AP – Arizona coach Sean Miller hasn’t tried to sugarcoat his squad’s loss over the weekend, but he’s also not about to panic given how well it has played throughout the season.
The seventh-ranked Wildcats attempt to regroup from a rare defeat Friday night as they visit a Washington team looking to avoid its longest losing streak in more than 13 years.
Arizona (20-3, 8-2 Pac-12) had won six straight before falling 81-78 to rival Arizona State on Saturday, marking its third road defeat against an unranked team. T.J. McConnell scored a season-high 25 points, but the Wildcats allowed the Sun Devils to shoot 50.0 percent from the field after opponents connected on just 40.8 percent during their winning streak.
“We just weren’t ready, to be honest,” McConnell said. “When we have a team that is not ready, we aren’t going to win against any team.”
Miller’s team has been prepared for a good portion of the season and noted that Arizona is still in a solid position despite the defeat, battling Utah in a close race for the conference lead.
“I would like to win every game. We’re expected to win,” Miller said. “But I’m very proud of what we are right now, and I think it’s so much more about where we go from here.
“At the same time, nobody feels good about our performance on Saturday. For us, you’ll learn a lot about our team this weekend and next weekend, the next two weeks. Hopefully we’ll respond.”
McConnell has been the Wildcats’ catalyst even when he’s not scoring. The senior had a career-high eight steals in Arizona’s win over Oregon State in its previous contest Jan. 30, and his 3.07 assist-to-turnover is second in the Pac-12 and in the top 20 nationally.
“Coach uses the analogy that he sometimes drives the car of the team,” leading scorer Stanley Johnson said. “He’s the heart and soul, and when his face gets red and he’s pumping his veins, that’s every day for him.”
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar would love to see some of that intensity out of his squad. The Huskies (14-9, 3-8) won their first 11 games and reached No. 13 in the AP poll before a dramatic slip.
Sunday’s 64-50 loss at Oregon State marked their fifth consecutive defeat, tying Romar’s longest losing streak in 13 seasons in Seattle. Washington hasn’t dropped six straight since the 2001-02 season.
“We’re not going to be able to show up and just win games based on our overall talent level,” Romar said in a radio interview. “We’re going to have to win games by being gritty and blue collar.”
The Huskies, who have lost three straight meetings with Arizona, are still trying to overcome the loss of 7-foot center Robert Upshaw, who was dismissed Jan. 26 after violating team rules. Fellow big man Jernard Jarreau has missed the last eight with a knee injury and is expected to miss another week or two.
Nigel Williams-Goss has played all 40 minutes in four straight and Andrew Andrews had played at least 38 in six straight prior to Sunday to help offset those losses.
Williams-Goss hasn’t shown any sign of wear, though, averaging 20.0 points over his last four. Oakland’s Kahlil Felder is the only other player nationally who equals Williams-Goss’ season averages of 15.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists.
Arizona won the last meeting 71-62 on Jan. 4, 2014, as Williams-Goss scored just nine points and hit 4 of 12 from the field. McConnell was held to four but added six assists and four steals.