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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Party time in McKale

    UA guard Jerryd Bayless celebrates hitting a 3-pointer during Arizonas 76-64 win over No. 6 Washington State last night in McKale Center. The Wildcats were in a joyous mood all evening in part because of Bayless team-high 23 points and six assists.
    UA guard Jerryd Bayless celebrates hitting a 3-pointer during Arizona’s 76-64 win over No. 6 Washington State last night in McKale Center. The Wildcats were in a joyous mood all evening in part because of Bayless’ team-high 23 points and six assists.

    For one night it felt like the good old days in McKale Center during last night’s Arizona-Washington State matchup.

    The crowd was rocking, the student section was full and the Wildcats (13-6, 3-3 Pacific 10 Conference) upset the No. 6 Cougars (16-2, 4-2) in dominant fashion, running away with a 76-64 win in which Arizona looked like a team from the program’s past.

    “”It was real fun,”” said UA guard Jawann McClellan. “”We probably haven’t had a game like that with all the towels around since probably my freshman year (2004-05) when we played Washington. The crowd was into it, and that played a major factor in today’s game.””

    The Wildcats gave the crowd something to cheer for by playing what forward Chase Budinger called their best offensive game of the season.

    Arizona shot 55 percent for the evening, including 61.1 percent in the second half, against a Cougars team that had allowed under 40 percent shooting for the season. The Wildcats also scored the second-most points any team has all season against Washington State, who entered the week leading the nation in giving up 52.5 points per game.

    “”We had to play a great ballgame to have a chance to win,”” said UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill. “”Offensively I thought we executed extremely well. We found a couple things that worked for us in the second half; we ran them over and over again, we were successful with them.””

    Budinger estimated the Wildcats ran the same play for six or seven minutes in a row, adding the offense executed it “”perfectly.””

    That led Arizona to hit six of nine 3s in the second half, many from open looks that followed penetration, and 12-of-21 for the game.

    The Wildcats’ perimeter players all chipped in, as Jerryd Bayless scored 23 and Budinger 22 while McClellan and guard Nic Wise added 14 and 10, respectively.

    “”It was definitely complete,”” Bayless said. “”Everybody did their part tonight, and we’ve just got to continue to do this.””

    The complete game carried over to the defensive end, particularly in the second half when the Wildcats played as well as they have all year on that side of the ball, according to O’Neill.

    After taking a 34-31 halftime lead, the Wildcats opened the second half by preventing the Cougars from matching them shot for shot, holding Washington State to 40.7 percent shooting.

    Besides controlling the game on the offensive end with six of Arizona’s 17 assists on 22 baskets, Bayless shut down guard Derrick Low, Washington State’s leading scorer who did not get on the board until the game had been long decided.

    “”He’s a competitor, he wanted to shut down Low tonight,”” McClellan said. “”The most impressive thing tonight was limiting Low to (five) points. That was the main thing.””

    Despite going up against the No. 6 team in the nation known for making opponents uncomfortable, McClellan said the Wildcats just had a feeling they would win.

    When Bayless was asked if Arizona felt like it had any pressure having started 2-3 in the conference and with a trip to Los Angeles coming up next week, he asked why the Wildcats should feel pressure when they aren’t even ranked, which showed on the court in their loose play.

    Although Arizona’s win could be seen as a major upset going up against a Washington State squad that’s lost once all year, Budinger doesn’t look at things that way.

    “”We know we can beat any team in the nation,”” he said. “”We just need to go out there and play our game.””

    Budinger added this marked a big win for Arizona’s NCAA Tournament resume, which included no victories over teams in the current RPI top 50 due to No. 18 Texas A&M’s recent struggles.

    In recent years it would sound crazy for the Wildcats to earn any kind of a resume-builder against the Cougars, a formerly downtrodden program that Arizona had beaten 41 of 42 times before last season.

    Instead, due to Washington State’s quick rise to the top of the nation, the victory made for quite the rebound from Arizona’s 1-3 Pac-10 start, its worst since Lute Olson’s first season in Tucson in 1983-84.

    “”We knew how important this was, and I hope we will approach every game with the same intensity and importance we did (in) this one tonight,”” O’Neill said. “”We’re young, sometimes we lose it a little bit, and tonight for the most part we strung together some pretty good minutes.””

    For more coverage of Arizona’s big win, check out the Wildcat‘s blog.

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