USA TODAY Sports
The Arizona Wildcats defeated the Washington Huskies as the two teams combined for 34 turnovers.
Underwhelming is a good way to put it. The Arizona Wildcats' play has appeared as such too many times for anyone around the program to be feeling comfortable these days.
The same remained true on Thursday in Seattle. A reeling Washington Huskies team gave the Wildcats a game, if only because each team had 17 turnovers and neither had much semblance of flow. In the end, Arizona capitalized more, scoring 20 points off turnovers to UW's 10, and Sean Miller's team earned its first win, 57-53, at Washington in the coach's tenure.
Four Arizona starters reached double-figures, but hardly anyone was impressive. For most of the game, center Kaleb Tarczewski appeared as the most active Wildcat, and he finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. That said, he had trouble with UW center Aziz N'Diaye, who recorded a double-double to go with three blocks.
And it was Washington's length -- that epitomized by the 7-foot N'Diaye -- bothering the Wildcats, especially in the interior. Arizona ended up launching 18 three-pointers and hitting just three. Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons, who each scored 10 points, went 0-of-4 from behind the three-point line.
As has often been the case lately, the Wildcats didn't play as a unit for most of the night on either end. But when the pressure finally got to bothering the Wildcats, they began to separate themselves from the Huskies with defense. Nick Johnson had questionable moments, but by game's end he again showed why he's the most dynamic player on the roster.
Johnson scored 15 points, hit big free throws down the stretch, but did the most damage on defense. He had three steals and three blocks.
Washington's first three-point make of the game after 10 consecutive misses gave the Huskies a 48-46 lead with less than five minutes to play, but Arizona fell behind 51-50 with two minutes left as Lyons started going into hero-ball mode.
Lyons drove on the right side of the lane, got hung up and found Johnson for a bank shot to give UA a 52-51 lead with two minutes to play. A missed jumper by Washington and then missed free throws by N'Diaye on the offensive rebound led to Hill drilling a 12-foot stepback along the left baseline, and Johnson hit three free throws down the stretch as Arizona held the Huskies at bay.
Arizona trailed 28-23 at halftime, the length of the Huskies causing problems for the Wildcats, who found big man 'Diaye waiting for them for three early blocks. Lyons' continued insistence in attacking the paint but getting caught in the air saw him go 2-of-7 in the first half while Johnson could only connect on 1-of-6 shots from the field.
Tarczewski was about the only bright spot for Arizona. He scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds in the first half.
The Wildcats somehow survived 12 turnovers during that span by scoring nine points off 10 UW mistakes. The rest of the way, the Wildcats shored up the turnover issue, but it didn't mean they shot any better.
Hitting 35 percent of their attempts in both halves, the Wildcats hung tough as the Huskies hardly did better at 37 percent for the game.
Again, Arizona played down to the level of its opponent, one that has now lost four games in a row and did itself in at the end. Down by two with half a minute left, the Huskies ran a back-door lob on the Wildcats. Arizona played it well enough, but a low-arching pass was stolen, leading to a fastbreak that put Johnson back on the line for UA's final two points.
The glaring issue of the offense was put on the backburner; that's a recurring theme for the Wildcats. Seven total assists doesn't warrant praise for a team that once had an interestingly ugly-yet-efficient offensive attack.
It wasn't a good win, but it's better than a bad loss for the Wildcats.
A small monkey is off Miller's back as well, underwhelming as it might be.