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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona hoops hosts Washington State in need of a sweep

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Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat boy; basketball; angelo chol; 30

Klay Thompson traded in the Pac-12 for the NBA. DeAngelo Casto left Pullman, Wash., for Turkey.

With its two best players from a season ago moving on to bigger and better things, Washington State was chosen to finish 10th in the Pac-12 in the pre-season polls.

Second-year head coach Ken Bone must not have gotten the memo, because the Cougars (11-8, 3-4 Pac-12) have turned heads this season as they sit in 7th place in the conference after sweeping the Bay Area schools at home this past weekend.

“I’ve got to think Washington State’s one of the hottest teams in our conference,” said UA head coach Sean Miller. “We respect them a great deal. We have to be ready.”

After losing four of its first five conference games, Washington State caught fire. The Cougars defeated Stanford on Thursday 81-69 and followed that up with a 77-75 win against Cal off of a 3-pointer by freshman guard DeVonte Lacy with 17 seconds remaining. It ended up being the game-winner.

While Thompson and Casto left a huge void at guard and down low for Wazzu, Australian big man Brock Motum and Somalia native and Hillsborough Community College transfer Faisal Aden have picked up the slack.

Aden captured Pac-12 Player of the Week for his performance against the Bay Area schools as he posted 24 points against the Cardinal and scored 33 on the Golden Bears.

“He’s a very good shooter,” Bone said of his senior guard. “Has a real nose for the ball and he comes up with a lot of steals in a defense where we’re really not looking for steals. What he gives us more than anything else is just his feel for being able to score the ball.”

While Aden — who comes off of the bench for the Cougars — mans the perimeter, the 6-foot-10, 230-pound Motum anchors the paint for Washington State.

After playing only 19.2 minutes per game a season ago, the junior now averages 15.4 points per game and 6.3 boards in an average of 31.2 minutes, earning him major praise from Miller.

“Brock Motum might be the most improved player in the conference,” he said. “You look what he’s doing as a big guy, we have our hands full.”

While the Cougars are riding high after their best weekend of the conference season, Arizona is still reeling from a heartbreaking loss at Colorado.

“Our back’s against the wall in a lot of ways and one of the ways that we give ourselves some momentum is to win both home games this week,” Miller said.

It would be easy for the Wildcats to overlook the Cougars. ESPN GameDay comes into town on Saturday, ZonaZoo is gearing up for the whiteout part II and Washington, which sits two spots ahead of UA in the conference, marches into McKale Center on Saturday.

Despite all the potential distractions, Arizona needs to sweep, and in order to do that the Wildcats have to take care of Wazzu before turning their attention to the Huskies.

“It starts Thursday,” forward Kevin Parrom said. “We have to get a sweep. That’s our goal. We can’t lose at home. We can win two games this week and be tied for first I think. I think everybody’s kind of beating everybody down so we have to separate ourselves this week.”

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