Washington St.-Arizona Preview
Two days after dismantling the Evergreen State team that had shown encouraging results through the start of Pac-12 play, Arizona now faces that school's in-state neighbor, which finds itself at the bottom of the league.
Washington State visits Tucson on Saturday night with the 18th-ranked Wildcats seeking a ninth straight win over the Cougars.
Arizona (14-3, 2-2) followed up losses at UCLA and USC with a 99-67 home win over Washington on Thursday, shooting a season-best 60.3 percent with its most efficient 3-point shooting effort (9 of 15). The Wildcats outscored the Huskies 55-26 in the second half of their first full game without Allonzo Trier, who broke his hand last Saturday against USC. They'll be without their co-leading scorer for at least four weeks but started that span reassuringly.
"Tonight was a big night for us," coach Sean Miller said. "We finally had an opportunity to play a home game in the Pac-12. It's nice to be home. Last week was a challenge."
Forward Ryan Anderson led all scorers with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting with nine rebounds, while center Kaleb Tarczewski added 16 with 13 boards.
Anderson had been limited to 10.3 points on 38.7 percent in his previous four games, including a season-low five points in the loss to USC. Tarczewski was making just his second start and playing in his fourth game back from a foot injury that held him out for more than a month, though he's averaged 14.7 points and 12.3 rebounds in the last three.
"It's not easy to get 12 rebounds a game," Miller said. "It's really good to see how active he is."
The Wildcats outrebounded Washington 43-26, holding an advantage for a ninth straight game since last conceding the edge in a close win over Gonzaga on Dec. 5. They've had a plus-12.6 margin since.
"Every game, that's one of our mottos, to play aggressive inside," Anderson said. "We're bigger than most teams and we've got to use that."
Arizona has won the last eight meetings by an average of 16.5 points, including an 86-59 win at Washington State on Feb. 15 with Tarczewski scoring 17 points on 6-of-6 shooting. Arizona held the Cougars' top returning scorers Josh Hawkinson and Ike Iroegbu to a combined six points on 3 for 10.
Washington State (9-7, 1-3) started conference play with a split in two home games against the Los Angeles schools, beating then-No. 25 UCLA on Jan. 3, but it's since lost at home to Washington and fell 84-73 at Arizona State on Thursday.
After trailing 40-25 at the half - marking the Cougars' worst first 20 minutes of the season in points and field goals (nine) - they trimmed the lead to five with the first 10 points of the second.
"We had the ability to take control of the game when we cut (the lead) to five, but for whatever reason our air went away from us," coach Ernie Kent said. "The experience, through the loss, it got us better. We didn't play the way we were capable of."
That's not necessarily true of Iroegbu, who had 18 points on 7 of 11 from the floor and has averaged 23 points while shooting 62.1 percent and making 4 of 6 3-pointers in the consecutive losses.
The stop in Tempe was the Cougars' second loss in as many true road games this season, and they've gone 0-10 on the road against ranked opponents since a win at UCLA in 2008-09. Arizona has won its last 46 home games against unranked opponents by an average of 22.9 points.