The Arizona Wildcats finally broke through away from home on Thursday, winning 75-72 at Washington to snap a five-game road losing streak. Now Arizona (14-6, 4-3 Pac-12) has a chance to really build some momentum for the second half of the conference season when they visit the Washington State Cougars (13-9, 4-5) on Saturday night in Pullman, Wash.
Tip off is set for 6 p.m. MT and the game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network. Head to our basketball section for complete coverage.
Below are our staff predictions:
Brian J. Pedersen — Arizona wins 82-72
Arizona is at its best when it can run, using the athleticism and quick-thinking of its talented freshmen and savvy veterans to score in transition with ease. Enter Washington State, a team that shoots fast (and not well) on offense and isn’t very good at getting back on defense after failing to get an offensive rebound. This is the perfect team for the Wildcats to face, yet the Cougars aren’t the pushover they’ve normally been, having already matched last year’s conference win total (four) with victories over each of the Pac-12 teams Arizona has lost to. There’s certainly “trap game” potential here but after gutting out that win at Washington the Wildcats will keep the momentum rolling.
Adam Green — Arizona wins 78-68
Well how about that, Arizona is capable of winning on the road. Now the question becomes whether or not the Wildcats can build off their victory over the Huskies and finish off the rare road sweep.
It’s certainly doable, especially since it’s not like Arizona played a great game against Washington. The Cougars are no push over, but they’re hardly one of the more talented teams on the schedule.
Thus, I predict an Arizona victory, and leaving Pullman with a W would show a good amount of growth for a team that’s been needing to progress.
Christian Mortensen — Arizona wins 72-64
Washington State is certainly hot right now, but I’m of the opinion that Arizona’s win over Washington was a turning point for this Wildcats’ team — and I’m going to pick the UA to complete the sweep of the Washington schools on Saturday with a win over WSU.
Getting over the hump with that first road win is absolutely huge for the confidence of such a young team like this UA squad, and I’m looking for the Wildcats to build on Thursday’s dub with another win this weekend.
The key for Arizona will be slowing down Washington State forward CJ Elleby — he’s the Cougars leading scorer with 18.8 ppg and he has the ability to change a game by putting points up in a hurry.
If the Cats can contain him, then they should be able to come away with a second straight away victory.
Ryan Kelapire — Arizona wins 76-68
I felt more confident about picking Arizona over Washington than I do picking the Wildcats over the Cougars, who are 11-2 at Beasley Coliseum.
This could be a season-defining game. If Arizona can complete the sweep, its schedule lays out in a way that it could very easily be on a five-game winning streak heading into a big road game at Stanford in a couple weeks.
Lose to WSU, and it’s hard to feel confident about an Arizona team that would be 1-4 on the road in conference play.
Turnovers will be the key. WSU doesn’t usually commit a lot of them, and giving them extra possessions is the only way they will be able to hang with the Wildcats.
WSU’s offense ranks 185th in the country, per KenPom. Arizona’s is 10th. Defending the 3 will be critical too. The Cougars shoot more per game than any other team in the Pac-12, giving them boom-or-bust potential.