Washington Huskies (18-7, 10-4) at No. 12 Arizona Wildcats (22-4, 11-2)by Javier Morales on Feb. 19, 2011, under Sports
A look at what to expect Saturday late afternoon as Arizona tries to even the season series against Washington and maintain its Pac-10 lead (more info to come at our partner site, WILDABOUTAZCATS.COM):
Matchups (Tipoff 4 p.m., Tucson time)
What’s going right: Isaiah Thomas, a 5-9 junior who can match up with any point guard in the country, is coming off a subpar game for him with only 11 points and six assists in Washington’s 79-62 win at ASU. But last week at home, he averaged 22.5 points and 5 assists and shot 56 percent from the floor in a sweep of Cal and Stanford (garnering Pac-10 Player of the Week in the process). Thomas is a Jason Terry and Damon Stoudamire kind of a player, leading the Pac-10 in assists (5.7 a game) while ranking in the top five in scoring (17 points a game). Go figure: Terry and Stoudamire have helped his development.
What’s going wrong: Junior shooting guard Scott Suggs, who was shooting 45.5 percent from three-point range (40 of 88), is out until perhaps the Pac-10 tournament because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee after colliding with Thomas 3 minutes into ASU game. The Huskies already lost former UA recruit Abdul Gaddy, a sophomore point guard out for the rest of the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee during practice on Jan. 4
What’s going right: The backcourt combination is helping Arizona by not only scoring, but in all phases. A game after Lamont “MoMo” Jones had a season-high six assists against ASU, Kyle Fogg registered a season-high seven assists against Washington State Thursday. They also combined for 10 rebounds against the Cougars, a season high for them. Their increased contribution is indicative of how players other than Derrick Williams have stepped up their effort since the turning point of the Pac-10 season.
What’s going wrong: Jones is 3 of 15 from the field in his last two games after going 9-of-18 in the triple-overtime thriller over California. The cold shooting does not seem to faze or frustrate Jones, who never lacks confidence. Getting others involved is paramount anyway.
Who has the edge? When Arizona first played Washington last month, this was a no-brainer because of Thomas’ exploits and the way Jones and Fogg were inconsistent. This is what I wrote in this space before Arizona played at Washington: If the Wildcats win its because either Fogg or Jones — or both — break out of their shell. Consider the shell shattered to pieces. Suggs’ injury — senior Venoy Overton (more of a distributor and defensive player) is slated to start in his place — will affect the Huskies’ perimeter presence on offense. Advantage goes to Arizona’s ever-improving guard combination.
What’s going right: Seniors Matthew Bryan-Amaning at power forward and Justin Holiday on the wing are two credible candidates for the All-Pac-10 team. Bryan-Amaning notched his eighth double-double of the season against ASU with 22 points and 12 rebounds and produced a career-high three assists with a season-high four blocks. Holiday, perhaps the most underrated player in the league, is in the Pac-10′s top 10 in three-point field-goal percentage (40.8), steals (1.3 a game), and blocked shots (0.9).
What’s going wrong: Aziz N’Diaye, a 7-foot, 260-pound, sophomore, can alter shots and block them with 1.3 a game but he is not an overwhelming force on the boards. He has only four games with double-digit rebounds and is averaging only 5.3 a game despite his size and athleticism.
What’s going right: Derrick Williams has 506 points this season, becoming the 35th player (accomplished 50 times) in Arizona history to score 500 or more points in a single season. He is just eight points shy of 1,000 for his career. If he scores eight Saturday he will become the 45th player in school history to achieve 1,000 career points, and just the seventh sophomore to accomplish that feat (thanks to the UA sports information office for that info).
What’s going wrong: This has been written before but it bears repeating, especially after the way Solomon Hill started to assert himself at the beginning of the second half against Washington: Hill has played 56 more minutes (almost a game and a half) than reserve Kevin Parrom but he’s attempted one less field goal than the fellow wing player (Parrom is 38 of 88 from the field while Hill is 31 of 67)
Who has the edge?: Bryan-Amaning and N’Diaye are confident heading into this game because of how they performed against the Wildcats last month (Bryan-Amaning with 18 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots and N’Diaye with eight rebounds in a season-high 27 minutes). Also, Holiday is a game-breaker who made 8 of 11 field-goal attempts for 22 points against Arizona. Bryan-Amaning and N’Diaye, defensively, are superior than other headline Pac-10 frontcourt duos (such as UCLA’s Reeves Nelson and Joshua Smith and USC’s Alex Stepheson and Nikola Vucevic). Will Williams and Jesse Perry match their intensity and effort? Holiday stacks up favorably against Hill, who can learn a lot from how Holiday plays in all facets of the game. Advantage: Washington.
What’s going right: Freshman 6-5 wing player C.J. Wilcox is starting to heat up. He has 40 points over his last three Pac-10 games (after only 22 in the previous nine games). He had 16 points on 4-of-9 shooting from three-point range against ASU Thursday. Last month, he was scoreless against Arizona in eight minutes.
What’s going wrong: With the injuries to Gaddy and Suggs, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar does not have many options off the bench. Freshman wing Terrence Ross and junior forward Darnell Gant have shown flashes of strong play but can they make an impact in a game like this after playing limited roles?
What’s going right: Arizona senior Jamelle Horne will play his last hyped game in McKale Center — the season-ending affairs with Oregon and Oregon State won’t rate like this one — and visions remain of his 22-point game against the Huskies last year in Tucson. Horne has attempted 29 of his 51 field goal attempts in Pac-10 games from three-point range, but has used that to his advantage. He is shooting 48.3 percent from beyond the arc and is due for a big game from there. Since going 6-for-6 from three-point range against Cal and Stanford in the first Pac-10 games at McKale this season, he is 1-for-8 in Tucson against ASU, UCLA, USC and Washington State.
What’s going wrong: Arizona junior reserve guard Brendon Lavender made some key baskets at Stanford and Cal a couple of weeks ago, scoring a combined 13 points in those games. He has not scored in Arizona’s last two games at ASU and against Washington State on Thursday. He was 0-for-2 from the field in those games, playing only a total of 16 minutes.
Who has the edge?: Parrom can provide a difference against Holiday with his size and physical play. The game features two of the better freshmen in the league with Wilcox and Arizona’s Jordin Mayes, who is accustomed to these type of pressure-filled games with his big-city Los Angeles high school background. The perimeter shooting of Parrom, Mayes and Horne (they are shooting a combined 42.4 percent from three-point range) is usually reliable and capable of helping the Wildcats win. Advantage: Arizona.
Some Washington fans criticized this space before last month’s game because I rated Arizona’s Sean Miller ahead of Romar. I stand by that rating. Romar is the dean of Pac-10 coaches (in terms of continuous tenure) with nine consecutive years in Seattle. Romar has coached the Huskies to three Sweet 16 appearances. Miller, coaching a mid-major such as Xavier, has gone as far as the Elite Eight with less of a talent pool to recruit from (as opposed to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest). Romar has also consistently scheduled a less than stellar non-conference slate, which should not be happening considering he has the Husky program on solid ground. Miller says he will subscribe to predecessor Lute Olson‘s theory of playing the best to be the best (and boost that RPI) after he gets the program to where it is as competitive as Olson’s golden years.
The Husky faithful rightfully chastised me for picking Arizona to upset Washington in Seattle (my only off-base pick this year). The Wildcats lost 85-68, but the game was still in doubt with a little more than six minutes remaining (the Cats trailed 67-61 with 5:54 left). Bryan-Amaning admitted during Washington’s postgame radio show that score did not reflect how closely contested that game was overall. Now the scene shifts to McKale Center, where Arizona is 14-0 this year and hosting its first “White-Out” in school history. Washington’s athletic department quoted Thomas saying “I can’t wait” in terms of playing in what will be a raucous crowd and national TV audience with ESPN. How will the UA players, who have never played in a game of this magnitude in their Wildcat careers, respond? With only four losses in 26 games, Arizona has not beaten itself much this year. That should continue Saturday with Miller’s no-nonsense influence. Arizona 86, Washington 79.
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)