Arizona, 14-7 and 5-3, has had a few solid wins over St. Johns and Clemson. The Wildcats have picked up losses to Mississippi State, San Diego State, Florida, Gonzaga, UCLA, Oregon and Colorado. Two of those losses were at home.
Having lost Derrick Williams due to early entry for the NBA, the Wildcats have turned to Kyle Fogg to be their key scoring threat. The 6-foot-3 junior guard is averaging 12.2 points a game on 42 percent shooting from the field, 44 from beyond-the-arc and 82 from the charity stripe. Fogg doesn’t provide much else, but does grab a steal per game.
Down in the paint, Solomon Hill will pose a danger to the Husky frontline. The 6-foot-6 junior, Hill is averaging a solid 11.9 points per game on 47 percent shooting. He also pulls in 8.1 rebounds a game, No. 75 in the nation.
Alongside Hill down low will be Jesse Perry. The 6-foot-7 senior is putting up a solid 11.5 points on 52 percent shooting and 7.3 rebounds a game. He also only averages 1.9 fouls in 30.2 minutes a game.
With a freshman class billed as potentially the best in the country, Arizona’s youngsters have struggled to get going and the Wildcats already lost big man Sidiki Johnson to transfer. Leading that strong class is Nick Johnson, who is averaging 9.4 points on 41 percent shooting and 2.4 assists from the guard spot. Also in the backcourt with him is Josiah Turner - often touted as the best player in their class - who is averaging 7.3 points on 42 percent shooting, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals.
As a whole, Sean Miller’s squad does several things well statistically. The Wildcats are ranked nationally No. 4 in defensive 3-point percentage (26.5), No. 33 in assist percentage (61.2), No. 38 in 3-pointers made (164) and No. 43 in defensive rebounds per game (25.8).
Historically, Arizona has dominated the series 44-26, and 27-6 in Tucson. However, Washington has won six of the last nine games. The Huskies' last win on the road against the Wildcats was in 2006 and Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar has only won there twice.
Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar:
On the last Game Day they played at UA - "I just remember there was so much electricity in this building before the game even started. It was like a prize fight, a heavyweight prizefight. And they came out and were throwing every blow imaginable and we were on the ropes. We withstood the flurry early, and then we gradually came back to where, once we evened it up, it was an even game all the way until the last block of the shot. I thought it was a great college basketball game."
On how that game helped them back then - "I thought it gave us, even though we didn't come up with the win - we had been playing good basketball at the time, but we felt given the team Arizona was…league champs with an unbelievable college basketball player in Derrick Williams and a lot of good other players…to come here in that environment and to have a chance to win at the end I think really showed our guys that we can play in the NCAA Tournament against anyone. Whatever we face now, we can handle this. And I thought that game kind of helped us see that."
On what games are like for a coach when you're in the moment - "When you're in the foxhole like that, your mind doesn't take you anywhere but the next possession. You're concentrating on, how do we keep this thing right, how do we get over the top. You don't have a chance to have a whole lot of fun. It's not misery; it's not that at all. It's just intense. You're just focused the entire time."
On having a different adrenaline rush as a coach as opposed to playing - "There's never ever any experience like playing. As a coach, you can't cross the line; you've got to stay behind the line. You can't do anything on the court to help. You have to hope that they are prepared and hope that your instructions and your motivation and maybe some decisions can change the game. But as a player, a real player comes in and looks at this place and says, 'Yeah, this is just how I like it here. This is about as good as it gets. Let's go play'. You feel like I personally can control the outcome here. So it's different as a player, a little bit, than a coach."
On how certain players embrace that, and others shirk it - "Yeah. That's sports, man. That happens at all levels, with all different types of players. You love those that come out in these type games and you just see them swelling up in front of everybody. They are not backing down at all."
On what Wroten's dunk did for the team last night - "Mostly, it took the game from four to seven. It gave us a little breathing room, a little bit - like the loose ball that he got and put back. We needed a bucket and they were coming back, so if you score that's great. But if you do one like that, that gets everybody charged up."
On Wroten having a star quality about him - "When they are like that…Isaiah Thomas was like that. Guys like that, they've been good for a long time. They really believe they can't be beat."
On balancing the floor with him because he favors his left hand - "I think that with a lot of players where the scout is saying the player will only go one way…Lenny Wilkens joke about it all the time: Guys joke about it saying, 'Well, I'd like to go that other way, but I keep getting there this way. So if I keep getting there this way, why go the other way?' And a lot of times that happens for him that way. But I thought last night against their zone, he caught the ball on the other side of the floor, so he just took off. He finished with his left, but he can go right or left. I don't think that's a problem at all. It's just a lot easier for him to get there, and if they aren't there - just keep going. The game dictates it.
"How many left-handers out here? So you've never had to go through the scarring effect that I had to go through (laughs). When you go to the gym, when you're left-handed…make him go right! Make him go right! Well, there's plenty of right handers that can't go left, but you never hear guys say, 'Make him go left!' You rarely hear that about a right hander. But left handers…he can't go right! Anyway, got that off my chest…
"So with Tony, people talk about that, so he tries to make a conscious effort to go both ways on his own. But I just think he took what the defense gave him."
On what the best rivalry for UW is now - "I think it's changed throughout the years we've been here. We want to say our natural rival is Washington State, but there was a time when UCLA was our rival. And under coach (Lute) Olson, that became a bit of a rival. I think Oregon has been a little bit of a rival, and now maybe Cal and Arizona possibly…I think it may be a rivalry because there's mutual respect."
On if the last two games with UA adding some spice to a rivalry - "Yeah, I don't think it takes away from it, that's for sure. Even the game in our place, we won by double-digits, but that was at the end. We went on a run down the stretch."
On if tomorrow's game helping their tourney chances because it's a national game - "I think it's helpful for the country to be able to see us, especially if you're trying to make a case that you're NCAA Tournament-worthy."
On if the Game Day experience in Seattle helped the team perform - "I don't know if it did. We were playing UCLA. They were a worthy opponent and it was a league game and we knew it was going to be a heck of a game, but Game Day can do that. And it was Senior Day."
On a young team responding on the road - "We played on the big stage against Duke and Marquette in the Garden, but we had a number of people there cheering for us too. Saint Louis was a tough environment, but the place was 3/4 full. This group has not played in anything like what we're going to play in tomorrow, so it remains to be seen how we will respond."
On how C.J. Wilcox responded to playing 10 minutes Thursday - "He was fine. He was fine. There are restrictions, but I think he may be able to go a little longer than he went yesterday."
On ASJ defending well because he can't be moved - "He withstands his ground and he has quick feet and he has good instincts. So when they go to make a move, he can slide right with them. And when they try to go past him, he doesn't give ground, and he anticipates well because of his instincts."
Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller:
On embracing Game Day - "I hope so. For me to act like it's not going on around our team is foolish. There's a certain element that as a coach and as a team when you're in a game like this - you do really have to stay on task. You know it's about preparing for Washington. It's about us practicing the right way today. It's a little easier to be distracted and make the game bigger than it is, or have your mind in the wrong place for the wrong reasons without even realizing it.
"I think we went through this, I felt, when we played Oregon on national TV on CBS. Oregon did a great job against us. But I can only judge us by our standards, and for whatever reasons we didn't do a very good job getting ready for that game and we got what we deserved. I can only hope that, win or lose against Washington, it's not about our effort level or our preparation and that our minds are in the right place. So that's what we're trying to accomplish here moving toward the game."
On what you say to the team before this game - "It's about us playing very hard and playing together and being ready. The one thing you don't really have to say is where the game is located. It's on television, and everyone knows that. It's understood, and I would hope that I don't have to talk to our guys about being on this type of stage to play hard. If we weren't on television tomorrow against Washington, this is still a big home game, and we've only got five left - believe it or not - and we want to defend our home court just like everyone else in this conference does."
On Tony Wroten - "Powerful, explosive. It's tough to call him a guard, even though he is, because he's so strong in and around the basket. He loves the physicality and he can really score through bigger people. It's almost awkward when you see it, because there aren't many guys that play the style that he plays. And I mean that in the most complimentary way I can. He's just a real difference-maker."
On if he reminds you of anyone - "No. He reminds you of some of the guys who played long, tenured NBA careers, those big, strong guards…their body transcends the fact that they are guards. They do things that guards don't do, and to me it's amazing the impact around the basket that he has for a guard."
On guarding against the three - "It's tough to beat Arizona State when you make one three, and I think that says a lot about Washington's ability to score inside the arc. Obviously they are a terrific offensive rebounding team, and I think that's always where it starts when you play Washington; to make sure you don't let them get to the foul line, get those second shots, third shots, and those momentum plays that they are so good at getting off their offensive rebounding."
On trying to make Wroten go right - "He's not always facing the basket when he scores. His back is to the basket a lot of times and he can score as a traditional post-up player. He can score really facing the basket, and here's the other thing - he's a clever passer. Just when you help too much, just when you pay too much attention, he'll give someone else the ball, and they'll finish. So it's really a couple of battles you have to fight. You look at his free throw attempts; I know one of the things you always hope for if you're Washington is that he makes his free throws, because he gets to the line so easily. If he converts at a high percentage, that just makes him and his team that much more difficult to defend. So hopefully he has a bad night from the line, because it's hard to keep him from getting to the line."
On the emotion of the game and how it can help the opponent - "You don't have to explain to Washington that this is a big game, and it's a conference game. We have a good tradition on both sides of success, and their guys I know are probably just as excited as our guys are. To come into this swing and get a road sweep as a visiting team - we know how hard that is in our conference. They have one of the two down. It would be a great thing for them to do, and by the same token we haven't had two (wins) in a row in our conference. This would be our first opportunity to win two in a row at home."
On the game coming at a big time for UA in their schedule - "I just know that if we were fortunate enough to beat Washington, we'd be 6-3 at the turn and our three losses - two of them came down to a last-second shot. We've played some good basketball. I go back to the Colorado game; we had a really night shooting but we did some things in that game really well, and to me that had a lot of carry-over into our game against Washington State. The difference being that, what we did poorly at Colorado, we were exceptional with 15 threes last night. A lot of good things happened last night, and hopefully we can carry those things into Saturday's game with Washington."
On not being able to get streaks going - "We won our second game in our LA swing after losing to UCLA; we lost a heartbreaker after beating Utah. We had a very emotional overtime game against Oregon State after really a bad performance against Oregon. I think it's our level of play moreso than our age or experience. It's kind of who we are as a team right now. But last year we experienced tremendous improvement from late January through the month of February and into March. We were a better team with almost each passing week from that point on, and that's our goal - to keep getting better.
"Kevin Parrom, watching him recently he's more himself right now; we've played virtually an entire season with, what I would say, is a mirror image of who he is. But in the last three games he has really stepped up. Not just because he's shooting the ball a little bit better, but he's making a lot of plays for our team. He's an important piece to our future; for us to take off, he has to keep playing well."
On what happened with the second technical on Josiah Turner - "I don't know. Any time you have a small guy locked up on a big guy, the small guy has two choices; either surrender or compete. To me, Josiah - on that particular play, and even on the first play - did what we asked him to do, and that is try and do your best, compete. And for whatever reason it turned into a technical, and then a second technical, and it's just unfortunate that any player would have to leave the game on two plays like that.
"The fine line is that, Josiah, in my opinion, did what we asked him to do. We don't want players to be ejected right now, but I think all three instances were very isolated. Kyryl stepped six feet on the floor, growled and turned beet red; he broke a rule by being on the court, so he was ejected. Solomon protected himself. A lot of times when you retaliate, they catch the second guy. He was ejected. And I don't know about Josiah; really, the same play two different times, and I don't know why he got ejected. It was disappointing."
On talking with Turner about the incidents - "I've already talked to him. We went over it. Two things you don't ever want your team to do is talk - there's no place in that - and you have to be really smart once the whistle blows. Any thing after the whistle blows…so we talked a little bit about that, but in Josiah's case, a lot of what happened took place before the whistle blew."
On the UA-UW rivalry - "I hope that everyone looks at it as a healthy rivalry. The respect we have for Washington's program is immense; the way they recruit, the way they play and who they are as a program - they are a great representation of the Pac-12. And hopefully they look at us the same, and hopefully more important both teams are built for the future so that games like this in the future will be meaningful."
On going back and looking at the last play of the Pac-12 Tourney - "It was just…it's kind of that deal in college basketball - a huge shot in March tends to transcends not just that tournament or year. We do the same thing with Derrick Williams. You see how he did and what he did at Duke and some of the plays in March…so that's what you want. You want to see your fans, your team, your future always thinking about those big shots in March. And that was a big one he made."
On last year's UW-UA game in Tucson doing something for UA - "Yeah, it's a little something that we've been dealing with this year. And so much of it is individual players stepping up and making big plays at the end of the game. We had the ultimate closer last year in Derrick."
On if UA is past the loss of Derrick Williams - "Yeah. Our team is gone from that. I don't think any of our guys think about it. They watch him play in the NBA. I think the one thing that's unique about Derrick leaving Arizona is - it's one thing to leave a program early when everything is in place over a period of time, but the timing of Derrick leaving was when we were building again, and it's knocked us back. Any time that loses the No. 2 pick in the draft will feel the effects, but especially when you are just trying to gain that momentum as a new coaching staff and as a program. When that's taken from you at that point, that can really knock you back a little bit - and it has. But I'll also say that I think we're playing pretty well right now, and hopefully our best is yet to come."