Arizona Wildcats (15-4, 4-2) at Washington State Cougars (14-5, 4-3)by Javier Morales on Jan. 21, 2011, under Sports
A look at what to expect Saturday night in a battle for positioning in the Pac-10 (more info to come at our partner site, WILDABOUTAZCATS.COM):
Matchups (Tipoff 8:30 p.m., Tucson time)
What’s going right: The Cougars’ three-guard lineup of Klay Thompson on the wing and Reggie Moore and Marcus Capers alternating between the point-guard and shooting-guard positions is as good as it gets in the Pac-10. Thompson is a bonafide Pac-10 Player of the Year candidate, leading the league in scoring (22.9), free-throw percentage (85 percent) and three-pointers made (3.1 a game). Most impressive, in my opinion, is that he ranks third in the Pac-10 in assists (4 a game) and fourth in steals (1.8). He is unselfish, gets after it, and beats you in so many ways.
What’s going wrong: Moore returned against ASU Thursday in Wazzu’s 78-61 victory after he was suspended last week against Stanford following a citation by Whitman (Wash.) County officials on misdemeanor marijuana and drug paraphernalia charges. The charges stemmed from a search of Moore’s dorm room Dec. 11, but coach Ken Bone says the sophomore was not in the room at the time. Moore had 11 points, five assists and seven rebounds against the Sun Devils. He, however, is struggling inside the three-point line, shooting 14 of 53 (26.4 percent) compared to beyond the arc (18 of 41, 43.9 percent).
What’s going right: Depending on how you look at it, this can actually be a negative, but sophomore Lamont “MoMo” Jones recorded his sixth double-figure scoring game of the season Thursday against Washington. Some may argue that he should be distributing more than look for his shot, but that was not a factor against the Huskies. He made 4-of-10 field goal attempts in a season-high 28 minutes played. Six of his points and both assists came in the second half. A couple of his drives to the hoop were highlight-reel material.
What’s going wrong: I wrote about this following the 85-68 loss to the Huskies, but it bears repeating here — Arizona’s defense starts on the perimeter, and currently the Wildcats are last in the Pac-10 in steals. True, Arizona had as many steals as Washington (five each) and forced two more turnovers (the Huskies had 14 compared to Arizona’s 12) but Isaiah Thomas was free to take control of the game (committing only one turnover in 35 minutes). Starting perimeter players Jones, Kyle Fogg and Solomon Hill combine for only 12 steals in Pac-10 games.
Who has the edge? Washington State. The Cougars’ guard rotation of Thompson, Capers and Moore combine for 17 steals in Pac-10 play after Thompson and Capers each had three against the Sun Devils. The most impressive production as a group is the assist-to-turnover ratio of particularly Capers and Moore — 97 assists with only 42 turnovers. By comparison, Fogg and Jones combine for 95 assists and 73 turnovers.
What’s going right: Washington State post player DeAngelo Casto, a thorn to the side of Arizona last year in the Cougars’ sweep of the Cats, is coming off a career-high 25 points against Arizona State. Casto, who gained almost 30 pounds from last season to now, is a strong 6-8 and 255 (approximately 10 to 15 pounds heavier than Derrick Williams).
What’s going wrong: Casto has not improved his numbers from last season, averaging identical 10.6 points a game and 6.4 rebounds (slightly down from 7 last season). Fellow frontcourt starter Abe Lodwick is more of a scrappy role player who attempted only one shot against ASU and averages only 3 points and 4.2 rebounds a game.
What’s going right: Williams attempted only seven free throws (making five) against Washington, which is a story in itself. One of Arizona’s lifelines this year is Williams’ ability to get to the foul line. Thanks to research from UA sports information specialist Richard Paige we know that through 19 games, 36.9 percent of Williams’ points scored (139-of-377) have come from the free throw line, where he averages 9.5 free throws per game. In Pac-10 play, 38.9 percent of his points (49-of-126) have come from the line, where he is averaging 12 free throws per game. Williams has attempted 53 field goals in conference play and 72 free throws.
What’s going wrong: If Jesse Perry matures from the first half of the Pac-10 season and turns it on during the back half, that should make Williams much more dangerous. Perry did not keep Washington’s defense on Williams honest by attempting only five shots (with only one after an offensive rebound) in 24 minutes. It became obvious that UA coach Sean Miller and his staff want Perry to create his shot more coming from the wing, perhaps drawing defenders for Williams, but that is not materializing at this point.
Who has the edge?: Arizona. Williams’ potential exceeds that of Casto because of the UA forward’s ability to extend the defense and aggressively draw fouls. Casto has only attempted 51 free throws (making 34) while Williams has gone to the line almost four times more (181 tries, making 139). Williams has also bulked up to 240 to 245 pounds to provide Casto more of challenge than last year. Casto had a combined 35 points and 19 rebounds in Wazzu’s wins over Arizona last year. If Perry does not get on track against Washington State, as he should matched against Lodwick, than his development might take longer than expected.
What’s going right: JC transfer Faisel Aden, a quick-fix replacement for departed guard Xavier Thames (transferred to San Diego State and is sitting out this season), is arguably the top reserve in the Pac-10. Second on the team behind Thompson with 14.6 points a game, Aden has been given the green light by Bone. He has attempted 225 field goals, the only Cougar to try more than 150 other than Thompson (who has 302 attempts). Aden did not play against ASU because of knee soreness but is expected to play Saturday after practicing with the Cougars on Friday afternoon.
What’s going wrong: Bone’s bench runs mostly only three deep, with Aden, guard Brock Motum and forward Patrick Simon getting most of the minutes. That could come into play if any of the Cougars get into foul trouble or if the game happens to go into overtime.
What’s going right: Quick: Who has attempted the most three-pointers for Arizona in Pac-10 play? Fogg? Nope. Hill? Nope. Try Kevin Parrom. He has attempted the most (19) and made the most (nine). Parrom vs. Aden is a good battle of sixth men.
What’s going wrong: Sophomore center Kyryl Natyazhko has slipped off to oblivion after the start the Pac-10 season. He has played a total of only 58 minutes in six conference games. Since scoring 16 points and grabbing 12 rebounds against Stanford, Jamelle Horne had four points and three rebounds in his last two games against ASU and Washington.
Who has the edge?: Arizona. Although the UA has a struggling bench, the Wildcats possess more depth than Wazzu. Depth is critical in closely called Pac-10 games, especially on the road. Aden will be a difficult assignment for Arizona, but Parrom will be the same for Wazzu. Expect Parrom to draw the important defensive assignment on Thompson.
Bone and Miller are each in their second year and each have shown marked improvement behind the play of player of the year candidates (Thompson and Williams, respectively). The difference is previous coach Tony Bennett recruited Thompson while Miller inked Williams. Credit Bone for soothing over differences with Thompson, who reportedly was considering a transfer or early departure to the NBA during last season. Chemistry was a question mark for the Cougars, who collapsed in the second half of the season to finish last in the Pac-10. Miller has commanded respect from his players from the start. Miller’s success on the national stage gives him the edge although Bone appears to be the right hire for Wazzu with the remarkable turnaround.
Maybe I should leave this space blank after what happened the other night, predicting Arizona to win by three when it lost by 17 at Washington. At least the game was still in doubt with a little more than five minutes left in the game. Somebody I respect, who knows the game of college basketball well, attended the ASU-Washington State game Thursday. I will refer to this person as an “anonymous source”. This source tells me Arizona should win Saturday night because Parrom can do enough to slow down Thompson and the heftier Williams will provide Casto more of a challenge. Some interesting stats to think about: the Cougars’ Pac-10 opponents have attempted more field goals and free throws and have a better assist-to-turnover ratio. The Wildcats will take advantage of their opportunities and pull out the 79-73 victory.
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