hopeful he can contribute in some way Thursday."
Even without Parrom, though, the Wildcats' defense showed some signs of improvement Saturday after giving up better than 50 percent shooting against ASU and California, a 60 percent first half by UCLA on March 4 and a 59 percent first half by USC on Saturday.
The Wildcats held the Trojans to 44 percent shooting in the second half Saturday and to 21.4 percent over the two overtime periods.
To Miller, that had just as much significance as any Kyle Fogg or Nic Wise heroics.
"I thought the change in the second half defensively is what won us the game," Miller said. USC's offensive production "was like a slow, steady deterioration, but I thought we had a lot to do with it."
The Wildcats also did it with somewhat surprising contributions from Jamelle Horne and Alex Jacobson.
Jacobson had three rebounds in 10 minutes, providing some much-needed strength against the physical Trojans as the game wore on. He saw action for eight minutes in the second half and two in the overtime periods.
"Alex played a big role in us winning," Miller said. "We didn't have that energy, that physicalness around the basket. I sensed that Derrick (Williams) was wearing down. Alex has done that a few other times, so we gave him the opportunity.
"He kept a couple of balls alive on offense and he provided a fresh big body in and around the basket."
Horne, meanwhile, came through with 16 points and eight rebounds in his second straight strong effort after a four-game slump that put him on the bench at the end of UA's win at Stanford and at the beginning of the March 4 UCLA game.
"We're so much better of a team when he plays like he did," Miller said about Horne. "He was really active."
The junior forward also had seven points and eight rebounds against UCLA on Thursday after posting only 13 total points and nine total rebounds in the previous three games. Miller wasn't sure what the difference with Horne was this time.
"I will say we're going to stay with him and hope he's really ready," Miller said. "I don't think Jamelle really enters a game not playing well on purpose. He's growing as a player and sometimes does things better than others."
For Horne, it was no big mystery.
"I just think this part of the season is at the end, and you want to finish strongly as a player, for yourself and the team," he said. "Shots went down, guys continue to find me, but most importantly having the three-game winning streak is great to be a part of."
And, who knows? Maybe the streak continues this week.
"This streak has given us momentum going into the Pac-10 Tournament," Wise said. "This is a great way to go in.
"We've been talking about being that team that nobody wants to play come crunch time in the Pac-10 Tournament, and we've got our confidence up now. So there you go."
UA and UCLA in the Pac-10 Tournament Since the neutral-site format in Los Angeles began in 2002:
Team record, championships
• Arizona 8-7, won in 2002
• UCLA 8-6, 2006 and 2008
Arizona and UCLA head-to-head in the Pac-10 Tournament since 2002
• Arizona 94, UCLA 78, 2002 championship game
• UCLA 96, Arizona 89 (OT), 2003 quarterfinals
• UCLA 71, Arizona 59, 2006 semifinals
Arizona and UCLA head-to-head in 2009-10
Arizona 77, UCLA 63, Jan. 2 at Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles
The Wildcats erased the sting of consecutive painful losses (by 30 at home to BYU and by six at USC) by winning on the road for the first time this season. Kyle Fogg had a then-season-high of 25 points mostly by driving inside while the Wildcats managed to keep UCLA wings Michael Roll and Malcolm Lee (15 points each) contained.
Arizona 78, UCLA 73, March 4 at McKale Center
Fogg popped up again, setting a new career-high with 26 points, but this time did it by making 7 of 10 three-pointers. The Wildcats also had a career-high-tying 16 from MoMo Jones and benefited from the decision by UCLA forward Reeves Nelson (who had 10 points and eight rebounds on Jan. 2) not to play because of an eye injury.