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Wednesday, October 22, 2014 | Last updated: 8:06pm

Utah freshmen and Washburn a threat to Arizona basketball



Utah’s Jason Washburn must like facing the Arizona schools.

On Wednesday, the Utes senior center manhandled ASU and 7-foot-2 Jordan Bachynski in a 60-55 upset win.

Washburn scored a career-high 26 points against the Sun Devils with nine rebounds and two blocks.

“He absolutely had his way with us, with just a terrific high energy,” ASU coach Herb Sendek told reporters after the win.

On Jan. 5 in Tucson, Washburn nearly guided Utah to a win over then-No. 3, 14-0 Arizona, getting 17 points and 11 rebounds in a 60-57 loss. The Utes’ Jarred Dubois had a chance to tie the game as time expired but couldn’t connect on a three-point jumper. It was Arizona’s third straight game that came down to the last shot, the other two being close Colorado and San Diego State wins.

After that game, Miller raved about Washburn.

“I would be really surprised if he doesn’t play in the NBA,” Miller said. “He was one of the best players on the court if not the best player.”

On the season, Washburn scores 11.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game and his 58.3 field goal percentage is fifth-best in the Pac-12.

Arizona (20-4, 8-4 Pac-12) lost to Colorado 71-58 Thursday night, but if it wants to avoid an upset to the Utes (11-13, 3-9 Pac-12), it will need to stop Washburn from taking over.

And that task will fall primarily on freshman UA center Kaleb Tarczewski. In the last matchup, Tarczewski had four points, nine rebounds and a block in 25 minutes.

Full of freshmen

The Utes are not having a very good season. At 11-13, and 3-7 since their last meeting with the UA.

But, their struggles have overshadowed the impressive season freshman forward Jordan Loveridge is having.

Against the Wildcats, he scored 17 points and hit three 3-pointers, all coming in the first half. In fact, he scored 13 of Utah’s 23 first half points in that game.

“Jordan Loveridge is a heck of a player,” Miller said after the Utah game.

The Utah product was only a three-star recruit coming out of high school, yet scores more points per game (12.0) then all three of Arizona’s 5-star recruits. Excluding Thursday’s loss, Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Tarczewski score a combined 18.8 points per game and have struggled in Pac-12 play.

Since beating the Utes, the Wildcats trio is shooting 39.8 percent from the field.

“Freshmen eventually cross a line where they’re no longer freshmen, they’re just players,” Miller said.

In conference, the freshmen have still played more like freshmen then “just players”.

Ashley in particular has seen a downturn in production, especially considering he was the Wildcats most efficient player in the first 13 games of the season.

Against Utah, that was no different. He scored 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, but nine of that came in the first half as Miller benched Ashley for much of the second because of his defense.

“Brandon was really aggressive,” Miller said. “Defensively no question he struggled. Any fan can see that.”

In the first 14 games of the season, including Utah, Ashley led the Wildcats with a 56.9 shooting percentage. In the 10 games since, he’s connected on 44.8 percent of his shots, including a 1-of-2, 3-point performance in 14 minutes against Colorado last night.

Ashley’s defensive performance has gotten better though, in particular in a Jan. 19 win against the Sun Devils. He only played 17 minutes in that game, but did a solid job on ASU’s Carrick Felix, who shot 1-of-8 with five points, seven turnovers and four fouls.

Jerrett has been battling a foot injury recently, but he also hasn’t scored more than eight points since Jan. 3.

Tarczewski has probably been the most consistent of the three recently, although his numbers in conference play (5.9 points, 5.1 rebounds per game) are nothing spectacular.

Despite their struggles in-conference, Miller has unwavering confidence in the trio.

“Their best days are ahead of them,” Miller said on Tuesday.

IF YOU GO:
No. 9 Arizona at Utah
When: Sunday 1 p.m.
Where: Salt Lake City
TV: Pac-12 Networks


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