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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Getting back on track

    Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless, top, is fouled by Washington State forward Caleb Forrest during the Wildcats 65-55 win over the No. 17 Cougars Saturday in Pullman, Wash.
    Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless, top, is fouled by Washington State forward Caleb Forrest during the Wildcats’ 65-55 win over the No. 17 Cougars Saturday in Pullman, Wash.

    Arizona 65, No. 17 Washington State 55

    Coming off an ugly loss Thursday at Washington and with depth issues threatening to ruin the season, the Arizona men’s basketball team appeared headed to the edge of the bubble for the rest of the year.

    But the Wildcats (17-10, 7-7 Pacific 10 Conference) did not worry about that while harassing No. 17 Washington State (21-6, 9-6) to its season low in field-goal percentage to earn a 65-55 win that should give them a bit of breathing room.

    “”I wasn’t really thinking about doom and gloom, just trying to go get ready for the next game,”” said UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill. “”We beat a ranked team on the road. It’s a great win for us, I’m very excited to get that win.

    “”I thought our guys came out really focused,”” O’Neill added. “”(Forward) Chase (Budinger) got us off to a great tone and all the guys played hard.””

    Budinger hit his first five shots and scored 12 of Arizona’s first 14 points, outscoring the Cougars by himself for the first 11:37. He looked much more aggressive than in Thursday’s loss to the Huskies when he scored 10 points on 3-for-10 shooting, going for a team-high 22 this time around.

    Budinger kept Arizona afloat in the first half while WSU guard Kyle Weaver held UA guard Jerryd Bayless scoreless. Weaver did not let Bayless out of his sights and received great help from him teammates.

    The second half was a different story from the first possession when Bayless drove in for a reverse layup, ending up scoring 20 points on 6-for-9 shooting in the half.

    Bayless scored 11 points during an 18-6 UA spurt after the Cougars retook the lead in the second half that put the team up 50-41 with 7:27 left, and the Wildcats never looked back from there.

    “”He just got a little bit more aggressive and attacked the basket,”” O’Neill said of Bayless. “”Our guys were finding him, shared the ball and did a great job attacking the best defense in the whole league.””

    The Wildcats shot 50 percent for the contest (23-for-46), with Budinger, Bayless and forward Jordan Hill (13) scoring 84.6 percent of their points.

    O’Neill said the Cougars are a tough team to go inside and drive on so Arizona tried to draw defenders and kick out for open shots, which led to the team hitting 8-of-14 3-pointers (57.1 percent), with Budinger nailing four of them.

    On the other end, the Wildcats limited Washington State to 28.0 percent shooting in the first half and 34.0 percent for the game by concentrating on taking away the treys – of which the Cougars hit 22.7 percent (5-for-22) – and slips to the baskets from their big men off pick and rolls.

    “”Our guys did a good job following the game plan and staying with it the whole night long, which gave us a chance to win,”” O’Neill said.

    The upset came at an opportune and fairly unexpected time with the Wildcats having lost four of five games overall and six of eight when either Bayless or injured guard Nic Wise did not play. The Cougars, on the other hand, had won four in a row and seemed to have righted themselves after a midseason slump.

    “”We’ve been struggling to find ourselves a little bit,”” O’Neill said. “”Ever since we found out Nic was not going to be with us we’ve asked a lot of Jerryd and the other guys to step up. We came out and limited them at the defensive end for the fourth game in a row, did a great job guarding them and that set the tone for the rest of game and then got big shots out of lot of guys.””

    Arizona now finds itself in the thick of a jumbled Pac-10 race after sweeping Washington State, which did the same thing to the Wildcats last year. They now trail the Cougars by 1 1/2 games – but only one in the loss column – for third while owning the tiebreaker and are only a game back of USC, which heads to McKale Center Thursday hoping to avenge a UA victory earlier in the year in Los Angeles.

    That leaves the Wildcats tied for fifth with ASU because of a stellar effort against a streaking, nationally-ranked Cougar squad that represented a twist back in the right direction in this topsy-turvy season.

    “”I have all the greatest admiration and respect for the players with everything that’s gone on this year,”” O’Neill said. “”For them to come out and play this kind of game says a lot about them as people.””

    And 1

    Freshman forward Jamelle Horne grabbed a career- and game-high 11 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass, while playing all 40 minutes. … Guard Jawann McClellan’s inconsistent offensive season continued, as he followed up Thursday’s 19-point performance by going scoreless against the Cougars, missing all three of his shots. … The bench played just 21 minutes, with guard Daniel Dillon getting 16 of them, mostly filling in for McClellan in the first half when he sat with foul trouble.

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