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Arizona basketball: Three things the Wildcats' victory over Washington proved

PJC, defense/turnovers, and Ryan Anderson all showcased themselves on Saturday

Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Three straight turnovers early in the game led to a 10-2 deficit, and all too quickly it looked like the No.23 Arizona Wildcats would struggle against a young and feisty Washington Huskies team because of a usual lack of energy and poise. But then the Wildcats got their act together: Kaleb Tarczewski and Ryan Anderson did their thing down low, Gabe York did his thing behind the arc, and the Wildcats ended the first half on an 8-0 run to lead 44-38.

It was more of the same lethargic play that allowed the Huskies to steal an early lead in the second half, but, again, the Wildcats ultimately got their act together, this time well enough to hang on to win 77-72.

These three things indicate not so much what we learned, but what we largely already knew and their performance against the Huskies helped to solidify.

1. Parker Jackson-Cartwright is capable of running the offense

PJC saw minutes early when head coach Sean Miller pulled Kadeem Allen after he committed two of those three early turnovers that helped Washington take a 10-2 lead, and he provided some much-needed energy and stability. He finished with only three points, three rebounds, two blocks, and one assist, but he controlled the offense down the stretch and helped ensure Arizona’s clutch victory.

PJC reminds me a little of Tyler Ulis, the sophomore 5’9" point guard from Kentucky. Although he doesn’t play or score nearly as much as Ulis -- nor does Arizona rely so heavily on PJC as Kentucky does on Ulis -- they are both small and use their low center of gravity to swiftly weave through defenses. They are quick and shifty enough to easily break an opponent’s full-court press, and if they get a feel for the basket, they can score points in a hurry. PJC would no doubt learn much as both a player and game-manager if he and Sean Miller sat down and studied Ulis -- who may be the top point guard in the country -- on film. Come March, Arizona may need his ability to manage a game more than ever.

2. Ryan Anderson is one of the best, if not the best

A finalist for the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award, Anderson produced 22 points and 15 rebounds against Washington three days after scoring a career-high 31 against Washington State. He’s now had four straight double-doubles while shooting over 66% from the floor. What’s particularly dangerous is that it seems he is conscious of his increasingly dominant performances, which is only fueling his highly competitive nature. At this juncture, he should be considered the best typical power forward in the country. His utter refusal to give up on plays, tenacity on the glass, and reliably deft touch all make him the kind of player Arizona could rely on to lead them through the unpredictable maze of the NCAA Tournament.

3. Defense and Turnovers could be their downfall

I hope no one is getting sick of hearing about defense and turnovers, because I’m not at all tired of talking about it. The Wildcats committed 20 turnovers, which is their second-most all season, and the Huskies scored 31 points as a direct result. Yet again, when they commit one turnover they subsequently unleash a domino effect. Luckily, their turnovers didn’t cost them the game, but that will not always be the case.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how dominant of a force Ryan Anderson is in the paint, nor how reliable of a shooter Gabe York is down the stretch if the Wildcats don’t clean up their mistakes. The team will be eyeing a first round exit in the NCAA tournament square in the face should the trend continue. Miller should start preparing his team now and spend a lot of time teaching his players how to better exhibit poise under strenuous circumstances, such as when to slow down a fast break instead of pushing it when you don’t have the numbers, and when to jump stop and either shoot or pass instead of driving into defenders. Give Washington credit, they are a fast team that plays tight defense, but too many of Arizona’s kind of turnovers are preventable.