TUCSON, Ariz. - The Arizona Wildcats are exploring the possibility of moving their home basketball games from the McKale Center on campus to a proposed downtown arena.
If the plan ever comes to fruition, the Washington State Cougars will gladly provide the explosives to blow up McKale.
Washington State suffered a 79-70 loss at McKale on Thursday night to fall to 8-26 all-time. A near-capacity crowd of 14,456 watched the 12th-ranked Wildcats improve to 14-0 at home, 22-4 overall and 11-2 in the Pacifci-10 Conference after their seventh consecutive win.
“They’re really good,” Washington State coach Ken Bone said. “They just keep coming at you with kids who are really good college players.”
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Klay Thompson scored 30 points in an outstanding performance for WSU.
“It was disappointing (to lose), because I think we’re better than we showed,” Thompson said. “You’ve got to give them credit. They played a good game.”
Arizona star Derrick Williams, playing with his sprained right pinky heavily taped, countered with 26 points (including all 12 of his free throws) and eight rebounds in a showdown between All-America candidates.
“It was a tough win because Washington State is a very good team,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “Klay Thompson’s performance tonight really speaks to how great a player he is on offense.”
The Cougars, 2-2 against Top 25 teams, overcame slow starts in both halves to cut its deficit to five points on three occasions in the second half of a free-wheeling, entertaining contest.
The Cougars (17-9, 7-7) could have closed to five a fourth time with 4 minutes, 14 seconds to go. But DeAngelo Casto, who played in pain with a heavily taped ankle he sprained in Saturday’s win over California, blew a wide-open dunk.
“I have no excuse,” Casto said. “It killed the momentum for our team.”
Casto worked diligently guarding Williams and finished with 14 points, six rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal in 35 minutes.
“I respect his (Williams’) game; I’d hope he respects mine,” Casto said.
Thompson made 11 of 24 shots, including 5-for-8 accuracy from 3-point range. The Pac-10 scoring leader (21 points per game) poured in 18 points after halftime, 11 coming in a 21/2-minute span that ended at 12:44.
“I thought in the second half he started feeling confident, became a little more assertive to score,” Bone said.
Thompson, a junior guard, passed Don Collins for third in career scoring at WSU. Kyle Fogg, who helped limit Thompson to nine points in Arizona’s 65-63 win at Pullman last month, again played aggressive defense against Thompson.
“He’s so good, you can’t really stop him, you just got to slow him down,” Fogg said.
The Wildcats shot 92 percent from the free-throw line (24-for-26) and 48 percent from the field (25-for-52). Solomon Hill, who had 12 points, scored the first seven points of the second half, then delivered an inbounds pass that Williams crammed through the basket to complete a 9-0 run.
Faisal Aden, second on the Cougars with 12.9 points per game, scored two points on 1-for-4 shooting. An ailing knee may help explain why Aden has scored six points or fewer in seven of the past 11 games.
“I liked the energy we played with, the effort we gave,” Bone said. “There’s a reason why they’re ranked whatever they’re ranked in the country and why they win so many games on their home court.”
The Cougars visit last-place Arizona State (1-12, 9-16) at noon Saturday.