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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Dominant victory exactly what Arizona needed to get back on track

Courtesy+of+Kaia+DAlbora+%2F+The+Daily%26%23160%3BArizona+Guard+TJ+McConnell+instructs+his+teammates+during+Arizonas+86-62+win+against+Washington+in+Alaska+Airlines+Arena+in+Seattle%2C+Washington+on+Friday.

Courtesy of Kaia D’Albora / The Daily 

Arizona Guard TJ McConnell instructs his teammates during Arizona’s 86-62 win against Washington in Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, Washington on Friday.

In many ways, Friday night’s win over Washington was exactly what Arizona men’s basketball needed to get the taste of the awful ASU defeat out of their mouths. The defense was dominant and the offense was timely as the Wildcats took down Washington 86-62 in Seattle.

For the second-straight game, T.J. McConnell paced Arizona (21-3, 9-2 Pac-12) on both sides of the floor. The senior registered his third ever collegiate double-double and first as a Wildcat by putting up 10 points, 10 assists and five rebounds in 31 minutes of action.

Despite most of his production coming in the first half, it was McConnell who was diving on the floor, out of bounds and further into the hearts of Arizona fans on Friday night. His relentless, in-your-face style is a perfect translation of Arizona coach Sean Miller and the main reason why Arizona was back on track against the Huskies.

I guess it didn’t hurt that Stanley Johnson added 20 points, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson dropped 17 and five total Wildcats scored in double-figures.

In fact, all but three Arizona players to see court action scored under seven points. Who were those three? Matt Korcheck, Jacob Hazzard and Drew Mellon. That’s two walkons in Hazzard and Mellon, and the seldom used Tucson native in Korcheck.

It was the kind of all-around performance that makes Arizona fans drool and opposing coaches shake in their boots. Excuse the exaggeration but, still, the Wildcats were so drastically different than last Saturday’s ASU loss that it’s hard not to exaggerate.

This was from a shorthanded Arizona squad, too. Backup center Dusan Ristic didn’t make the trip due to an illness and backup point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright made the trip but did not play due to his recovery from a concussion suffered during the game against Oregon on Jan. 8.

One of the biggest differences that a week of practice made could be seen on the defensive end of the floor. Washington (14-10, 3-9) shot just 31 percent from the field in the first half and ended at 35 percent, which isn’t much better.

Behind McConnell, Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson hounding the Washington wings, only two Huskies scored in double-figures with Andrew Andrews leading the way with 18 points, 10 of which came in the second half. The only other Husky in double-digits was Shawn Kemp Jr., who finished the game with 13 points after scoring 11 in the first half.

The Washington starting five combined to make 15 shots in 43 attempts. Not exactly game breaking.

If not for five second half 3-pointers, this game would’ve been a lot uglier than the 86-62 final score may have shown.

Looking forward, Arizona has a date with Washington State set up on the day after Valentine’s Day in Pullman, Wash. It shouldn’t be too difficult a matchup for the Wildcats. But, who knows? It could be Oregon State part two.

I guess my point is Miller’s crew can’t afford to let up now. Keep your foot on the pedal and get another win streak going because March is coming and they’d better be ready.

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Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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