Correction: 2:09 p.m.
Good predictions in Thursday’s Guess the UW Score contest. We nearly had a perfect pick for the second time this season. Instead for the first time this season we had a four-way tie for following Washington’s 79-62 win over Arizona State.
Congratulations to Ca Dawg Fan, bowdawg, gohuskies..Matt and baff who predicted UW would win 80-62, 78-62, 78-62 and 79-63 respectively.
Nice job. Contact me privately to claim your prize.
In an early version of this post, I wrote there was a three-way tie. After being notified of the error I made the changes. My apologies.
Let’s get to today’s games (all times Pacific).
Washington State at Arizona State, 11 a.m. (FSN NW)
Oregon State at Oregon, 1 p.m. (FSN)
Washington at Arizona, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
USC at Stanford, 7:30 p.m.
Picks: WSU, Oregon and Stanford
Record: 45-19 Pac-10, 110-41 overall.
AND THE UW-UA WINNER IS …
The Wildcats 82-72.
Washington will discover a lot about its team and whether they learned their lessons in tough road losses earlier this season. The environment at the 14,500-seat McKale Center promises to be electric.
It’s going to rival what the Huskies saw at Texas A&M and Washington State. I thought the crowd in Pullman was the most energetic I’d seen this season and they played a role in UW’s 87-80 defeat.
We’ll see if the Huskies can maintain their poise and composure today.
Avoiding mistakes is paramount. Silly fouls are costly against a team like Arizona, which connected on 24 of 26 free throws in Thursday’s 79-70 win over Washington State. The Wildcats are adept at getting the line, especially sophomore star Derrick Williams. He could foul out UW’s front line if the Huskies aren’t careful. It’s critical to defend him early in the shot clock and possibly prevent him from getting the ball in his sweet spots.
Washington must also limit its turnovers, which may be a reason why coach Lorenzo Romar picked senior guard Venoy Overton to replace injured guard Scott Suggs in the starting lineup. Overton has cut down on his turnovers this season and he’s second on the team with 88 assists.
Similar to their last meeting – an 85-68 UW win – the Huskies could use big performances from their Big Three. Isaiah Thomas (22 points, 11 assists and six rebounds), Justin Holiday (22 points) and Matthew Bryan-Amaning (18 points and seven rebounds) were brilliant Jan. 20 against the Wildcats.
In particular Thomas dominated Arizona point guard Lamont Jones and backup Jordin Mayes. Jones has improved since that encounter, but he’s still wildly inconsistent.
Even if Jones disappears, Arizona generally relies on shooting guard Kyle Fogg, who leads the team with 76 assists, to direct the offense. And if it’s not Fogg, then its forward Solomon Hill creating scoring opportunities.
That’s the trouble with playing the Wildcats these days. It used to be the key to stopping them was stopping Williams, a national player of the year candidate. The role players have developed this season and they’re capable of 20-point performances. Four UA players (Williams, Jones, Hill and Kevin Parrom) have scored at least 20 points.
It will be interesting to see if Washington’s role players can make a significant contribution. They were a non-factor offensively in the first meeting partly because Arizona plays a tough man-to-man defense that limits three-point shooting. UW’s sharp shooters C.J. Wilcox and Terrence Ross may have to look for mid-range jumpers as opposed to treys against a Wildcats defense that is the best in the Pac-10 at defending three-pointers. Arizona allows opponents to shoot 27.5 percent behind the arc.
Washington beat Arizona last time because the Huskies made more of the hustle plays. Thomas had the play of year when he went flying out of bounds to save a loose ball before sprinting back on the court and finishing the play with an assist on a three-pointer.
Washington needs a similar all-out effort today. More to the point, the Huskies may have to play their best basketball of the season. Anything less and this could be an Arizona blowout.
Las Vegas made Arizona a 2 1/2-point favorite, which may indicate it’s going to be a close game. Washington is 0-4 this season in games decided by five points or less.
If it’s tight in the final minutes, we’ll see if the Huskies have learned their lessons from close defeats against Kentucky, Michigan State, Texas A&M and Stanford.