Basketball preview: Arizona faces tall defensive task
Arizona has lost four straight to Washington, but the Huskies’ personnel look much different this year.
Gone are Terrence Ross, Tony Wroten and Darnell Gant, staples of last year’s Pac-12 regular season champions.
The Huskies (12-8, 4-3 Pac-12) have struggled this year, and a win at 7 p.m. in Seattle against No. 8 Arizona (17-2, 5-2) could help UW turn its season around.
“Washington’s a talented basketball team,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “Like any season, there’s those games that can go either way and they’ve probably had a few that have gone either way, but no question to me they’re in the upper tier in our conference.”
“They’ve been in every game. The difference between them being 4-3 and 5-2 [in the Pac-12] or 6-1 is just a few plays.”
Here are some key story lines for tonight’s game.
C.J. Wilcox is far and away Washington’s best player.
The junior is one of the Pac-12’s best scorers, with 19 points per game. The Huskies are 8-3 when he scores 20 or more points.
“If you can ever take away some of his scoring,” Miller said, “that gives you a much better chance of beating Washington.”
If whatever combination of Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Nick Johnson can shut Wilcox down, the Wildcats’ chances of winning wildly increase.
Washington is 4-5 when he scores less than 20 points.
“He’s not a guy that really does it on one-on-one situations, more on screens,” said Hill, who has scored 17.7 points per game in the last three against Washington.
“He gets a lot of shots up. A guy like that can get hot. We’re going to throw multiple guys at him because they’re not as deep as years prior teams.”
Arizona has arguably the most talented front line in the Pac-12 fronted by its three freshmen — Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett.
But the trio has a tall task tonight, especially on the defensive boards.
That’s because, for all the Huskies’ struggles, they are the best offensive rebounding team in the conference, getting 12.8 per game.
That starts in the middle, with 7-foot senior Aziz N’Diaye, who manhandled the Wildcats in last year’s matchup with 12 rebounds and four blocks.
N’Diaye is top in the conference with 3.5 offensive boards per game and Desmond Simmons adds 2.4. Tarczewski leads Arizona with 2.4 per game.
“They’re a great offensive rebounding team,” Miller said. “This year is no exception. We’ve improved in that area but they remain steady. That’s the best thing they do, especially at home. They get big second shots, which so many times ignites the crowd that they have.”
Like father, like son?
In his prime, Shawn Kemp was one of the most exciting players to watch in the NBA in the 1990s, and the high-flying power forward was a six-time All-Star.
Those are big shoes to fill for Shawn Kemp, Jr., a forward for Washington.
“If I was him I wouldn’t try to fill those shoes,” Hill said.
Kemp Jr. has only played in 13 games and 13.2 minutes per for the Huskies, so he still has a ways to go before he’s in the same vein as his father.
But he contributes when he can.
Kemp Jr. gets 4.1 points, 2.2 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game.
“I know Shawn Kemp Jr. just from what I’ve seen on film,” Miller said. “He plays really hard; he’s a physical player. He helps Washington’s depth inside.”
If You Watch:
No. 8 Arizona against Washington
WHEN: 7 p.m. MST
WHERE: Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, Wash.
TV: ESPN (Bill Walton/Dave Pasch)