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Washington vs. Arizona: Wildcats battle to avoid 3-game losing streak

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Arizona finally plays its first first home game of the Pac-12 season

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The big question regarding the Arizona Wildcats in the game against the Washington Huskies is how the Wildcats will respond to adversity. Dropping two on the road in close games against UCLA and USC was unexpected. And now, Washington comes to Tucson having already beat UCLA and USC, albeit at home as opposed to in Los Angeles. In further unexpected developments, the Huskies are in first place in what is shaping up to be a brutally competitive Pac-12 conference.

Take heart, Wildcat fans. Though the team has had a rash of injuries and three losses, the losses are by a combined nine points. The talent on this roster can still win the Pac-12 conference and obtain a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. It needs to start Thursday.

Who to watch:

Justin Simon, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, and Mark Tollefsen

If the game against Washington was a viral click bait video on Facebook it might be titled He broke his hand and couldn't play. Then this happened...

This is the first game without Allonzo Trier and his team-leading 14.8 points per game. Justin Simon will see his minutes increase, Mark Tollefsen will be expected to score, and Parker Jackson-Cartwright is forced into a leadership role. Simon has averaged only 6.4 minutes per game over the past five games. It's hard to imagine that trend continuing with Trier in street clothes. But, there's a reason Miller hasn't leaned on the freshman before now. Hopefully, whatever the issue is has been resolved and Simon can produce at a high level.

Look for Mark Tollefsen to put up a double-double. If Sean Miller gets that kind of production, the Wildcats will run away with this game. As for Parker Jackson-Cartwright, look for him to play 20+ minutes and have six or more assists.

What to watch:

Defensive intensity. This Washington team is scrappy and intense. They foul a lot and average 15.1 turnovers a game. Yet, they never quit. It's a young team with a solid senior leader and four true freshmen in the starting lineup. Washington is also one of the nation's leaders in fouls committed. The combination of excessive fouls, youth, and turnovers hasn't set Washington back yet. If the Wildcats don't match the Huskies' defensive intensity, it will be a long night in McKale Center.

The Wildcats need to jump on the young guys early and build a lead. But, beware. The Huskies (3-0 Pac-12) have trailed at halftime of each Pac-12 contest, yet came back to win through sheer will and determination.

The lone senior starter, Andrew Andrews, is a premier scorer, averaging 21.6 points a game. The current iteration of Arizona Wildcat basketball players have failed to step up and shut down the opposing team's primary scoring threat this season. Perhaps Thursday is the night the Wildcats take it personal and contain Washington's primary offensive threat.

Arizona and Washington tip off at 7 PM MST on Fox Sports 1.