Sharing the Pac-12 lead with California, Washington saved the best home game for last — an always compelling match-up desperately needed by both teams for NCAA tourney selection cred.
GAME: Arizona (19-8, 10-4 Pac-12) at Washington (18-8, 11-3 Pac-12). WHEN: Noon Saturday, Alaska Airlines Arena. MEETING: 72nd (Wildcats lead 44-27). RANKINGS: Neither ranked. TV: FSN. RADIO: KJR 950 AM, 102.9 FM.
When Lorenzo Romar’s Washington Huskies face Arixona, they will be trying to accomplish something they have done only three times previously: win all four regular-season games vs. Arizona and Arizona State.
The Huskies set themselves up for this relative rarity by beating Arizona State Thursday 77-69 in a sloppy affair. A win over Arizona would mark the first time since 2004 that Washington won all four in a season against the Arizona schools. Before that: 1984 and 1982.
Saturday’s game is also the last one at home for Washington, which plays its final three Pac-12 contests on the road, at Washington State, USC and UCLA. The Huskies co-lead the conference at 11-3 with California.
Washington’s last two against Arizona, both wins, rank among the most memorable of the Romar era. On Jan. 28, in Tucson, C.J. Wilcox provided the winning margin when he hit a pair of foul shots with 3.3 seconds left, and then Tony Wroten saved the game when he blocked Josiah Turner at the rim.
Last March 12 Los Angeles at the Pac-10 tournament, Isaiah Thomas, now with the Sacramento Kings, hit an 18-foot jumper as time expired in overtime, giving Washington a 77-75 win over the Wildcats and the tournament title.
Arizona has won five in a row and nine of 12, and stands a game back of Washington and Cal in the Pac-12 race at 10-4. The Wildcats feature three double-figure scorers in Kyle Fogg (12.9), Solomon Hill (12.4) and Jesse Perry (12.0).
When Washington and Arizona met Jan. 28, the Huskies held Fogg to seven points, but could do nothing with sophomore Hill, who scored 28 and pulled down 11 rebounds. Perry added 13 points and 12 rebounds.
SERIES: Dates to Dec. 29, 1964, when Arizona defeated Washington 77-63 in the second round of the Los Angeles Classic. Washington has won five of the past seven against Arizona.
LAST GAME (Washington, Feb. 16): Terrence Ross led four Washington players in double figures with 18 points, and the Huskies stayed tied for first place with a 77-69 victory over Arizona State. Washington parlayed a dominant run late in the first half to take an 18-point lead at the break, then coasted to its seventh win in eight games — and 13th in the last 16 games — despite some second-half lapses. C.J. Wilcox scored 14, Tony Wroten 13 and Aziz N’Diaye 12 as the Huskies hit 49.2 percent of their shots. Carrick Felix led Arizona State (8-18, 4-10) with 13 points, but the Sun Devils lost for the fourth time in their last five.
LAST GAME (Arizona, Feb. 16): Brendon Lavender scored 17 points and Jesse Perry nailed two late baskets that lifted Arizona over Washington State 76-72. Kyle Fogg added 16 points and Perry scored 14 for Arizona, which won its fifth straight contest. Brock Motum scored 28 points for Washington State (13-13, 5-9), but missed four of five free throws in the closing minutes.
UW STATS/NOTES: Today will be the last home games for seniors Darnell Gant and Brendan Sherrer, who will be honored pre-game . . .Washington is still second in the conference in scoring offense (75.4 ppg) and No. 10 in scoring defense (70.3) . . . UW is 11th in team free throw shooting (61.7 percent) . . .Wroten has scored 10+ points in 24 of 26 games . . . Ross is one of two Pac-12 players ranked in the league’s top 10 in scoring and rebounding . . .Washington is 10th in the league 3-point percentage (34.4) . . . Washington leads the Pac-12 in rebounding (40.2 rpg) and offensive rebounding (14.31) . . . C.J. Wilcox is third in the conference in 3-pointers per game (2.22), but 11th in 3-point percentage (39.8).
ARIZONA STATS/NOTES: Arizona has the seventh-ranked offense (69.9 ppg) and third-rated defense (62.1), a scoring differential of +7.9 (T2 Pac-12) . . . Arizona ranks only ninth in the Pac-12 in overall field goal percentage (44.7), but first in 3-point percentage (38.3) . . . No Pac-12 team makes more 3-pointers than Arizona, 7.52 per contest . . . Arizona does not have a scorer ranked among the top 10 . . . Solomon Hill ranks No. 2 in the conference in rebounds (8.1 rpg) and Brendon Lavendar is the league’s top 3-point shooter, hitting 5.3 percent.
COACHES: Lorenzo Romar is in his 10th season as Washingtons head coach. Romar has taken the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament six times, and won three Pac-10 Tournament titles (2005, 2010, 2011). Romar, who signed a 10-year contract extension in April 2011, won his his 200th game at Washington Dec. 16, 2011, when the Huskies defeated UC Santa Barbara. He had his 300th career victory and his 100th as a conference coach when the Huskies beat Stanford 76-63 Jan. 21.
Sean Miller: Miller is in his third year. In 2010-11, he led UA to a 30-7 record, a Pac-10 regular-season championship and an NCAA West Regional final berth. A University of Pittsburgh graduate, Miller began his college head coaching career at Xavier, where he produced four 20-win teams in five years, leading each of those teams to the NCAA Tournament.
ART THIEL’S TAKE: Asked if he was ready for more drama time against Arizona, Romar smiled after the win Thursday and said, “I don’t know if I can take it.” From a basketball-fans perspective, they can’t get enough of it. Over the last few years, UW-Arizona has become the best rivalry in the conference. Great players, spectacular plays, close outcomes. What else is needed?
The game is critical because there is the real possibility that the NCAA tourney selection committee will take only the Pac-12 tourney winner, the mandatory minimum from a mediocre conference. The loser Saturday is in danger of missing the dance. It’s hard to see the erratic Huskies winning all three of their final games on the road, so the home-game triumph is large. Expect a large one from Wroten. Washington 66, Arizona 65.
STEVE RUDMAN’S TAKE: In order to keep their NCAA Tournament aspirations intact (barring a third consecutive conference tournament championship), the Huskies need to beat Arizona at home, and to do that they’ve got to do a much better job on Hill, the standout Arizona sophomore.
When the Huskies faced Arizona Jan. 28, Hill played what I would rank as the best opponent performance of the year against UW. In 37 minutes, he made 9 of 10 from 2-point range, hit both of his 3-point attempts and made 8 of 9 free throws for 28 points.
Hill also had 11 rebounds. It’s remarkable that Washington weathered that onslaught and won. As for Saturday, it looks like another close one. Washington 72, Arizona 68.
COMING UP: Washington closes out its conference schedule with games at Washington State (Feb. 25), at USC March 1 and at UCLA March 3, the latter an 11 a.m. start televised nationally on CBS. The Pac-12 Tournament opens March 7 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
University of Washington 2011-12 Schedule/Results
(Rankings Are Current)
|Date||Opponent||UW Rnk||Opp Rnk||W/L||Score||Rec.|
|11/4/11||vs. Seattle Pacific||—||—||W||77-60||0-0|
|11/12/11||vs. Georgia State||—||—||W||91-74||1-0|
|11/13/11||vs. Florida Atlantic||—||—||W||77-71||2-0|
|11/20/11||at Saint Louis||—||—||L||77-64||3-1|
|11/25/11||vs. Houston Baptist||—||—||W||88-65||4-1|
|12/2/11||at Nevada||—||—||L||76-73 (OT)||4-2|
|12/16/11||vs. UC Santa-Barbara||—||—||W||87-80||5-4|
|12/18/11||vs. South Dakota St.||—||—||L||92-73||5-5|
|12/22/11||vs. Cal-State Northridge||—||—||W||74-50||6-5|
|12/29/11||vs. Oregon State||—||—||W||95-80||7-5|
|1/10/12||vs. Seattle U.||—||—||W||91-83||10-6|
|1/15/12||vs. Washington St.||—||—||W||75-65||11-6|
|1/26/12||at Arizona St.||—||—||W||60-54||13-7|
|2/12/12||at Oregon St.||—||—||W||75-72||17-8|
|2/16/12||vs. Arizona State||—||—||W||77-69||18-8|
|2/25/12||at Washington St.||—||—||—||—||—|