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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Win nice, but UW helps rout”

    Arizonas Jawann McClellan drives to the basket over Washingtons Ryan Appleby during the first half of Arizonas game against Washington, Saturday in McKale Center.
    Arizona’s Jawann McClellan drives to the basket over Washington’s Ryan Appleby during the first half of Arizona’s game against Washington, Saturday in McKale Center.

    Welcome back Wildcats, this campus missed you.

    At least for one game, the No. 20 Arizona men’s basketball team looked like the powerhouse it was during its 12-game winning streak early in the season with a 30-point win over Washington Saturday. The Wildcats looked every bit the early-season squad that pushed the pace and shot a high percentage while playing solid defense as well in its dominating win.

    “”It felt good out there,”” said forward Marcus Williams. “”It felt like back to the beginning of the season.””

    In fact the Wildcats haven’t played that well since all the way back on Jan. 4, the last of their 12 straight wins that preceded the recent stretch of six losses in eight games. The common factor? The opponent in both games had “”Washington”” across its chest.

    That’s all it took for Arizona to play like, well, Arizona once again.

    “”Me and Chase (Budinger) talked about it,”” guard Jawann McClellan said. “”After we beat Washington the first time we went in a little tumble, so we talked about if we beat them maybe we can start a winning streak again.””

    As impressive an all-around performance as this game was, remember that this is the same Washington club that allowed Arizona to hit a season-high 65.3 percent of its shots in that first meeting, on the Wildcats’ way to 96 points.

    These Huskies entered the contest ranked dead last in the Pacific 10 Conference in scoring defense (75.6 points per game) and eighth in field-goal percentage defense (45 percent).

    Also, before beating ASU Thursday the Huskies were winless on the road, and as in Saturday’s game, three were lost by more than 20 points. The Huskies allowed 50-percent shooting in those six losses, a bit less than Arizona’s 57.4-percent clip, while giving up a nearly identical 84.8 points per game (the Wildcats scored 84).

    So some of this one-game resurgence should be attributed to Washington’s porous defense, but the biggest long-term boost for Arizona could come in the confidence department.

    “”It will give us more confidence now, because we know we’re a good team, we know that we can all play,”” said Budinger, a forward. “”It’s good to go out there and play like we did. We moved the ball well and took good shots.””

    Said UA head coach Lute Olson: “”It’s critical that we got a game like this.””

    During the Wildcats’ eight-game slump, in which they beat only cellar-dwellers ASU and Oregon State, they shot 50 percent (and on the nose at that) only against the Devils and scored 80 points – a number they hit in 10 of their first 13 games – just against the Beavers.

    Arizona’s defense, maligned over the last month for not being able to get key stops, stepped up as well, allowing 54 points – the third-lowest total of the season – on 38.1-percent shooting to a Washington squad second in the conference in scoring at 81.5 points per game.

    After the game McClellan tossed around a favorite word in the Arizona locker room: “”swagger.”” Throughout this losing streak, the Wildcats have discussed needing to play with the swagger they possessed earlier in the year but have been missing lately.

    “”We just have to play with a swagger,”” he said. “”We did a good job of coming out here, proving that we’re one of the premier teams in the country like we were talked about a month ago.””

    Not so fast, Jawann. After six losses in eight games, including that 28-point Carolina debacle last week, one game against a mediocre Washington team that can’t win on the road and would be on the outside looking in if the NCAA Tournament started today won’t put the Wildcats back into the premier zone.

    Arizona is still 1-5 against the top half of the Pac-10, with the lone win coming in December in McKale Center when the Wildcats were streaking and No. 23 Stanford was just starting to come together.

    “”We need to keep on rolling,”” Budinger said. “”(Against) the Oregon schools (next weekend), it should be very tough up there. It’s a tough road trip. We’ve just got to play like we did (Saturday), and we’ll be fine.””

    Only time will tell if the domination of Washington was an aberration for the Wildcats blown out of proportion by the Huskies’ typically pitiful play on the road, or if this could be the first step toward playing like the early-season elite Wildcats, who made a habit of running past teams and looked to be primed for a deep tournament run.

    “”I hope so, but obviously it’s just one game,”” Williams said about this game’s effect on curing his team’s recent woes.

    “”We’ll see after we come back from the Oregon trip.””

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