Josiah Turner controlled the game.
Here's how the play progressed in the second half of the Arizona Wildcats' 85-61 victory against the Washington State Cougars on Thursday in McKale Center:
With a 13-point lead, the freshman point guard went down the left baseline, spun off his defender and scored on a lefty And 1 for Arizona's first score. On the push, he finished a layup off a bounce pass from Nick Johnson. On the next play, he read a pass near halfcourt and turned it into a layup. Quickly back on the next play, he found Jesse Perry streaking down the middle of the lane for a dunk.
The Wildcats broke the game open.
But then, with 11:12 left in the game, Turner picked up a technical for jawing -- my lip-reading skills read "I beat your a**" -- at Cougar Brock Motum, and less than a minute later, he picked up another technical for shoving Motum under the hoop, after a play had ended. It being his second, Turner reluctantly retreated to the locker room.
Josiah Turner then put the game back within reach of the Cougars.His technicals gave the Cougars life and they cut an 18-point lead to 11.
Turner's game of nine points and four assists, which appeared to be his best of the season before he was ejected, was the epitome of Arizona's season. He was assertive, aggressive and focused on pushing the tempo and the envelop. But when he lost his head, it was like the Wildcats in their sleepy losses to teams like Oregon and Colorado, where it was questionable what was going through their minds. It was as if Turner didn't realize that acting the tough guy was worth more than staying on the court to help his team.
Luckily, Turner had help on Thursday. Solomon Hill scored the next 12 points and Arizona ran away with it once again.
Thursday's game was a must-win at home. There was a sense of urgency from the Wildcats, and it all started with their veterans.
Kyle Fogg and Hill did their equal parts in making sure Arizona got the win. In the first half, it was Fogg leading the way with 18 points. He finished with 20 and went 8-for-13 from the field. And just as Fogg scored just two points in the second half, Hill had only scored two by halftime. He finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, combining with Fogg to give the Wildcats that coveted dominating scorer they'd be searching for.
And they had help from everyone across the board. Kevin Parrom continued to impress, scoring nine and dishing out four assists. Brendon Lavender also came off the bench and scored 14 by hitting 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
And in general, Thursday's game was as simple as Arizona finding a tempo. Unlike the Colorado game, where their offense looked stifled by the Rocky Mountain air, the Wildcats had a tempo unlike we've seen this season.
That led to a rhythm, and that rhythm led to Arizona hitting 15-of-27 from the three-point line. About the only flaw was their free throw percentage, which was less accurate (50 percent) than their three-point percentage (55.6 percent).
Overall, the game was promising for the Wildcats considering the circumstances.
It was also the perfect lead-in to Saturday's ESPN College GameDay match-up with the Washington Huskies.