SEATTLE — Eighth-ranked Arizona arrives at Hec Edmundson Pavilion for tonight’s game against stumbling Washington with a blend of versatile veterans and young strongmen.
The Huskies are on a three-game losing streak, a downward swing they are repeating for a third consecutive season. They are trying to avoid losing four consecutive games for the first time since conference play in 2008, when Washington finished under .500 for the season.
That was also when Washington last beat an opponent ranked in the top 10 at home – taking a 71-61 victory over fifth-ranked UCLA.
The Huskies have won their past four home games against ranked teams. But they haven’t faced a ranked opponent in Hec-Ed since beating 19th-ranked Texas A&M on Dec. 22, 2009, when Aggies guard Derrick Roland suffered a gruesome leg injury.
Washington has had a good run against Arizona the past two years. The Huskies are 4-1 against the Wildcats following a sweep last season. Arizona coach Sean Miller has not won in Washington since taking over the Wildcats in
April 2009. On Miller’s side is the fact Washington is 33-122 all time against top-10 teams.
Current information tells us the Huskies have lost three in a row to slip to the middle of the Pacific-12 Conference after a 4-0 start. They grappled with Pac-12 front-runner Oregon last week in Eugene, Ore., but were thwarted by the Ducks and turnovers.
Today’s shot at another conference titan comes with UW coach Lorenzo Romar assuring the Huskies can, as in years past, dig out of a losing streak. And Washington’s streak of defeats does not change Miller’s view of the Huskies.
“I’ve never competed against Washington and felt they didn’t play as hard as any team on our schedule,” Miller said. “We know what we’re getting. Whether they’ve won or lost, I think that’s irrelevant.”
Forward Solomon Hill and point guard Mark Lyons, a pair of seniors, make Arizona go. Sophomore guard Nick Johnson is third on the team in scoring and 7-foot, 255-pound freshman Kaleb Tarczewski – Zeus to his pals – teams with 6-foot-8 freshman Brandon Ashley to round out Arizona’s starters. Kevin Parrom, one of the toughest players in college basketball, comes off the bench, followed by a couple more big-shot freshmen recruits.
“They have a perimeter full of junkyard dogs,” Romar said. “They’re physical, they’re mentally tough.”
Whether the same can be said about Washington is questionable. Romar said last week that fifth-year senior Scott Suggs needed to concentrate on rebounding, then he played 29 minutes against Oregon and grabbed zero rebounds.
Redshirt freshman Andrew Andrews has continued to play well off the bench and deliver with confidence. He has led Washington in scoring two of the past three games, but Romar says he will not be tinkering with the starting lineup yet.
The Huskies also know the clock is ticking on NCAA tournament résumé building. Beating Colorado rates as their best win to date. Playing the highest-ranked team in the conference on national television gives them a chance to make a case to themselves and all watching that this season isn’t over.
“It’d be huge,” C.J. Wilcox said of a win. “We need a good, quality win at home. We need to get this done now.”
No. 8 Arizona (17-2 overall, 5-2 PACIFIC-12 CONFERENCE) at Washington (12-8, 4-3)
6 p.m., Hec Edmundson Pavilion
TV: ESPN. Radio: 950-AM, 102.9-FM.
All-time series: Arizona leads, 44-28.
Scott Suggs F184.108.40.2069.788.6
Desmond SimmonsF220.127.116.11 34.5 75.0
Aziz N’DiayeF10.59.20.3 63.245.8
Scouting report: Arizona has balance and depth. Point guard Mark Lyons, a transfer from Xavier, tends to play a lot of one-on-one and at times dominates the ball. Solomon Hill likes to drive from the top of the key all the way to the basket. His ability to make 3-pointers (41.9 percent) and length (he’s a gangly 6-foot-7) bring defenders out close enough that he can often dribble past them, using his preferred spin move. Hill is all in or all out. He has no in-between game, but it hasn’t mattered because he has been effective at Arizona for four seasons, the past two in particular. He’s going to be a difficult matchup for Washington. Expect the Huskies to feed Aziz N’Diaye early against freshman Kaleb Tarczewski. Despite his size, 7-footer Tarczewski blocks few shots.
Next: 6 p.m. Saturday, vs. Arizona State (ESPNU).firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas email@example.com