Judging from the entries in Sunday’s Guess the UW Score contest, it looks as if many Huskies fans were predicting a low-scoring game. Most believed Washington would win, but few guessed they would score as many points as they did in the 92-71 victory at California.
Still we had a big winner and his name is ChrisG! from San Francisco, who guessed the Huskies would win 92-70. Great job. Not sure if you’re going to a UW game this season, but if you do let me know and dinner is on me. Or I’ll send you a promotional code for the UW men’s basketball app. Contact me privately and let me know.
OK, let’s move on.
Today’s games (times are local to site)
Arizona State at Washington State, 7 p.m.
Arizona at Washington, 7:30 (FSN)
Stanford at USC, 7:30 p.m. (USCTrojans.com)
California at UCLA, 7:30 p.m.
Picks: WSU, USC and UCLA.
Record: 17-8 Pac-10, 81-30 overall.
AND THE UW-ARIZONA WINNER IS …
The Huskies 85-75.
Everyone raves about Arizona super sophomore Derrick Williams for very legitimate reasons. He’s a stud. I spoke with a couple of Pac-10 coaches and they say he’s a top 10 selection in the 2011 NBA draft. NBAdraft.net has him as the No. 1 pick.
Ken Pomeroy who does a great job crunching statistics says Williams is the most efficient player offensively in the nation.
Still the Huskies did a pretty good job against Williams the last time they played him. In a 81-75 defeat on Feb. 4, 2010 at Hec Ed, he attempted just one field goal and four free throws. He finished with three points and two rebounds and fouled out in eight minutes.
Former UW star Quincy Pondexter came out aggressive and drove the ball hard at Williams and the Wildcats. Pondexter went to the free throw line 15 times and Washington attempted 42 foul shots, which was the second highest attempts last season.
Senior guard Matthew Bryan-Amaning would be wise to watch a video of the game. Playing passive against Williams is a big mistake. Oregon State rendered him ineffective with it’s 1-3-1 zone and Washington may use its 2-3 zone tonight. But look for the Huskies to employ a similar attack to last year’s scheme.
They’ll crowd Williams and pressure Arizona’s guards to make it difficult to throw passes into the paint. They’ll make sure to keep a body on him on rebounds and they’ll test his conditioning with their transition offense. Washington has three big men and they’ll have to be smart with their fouls. Still it’s better to send Williams to the line, then giving up an open layup.
Will it be enough to shut down Williams like UW did last year? Probably not. He’s matured offensively. He knows how to draw fouls and he’s added a three-point shot to his game. Plus the Wildcats are heavily dependent on him unlike last season when former player Nic Wise was the star.
There’s two theories on beating Arizona. You either let Williams do his thing and stop everyone else, which is what Kansas did. In that game Williams finished with 27 points and eight rebounds, but the Jayhawks claimed an 87-79 win.
The other theory says limit Williams’ attempts and force first-year starter Lamont Jones to beat you. Jones has scored a career-high 20 points twice this season, in a pair of Arizona defeats. When he’s the taking over, the Wildcats aren’t going to Williams and they’re a bit out of sync.
Jones has also been turnover prone. He’s committed just three in the past three games, but he’s had five games of at least four turnovers.
Arizona is a long-athletic team and it’s the best Pac-10 team in conference-only games at shooting three-pointers and defending three-pointers. The Wildcats are also second behind Washington in rebounding margin.
They don’t do a great job at sharing the ball and rank in the middle of the league in assists, which again speaks to Jones’ erratic performances as a floor leader. He’s reached five assists in just two games.
Isaiah Thomas is coming off the finest game by a UW guard in at least the past nine years and if he continues playing the way he did Sunday against California, then Washington won’t have any problems tonight. When Thomas is dealing 13 assists, Bryan-Amaning, Justin Holiday and UW’s shooters are much more productive.
And finally, the Huskies are a different team at home where they’ve won 10 straight games. Arizona isn’t likely to be intimidated by a revved-up Hec Ed crowd, but the Wildcats haven’t played their best against stiff competition. They have yet beat a top 50 team.
And one more thing, the Washington players understand how important this game is. A win gives the Huskies a two-game lead in the Pac-10 race with 11 remaining.