USA TODAY Sports
Sean Miller and the Arizona Wildcats finally pulled off a tough game against the Washington Huskies, and they'll now head to Pullman with hopes of knocking off the struggling Washington State Cougars.
Time: 8 p.m. MST
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Sean Miller loathed the Washington trip when he first arrived at Arizona. Though the trek to the Pacific Northwest now is likely helped by charter planes, it doesn't make the opponents any less daunting.
OK, so the Washington Huskies have been pretty miserable the last few games, and that was no different against the Arizona Wildcats on Thursday. And the Washington State Cougars (11-10), who UA visits on Saturday, aren't doing much better. Ken Bone's team is 2-6 in the conference having lost three of its last four games.
The Cougars are coming off a slim 63-59 loss to ASU.
What's to worry about for Arizona? As a rule, the Wildcats (18-2) haven't recently had the opportunity to sweep the Washington schools. Usually, it rolls into Pullman knowing that the Huskies are next up. That, or the Wildcats are ticked after a painful loss in Seattle.
This one will be different following a close win. However, Arizona should be concerned after throwing the ball away 17 times against UW on Thursday. Stagnant offense was negated to a degree by Kaleb Tarczewski, who scored 10 points and grabbed eight boards against the Huskies. Nick Johnson showed up just enough, and the Wildcats' defense held strong.
The defense should be enough to come away with a victory against WSU, which is far from an offensive juggernaut. Then again, Arizona has made a habit of playing down to the competition in Pac-12 play.
Brock Motum leads the way
The Wildcats could likely see the same type of ugly game against WSU as they did in Seattle, as the Cougars have struggled with a field goal percentage of 42.4 on the season (Arizona shoots 44.9 after a drop-off following the nonconference schedule).
Center Brock Motum could be trouble for Arizona -- he has been just that in the past. The Australian has failed to score in single digits this year and holds an 18.5 point average. A fantastic outside shooter, the 6-foot-10 Motum takes advantage of matchups well.
Last year, he had his best games against ASU in a 34-point outburst, and then against Arizona in a 28-point game. Mismatches against the Sun Devils' lack of able big men helped Motum last year, and it also helped that the Wildcats had a small forward guarding him.
Then again, Motum scored only 11 on Thursday against the Sun Devils, only taking 13 shots and hitting three.
And Motum, luckily for the Wildcats, is one of the few WSU scorers who are accurate from three-point range. Guard Mike Ladd is more of a slasher than a shooter, though he averages 11.9 a night. DaVonte Lacy, the third-leading scorer, shoots just 30 percent from deep.
Finding a sense of urgency
Arizona is steady. The problem in that comes when they're steady-headed, thick-skulled and playing poorly. That has led to trailing because of slow starts and failed comeback attempts because they simply ran out of time. And it has also appeared in that whole playing down to the competition problem.
More talented than most of their opponents, Arizona is drawing more attention nationally these days because they're struggling to knock off a team like Washington. Still, the Wildcats are 18-2. They're going steady.
When they find a tad more in the urgency department, they'll be hard to stop.