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Video credit: Pac-12 Networks
Scouting report: No. 12 Arizona
Game info: 8 p.m. Wednesday at McKale Center (14, 538 capacity).
TV: ESPN2 (Dave Pasch and Bill Walton).
Radio: KJR 950 AM and 102.9 FM (Bob Rondeau and Jason Hamilton).
Coach: Sean Miller is 90-39 (.698) in his fourth season with the Wildcats and 210-86 (.709) 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 45-28 in a series that began Dec. 29, 1964. Washington is 7-27 in Tucson, Ariz. UW coach Lorenzo Romar is 13-11 against the Wildcats. Miller is 3-5 against the Huskies.
Last meeting: Bizarre finish for Washington. The Huskies did a great job defensively holding Arizona to 35.1 percent shooting. Washington led by a point in the final three minutes, but faded in the final minutes of a 57-53 defeat. Ahead 51-50 with 2:31 left, Washington was outscored 7-2 the rest of the way. C.J. Wilcox missed his first six shots and sat out for long stretches due to foul trouble. He finished with 11 points. Washington shot 36.8 percent from the field and committed 17 turnovers. The offensive problems were highlighted in the final minute when Abdul Gaddy threw a poor pass that sailed above Wilcox, who got behind the defense for what would have been an uncontested alley-oop finish. The game ended with center Aziz N’Diaye missing badly on his first three-point attempt.
Previous game: Won 68-64 at Utah on Sunday.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
— Nick Johnson (near right) did the best job of anyone shutting down Wilcox, the Pac-12’s fifth-leading scorer. Arizona’s sophomore guard hounded the UW sharp shooter and forced him to miss his first six shots. Wilcox finished 4 of 16 and 1 for 5 on three-pointers.
Johnson finished with 15 points, six rebounds, four steals, three blocks and three assists to offset three turnovers.
At 6-3, he’s exceptionally quick and explosive. He reportedly has a 45-inch vertical leap. [By comparison NBA slam dunk champion Terrence Ross has a 37.5 inch vertical leap.] No surprise Johnson won the Red and Blue dunk contest as a freshman.
On most teams, Johnson would be the top star. At Arizona, he’s the third offensive option who averages 11.8 points on 45.2 percent shooting from the floor and 35.0 percent on three-pointers. His forte is slashing to the basket. It’s noteworthy that he’s taken more free attempts (93) than three-point tries (80).
Johnson is also a defensive menace who is second in the Pac-12 with 54 steals.
—Forward Solomon Hill has had big games against Washington. In last year’s game at McKale Center, he 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 him. He’s averaging 13.7 points. It’s a slight increase from last season when he averaged 13.0 and his rebounding average is down 5.5 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 10 points on 5-for-12 shooting and three rebounds.
— 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 15.3 points and leads Arizona with 286 field goal attempts. Secondly, he’s a mediocre playmaker who has 79 assists and 72 turnovers.
— After the win over Washington, Arizona easily won the next two games. However, the Wildcats have lost two of their last three games, including a 77-60 defeat to California and a 71-58 setback at Colorado. The losses and a narrow win at Utah suggest Arizona may be slumping with three weeks remaining in the regular season.
— 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 10th in the RPI and its strength of schedule is ranked 13th in the nation.
— Senior wing Kevin Parrom has recently moved into the starting lineup. He averages 8.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 25.0 minutes. Parrom, a Bronx native, is east-coast tough. He seems to have 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 started 21 of 25 games. He’s averaging 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds in 21.2 minutes. Jerrett made two starts. He’s averaging 4.8 point, 3.7 rebounds and 17.9 minutes. Ashley and Jerrett are coming off the bench now that Parrom is starting.
— 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.
— Sophomore reserve forward Angelo Chol has struggled to find consistent minutes this season. However, he seems to have found a spot in the rotation. In the past four games, he’s averaging 15 minutes.
— Four UA players (Lyons, Hill, Johnson and Tarczewski) have started every game.
C – Kaleb Tarczewski, 7-0, 255, Fr., 6.1, ppg., 5.4 rpg., 50.5 FG%
F – Kevin Parrom, 6-6, 220, Sr., 8.0, 4.9, 2.0 apg.
F – Solomon Hill, 6-7, 220, Sr., 13.7, 5.5, 2.4
G – Nick Johnson, 6-3, 200, So., 11.8, 3.6, 2.2 spg.
G – Mark Lyons, 6-1, 200, Sr., 15.3, 2.0, 3.2 apg.
Q&A WITH SEAN MILLER:
(On Arizona) “There’s a lot of good that we’ve done, but our three-point percentage defense is a real problem for our team. We’ve won in spite of it. Instead of playing with fire moving forward, I believe that it will keep us as an inconsistent team where on any given night we can lose just because it’s such a difference maker. If you really track us here recently, whether it’s the second half against Cal, the entire game against Stanford, the second half against Utah, Colorado – they made their final five threes – that’s something that in spite of some of the good things we do, it really takes away from our performance.
“I would say the second thing is, if you look at who we are defensively in the first half I think you can make the argument we’re one of the best. And then for whatever reason after halftime teams have had their way with us. Those are things we’re addressing. Our team is at it’s best when you can watch us play and you say that team is hard to score on. If you take that away from us, we’re very vulnerable.”
(What did you take away from your 57-53 win at Washington?) “Anytime you play Washington you’re going to play against a very physical team. A team that plays the game hard. Although they don’t play as fast as they’ve been playing in recent years, in my mind if you watch them play they’re one of the top four teams in our conference. Just at the end of games, guys have to make plays. They’ve been in so many close games that have bounced the other way. That happens sometimes. But with Abdul Gaddy’s experience, Aziz (N’Diaye) in the middle, we respect (C.J.) Wilcox as one of our conference’s best players and you have a number of other guys who seem to just be getting better. So it’s more of the same for us. We’re going to have to play hard.”
(Did you do anything special defensively against Wilcox in the last game?) “I watched our game against Cal and Allen Crabbe had an incredible game. I like to point fingers at our team and say we didn’t do what we needed to do, but he made some great shots. He’s a great player. When I watched us play Washington I thought Wilcox had a couple of good looks he didn’t make that he normally does. Often times that’s the story. I do think we tried to make the game hard for him. Tried to chase him off screens and make sure that we had a hand in his face on every shot. But it’s not easy against a guy that talented and his size allows him to get shots off. It’s the same for every team that plays Washington. It starts with Wilcox, trying to hold him in check.”