Washington State (17-8, 7-6) at No. 12 Arizona Wildcats (21-4, 10-2)by Javier Morales on Feb. 17, 2011, under Sports
A look at what to expect Thursday night as Arizona tries to sweep Washington State in the regular season for the first time in three years (more info to come at our partner site, WILDABOUTAZCATS.COM):
Matchups (Tipoff 6:30 p.m., Tucson time)
What’s going right: Much like last month when the Cats beat Washington State in Pullman, one outstanding feature of the Cougars’ backcourt of Reggie Moore and Marcus Capers is their sure hands. Moore and Capers have 64 turnovers to go with 125 assists. That assist total is enhanced with having a player like Klay Thompson scoring on the wing.
What’s going wrong: In Pac-10 games from beyond the three-point line, Thompson, Moore and Capers are shooting only 52 of 143 (36.4 percent). Not too bad but with shooters like them you would expect a higher percentage.
What’s going right: After Arizona edged Washington State 65-63 last month in Pullman, Kyle Fogg‘s scoring average in Pac-10 games was at 6.7 points in seven games. In the five games since, he is averaging 13.2 points, aided considerably by Sunday’s 26-point outburst at ASU.
What’s going wrong: Wing player Solomon Hill is only 4of 17 from the field in his last four games. He not only is shooting a low percentage (23.5 percent) but he’s attempting only 4.3 shots a game in that span. At least Hill is 9 of 10 from the free-throw line in those games.
Who has the edge? Can anybody pick against a unit that includes Lamont “MoMo” Jones right now? Thompson, Moore and Capers is as good as it gets in the Pac-10 as a guard unit, but with the way Jones and Fogg have played lately, the Cats are not only a legit Pac-10 title team, but also a team that can make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. As good as Fogg was against ASU with his scoring and three-point shooting and defense against Trent Lockett (3 of 10 from the field), Jones was equally impressive with his leadership and season-high six assists. Jones would have sulked over an 0-for-6 shooting performance last year, but he never got flustered at ASU, always keeping the good of the team in mind. That’s the definition of a point guard.
What’s going right: Washington State post player DeAngelo Casto returns to McKale Center, where he made a game-winning shot last year. Casto was a significant reason why the last-place Cougars swept Arizona last year, the first time the Wildcats were swept by the No. 10 team in the Pac-10 since the Cats joined the league in 1978-79. Arizona is in position to sweep the Cougs this time but Casto, who appears ready to play despite a sore ankle, will be challenging again. He is making 61.4 percent of his field goals (70 of 114) in conference games.
What’s going wrong: Junior forward Abe Lodwick and sophomore center Brock Motum have split the starting frontcourt spot opposite Casto in the last five games. Lodwick started last month against the Wildcats and posted only five points and four rebounds in 28 minutes. He averages only 3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 24.5 minutes a game in conference games.
What’s going right: A caller on the KCUB 1290-AM postgame show Sunday suggested that Derrick Williams‘ significant bandage on his right hand, protecting his sprained pinkie, is a ploy by UA coach Sean Miller to get the other Wildcats more involved. In that sense, maybe the bandage is ironically “what’s going right”, but I don’t put any weight on that. The bandage comes off after this weekend’s games, Williams will continue to lead in his own way and the other Wildcats will continue to produce more. Williams has eight double-doubles this season; Jamelle Horne is the only other Wildcat who has one.
What’s going wrong: Williams had his worst performance against ASU with a season-low 11 points and five rebounds before fouling out. The performance drew the ire of Miller, who questioned his star player’s effort and concentration during postgame interviews. Look for a more serious Williams against Wazzu and Thompson, a challenger for Pac-10 Player of the Year.
Who has the edge?: Arizona associate director of performance enhancement Chris Rounds deserves a piece of Williams’ Pac-10 Player of the Year hardware if Williams wins the award. Last year, Williams was basically pushed around by a stronger and wider Casto. But in the game this season in Pullman, Williams was the guy kicking the sand in Casto’s face, yanking a career-best 19 rebounds. Moreover, Jesse Perry (10 points and seven rebounds at ASU Sunday) is a more reliable player than Lodwick overall. Advantage: Arizona.
What’s going right: JC transfer Faisal Aden was a quick-fix replacement after rotation player Xavier Thames transferred to San Diego State after last season. Aden’s contribution is good enough for Pac-10 newcomer of the year honors. The 6-4 guard is averaging 13.3 points a game and is shooting 43.1 percent from the field. He also has 35 steals, which means he provides a legitimate boost off the bench. Motum, a 6-10 forward, had a career game against Cal last week with 19 points and five rebounds in 27 minutes.
What’s going wrong: The Cougars only go basically eight-deep talent-wise, so they can ill-afford any injuries or foul trouble. Sprained ankles for big guys like Casto have a way of lingering. All eyes should be on him in the first half to see how he responded to treatment the last day or two.
What’s going right: Arizona sophomore forward Kevin Parrom would challenge Aden for the Pac-10′s Sixth Man award if the league awarded such a thing. Parrom does it all. Check out what he’s done in the last three games: Equaled a season high with eight rebounds at ASU, set career highs in triple-OT win at California with 25 points (on 9 of 12 shooting from the field), six assists and 36 minutes played, and posted a team-high four assists to go with seven points and three offensive boards at Stanford.
What’s going wrong: The Wildcats’ reserves other than Parrom and Jordin Mayes — Brendon Lavender, Jamelle Horne, Kyryl Natyazhko and Alex Jacobson — combined for only three points (only 1 of 2 field-goal attempts) and four rebounds in a combined 33 minutes at ASU.
Who has the edge?: The game-within-the-game has Aden vs. Parrom to exhibit which player is arguably the Pac-10′s most valuable reserve. Parrom’s recent performances are indicative of how the Wildcats have become resourceful in their victories. Mayes puts Arizona over the edge in this category with his efficient play. His three-pointer ignited a 15-3 game-changing run in the first half against ASU. Nothing seems to faze him.
Credit the Arizona media-relations department, headed by longtime director Tom Duddleston, for “Making a Case for Sean Miller” — the title of its national coach-of-the-year campaign for the UA coach. The department e-mailed details of that case to the national media, asking scribes and broadcasters to “please keep Arizona’s Sean Miller in mind as a possibility for national Coach-of-the-Year honors.” Hard to believe: Lute Olson‘s lone national coach of the year honor was bestowed by CNNSI.com in the 2001-02 season. Miller deserves consideration, especially if the Wildcats reach the Sweet 16. Wazzu’s Ken Bone has done well with Tony Bennett recruits, which means the jury is still out in terms of him leading his own major-college program with his own players. Aden is a coup for Bone. Miller gets the nod here for his impact on the Arizona program and sustained success from his Xavier days.
Another hard-to-believe: The Cougars are 3-3 in Tucson the last six years after going winless at McKale Center from 1985 to 2004. They will attempt Thursday night to win consecutive games at McKale for the first time since 1983 and 1984. History has not been kind to Wazzu overall in this series and that will continue in this one. The combination of Arizona’s belief in Miller, Williams’ determination, efficient guard play and an electric McKale Center crowd will be too much for the outmanned Cougars. Arizona 83, Washington State 71.
WildAboutAZCats.com and another partner — SteveRiveraVentures.com — have a promotion this season with Tino’s Pizza in Tucson. During any UA men’s hoops game, order any large pizza (dine-in or carryout) get a discount of $2. Tino’s Pizza was voted as the Best Eastside Pizzeria by the Tucson Weekly last year. If you take advantage of this opportunity at Tino’s save your receipt and mail it to: TINO’S PIZZA / WILDABOUTAZCATS.COM CHALLENGE, c/o Javier Morales, P.O. Box 531418, Henderson, NV 89053 (include your full name, address and phone number). The person who spends the most during this promotion over the UA’s 18-game Pac-10 schedule wins a free Lute Olson-autographed “UA Basketball Vault” book (valued at $50)