TUCSON, Ariz. — An outstanding Arizona defense faced a weak, short-handed Washington State offense, and the result was a record-breaking victory for the top-ranked Wildcats.
Kaleb Tarczewski scored 11 points, and Arizona opened its Pac-12 Conference season with a 60-25 rout of the Cougars on Thursday night, shattering the McKale Center record for fewest points by a team.
“They did a good job shutting us down,” the Cougars’ D.J. Shelton said in a major understatement.
The 25 points were the fewest for Washington State since the Cougars had that many at Idaho on Jan. 15, 1938.
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The previous McKale record for fewest points was 37 by Northern Arizona in 1989.
“Our goal all season was to be a top-10 defense,” Arizona’s Nick
Johnson said. “I think we should push that to a top five and eventually the No. 1 defense in the country, because I think we have the tools to make it happen. This, I guess, is an example of what we can do.”
The Wildcats (14-0, 1-0) took a 21-2 lead and were up 28-7 at halftime.
The Cougars (7-6, 0-1) shot 9 of 45 from the field, and they needed to make a series of shots late to reach that.
Washington State was without leading scorer DaVonté Lacy (Curtis High School), who underwent an appendectomy Saturday. Junior Longrus led the Cougars with six points.
“It was different because you don’t see many games like this,” Johnson said.
Washington State was also without starter Dexter Kernich-Drew because of a concussion.
“We know that they were playing short-handed,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “Having said that, I thought our defensive effort was outstanding. ... It’s a little bit of both, probably not as great a defensive effort as the score would reflect. At the same time, I think we leave here feeling good about what we were able to accomplish.”
Tarczewski, back after missing two games with a sprained ankle, was the only Arizona player to score in double figures.
Washington State’s nine field goals were also a McKale record low, breaking the previous mark of 13, also set by Northern Arizona in that 1989 game. So was the Cougars’ 20 percent shooting, breaking the mark of 20.3 percent set by NAU that night 24 years ago.
“Arizona jumped on us early, and it never really ended,” Washington State coach Ken Bone said. “We weren’t playing an up-tempo game, but a lot of that was due to Arizona’s defense. All the credit goes to Arizona and how solid they are in different areas of defending on and off the ball.”
The Cougars missed their first 16 shots before Royce Woolridge made a layup with 6:42 left in the half. Arizona led 21-2 on Johnson’s 3-pointer with 8:18 to go until the break.
“They are really a good team,” Woolridge said. “It’s just hard to score on them. They’re big in the paint, and it was just really hard to score because they were so active. It’s a good learning experience, though, and we won’t let this happen again.”
Washington State made it 21-7 before the Wildcats scored the final seven points of the half.
The Cougars were 2 of 20 from the field in the first half, breaking the McKale record of four field goals set twice, most recently by Arizona State in 1991. It was also a record for fewest points by a team in a half and fewest combined points in a half. The old record was 37 against Oregon in 1985.
The 9.5 percent shooting percentage was also an arena record for a half.
Washington State officials were unsure what the team records for fewest points or field goals in a half were but said Thursday’s totals were the lowest since at least 2001. Arizona officials didn’t know if the Washington State marks were an opponent low for any Wildcats game, including those before McKale was built.
Lacy, who is averaging 18.9 points per game, will also miss Sunday’s game at Arizona State.
Arizona plays Saturday against Washington, which beat Arizona State, 76-65, on Thursday night.
“We have to be able to put this game behind us and be ready to go on Saturday,” Miller said, “because clearly Washington is going to come in here with confidence.”