Last time out, the Huskies came to Tucson with the Wildcats fresh off a tough Los Angeles road trip. The Wildcats responded with a 32-point trounce of the Huskies, 99-67.
This time, Arizona heads out to Seattle. The Huskies have won four of the six games since their Tucson trip and they're surely hungry for revenge. I asked Lucas Shannon of UW Dawg Pound some questions about today's game and he was kind enough to give us some answers.
1. All of Washington's Pac-12 games have been very competitive with the exception of their game with Arizona three weeks ago. What does Washington have to do to make sure that doesn't happen again?
Lucas: Well, the Huskies are going to score points and make shots throughout the entire game if they are going to have a chance of pulling off the upset. They simply can't shoot 30 percent in a half-while also the Wildcats to shoot 70 percent in the same half- and expect good things to happen. Their offense went cold in the team's first two meetings and they also had no answer for Arizona inside, which led to the blowout. And also leads me into my next point, which is foul trouble. The Huskies will need to avoid it, particularly their front court players. Marquese Chriss especially, when he can stay on the floor for the entire game, he elevates the Huskies game to another level. The Huskies will really need their bigs in this game, as Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski had field days in the first match up, some of which had to do with Chriss and Noah Dickerson's foul trouble.
2. Washington lost home games to Oakland and UC Santa Barbara right before conference play started. But once Pac-12 play started, they've looked like a serious contender for the Pac-12 title. What player has been the main difference maker in making conference play a success thus far? Or should the credit go to Lorenzo Romar?
Lucas: Some fans would most likely argue that Dejounte Murray has been the most important player, especially considering his 34 point 11 rebound outburst against Arizona State on Thursday.
I'll avoid the temptation of recency bias and go with Andrew Andrews, slump and all (he's made just 6 of his last 32 attempts.) He is leading the conference in scoring by nearly three points, and his been clutch down the stretch against UCLA, USC, Arizona State, And Washington State. However, Andrews' contribution goes well beyond points, assists, and rebounds. His veteran leadership has been paramount for the young Huskies team and I really believe the way that the team plays is a reflection of Andrews' attitude. He is a relentless player and the team has followed his lead, as they keep coming at opponents no matter what the score.
Andrews is a slightly maligned player by Husky fans (though his performance this season has done a lot to change that perception) but the fact of the matter is this: The Huskies lost nearly all of their potential returning players to transfer last offseason, and as a fifth year senior, he could've have left down for greener pastures as well. But he decided to stay, and it has paid of immensely for himself and this program. He bleeds Purple and Gold and should go down as a Husky legend.
3. Washington and Arizona have engaged in some serious battles over the years. I would argue that some of Washington's best teams in program history coincided with some of Arizona's best. That led to some incredible games. When Arizona comes up to Seattle, do the Husky fans treat it like any other game? Or is there a certain rivalry element?
Lucas: Well, last I heard there are only 800 tickets left for the game. And the last time they sold out a game, was in 2012 when they hosted Arizona. Granted, excitement around the program hasn't been this high since at least 2011, (the last time the Huskies made the NCAA tournament) but yes, I definitely look at this game as a rivalry. It may not be on par with our traditional rivals (Oregon, Washington State) but there certainly is some friction there.
4. How do you see the game playing out on Saturday afternoon?
Lucas: That is really hard to answer. The Huskies front court, while immensely talented, has been inconsistent this season (and that is putting it nicely). Add to the fact that Noah Dickerson has been hampered with an ankle injury the last week or so, and the deck looks stacked quite a bit against the Dawgs.
However, if the Huskies bigs can stay out of foul trouble, they can dictate the pace of the game and get out in transition, the Huskies will have a chance to pull the upset.
Hec Ed will undoubtedly be rocking and rolling, which should also give the Huskies a boost. Still, the Wildcats gave the Dawgs their worst loss of the season earlier this year, and I don't think this is a particularly good match up for the Huskies. If you are asking me to take my purple glasses off and make an objective prediction, I see the Wildcats pulling away late and winning by 8-10.
Big thanks to Lucas Shannon for taking time out to talk to us. Check out UW Dawg Pound for all things University of Washington.