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February 13, 2015 at 1:36 PM

Pac-12 predictions: Washington faces tall task against No. 7 Arizona

Nigel Williams-Goss, left, and the Washington Huskies will try to contain T.J. McConnell, right< and the No. 7 Arizona Wildcats on Friday at Alaska Airlines Arena. (Photo credit: Reuters)

Nigel Williams-Goss, left, and the Washington Huskies will try to contain T.J. McConnell, right< and the No. 7 Arizona Wildcats on Friday at Alaska Airlines Arena. (Photo credit: Reuters)

The “big game” moniker seems appropriate for Washington’s game Friday against No. 7 Arizona.

It’s big enough to attract ESPN and a couple of notable UW basketball alums such as Quincy Pondexter, who tweeted they plan to attend.

It’s big enough for Washington to organize a black out in hopes of re-energizing a skeptical UW fanbase. The Huskies averaged 6,272 fans during 11 homes games this season at the 10,000-seat arena.  It’s the fourth straight year home attendance has declined since UW averaged 9,650 in 2010-11.

Big also applies to Arizona’s team. In fact, they’re huge. Practically gigantic when compared to the undersized Huskies who have two players in their seven-man rotation 6-7 or taller.

The Wildcats will roll out a lineup that includes 6-7 freshman forward Stanley Johnson, 6-7 sophomore forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, 6-9 junior forward Brandon Ashley and 7-0 junior center Kaleb Tarczewski. Not sure if any other team in the country starts four big men.

While most teams are relying on three-guard lineups, Arizona is pounding opponents with height and brawn. The Wildcats yield just 59.2 points per game, which ranks 22nd among the 351 Division I teams.

However, Arizona isn’t invincible.

Arizona State toppled the Wildcats 81-78 last Saturday. To do so, the Sun Devils converted seven of 15 three-pointers.

And Oregon State upset Arizona 58-56 in an intense defensive battle on Jan. 11 at Gill Coliseum.

So there’s a couple of blueprints the Huskies can use for tonight’s game. It would seem they would need to play one of their best games of the season. It goes without saying, UW has to cut down on the 22 turnovers that led to last Sunday’s 64-50 loss at Oregon State.

But there’s just no getting around the fact that Arizona is a bad matchup for the shorthanded Huskies, which has had to rely on a five-guard lineup at times. If UW puts five guards on the floor against Wildcats, then conventional basketball wisdom says Arizona will dominate inside with a front line that includes potentially four future NBA players.

Last year, Washington traded blows with Arizona for 20 minutes and trailed 35-33 before wearing down in the second half and falling 71-62 at McKale Center.

The Huskies will likely rely on a similar tactic, but they’ll also need another amazing effort from star sophomore point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who has played all 40 minutes in each of the previous four games. Junior guard Andrew Andrews (37.7 mpg past seven games) and senior guard Mike Anderson (33.3 mpg. past four games) are also logging heavy minutes.

Meanwhile, no Arizona player averages more than 31 minutes in Pac-12 play.

Las Vegas made the Wildcats an 11.5-point favorite.

If the Huskies play inspired defense and make shots – particularly three-pointers – then they can snap their five-game losing streak and pull off a major upset. They’re 9-22 against top-10 ranked teams under coach Lorenzo Romar.

I think Washington will keep things close for awhile, but eventually size matters and the bigger, more talented team prevails for its fourth straight win over UW.

THE PICK: Arizona 80-65.

TODAY’S PAC-12 SCHEDULE:

Game Time TV
No. 7 Arizona (20-3, 8-3) at Washington (14-9, 3-8) 6 p.m. ESPN
Arizona State (12-11, 4-6) at Washington State (10-13, 4-7) 8 p.m. Pac-12 Networks

PICK: WSU.

GUESS THE UW SCORE WINNER – howard beale picked Oregon State 60-45. Washington lost 64-50. Contact me (pallen@seattletimes.com) to claim your prize. Thanks for playing.

Comments | More in Guess the UW Score | Topics: Arizona, Nigel Williams-Goss, T.J. McConnell

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