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Arizona Wildcats learn valuable lesson in close win over Southern Miss

For a team that has had seemingly everything come easy to them this season, Tuesday night's narrow victory could pay dividend down the road.

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Nine, 21, 22, 43 and 28.

No, those aren't the lucky lottery ticket numbers from last weekend. They're the margins of victory for the Arizona Wildcats during their first five games this season.

On Tuesday night, UA was almost upset by a scrappy Southern Miss team. The 'Cats trailed by eight points at halftime, and the score was tied with less than six minutes remaining on the clock. They ended up pulling out the 63-55 win in the closing minutes.

While the game was frustrating to watch -- Arizona turned the ball over 27 times, which is their highest tally in nearly 13 years -- it really seems like the Wildcats learned a valuable lesson.

They can't just show up this season and expect to win.

Last year, as Arizona struggled with mediocrity in a bad Pac-12 conference, they were just another opponent whenever they took the floor. This time around, they're likely the best team their foes will see all year. That's both a blessing and a curse.

Last night was essentially the Super Bowl for Southern Miss. It was apparent from the very start; they out-hustled the 'Cats in the first half and hung tough for 38 of the 40 minutes. A win would've been the highlight of their season.

As the year continues to roll along, Arizona will see plenty more teams like the Golden Eagles. Given the experience they gained on Tuesday night, the UA faithful can only hope the Wildcats don't fall asleep at the wheel again.

So as the national media picks apart Arizona's sloppy performance against Southern Miss, just remember that the lesson learned could pay dividend down the road. Maybe not against Florida or UCLA, but when a hungry Oral Roberts or Utah team comes to McKale Center in the coming weeks, this group of 'Cats can look back on last night's win and avoid a disastrous letdown.