Who: Washington (18-7, 10-4) @ # 13 Arizona (22-4, 11-2)
When: Saturday @ 3:00 PM
Where: McKale Center in Tucson, AZ
by: John Chase
This is it. Without a win over Arizona it is hard to see us winning the Pac-10 regular season title. This is a chance for our marquee win that we have been lacking. Sure we beat Arizona at home when they were ranked at #25, but here they are at #12/13 and UW has a chance to beat a top 15 team on the road. This will put us in the top 25 and also set up for a great home stand the last 2 weeks of the season. Sure Seattle U is technically a road game, but I hardly consider 3 miles traveling.
Arizona is overall 22-4, 11-2 in conference. Most recently having played WSU and won by 9, 79-70.
When Arizona comes to mind there is one player who everyone knows of and that is Derrick Williams, a favorite for Pac-10 Player of the Year and possible candidate for National Player of the Year. Derrick Williams is a 6-8 241lb F who can shoot from anywhere on the court. He leads the Wildcats in scoring with 19.2 points per game as well as a team high 8.0 rebounds per game. The next highest scorer is Lamont Jones at 9.4 ppg. Solomon Hill is second on the team in rebounding at 4.4 rpg, tied with Jesse Perry. To say the Wildcats depend on Williams is a bit of an understatement. He is their core and main option. He has scored more than 11 points in every game this year and has two 31 point games. Several Wildcats have stepped up to support Williams in the past few games. Jones is almost averaging double digit scoring and Hill is also averaging close to 8 points a game. Kyle Fogg has elevated his game and is averaging 8.6 ppg. Fogg recently put up 26 against ASU, shooting 6-9 from range.
Williams should not be the Huskies main focus. Surprising, I know. He had 22 points and 11 rebounds last time against us. He will get his points and boards. The trick is to avoid silly fouls on him and getting him to foul to eliminate him from the game. He has fouled out the last 3 of 5 games and had 4 fouls in the game before that. Let him have his 20 and 10. As long as we can shut down the rest of the Wildcats we will get the W. Williams is also rated as the number 1 player in the nation in True Shooting Percentage by KenPom.
With Fogg, Jones, and Hill all showing the ability to score in bunches recently it is important to remember to keep them in check. Jones is turnover prone, he had 3 against WSU and averages 2.1 per game.
UA runs a 10 man rotation with no player receiving less 10 minutes per game. There are 5 players that contribute significant amounts of points (~8 ppg or more) and 4 of them are starters. The bench for Arizona, while deep, is not extremely talented, though they have been elevating their play. Jamelle Horne is UA’s 6th man and scores 6.4 ppg in 19 minutes of play. He is also fourth in rebounding at 4.0 rpg.
Where UW will be able to take the biggest advantage is our senior backcourt. Arizona is somewhat turnover prone, averaging 14 per game, led by Williams at 2.5 per game and Lamont Jones at 2.1 per game.
Arizona is a tall team with their shortest player coming in at 6′ 0. They have a 7′ 0 player, but he has only played in a few games and averages 6 minutes per game.
Starting Line Ups:
G – Lamont Jones 6′ 0 196lb
G – Kyle Fogg 6′ 3 180lb
F – Solomon Hill 6′ 6 226lb
F – Jesse Perry 6′ 7 210lb
F – Derrick Williams 6′ 8 241lb
G – Isaiah Thomas – 5′ 9 185lb
G – Venoy Overton 5′ 11 185lb
F – Justin Holiday 6′ 6 185lb
F – Matthew Bryan-Amaning 6′ 9 240lb
C – Aziz N’Diaye 7′ 0 260lb
Keys to the Game:
- Rebounding – Washington has done a great job of late out rebounding opponents and rates second in the conference in rebounding margin, narrowly behind Arizona. Williams will get his boards no doubt, Washington needs to capitalize on boxing out as best they can to maximize their opportunities. Williams can have his 9 or 10 boards as long as we win the game and battle of the boards. We rebound very well by committee. If Darnell Gant and Terrence Ross can continue to pick up a combined 10+ boards off the bench we will be in good shape. This should be a high scoring game and second chance opportunities will have a profound effect on the outcome of the game.
- Free Throw Shooting – Arizona is a great FT shooting team. They are currently shooting 74.4%, while the Huskies are shooting a miserable 65.5%. There have been marked improvements by the team in their free throw shooting, especially Isaiah Thomas. This will likely be a close game and free throws will be extremely important. We cannot afford to miss our shots because Arizona won’t that is for sure. On the road, it is practically a rule that the home team will see the free throw line more often.
- Passing/Ball Control – With Arizona having a young backcourt, UW is in prime position to get in transition by forcing turnovers. We need to first pass well on offense and keep control of the ball. Limiting our turnovers means less touches for Arizona and Derrick Williams. When Isaiah passes well the team usually succeeds. Against Stanford, I.T. only had 1 assist, but Scott Suggs, Terrence Ross, and Venoy Overton all contributed great numbers as they were the ones to make the final pass instead of Thomas. High assists and low turnovers is the name of the game. When we commit less than 10 turnovers in a game, we win. We had 9 turnovers against ASU and 21 assist and look what happened. 17 point win. The key to winning starts with defense, follows with rebounds, and leans on ball control, heavily.
- Push the Middle – Williams is a good defender, but a better offensive threat. The biggest and best way to negate his presence is not by trying to double team him, rather make him foul. Isaiah can lead the way by driving the lane and dishing out, forcing Williams out of position and hopefully picking up a few fouls. MBA and Aziz need to see the ball often, especially MBA as he has the talents to pick up fouls better than Aziz. We did a good job of this last time and forced Williams to sit on defense and come in on offense when there was a dead ball or timeout.
- Fouling – In the same vein as the last, we need to limit our fouling as Williams will kill us at the line. 5 players for the Wildcats are shooting at 79% or better from the free throw line this season.
- Outside Shooting – Arizona is shooting 40.8% from range. They can drain the ball. UW can drain it better. Against Cal, our 3 point shooting showed up as it had earlier in the year and it paid off in dividends. If we can shoot that well again we will be feeling much better. For some reason our shooting drops off greatly on the road, with the exception of the Cal game and Virginia if you count the neutral site. We need to find our rhythm again. A lot of this will depend on our wings ability to slash the lanes, draw coverage and kick it back out for an open shot.
This will be a tough battle, no doubt about it. Could we win by double digits? Yes we can, it all depends on how well our post players show up. They were strong against ASU, which is a great way to begin the road trip. Williams is going to score and rebound. He is a great player and is near impossible to stop. It is up to our post players to negate his effort by putting up great numbers themselves. Get him fouls and keep the ball from getting to him. That’s how you stop Williams. MBA, IT, and Holiday have been playing great the past week and I hope they have the same, if not more, intense mentality coming into this game. Is this make or break for winning the Pac-10 title? Yes, in mind my mind it is. The key to winning the title is win all the home games and at least split all the road trips. By sweeping LA and getting swept in Oregon, UW has evened out on the road split so far. We need a sweep here to gain the advantage over UA. UW has picked up two big road wins in LA, something Arizona has not had to do yet. Arizona has the home court advantage and after the 17 point beat down we had last meeting you can bet they are looking for vengeance. This is the only conference game Ken Pom has predicted us to lose. At times this year we even had the win predicted. Not any more. Not after our road skid. Sure the game at home against Cal and Stanford was nice, but any team can win. The great ones go on the road and prove their game against the top teams. This is our chance to do that. Pick up another solid win. Get ourselves a lock for the tournament. Get some good seeding. Get a title.
Final Score Prediction: UW-85 UA-82
I think the Huskies will be able to win this, it’ll be tough, but we have a bit of momentum and the talent to do it. It’ll come down to whether we have the drive and mindset to do it. We shall wait and see. UA is a tough, tough team and will do well in the NCAA, I have no doubt. We can snatch the title away and put it back in our hands with a big win here and a sweep the rest of the season. Chances are that UA will drop one of the LA road games. Its one of the toughest road trips in the conference. With OSU and UO to round out their schedule, UA will have a tough finish. We have the slight advantage of playing UCLA and USC at home to end the season.