Video credit: Pac-12 Networks
Scouting report: No. 8 Arizona
Game info: 6 p.m. Thursday at Alaska Airlines Arena (10,000 capacity).
TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch and Bill Walton).
Radio: KJR 950 AM and 102.9 FM (Bob Rondeau and Jason Hamilton).
Coach: Sean Miller is 86-37 (.699) in his fourth season with the Wildcats and 206-84 (.704) in nine years a Division I head coach. Prior to joining Arizona on April 6, 2009, he spent five seasons at Xavier where he had four 20-win seasons and made four NCAA tournament appearances. Miller was 120-47 (.719) with the Muskateers.
Prediction: Picked to finish first in a preseason poll in the Pac-12 by media who cover the conference.
Series: Arizona leads 44-28 185-105 in a series that began Dec. 29, 1964. Washington has won five of the last six games. UW coach Lorenzo Romar is 13-10 against the Wildcats. Miller is 2-5 against the Huskies and 0-3 in Seattle.
Last meeting: On Senior Night, three-year walk-on Brendan Sherrer got his first start in his UW career. The Huskies controlled the game and won 79-70 behind a dominating effort from Terrence Ross, who scored a game-high 25 points, and Tony Wroten Jr. who added 22. The nine-point win snapped a three-game streak in which the UW-Arizona game was decided on the final play.
Previous game: Arizona destroyed USC 74-50 last Saturday..
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
— The Huskies are very familiar with Solomon Hill (right) who had his finest performance against Washington last season. The Arizona forward led a tremendous comeback in front of a sold-out, white-out crazed McKale Center. He was spectacular while powering to the rim on dribble drives where he converted layups or was fouled. Hill finished with 28 points on 9-for-10 shooting. He made 8 of 9 free throws and collected 11 rebounds in 37 minutes. However, Washington won 69-67.
Hill, a 6-7 senior, began the season as a Pac-12 MVP candidate and was named to the John R. Wooden Award preseason top 50.
It hasn’t been a big statistical year for Hill, who is averaging 13.5 points. It’s a slight increase from last season when he averaged 13.0 and his rebounding average is down 5.6 from 7.7.
However, Hill has had to adjust to changing roles, a new position and new teammates. Last season, he played power forward, but this season he’s moved to the wing position.
In his last meeting against the Huskies, he finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Miller on Hill: “I think every coach in our conference respects him because they’ve all seen him grow each year that he’s been at Arizona. If you were at our practices every day, you would like him even more because he’s the most competitive player on our team. He brings it every day. He’s on a quest to win every game that he plays. He wants to leave his senior year and wants to leave here feeling good about what he did as the oldest player on our team. Whether he scores, whether he rebounds, whether he passes the ball – he’s a very, very important cog in our team’s wheel. I believe he’s one of the best players in our conference.”
— Mark Lyons, the Xavier transfer, has made immediate dividends during his first (and only) year with Arizona. The senior point guard has made big plays in crucial moments for the Wildcats. Perhaps none was bigger than a go-ahead layup with seven seconds left in a 65-64 win over Florida.
Lyons, 6-1 and 200 pounds, isn’t a prototypical point guard. He’s first and foremost a scorer, who averages 14.9 points and leads Arizona with 208 field goal attempts. Secondly, he’s a playmaker who has 59 assists, which ranks 11th in the Pac-12.
Lyons is a one-year stop-gap at point guard. Arizona had hoped star recruit Josiah Turner would hold the position, but he turned out to be a disappointment last season. Next season, the Wildcats will give the job to Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell, a pass-first point guard.
For now, Arizona is happy with Lyons, who was heavily criticized after last week’s 84-73 loss to UCLA.
Miller on Lyons: “Mark came under a lot of fire after the UCLA game. He didn’t play well. He knows that as much as all of us. To have zero assists and I think 4-5 turnovers. The thing that can’t be lost is he’s also played extremely well for the entire season. Mark is a combo-guard. He gives you a scoring element at that position that sometimes people can take for granted. He’s done a really, really good job for our team. We would be nowhere near where we are today if we didn’t have him.
“He just happened to pick the wrong game to play bad in because a lot of people saw that and I think you tend to overreact and throw a guy like him under the bus. But he came back against USC and had three assists and one turnover and did a really good job running our team.”
— Four years after taking over and two years after guiding Arizona to a surprise NCAA Elite Eight appearance, Miller has positioned the Wildcats for another deep run in the Big Dance. They have two quality players at every position. They have depth and experience. They have quality big men. They have playmakers on the perimeter. This is Miller’s most talented team at Arizona.
— Arizona is fourth in the RPI and its strength of schedule is third in the nation.
— Sophomore guard Nick Johnson is a rising star. At 6-3, he’s a combo-guard who can run the offense in short stints. It’s not his forte. He shines as a slasher and in transition. He’s also a defensive menace who leads the Pac-12 with 42 steals.
— Senior wing Kevin Parrom is the X-factor. He could start for many teams, but comes off the bench for Arizona where he averages 8.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 22.8 minutes. Parrom, a Bronx native, is east-coast tough. He’s seemingly rebounded from several off-court incidents that threatened to derail his collegiate career.
— Arizona began the season having to choose between two McDonald’s All-Americans at power forward. Brandon Ashley, 6-8, got the nod over 6-10 Grant Jerrett. Ashley has started 16 of 19 games. He’s averaging 8.1 points and 5.8 rebounds in 21.7 minutes. Jerrett is averaging 4.9 point, 4.1 rebounds and 18.8 minutes.
— Freshman Kaleb Tarczewski is the most acclaimed center recruit for Arizona in over a decade. He’s a promising big man who equaled his season high of 10 points last Saturday against USC. He’s collected 13 rebounds in two games.
— The Wildcats held USC to UA opponent season-low totals of .281 shooting (18-of-64) and 50 points. It was the lowest opposing field goal percentage in a Pac-12 game since Feb. 4, 2012, when UA limited Stanford to .254 shooting (16-of-63) in a 56-43 UA win. It was also the third time this season that Arizona has held an opponent to 50 points with the last coming on Dec. 23 in a 69-50 win over Miami, Fla.
— Four UA players (Lyons, Hill, Johnson and Tarczewski) have started every game.
C – Kaleb Tarczewski, 7-0, 255, Fr. 5.8 ppg., 5.8 rpg., 48.9 FG%
F – Brandon Ashley, 6-8, 235, Fr., 8.1, 5.8, 53.7 FG%
F – Solomon Hill, 6-7, 220, Sr., 13.5, 5.6, 2.7 apg.
G – Nick Johnson, 6-3, 200, So., 13.3, 3.7, 2.2 spg.
G – Mark Lyons, 6-1, 200, Sr., 14.9, 1.9, 3.1 apg.
Q&A WITH SEAN MILLER:
(On Washington) “They’re always on a quest to get those easy baskets and pressure you with their defense because that’s the identity of their program. I’m sure that’s something they’ll try to do this weekend and moving forward for the rest of their schedule. Whether they’re in transition or in the half court, I think they do a really, really good job.”
(Which of the three recent tight games stands out the most?) “The one we won. No question we’ve had some great games. … Playing against Washington, we’ve always played against an extremely competitive team. A team that plays very hard and that has played well. Just to have that next gear of competitive fire that if you’re not ready to match it you’re going to have a hard time winning.
“They’ve beaten us. That’s the other thing. It’s not as if we’ve had a tremendous amount of success even though the games have been close. Two of those three games have gone the other way. This is a brand new year, it’s a new season and it’s a new team. But I think we fully expect to go up to Washington and play in front of a great crowd and against a team that’s going to play really hard. The respect we have for them is immense.”
(Every watch Isaiah Thomas’ buzzer-beater in the Pac-10 Tournament title game?) “That was a great shot. That was in the Pac-(10) championship game in LA. Two very good teams that year playing for a title. He made a great shot. He’s a great player. It doesn’t surprise me to see the success he’s had in the NBA once he left Washington. I think all of as coaches that coached against him at Washington knew that he was that special guard.”
(Thoughts about your defensive effort last Saturday vs. USC) “It might have been a combination. Sometimes you can catch a team and they make 15 3s two nights earlier at Arizona State and scored more than 90. Sometimes when you take some of those shots and they go in, you tend to go into that next game thinking on those terms. There’s a reason why you don’t make 15 3s a game.
“But I do think from our perspective the things that we can control that we played very hard. We played as a team. For us to have the most success we can have that’s the type of defensive effort that we want. That doesn’t mean we’re always going to pitch a shutout or have the results that we had in that game, but I know that’s our best chance. If there’s one thing we learned is that’s how we have to do it more times than not.”
(Did you learn something about your team the way the players bounced back from Thursday’s loss to UCLA?) “It was a very difficult loss. This white-out thing that we have, I think we’re going to retire it and put it in a package and let someone else do it. It hasn’t worked out very well for us the last two years. A year ago … against Washington and this year against UCLA. It was a national game against an excellent team. It was a big game for us. It was a home game. You leave that game with a lot of disappointment because we played some excellent basketball leading into that game. Often times that disappointment can carry into your next game, which happens so quickly in the Pac-12.
“I thought the leadership of our team, how we approached it, we stuck together. If anything our Saturday’s performance reflected a lot that we learned from Thursday as opposed to a negative. As a coaching staff, you feel good because it’s hard to win every game and how you handle those losses really – to me – allows you to have a successful season.”