Washington is almost at the end of the road and it’s running out of pavement.
The still-teetering Huskies head out on their final road trip of the regular season to face 12th-ranked Arizona at a fan-unfriendly local tip time of 9 p.m. (8 p.m. Pacific) today.
If the Pacific-12 tournament started today, Washington would be the No. 8 seed and would have to face the top seed the next day if it won. Yet, the Huskies are just two games out of the No. 4 seed with five to play. The top four seeds in the Pac-12 tournament earn a first-round bye.
Long before the Huskies land in Las Vegas for that tournament, however, they will need to grapple with Arizona for the second time. The teams combined for a mere 110 points in the first game while pounding on the rim and each other in a 57-53 win for the Wildcats at Hec Edmundson Pavilion on Jan. 31.
Arizona sicced springy wing Nick Johnson on C.J. Wilcox and Wilcox was 4-for-16 shooting from the field. He and Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar agreed postgame that was the best individual defensive performance against Wilcox this season.
Arizona coach Sean Miller isn’t sold on the Wildcats’ ability to slow Wilcox.
“We respect Wilcox as one of our conference’s best players,” Miller said. “When I watched us play Washington, I thought Wilcox had a couple good looks that he didn’t make that he normally does. I do think we tried to make the game hard for him and make sure we had a hand in his face every shot.”
The first game against Arizona was eventually thrown on Washington’s expansive should’ve-would’ve-could’ve
heap. The Wildcats shot just 35.1 percent in the game. Washington missed seven free throws in the four-point loss, four of which came from Aziz N’Diaye’s fingertips.
“In my mind, you watch them play, you can make the case they are one of the top four teams in our conference,” Miller said. “It’s just at the end of games guys have to make plays. They have been in so many close games, that happens sometimes.”
Washington redshirt freshman Jernard Jarreau played four minutes in that game, but should receive more time on the floor after a distinct contribution in Saturday’s 72-62 win against Oregon State that ended a three-game losing streak for the Huskies.
Jarreau had a career-high eight points and seven rebounds against the Beavers, supplementing what was already an efficient front line against Arizona. N’Diaye and Shawn Kemp Jr. were 7-for-14 from the field for 17 points and 12 rebounds in the first meeting.
The past two times these teams played in McKale Center were decided by blocked shots on the final possession — one by former Wildcats star Derrick Williams in 2011, the other by former Husky Tony Wroten in 2012 — and separated by three total points.
Washington is looking for just one extra point tonight to grab its biggest win of the season and give a flickering hope to when they roll the dice in Vegas.
Washington (14-12, 6-7 PACIFIC-12 CONFERENCE) at Arizona (21-4, 9-4)
8 p.m., McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz.
TV: ESPN2. Radio: 950-AM, 102.9-FM.
All-time series: Arizona leads, 45-28.
Shawn Kemp Jr.F22.214.171.124 49.562.5
Aziz N’DiayeC10.39.60.3 61.343.1
Brandon AshleyF126.96.36.199 52.371.4
Kaleb TarczewskiC188.8.131.52 50.559.7
Scouting report: The previous time these teams played, the game turned from the traditional high-scoring showdown into a night of jostling. Nick Johnson blanketed C.J. Wilcox, holding him to 4-for-16 from the field. Johnson fouled Wilcox when he was shooting a 3-pointer and lost him in the corner only once. Other than that, every shot was contested. Washington’s big men outplayed the big Arizona freshmen Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski.
Next: UW visits Arizona State on Saturday (8 p.m., ESPNU).email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas firstname.lastname@example.org