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Wildcats want fast tempo against Cougars

Citizen Staff Writer



PULLMAN, Wash. – Let’s get the misconception out of the way from the start: Washington State can run – when it wants to.

“Sometimes we get a bad rep,” WSU coach Tony Bennett said about his team’s penchant for a milk-the-clock game. “We take shots. If you are open after a pass or two, you shoot it. Our goal in our offense is to take quality shots.”

No matter the time. No matter the moment.

WSU got quality shots last week against No. 22 UCLA. It shot a season-high 58 percent in scoring a season-high 82 points. Its average is 59 points a game.

UA wants the winning score closer to 80, so the Wildcats will use a full-court press. They’ll trap at every opportunity, which is what they’ve done to other teams this season.

“We want them to take shots they normally don’t take,” UA’s Nic Wise said of UA’s trap, something that’s improved and has helped the Cats win seven of their past eight games.

For the Cats to win Thursday – and show the NCAA Tournament committee they can win quality games on the road – it’s imperative they make WSU play up-tempo.

The pressure worked the first time against the Cougars in a 66-56 win Jan. 31 at McKale Center. UA interim coach Russ Pennell said he felt dealing with a press was the Cougars’ “Achilles’ heel.”

Arizona created enough of a distraction to go on a 26-4 run in the second half. That helped UA get through what is usually a headache when facing the methodical Cougars.

“Our press serves two purposes: to speed folks up, to trap and create turnovers,” Pennell said. “When we play teams that are fast like Washington and Kansas, it can be the reverse. It slows them down from kicking (the ball) in(side) and racing it down the floor. It’s one of the reasons I love the press.

“Oregon State (and) Washington State play that style where it’s difficult to get them out of that pace they like. But we were able to do that last time. We have to go out and force a little tempo if we can.”

Otherwise, Arizona could lose two in a row and fall back into a two-way tie for fifth place (depending on what USC does against California).

A win helps Arizona keep pace in the league.

It’s been that kind of tightrope season for UA and just about every team in the conference. Win and stay the course; lose and stumble onto the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Clearly, the Wildcats still need to impress the powers that be to get that NCAA bid.

“It’s big for us since we’ve won only two road games in the Pac,” Wise said.

“We’re ready to keep (some road success going) after beating Oregon State and Oregon. We’re pretty confident we can.”

> Full-page preview: UA-WSU breakdown, rosters, stats, 2C


Thursday: Arizona (18-9, 8-6) at Washington State (14-13, 6-9), FSNA, 1290 AM, 107.5 FM

Saturday: Arizona at No. 21 Washington (20-7, 11-4), 1 p.m., FSNA, 1290 AM, 107.5 FM

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