Arizona is back on the road to face Washington State on Wednesday night (8:00 pm│P12N). Washington State is 9-12 overall, last place in the Pac-12 with a 1-8 conference record after losing their last seven games. Arizona played Washington State two and half weeks ago and won convincingly, 90-66.
Josh Hawkinson vs Ryan Anderson – Hawkinson is averaging 16 points and 10.7 rebounds and is the Cougars best player. Hawkinson will be looking to bounce back after a substandard performance against UCLA on Saturday when he had just 7 points and 6 rebounds. Anderson continues to be solid for Arizona, averaging 15.2 points and 10.1 rebounds. Anderson rediscovered his outside shot against Oregon which should help Arizona as opposing Pac-12 teams have been utilizing aggressive, trapping zone defenses against the Wildcats. This will be an intense matchup of double double machines with Anderson getting the best of Hawkinson in their first meeting.
Ike Iroegbu vs Kadeem Allen – Iroegbu is Washington State’s best perimeter player and averages 14.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists. He has been playing well as of late, averaging 21 points the last three games. Allen is coming off a sound weekend against Oregon and Oregon State. He had an impressive 10 assists against Oregon but also had 4 turnovers, which on the surface doesn’t sound like much, but a couple of those turnovers were costly and led to easy transition baskets for the Ducks. Against Oregon State, Allen did a tremendous job guarding Gary Payton II and limiting him to just 9 points. For Arizona to improve, Allen will need to look for his shot and play more aggressively. Opposing teams are daring him to shoot, if he can knock down a couple outside shots the offense will open up. Allen has been steady thus far, but there’s another level he can reach.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright has been shooting well from three and had a tremendous game in the first meeting against Washington State, arguably his best game at Arizona. He is a tough matchup for the Cougars guards with his speed and playmaking ability. I would like to see PJC push the tempo and create early offense for the Wildcats.
Dusan Ristic didn’t have the best weekend against Oregon and Oregon State due to matchup problems, but is a tough matchup for Washington State with his size and skill. Arizona should feed Ristic down low early and often, get him going and get the Cougars big men in foul trouble.
There have been reports that Allonzo Trier is a game time decision and has been able to shoot without discomfort. I would like Arizona to err on the side of caution and rest Trier until at least Saturday against the Washington Huskies.
What To Look For
Turnovers. Arizona had 19 turnovers against Oregon and 13 against Oregon State, which is excessive. Ideally Coach Miller would like the number to be 12 or less. The turnovers were momentum killers against Oregon.
Defense. Arizona allowed Oregon to shoot 51% but held Oregon State to 40%. Arizona needs to become a more consistent defensive team, there are flashes and stretches of great defensive play but far too many lapses.
Mindset / Focus. Arizona needs to bring intensity and focus against Washington State and not let the Cougars position in last place overshadow the effort. With the conference road struggles this season, no game should be taken lightly.
Washington State is a team that is really struggling. Arizona can ill afford to lose to Washington State and have any hopes of winning the Pac-12 regular season championship, being two games behind Oregon at the halfway mark and not playing them again with the unbalanced schedule. Arizona will need to jump on Washington State early, take control of the game and not give them any life. The dustup between Coach Miller and Kaleb Tarczewski during the Oregon game was cringe worthy but could be a watershed moment for the team, which hopefully galvanizes the players into being accountable and giving maximum effort at all times. If Arizona can play with the intensity Coach Miller displays, they will start off the second half of Pac-12 play with a victory.