Looking to rebound after two tough last second losses last week, Arizona returns to McKale Center to face Washington on Thursday evening (7:00 pm, FS1). Washington sits atop the Pac-12 standings and is the lone undefeated team in conference play at 3-0 and 11-4 overall.
Andrew Andrews vs Kadeem Allen – After two weeks of conference play, Andrews has been the league’s best player. Andrews is averaging 29 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists a game in Washington’s three wins. Andrews is a savvy senior guard who has taken his game and team to the next level thus far. Allen had an up and down weekend in LA. He was able to continually attack the basket late in both games and sparked Arizona’s comebacks. Allen showed glimpses of tremendous defense, but lapses as well. When dialed in, he can be a fantastic defender, which was reflected in his steals and blocks. However, he didn’t fight to get over the screen hard enough in the final possession of the UCLA game which resulted in Tarczewski having to defend Alford on the game winning 3.
Dejounte Murray vs Gabe York – Murray is Washington’s second leading scorer at 15 points a game and leads the team in assists. He is very agile, a great compliment in the Husky backcourt next to Andrews and Arizona will need to keep him out of the lane. York rebounded from a relatively quiet game against UCLA by playing 55 minutes and scoring 21 points in the quadruple overtime loss to USC. Opposing teams are now keying in on York and good looks are scarce. I would like to see Arizona run some plays for York early in the game to get him going and open up the offense.
Arizona has a decided advantage in size and experience in the frontcourt against Washington. Kaleb Tarczewski, Ryan Anderson and Dusan Ristic should be able to overpower Marquese Chriss, Noah Dickerson and Malik Dime. Tarczewski has been solid since coming back from injury. He had three clutch put backs which sent the game to overtimes against USC. The combination of Tarczewski and Ristic at the center position will be tough for opposing teams to handle. Ryan Anderson had 15 points and 15 rebounds against UCLA but only 5 points and 8 rebounds against USC. He got lost on defense several times and committed silly fouls. Anderson is struggling with his confidence and defense at the moment and isn’t playing with the type of swagger he did at the beginning of the year.
It was announced on Sunday that Allonzo Trier broke the fourth metacarpal in his right hand and will be out 4-6 weeks. The injury occurred with about 3 minutes left in regulation, which means Trier played the game’s final 23 minutes with a broken hand. Arizona continues to be snake bitten by injuries this year. Just when it looked like the team would get some continuity with Tarczewski back, Trier goes down. Trier had been playing fantastic, efficient basketball and his injury is a big blow to Arizona. Now opposing teams can focus in on Gabe York even more without another scoring threat on the perimeter.
Coach Miller could insert Mark Tollefsen into the starting lineup or go small with Parker Jackson-Cartwright at the point and have a three guard attack. There have been rumblings about Elliott Pitts personal issues being resolved, if so it couldn’t happen at a better time as Arizona needs perimeter depth and shooting. If there is a silver lining to Trier’s injury, it could be Justin Simon getting more minutes and developing quicker. Simon is very athletic and has the tenacity to be a great defensive player. Even though he fouled USC’s Elijah Stewart on a long jumper with 22 seconds left in the 4th overtime, his effort was there.
What To Look For
Defense. Arizona’s defense was sporadic against UCLA and USC. After the UCLA game, Coach Miller said this year’s defense is the second worst in his 7 years at Arizona. In the beginning of both games the intensity and attention to detail wasn’t there. Arizona will need to be dialed in from the jump against Washington.
Turnovers. Arizona had 19 turnovers against USC, which is too high even though the game went to 4 overtimes. Most of the turnovers led to easy Trojan points or happened at inopportune times.
Scoring. With Trier out, it will be intriguing to see if Arizona can continue to score 80+ points.
Washington is an athletic, confident team lead by senior guard Andrew Andrews and will look to get a statement road victory and snap Arizona’s 47 game home winning streak. Arizona needs to play better individual and team defense, and put together a solid effort for the whole game while acclimating to playing without Allonzo Trier. Two of the three Washington wins have come via overtime, expect another hotly contested game decided in the final few minutes.
Allonzo Trier wore the KD 8 Christmas against UCLA and the Kobe VI Chaos against USC.