Following their 32 point victory of Washington Thursday night, Arizona (14-3) will now host Washington State (9-7) Saturday evening (7:30, Pac-12 Network). Washington State now sits at 1-3 in Pac 12 play while the Wildcats sit at 2-2. The Cougars are coming off an 11 point loss in Tempe Thursday night, a game in which they trailed for the last 36 minutes.
Coached by the familiar Ernie Kent, Washington State has faced some good teams already this season in Gonzaga, Oklahoma, and UCLA. Besides the blowout against Oklahoma, WSU played Gonzaga tough in a loss before beating UCLA in the opening weekend of Pac 12 play. With zero road victories this season, the Cougars will face a daunting task Saturday, traveling to Tucson to face a team with a 48 game home winning streak.
Washington State is led and anchored by junior big man Josh Hawkinson. “Hawk” is averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds per game this season. He will provide a good test against the defensive prowess of Kaleb Tarczewski. Behind Hawkinson, Washington State will depend upon junior guard Ike Iroegbu, who is contributing 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists per game.
Arizona was led by stellar performances out of Zeus (16 points, 13 rebounds) and Ryan Anderson (21 points, 9 rebounds) Thursday night, and will look for similar contributions out of its frontcourt against the athletically inferior Cougar big men. Arizona also received double-digit scoring efforts from all five starters Thursday night, and a career-high 11 assists out of Parker Jackson-Cartwright off the bench. Arizona is a tough team to beat when it is sporting such a well-balanced offensive attack.
With Trier out for the next few weeks, Mark Tollefsen has re-entered the starting lineup. A very capable wing player, Tollefsen has been an increasingly consistent contributor for the Wildcats this season. However, with Tollefsen back in the starting lineup, the Wildcats frontcourt depth off the bench takes a hit, with only Ristic available. Due to this, staying out of foul trouble will be imperative for the Cats. Although Arizona is a heavy favorite against the Cougars, Saturday’s game should provide a good test defensively for the Wildcats, especially to see if Zeus and Anderson can avoid foul trouble. A home sweep would provide a good momentum boost before a tough road trip in the bay area next week, and anything less than finishing the sweep would be both shocking and disappointing for Arizona.