Ever since Arizona won the 1997 NCAA championship, the Wildcats have made a habit of swaggering their way through the Lone Star State.
Whether because of former coach Lute Olson's friendship with former Texas and Houston coach Tom Penders or because of the Wildcats' previously strong recruiting connection to the area, Arizona has scheduled six games in Texas since 1997 - and lost only once.
First, there was sixth man Jason Terry scoring 20 points for the defending champs against Texas during the 1997-98 season. Then there was Richard Jefferson's throat-slitting gesture after he scored 19 second-half points to lead the UA to a comeback win in 1999-2000. There was an easy win over Rick Barnes' Longhorns in 2001-02 and, after Penders moved to Houston, a surprise upset by the long-dormant Cougars in 2005-06.
Finally, in 2007-08, UA guard Jerryd Bayless celebrated his return from a knee injury by scoring 33 points at Houston and noting that tough-talking Cougar Robert McKiver didn't "know who he was talking to."
Perhaps not coincidentally, too, the struggling Russ Pennell-coached Wildcats also found their swagger at home against Houston a year later, after the Cougars' Aubrey Coleman fatefully stepped on Chase Budinger's face. But that's another story all together.
The road games are where Arizona made its most significant mark of all the series they scheduled with Texas schools, and they will come to an end tonight when the Wildcats play at Rice.
Nearly all of the reasons the two-year Rice series was scheduled have evaporated: The two ADs who scheduled the series are gone - the UA's Jim Livengood (now at UNLV) and his former assistant, Chris Del Conte of Rice (now at TCU).
Now, the UA has only one remaining player on the roster from Houston, reserve guard Dondre Wise. And the Wildcats' hotshot recruiter from Houston, Josh Pastner, is now known as the head coach at Memphis.
Even though coach Sean Miller has begun re-recruiting Texas - going after highly regarded 2013 Houston twin guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison, among others - he says playing there is not mandatory.
"Any coach appreciates the state of Texas," Miller said. "There's unbelievable talent. It's a huge state and one that is very close to the state of Arizona. It makes a lot of sense for us to recruit there. That doesn't mean you have to play a game there. We're close enough that that isn't a necessity."
Former Wildcat guard Jawann McClellan, now an assistant coach at Houston's Yates High School, said he isn't worried about Miller's recruiting, either.
"I talk to Book (Richardson, UA assistant coach) all the time and Sean, and I'm kind of helping," McClellan said. "They seem to be doing fine with their recruiting. They seem to be reloading."
McClellan, a McDonald's All-American out of Houston in 2004, is one of many UA-Houston connections built over the past decade. Here are 10 of them:
Jawann McClellan, Houston
He played at UA from 2004-08 and is now an assistant coach at Yates High School under coach Greg Wise. He also teaches special ed in night school.
Fendi Onobun, Houston
He played at the UA from 2005-09. After leaving Tucson to spend a fifth year of eligibility as a football player at Houston, Onobun was drafted by the St. Louis Rams last spring as a tight end. Has been on and off the Rams' active list this season.
Nic Wise, Kingwood, Texas
Wise played at the UA from 2006-10 , graduated from Arizona in May and signed a professional contract with Telekom Baskets Bonn in Germany. He averages 11.7 points and 2.7 assists.
Dondre Wise, Kingwood, Texas
He currently plays for the UA. Dondre Wise played for Pima College in 2007-08 then joined the Wildcats last season. He is scoreless in three games played this season.
Greg Wise, Kingwood, Texas
The father of UA players Nic and Dondre coached Yates High School to 34-0 record last season and the No.1 spot in USA Today's final high school basketball rankings.
Garland Judkins, Humble, Texas
He played at UA from 2008-10. After starting four games for Wildcats in 2008-09, transferred in the middle of last season and sat out the spring because of family issues. Is now averaging 7.3 points as a starting guard for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Chase Budinger, Encinitas, Calif.
He played at the UA from 2006-09. After being selected in the second round of the 2009 draft by Detroit, he was immediately traded to Houston, where he became a significant rotation player as a rookie. Budinger averages 8.2 points in 14 games this season for Rockets.
Jordan Hill, Atlanta
Hill played at the UA from 2006-09. He was drafted No.8 overall in 2009 by the New York Knicks but traded to Houston in the middle of last season. Hill averages 6.9 points and 4.5 rebounds this season.
Josh Pastner, Kingwood, Texas
Pastner played at the UA from 1996-2000 and was an assistant coach at the UA from 2000-2008. After playing a big role in landing Texas recruits, he left the Wildcats in May 2008 to serve as assistant for John Calipari at Memphis then took over the Tigers program in 2009 when Calipari left for Kentucky.
Ben Braun, Chicago
Braun coached at Cal from 1996-2008. OK, it's not a true UA connection, but the Rice coach has been the visiting coach at the UA 13 times, has family in Tucson and visits the city occasionally in the off-season.
SUCCESS IN TEXAS
Recent games in Texas that Arizona deliberately scheduled (not including tournaments or Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series games):
Date Location Result
Dec. 6, 1997 Austin Arizona, 88, Texas 81
Dec. 8, 1997 Waco Arizona 83, Baylor 68
Dec. 4, 1999 Austin Arizona 88, Texas 81
Nov. 17, 2001 Austin Arizona 88, Texas 74
Dec. 3, 2005 Houston Houston 69, Arizona 65
Jan. 12, 2008 Houston Arizona 85, Houston 71
• What: Arizona at Rice
• When: 6 p.m.
• TV: CBS College Sports (Comcast channel 274; Cox 187; DirecTV 613; Dish 152)
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107-5-FM