With a dismantling of Washington, Arizona momentarily put to rest any concerns about its ability to play hard and win on the road.
On Sunday, the No. 7 Wildcats will try to further wipe away those road blemishes when they travel to Pullman to take on Washington State. If Arizona brings anywhere near the energy it did against Washington, the Cougars could in rough shape.
Despite being down to eight scholarship players, Arizona played one of its most balanced games of the season in Seattle with five players scoring in double digits, including TJ McConnell who picked up his first double-double in a Wildcat uniform.
McConnell propelled an offensive attack that barely missed a step the entire game, with exception to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s slip in the first half on a breakaway dunk.
On defense, the Wildcats were just as impressive by holding the Huskies to 35 percent from the field in their home arena.
The game plan should be similar against Washington State – attack the lane and crash hard on the glass. And while the Cougars may have more of an inside presence than their in-state counterparts, they are not a strong shooting team.
Senior DaVonte Lacy is Washington State’s best scoring threat as he averages nearly 17 points per game. However, his three point shooting percentage has fallen from 39 to 33 percent from last to this season, and he’s currently in a massive slump from outside.
Hollis-Jefferson will no doubt be asked to cover Lacy most of the game. Whoever Hollis-Jefferson covers these days usually doesn’t leave the arena feeling too good about themselves afterwards.
If Lacy’s scoring can be neutralized, the Cougars will have to rely on much less experienced players to step up. When Arizona is on its game defensively, such a proposition rarely works for the opposition.
Outside of Lacy, center Josh Hawkinson is the only Washington State player averaging 10 or more points. The sophomore is a double-double machine – he’s racked up four straight – and should provide Kaleb Tarczewski a legitimate test down low.
With Dusan Ristic out, the worst case scenario for the Wildcats would be if Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley both got in early foul trouble, allowing Hawkinson to match up with Matt Korcheck.
Under Ernie Kent, the Cougars play a much faster style of pace than Arizona fans are used to (Washington State defeated Oregon 108-99 in OT earlier this season) so don’t expect the Wildcats to be lulled into a slow tempo similar to what Oregon State employs.
As long as Arizona doesn’t completely lose its shooting touch or return to lackluster defense, the Wildcats should be able to fly home with a pair of comfortable victories.