The struggling Washington Huskies face a formidable challenge on Thursday evening, as they entertain the eighth-ranked Arizona Wildcats in a Pac-12 Conference affair.
Arizona ran roughshod through its non-conference foes this season, going 12-0, and the team has been relatively successful since the start of conference play, winning five of its first seven bouts. The Wildcats' losses have come against two of the league's top teams in Oregon (70-66) and UCLA (84-73), and they rebounded from the Jan. 24 setback to the Bruins to manhandle the USC Trojans two days later (74-50). Arizona is 4-1 in true road games this season, outscoring the opposition in those bouts by 12.6 points, and outrebounding them by 8.4 caroms per contest.
Washington opened Pac-12 action with wins its first four games, but has since dropped three in a row, the most recent of which being an 81-76 decision at Oregon last Saturday. Still, the Huskies are four games over .500 on the year (12-8), and they are 7-4 at home. UW has not lost four straight since 2008, and that was also the last year it beat a top-10 foe at home (No. 5 UCLA). Overall, the Huskies have won their last four home games against a ranked opponent.
Arizona owns a 44-28 lead in the all-time series with Washington, but the Huskies won the last meeting (70-54 in Seattle on Feb. 16, 2012) and have claimed victory in 10 of the last 18 encounters overall.
Arizona is excelling at both ends of the court this season, averaging 75.5 ppg while permitting just 62.0 ppg, both of which rank the team third in the Pac-12, and its scoring margin of +13.5 has it first. The team boasts three double-digit scorers in the form of Mark Lyons (14.9 ppg), Solomon Hill (13.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Nick Johnson (13.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg). The Wildcats are shooting 45.4 percent from the floor, which includes a 36.8 percent effort from 3-point range, while their foes connect on only 39.9 percent of their total shots, and are guilty of nearly 15 turnovers per outing. Johnson hit for 14 points, Hill had 13, Brandon Ashley chipped in 11, and Kaleb Tarczewski finished with 10, all of which helped Arizona push its way past visiting USC last weekend. The 'Cats shot a lackluster 41 percent from the field, but held the Trojans to just 28.1 percent. A 17-9 edge in points from the foul line certainly helped the home team, as did the fact that USC committed 16 turnovers off which Arizona scored 20 points.
Washington is the league's top 3-point shooting team (.370), but its overall field goal percentage (.440) ranks it ninth. As a result, the team averages 69.4 ppg, and its defensive allowance yields 66.6 ppg, both of which rank UW in the bottom half of the conference standings. The Huskies are fortunate in that the Pac-12's second-leading scorer wears their uniform, as C.J. Wilcox is averaging 19.0 ppg thanks to 3-point shooting effort that has him draining 41.9 percent of his attempts. Wilcox is a 46.8 percent shooter overall, and converts his free throws at a 75.4 percent clip, and he adds 4.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and more than a block per tilt to his impressive stat line. Scott Suggs (12.2 ppg), Abdul Gaddy (11.4 ppg, 3.5 apg) and Aziz N'Diaye (10.5 ppg, 9.2 rpg) are all averaging double figures in the scoring column as well for UW, which battled back to make a game of it at Oregon last Saturday, but just didn't have enough in the tank as it fell by five points. Andrew Andrews came off the bench to score a team-leading 15 points, and the Huskies shot 51.9 percent from the floor, going a stellar 8-of-12 from beyond the arc in the process. For their part, the Ducks, who committed an unsightly 23 turnovers, shot nearly 58 percent from the field, and used a 27-14 edge in points from the foul line to pick up the hard-fought victory.