Arizona-Washington St. Preview

BY foxsports • February 2, 2016

A rare home loss led to Arizona dropping five places in this week's rankings and moved it closer to falling out of the Top 25 for the first time in nearly four years.

Given the way the Wildcats have played on the road, being an unranked team next week looks like a very good possibility.

Arizona opens a two-game swing through the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday night when it takes on a Washington State team that sits last in the Pac-12.

The Wildcats climbed to No. 7 in the poll after a 94-82 win at Arizona State in their conference opener Jan. 3. That moved Arizona to 13-1, but its struggles then began.

Back-to-back road losses to UCLA and Southern California followed before the Wildcats briefly turned things around with three straight wins. Another road defeat came next to California, and then the Wildcats had the nation's longest home winning streak snapped at 49 with an 83-75 loss to then-No. 23 Oregon on Thursday.

Arizona (17-5, 5-4) bounced back to beat visiting Oregon State 80-63 on Saturday, but it fell to No. 23 in the nation Monday. The Wildcats have been in 72 consecutive polls since not being ranked in the final one of 2011-12, the second-longest active run behind Kansas (136) after Duke dropped out this week.

They are 3-3 in true road games after going 23-10 over the last three seasons.

"I know this. We've played five (conference) games away from home, we're about ready to play seven of our first 11 away from home," said coach Sean Miller, whose team visits Washington on Saturday. "The schedule is going to flip to our advantage. ... We want to play our best basketball near the end of the year, and here we are."

Saturday's win came after Miller ripped into the Wildcats following the loss to the Ducks, saying "I've never been more down looking at a team I've coached than the one I just saw."

Gabe York set career bests with 24 points and six 3-pointers while grabbing a season high-tying seven rebounds, and fellow senior Ryan Anderson had his 10th double-double with 13 points and 12 boards.

''Coach challenged all of us,'' York said. ''I'm not speaking for everybody, but for me I took that to heart. I took it upon myself that I need to be a better captain, a better leader and tonight my teammates found me.''

Six Wildcats scored in double figures in a 90-66 rout of visiting Washington State (9-12, 1-8) on Jan. 16. That's part of a seven-game losing streak for the Cougars, who have dropped nine in a row in this series.

Washington State's woes continued with an 80-53 loss at UCLA on Saturday. The Cougars set season lows in points and field-goal percentage (33.3) and had 18 turnovers in their most lopsided defeat of 2015-16.

''We could have lived with the turnovers if we were able to knock down shots,'' coach Ernie Kent said.

Junior forward Josh Hawkinson leads Washington State with an average of 16.0 points and tops the conference with 10.7 rebounds per game and 15 double-doubles.

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