Citizen Staff Writer
SEATTLE – Chalk one up for scheduling tough opponents.
Arizona coach Lute Olson said playing the toughest schedule in college basketball helped Arizona win Thursday night.
“We were in some tough places to play,” Olson said after No. 7 UA defeated No. 24 Washington 96-87 at Bank of America Arena, ending UW’s 16-game home win streak. “I thought we kept our poise and definitely hit the shots when we needed to hit them.”
UA is 12-1 overall and 3-0 in the Pac-10. UA hasn’t been 3-0 in league play since the 2002-03 season.
The keys were that UA shot 76.2 percent (16 of 21) in the second half and its starters never wavered.
Jawann McClellan? Clutch, hitting 7 of 10 shots, including 6 of 9 on 3-pointers.
Mustafa Shakur? Strong, hitting 5 of 6 shots, including 2 of 3 treys.
Chase Budinger? The freshman showed poise – again – beyond his years, scoring a team-high 23 points.
“We play as a team,” said Budinger, who went 7 for 12 from the floor.
And then there was the defense. UW scored just one point in the final 4:25.
“It was one of those games where, in the end, who was going to get that last stop?” Budinger said. “We got them. We got the boards. Our veterans really stepped up in the end.”
Such as McClellan, who nailed a 3-pointer with 3:53 left to give UA a 90-86 lead.
Such as Shakur, who had hit a clutch three a basket before that.
“That’s what we get from our leadership. They hit big plays,” Budinger said.
Said Olson, “I thought Jawann had a great game. He’s a tough-minded kid. He hit some big ones down the stretch.
“And Staf hit some key ones. He’s such a completely different player. The last three years it wasn’t a case where we would have wanted him to take that 3-pointer, but right now he knocks that down.”
McClellan, who did not have a rebound in the previous two games, said he made it a point to go after rebounds. He had just two, but he tied a career-high with 22 points.
“Coach O doesn’t have to tell me much. I’m a warrior,” McClellan said. “I know what I have to do. I came out and did it, whether it was shooting threes or tapping the ball away from (Spencer) Hawes or getting steals.”
The first priority was to try to stop UW big men Hawes and Jon Brockman. Hawes had 16 points, as did Brockman.
“The thing we were most concerned about was that inside game with Hawes and Brockman,” Olson said. “They both played well, but it was (Quincy) Pondexter and (Phil) Nelson who shot the lights out.”
That forced Arizona from a zone to a man-to-man defense. It worked, and UW had a harder time scoring.
Still, the final score nearly matched UA’s 96-95 double-overtime win in Seattle last year. Olson had predicted it would be a close, high-scoring game.
“We found a way to win,” Shakur said. “I thought about last year and thought, ‘man, I don’t want it to go into overtime.’ I wanted to get it in regulation.”
UA did, and it left UW coach Lorenzo Romar frustrated.
“We had 22 assists, 11 turnovers, and we shoot 53 percent from the field,” Romar said. “You feel like you should have a chance to win that game.”
With UA up 76-71 with 10 minutes left, Washington took the lead at 77-76 when Ryan Appleby hit a layup.
The teams exchanged leads three times before Arizona took over.
UA took an 87-82 lead with 5:40 left on a McClellan 3-pointer. But after a basket by Brockman and a beat-the-shot-clock bucket by Appleby with 4:25 left, UA had just an 87-86 lead.
But McClellan followed with his sixth 3-pointer of the night to make it 90-86 with 3:53 left.
UA shot a season-high 65.3 percent (32-49) from the floor. It’s the third consecutive game UA has shot better than 60 percent. UW’s 55.4 percent wasn’t good enough, despite having four players score in double figures.
For most of the game, former Arizona recruit Pondexter made Arizona’s life miserable.
Pondexter, who came off the bench for the first time this season, had 21 points in the first half, hitting his first six shots to spark Washington to a 51-48 halftime lead.
“We were very embarrassed coming in at halftime,” said Budinger, referring to Pondexter’s performance. “We just said we can’t let him do that. We got into him.”
He went 8 for 10 from the floor in the first half but 2 of 6 in the second half. He had just four points in the second half. He finished with 25 to lead the Huskies.
“He played a great game,” Olson said. “Afterward I told him it looked like he tried to beat us by himself. . . .There’s an obvious reason we were very interested (in recruiting him.)”
Pondexter was on Arizona’s recruiting radar until UA received a commitment from Budinger two years ago.
Olson coached Pondexter’s father, Roscoe, at Long Beach State in the 1973-74 season.
GAME AT A GLANCE
Down 77-76, Arizona outscored Washington 20-10 in the final 9:52.
UA took the lead for good on a Jawann McClellan 3-pointer to make it 79-77.
BY THE NUMBERS
0 Points from UA’s reserves
4 UA players who scored 21 points or more. It’s the first time that has happened this season.
8 Points and rebounds by Ivan Radenovic. The rebounds led the team.