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What we learned from Arizona’s win at Washington State

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Arizona v Washington Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats ended their road struggles in a big way this weekend by sweeping the Washington schools.

Arizona capped the trip by routing the Washington State Cougars 66-49 on Saturday in Pullman. Our full recap be found here, Sean Miller’s postgame interview can be found here, and below are some additional takeaways.

Stone is settling in

Joining the Wildcats was always going to be an adjustment for Stone Gettings. He was the featured player in his third/final season at Cornell, leading the Big Red in usage rate.

At Arizona, he was, at best, going to be the fourth option behind the freshman trio of Zeke Nnaji, Nico Mannion, and Josh Green. Gettings knew this when he transferred to the UA. That doesn’t mean the transition would be smooth.

And then when you add his reduced role to the concussion and facial fracture that sidelined him for the entire month of December, it makes sense why it has taken him a while to hit his stride with his new team.

But now that time is here, and it has been impressive to watch.

Making his fifth straight start, Gettings recorded his first double-double as a Wildcat on Saturday, logging 19 points and 12 rebounds at WSU. He had 11 points and 10 rebounds in the first half alone, at one point outrebounding the entire WSU team. That came after Gettings had 13 points and three rebounds in Thursday’s win at Washington, helping the Wildcats bust the Huskies’ extended 2-3 zone.

Gettings went 8 for 13 from the field against the Cougars, doing a little bit of everything. He drilled two 3-pointers, showed no hesitation when burying several mid-range jumpers from the soft spots in the zone, and scored on the low block.

He looked like, well, the All-Ivy League player he was at Cornell, capable of playmaking inside and out.

“I think the more you just play the game you love, you’re out there just playing instead of worrying or feeling like you’re you’re a robot,” Miller said. “But as you learn and you get into a situation where you have more experience, the basketball part takes over.”

About the only thing Gettings didn’t do well in Washington is knock down his free throws. But he was a 75 percent foul shooter at Cornell, so he is bound to settle in at the stripe too.

“If the guy could ever make free throws...I mean, my goodness, he’d really be playing,” Miller joked. “But he’s a difference maker on our team.”

This team can win on the road when it doesn’t shoot well

Miller is a defensive-minded coach so it should come as no surprise that he thought Saturday might have been Arizona’s most complete game, even though it had a dismal shooting line of .397/.222/.571.

The Wildcats outmuscled the Cougars for a 49-36 margin on the glass and held them to 37 percent shooting, a 3-of-18 mark from 3, and their lowest scoring output of the season.

Another boost to the defense: Arizona only committed six turnovers, preventing the Cougars running in transition.

“It’s very rewarding to be able to turn the ball over six times, miss a lot of good looks, but yet be a good defense team where the other team doesn’t have that same chance to make a run at you,” Miller said. “I’m very, very pleased with the effort of of our team.”

Ever since Chase Jeter has been out with back trouble, the Wildcats have resorted to smaller lineups, giving them more switchability on the perimeter. Miller believes they are sharper at it, noting that the game plan against WSU was similar to the one at Oregon State when the Beavers thrashed Arizona’s defense in the second half, at one point making 13 of 15 shots to pull away for a 17-point win.

“When we got into the second half (at Oregon State) and our defense was away from our bench, we missed a few shots, had some turnovers, but it led to poor communication,” he said. “We didn’t do a good job in the very areas we did well tonight.”

There was nice attention to detail on the 2 for 1

The Wildcats have gotten ribbed for their execution at the end of halves—and rightfully so—but they did a nice job Saturday, running a 2-for-1 to perfection to cap the first half.

After a timeout, Green scored on the low block with 42 seconds left on the game clock and eight seconds left on the shot clock.

WSU responded with a bucket from Isaac Bonton with 29 seconds left, but Jemarl Baker Jr., after burning some precious seconds away, knocked down a pull-up off a screen with eight seconds left to push Arizona’s lead to 34-23.

Because a made shot does not stop the clock in the final minute of the first half, the Cougars only had time to force up a deep, contested 3 that did not even draw iron.

Arizona won by 17 so that sequence didn’t matter a whole lot, but that kind of execution is nice to see knowing there will be games when it does.

Green finally finding his groove?

Arizona’s final basket of the night was a 3-pointer by Green. He had something of a bounceback game, finishing with nine points. He still struggled with his efficiency (4 for 11) but it was still a step in the right direction, seeing that he entered the night missing 13 of his last 15 shots.

With a big game vs. USC coming up Thursday, it would be huge if Green can start to get going again and be more of a threat in the halfcourt.

There is a five-way tie atop the Pac-12 and Arizona might be the favorite

With Arizona beating WSU, Oregon falling at Stanford, and Colorado blowing out USC, there is now a five-way tie atop the Pac-12 entering the final month of conference play. All five schools have three Pac-12 losses.

Who is the favorite to win the conference championship? According to KenPom, it’s Arizona. The analytics site projects the Wildcats will finish 13-5, a game better than Oregon, who they host on Feb. 22.

The Pac-12 is not as strong as it was projected to be—Oregon is the only school ranked in the Top 25—but it would be pretty amusing if the Wildcats manage to win a Pac-12 title in a year most people would probably agree that they did not play up to their potential.