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Arizona dispatches Washington State … bring on the Huskies

Derrick Williams throws down a dunk in the second half against Washington State.
Photo by Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE

The Arizona football team added a former Freshman All-American quarterback — Tom Savage — on Thursday. The basketball team received a commitment from the best available high school big man — Angelo Chol.

It made you wonder what was next.

Was Arizona going to announce Chuck Cecil as its next secondary coach? Was Derrick Williams going to announce he’s staying for his junior season after beating Washington State?

Now, that would have been a great Wildcat day.

OK, so neither of those things happened, but in the world of “good things come in threes,” the basketball team did cap a fine Wildcat day in recruiting with a pretty fine night on the court, beating Washington State 79-70 at McKale Center.

What’s next?

Nobody knows if it’s going to get better from here for coach Sean Miller’s pups, but things certainly are going to get bigger.

And by that, we mean … bring on Washington.

This seven-game winning streak has propelled the Wildcats to the top of the Pac-10 and a showdown against the Huskies on Saturday — 4 p.m. on ESPN. Fans encouraged to wear white. The biggest game of the Miller era.

“A tough game, a down-to-the-wire game,” sophomore forward Solomon Hill said of what he expects from Saturday’s game.

“They are going to try to come in and bully us. But I look forward to it, especially with it being a home crowd. We got these guys last year (in McKale Center); it would be good to get these guys this year in McKale, especially at the end of the Pac-10 season. It would really push us forward.”

Pushing forward. That’s what Arizona is doing. It’s still not a team that stacks up physically, position by position, to any of the vintage (or near vintage) Lute Olson teams. The Cats are simply playing greater than the sum of their parts, just getting it done with different players on different nights, different methods in different games.

On Thursday night, it was free throw shooting.

Arizona made its first 21 attempts — beating the school record for consecutive makes by one — and finished 24 of 26.

“That old adage that free throws win championships or win games, you really saw that on our part,” Miller said.

“If we don’t make our free throws, you can make the argument that that game maybe goes down to the final possession or the final minutes. It was such a difference.”

Last weekend, Kyle Fogg was scoring 26 points against Arizona State. Thursday night, he was dishing out seven assists.

In the past three games, Hill had made three baskets. He made three baskets in the first three minutes of the second half.

With these Cats, it’s always something … and we mean that in a good way.

“We are really playing as a team,” Miller said.

Arizona is chasing its first regular-season Pac-10 title since 2005. Miller notes the team’s five remaining games all count the same — “We’re just moving from one day to the next,” he said — but we all know the Washington game packs a little more oomph.

Arizona is 11-2 in the Pac-10. The Huskies are 10-4. UCLA is wedged in between at 11-3.

With a win on Saturday, the Wildcats can essentially eliminate Washington, the preseason favorite, and make this a two-team race.

“With the great respect we have for Washington, when we show up at McKale on Saturday, we better be ready,” Miller said.

“Washington is not a team that is going to come in here not believing. They’re deep, talented, they have great toughness about them. We have to really be ready for that game.”

If they are, it could be another very good Wildcat day.

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