The Arizona Wildcats hadn’t allowed any opponent to record a double-double this season until Utah center Jason Washburn did it Saturday at McKale Center.
Washburn had 17 points and 11 rebounds as Arizona held on for a 60-57 victory.
Washburn didn’t enter the season with any accolades to speak of, but the 6-10, 242-pound senior was brilliant as the Utes opened conference play in Arizona this week. He had 19 points and 18 rebounds in an overtime loss at ASU on Wednesday.
“I would be really surprised if he doesn’t play in the NBA,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller.
“I don’t think a couple of years ago he would have been that. He’s agile. He can score. He was one of the best players on the court, if not the best player.”
Washburn had 15 of his points after halftime on Saturday as Utah fought back from a 10-point second-half deficit. He is averaging 10.4 points and 6.1 rebounds this season.
Freshman forward Jordan Loveridge matched Washburn with 17 points — 13 in the first half. He also earned praise from Miller, who took the opportunity to throw a challenge at his freshman big men Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett.
“Jordan Loveridge, we had no answer for him in the first half,” Miller said. “I thought he gave his own team confidence by scoring like he did. …
“Freshmen eventually cross a line when they are no longer freshmen, and they’re just players. Jordan Loveridge is a heck of a player. It didn’t matter that he was a freshman. We have a couple of guys who have to play better right now, and I’m not just pointing to the freshmen but across the board.”
While Ashley sparked Arizona early, scoring the team’s seven points, his defense was lacking. Jerrett missed all four of his shots from the field and was scoreless in 16 minutes. Tarczewski pulled down nine rebounds but was only 2 of 8 from the field.
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Arizona out-rebounded Utah 38-27, marking the 10th time in 14 games that the Wildcats have had a double-digit edge on the glass.
The problem Saturday was that while UA had 18 offensive rebounds, it managed a scant 10 second-chance points. Lots of missed shots from right around the hoop.
“You get 18 second shots and only 10 points, something’s wrong,” Miller said. “I mean, that’s hard to do. You almost have to get an offensive rebound and fall out of bounds (for that to happen).
“We have to get offensive rebounds and put it back in and get fouled, kick it out. We can’t get an offensive rebound and get nothing out of it.”
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Arizona shot 36.2 percent (21 of 58) against Utah, its second-lowest percentage of the season. Starting guards Nick Johnson and Mark Lyons combined to go 5 of 23.
The Cats’ worst shooting night came at Clemson, when they hit 35.5 percent (22 of 62).
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Saturday’s game marked the second consecutive season in which Arizona has struggled against Utah at McKale Center. The Utes led by 13 in the first half last season and led 33-25 at halftime before getting hot in the second half and winning 70-61.
Utah hasn’t won a conference game away from home since winning at New Mexico on Feb. 19, 2011, when it was a member of the Mountain West.
Dear Zona Zoo, Keep Calm And Beardown …. Sincerely Yours, “The Cardiac Cats”
— Kevin Parrom (@KevinParrom3) January 6, 2013