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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Washington State win ideal for Miller, Arizona


Courtesy of Nathan Howard / The Daily Evergreen

Arizona forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson attempts a dunk during Arizona’s easy 86-59 win against Washington State at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, Wash., on Sunday. Hollis-Jefferson and the Wildcats won their second-straight game after losing to ASU about a week ago.

With Arizona men’s basketball leading 46-19 with 2:20 left in the first half, Arizona coach Sean Miller angrily called a timeout after Washington State scored back-to-back field goals.

The message was clear: Miller won’t tolerate the kind of lapses that led to shocking defeats at lowly UNLV, mediocre Oregon State and ASU men’s basketball. With that intensity, the No. 7 Wildcats (22-3, 10-2 Pac-12 conference) dominated Washington State 86-59 on Sunday.

Since losing to ASU, the Wildcats have routed Washington 86-62 and then WS, and improved their road record to 6-3. Arizona didn’t hold the Cougars to 25 points again, but the win was mighty impressive.

How often do you get to play the walk-ons in back-to-back road games?

The Wildcats were the walking wounded, playing without backup point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright and backup center Dusan Ristic. Plus, point guard T.J. McConnell looked a bit gimpy, guard Gabe York looked a little dazed at one point and forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was shaken up.

Plus the Washington trip is absolutely brutal. Arizona had to fly across the country, then take a bus ride across the state to remote Pullman, Wash.

However, the Wildcats beat the Cougars so bad they were outscored 40-33 in the second half and still won by 27.

Assuming McConnell and Hollis-Jefferson are okay, the Washington State win was exactly what Arizona needs. The Wildcats emptied the bench and give their starters a little rest before this short week begins, we were able to make a bunch of jokes on Twitter about Washington State’s struggles and Miller got more ammo to improve the Wildcats’ fatal flaw.

Arizona has a problem with focus, evidenced by their embarrassing losses and their reaction. After losing to UNLV, they beat ASU 73-49. After falling at Oregon State, they won six in a row and after the Sun Devil they laid waste to the state of Washington’s Pac-12 teams.

Arizona obviously has the talent and drive to be 25-0 right now, but the Wildcats have a nasty habit of overlooking opponents, playing down to their level and losing focus.

With how they played in the second half, Miller can push the Wildcats and realistically find faults with a 27-point win on the road.

In the first half, Arizona raced out to a 53-19 lead, but in the second the Cougars resembled a Pac-12 men’s basketball team. After shooting 26.7 percent in the first half, Wazzu shot 63.6 percent in the second frame.

In the first, WSU shot 9.1 percent from three and improved that to 66.7 in the second half. Washington State’s forward DaVonté Lacy scored one point in the first and 17 in the second and guard Dexter Kernch-Drew scored three in the initial period and 17 in the second.

UA played about the same on offense in each half, shooting 59.5 percent in the first and 53.8 percent in the second, but as the old saying goes, “defense wins championships.”

The Wildcats had a good day at the office when it came to offense as three Wildcats scored 17 points each and six Wildcats were above seven points.

Hollis-Jefferson recorded a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Forward Brandon Ashley scored 17 points and had eight rebounds and center Kaleb Tarczewski scored 17 points.

Hollis-Jefferson continued to emerge as an offensive threat — he was 8-for-9 from the floor.

Plus the Wildcats out-rebounded Wazzu 44-23 and 12-4 in the offensive rebound category.

If the Wildcats can fix their weakness and stop suffering bad loses, they can make that return to the Final Four and won’t need timeouts when they lead by 27 anymore.


Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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