WSU vs. Arizona: More urgency key for Wildcats against Cougars

USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats host a Washington State Cougars team featuring guard Royce Wooldridge, who has come on strong in his last several games.

Time: 1 p.m. MST

TV: FSAZ

Beating the Washington Huskies on Wednesday was more than refreshing for the Arizona Wildcats. Indeed, UW's struggles and internal issues play into Sean Miller's team wiping the floor in the second half.

And arguably the worst 10-plus minutes of basketball to start the game -- arguably because there have been many poor stretches for UA this season -- could be a turning point in the regular season that is monumental beyond a single contest. The Wildcats host the Washington State Cougars on Saturday with the intentions of making that the case.

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When things got bad on Wednesday, Arizona's senior leaders in Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons outscored the Huskies in the first half. Their teammates took that at halftime as a message received. Lyons and Hill combined for 26 points in that first half and scored only seven points in the second half as a 33-25 halftime lead ballooned as Nick Johnson, Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley stepped up to the plate.

More importantly were the defensive leaps, which held so strong throughout that the Huskies hit a mere 31.8 percent from the floor and 1-of-11 three-point attempts.

Simply put, when the Wildcats' focus is on the defensive aggressiveness, they're hard to beat.

Rotations a-changing

Kevin Parrom's entrance to the starting lineup hasn't boded all that well in the senior's own numbers. He's averaging 4.5 points, seven rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in the two starts of late and didn't score against UW. Yet, the change has put a little bit of the awakening type of pressure on Ashley, who has scored 10 points in each of the last two games and grabbed four and five rebounds, respectively.

Meanwhile, Jordin Mayes has seemingly been supplanted by Gabe York as the second point guard -- sort of. What's made it possible for the freshman to see playing time without too much pressure is Johnson's ability to slide over from the shooting guard slot and handle the point duties when Lyons needs a breather.

Woolridge, Lacy a problem for UA's defense

On a seven-game losing streak, the Cougars will be desperate for a victory. Center Brock Motum has still not scored in single digits this season and averages 17.8 points per game mostly because of consistency. That said, he's yet to scored more than 17 points in nearly a month and hasn't shot above 40 percent since Feb. 2, when the Cougars faced Arizona.

WSU is getting help from Arizona-bred shooting guard and one-time Kansas commit Royce Woolridge from Phoenix's Sunnyslope High School. In those seven loses in a row, he has consistently put up double-digit scoring at 16.9 points per game on 51.3 percent shooting. That includes 45.9 percent three-point shooting.

DaVonte Lacy, who caused problems for UA in the teams' first meeting this season, is averaging 15.7 points over his last six outings. The 6-foot-3 guard scored 15 against the Wildcats, mostly because he got to the foul stripe 10 times and made eight of those attempts.

Considering Arizona's lack of depth with a three-man backcourt of Lyons, Johnson and presumably York, Johnson's wind will be tested once again.

And as has been the case this year, the Wildcats' lack of depth at shooting guard combined with the bigger lineups has caused issues in UA's three-point defense this year, and finding a way to control both perimeter scorers in Lacy and Woolridge will be key.

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