Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller ran through the list of adjectives.
“You can really tell they were the deeper, bigger, faster, stronger team,” Miller said of Washington.
At least, Miller had no complaints about Arizona’s effort after a 79-70 loss in Seattle.
It was just a case of the Huskies having superior personnel. Nobody else in the Pac-12 is constructed quite like the Huskies with their combination of athleticism and length.
Arizona can handle opponents that are big but slow. Or can suitably take on teams that are small and athletic.
But it’s too much for this season’s Wildcats to play a foe that has a 7-footer (Aziz N’Diaye) and NBA athleticism (Terrence Ross, Tony Wroten) and height advantages all along the perimeter.
In fact, rather than wondering why Arizona got swept by Washington for the first time since 2007, it might be better to ask why the Huskies aren’t a Top 25 team.
Well, they’re young, too, but they’re headed in the right direction after winning eight of their past nine games. They ended Arizona’s five-game winning streak.
The Wildcats (19-9 overall, 10-5 Pac-12) hung tough for most of the game before fading late and waving goodbye to their chances of back-to-back regular-season conference championships. They are two back of Washington with three games to play — and the Huskies hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
At this point, Arizona is playing to get one of the top four seeds in the Pac-12 tournament, which means a bye into the second round of the tourney.
“Today would have been the silver lining,” Miller said in his postgame radio show, referring to a potential victory that would have set up Arizona nicely in the conference race.
“Because it didn’t happen, we can’t all of a sudden say, ‘We’re a disaster.’ It’s about the process and building on what we’ve done. … We have to keep taking care of business and sticking together.”
A victory would have been a huge boost to Arizona, which, depending on who was doing the projections last week, was either barely into the NCAA Tournament of just out of it.
The Wildcats will be favored to win their final three games. USC (Thursday at home) and Arizona State (March 4 in Tempe) are awful. The toughest matchup is UCLA this Saturday; the Bruins are far from great but they did beat the Cats 65-58 in Los Angeles, which is Arizona’s “worst” loss of the season.
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Arizona was 6 of 21 from 3-point range at Washington, going only 2 of 13 in the second half. And both of those made 3-pointers came late in the game when the Huskies were putting a bow on the victory.
This is an area in which Washington’s length is so problematic for Arizona, whether the Huskies were in man-to-man defense or a zone. Good looks are simply hard to come by.
“We started to shut down their opportunities and close out on their 3-point shots,” Washington forward Darnell Gant told reporters after the game. “That took away from their punch.”
UA shot 10 of 34 (29.4 percent) from 3-point range in two games vs. Washington this season.
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Washington tied its season high with 20 offensive rebounds. The Huskies had 18 offensive rebounds vs. Arizona in McKale Center.
“At times, when we got key stops, they beat us with second shots,” Miller said in his interview on KCUB (1290-AM). “That’s somewhat overwhelming. …
“It’s not like we didn’t try to rebound. They have the best offensive rebounding team in the conference. We could not keep them off the glass. We certainly missed some block-outs, but I credit Washington for taking their strength and having that in place against us.”
No doubt, help is on the way to Arizona next season, with 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski and power forwards Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley. Jerrett had 29 points, including eight dunks, in a playoff game Saturday night.
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Senior guard Kyle Fogg played in his 132nd game at Arizona on Saturday, moving him into fifth place on the school’s career list of games played. Jason Gardner holds the record at 136. … Junior forward Solomon Hill, with 13 points and 10 rebounds, had his 10th double-double of the season. … Freshman guard Nick Johnson scored a career-high 20 points. He had twice scored 19 in a game.