With the win, the Cats not only avenged their loss to UW in the schools’ regular season finale, but advanced to the quarterfinals of the conference tournament as well.
Arizona will now play USC on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. MST.
Sure, four different Wildcats finished in double digits— Josh Green (19), Zeke Nnaji (14), Nico Mannion (14) and Dylan Smith (11)—but the real reason that Arizona was able to win the game and therefore stay alive in the conference tourney was its defense.
The UA forced Washington into 19 turnovers and held them to just 3-of-23 shooting from 3-point range.
Washington did finish the game shooting 40 percent from the field, but aside from forward Isaiah Stewart, UW’s other players combined to shoot just 29%.
If Arizona is to advance further in this Pac-12 Tournament, they will need more defensive efforts like this one.
After scoring just eight points against the Huskies in the last game of the regular season, Green erupted for 19 on Wednesday, going 5 for 10 from the floor and 3 for 4 from 3-point land. He was Arizona’s leading scorer, and hit three 3s — his most since the Wooden Legacy against Pepperdine in November.
The Australian freshman showed off his offensive versatility, knocking down both mid range and three-point shots while getting to the basket as well. He was active on defense too, finishing with two steals and a block.
It was a good sign to see Green playing like this after his recent back injury, and Arizona will benefit in a major way against USC if Green can play like this again.
His draft stock will too.
It should be noted that Green didn’t play when Arizona lost to USC in L.A. on February 27.
This hasn’t always been the case this season, but Arizona’s 3-point shot was working on Wednesday against the Huskies. The Cats went 9 for 23, good for a healthy 38% clip.
For a team who is shooting just 35% from 3 this season it was certainly a solid performance, and if the Wildcats have serious aspirations in both the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournaments, they need to continue to shoot like this.
Guarding Isaiah Stewart
As I mentioned earlier, Arizona had a relatively good defensive game against the Huskies. Aside from guarding UW freshman Isaiah Stewart that is.
The Huskies big man was scintillating against the Wildcats, scoring 29 points on 9-of-11 shooting while pulling down 12 rebounds in the process.
Miller threw every big man he had at him, but Stewart simply couldn’t be stopped, scoring seemingly at will against the convoy of Stone Gettings, Ira Lee, Christian Koloko, Chase Jeter and Nnaji.
It ultimately wasn’t enough to get his team a win on Wednesday, but there is no doubt that Stewart till played well against Arizona all year, averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds in three games against the Wildcats.
UA fans should be happy to see him depart for the NBA after this season.
Arizona committed just three turnovers in the second half, which Miller said after the game was key in holding on to the win, but the 10 the Wildcats committed in the first half was just too many.
The teams combined for 22 turnovers in the opening period, and in a game where Washington didn’t play well on offense, the UA’s turnovers kept their opponent in the game early on.
When the Cats held onto the ball better in the second half they were able to build a big lead which they never relinquished.
Against USC, the Wildcats will need to make sure the protect the ball like they did in the second half on Wednesday and not the first.
The Wildcats came away with a win over UW to keep their hopes of a conference tournament title alive, but it was still troubling to see Max Hazzard away from the team once again.
With the absence, the grad transfer has now missed four of the UA’s last five games and afterwards there was no update from Miller on if and when he would return.
At this point it’s hard to see him returning, and I hate to say it but I would genuinely be surprised if he plays another game in an Arizona uniform.