Arizona basketball has lady luck by its side
Recent events in Pac-12 bring UA to a tie for lead in standings
No. 44 Solomon Hill
Arizona has lady luck back on its side.
How else can you explain Solomon Hill converting a 3-point attempt from three-quarters court just before halftime against Washington State on Saturday?
Against the Cougars, the No. 8 Wildcats overcame a Kevin Parrom ejection, a Nick Johnson stomach virus and foul trouble from Mark Lyons, Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley to beat WSU 79-65.
Against Washington on Thursday, Arizona committed 17 turnovers against seven assists and shot 3-of-18 from 3-point land, yet still won by four.
It was the Wildcats’ (19-2, 7-2 Pac-12) first road weekend sweep of the Washington schools since 2005, but luck was on the UA’s side elsewhere in the Pac-12.
Oregon lost twice, Arizona State and UCLA once, so now the Wildcats are in a tie for first place in the conference.
Here’s a look at the recent going-ons for the Pac-12’s top four schools, and what it means for Arizona.
No. 8 Arizona (19-2, 7-2)
It certainly wasn’t pretty, but the Wildcats got their first win at UW since 2007 and followed that up with an easy victory against WSU.
There were a few things for Arizona to take away from the weekend.
For one, Tarczewski appears to finally be coming into his zone. For much of the early portion of the season, the 7-footer wasn’t playing like the biggest man on the court, and often succumbed to foul trouble. The fouls are still an issue, but Tarczewski has had a solid go of it the last few games. The numbers don’t jump out at you, but Tarczewski has averaged 10.0 and 6.3 rebounds in the last three games. Freshmen bigs, especially 7-footers, take a while to develop. The faster Tarczewski develops, the better Arizona will be.
Meanwhile, Hill’s 3-point stroke is better than ever.
In his freshmen year, he attempted 18 long balls, connecting on four of them.
On Saturday against the Cougars, Hill hit a career-high 6-of-10 3-pointers, all coming in the first half. He was held scoreless in the second.
Arizona can’t really afford to have him go scoreless like that again, but the emergence of his 3-point jumper this season makes Hill one of the more dangerous scorers in the Pac-12.
No. 10 Oregon (18-4, 7-2)
Stanford and Cal have been two of the biggest disappointments in the Pac-12 thus far, but, the Bay Area road trip to play both schools at their home court is one of the tougher stretches in the Pac-12.
Thanks to scheduling, the Wildcats will avoid that trip this year.
Oregon lucked out of playing Arizona, UCLA or ASU anymore this season, but couldn’t avoid the trip to Northern California.
The Ducks came into the weekend firmly atop the conference, but after falling to the Cardinal 76-52 on Wednesday, and the Golden Bears 58-54 on Saturday, they are locked in a tie with the UA at the top of the conference, although they still hold the tiebreaker after beating the Wildcats on Jan. 10.
The absence of point guard Dominic Artis in both games was probably the biggest factor in the losses, but it certainly didn’t help that the Ducks’ two best scorers — E.J. Singler and Damyean Dotson — struggled.
Singler shot 5-of-19 for 13 points, Dotson added 16 total points and they combined for 10 total turnovers.
Once Artis comes back, Oregon will be just fine. But, in the meantime, the troubles with Cal and Stanford give Arizona fair warning not to look past them.
UCLA (16-6, 6-3)
Is there a more polarizing team in the conference, or even the country, then the Bruins? Two days after ruining Arizona’s “whiteout” last week, the Bruins got mandhandled by ASU in a 78-60 loss. They followed that up with an arguably worse loss on Wednesday, losing to a mediocre USC team 75-71 in overtime. Their talent is still undeniable, though.
The strangest part about the two losses is that the Bruins’ best players are still performing like they’re supposed to. But as a team, there are a few areas of concern.
UCLA shot 7-of-43 (or 16.2 percent) from long range in the two losses, and were outrebounded 91-63.
Arizona State (17-5, 6-3)
The Sun Devils are easily the biggest surprise of the first half of the Pac-12 season. After winning 10 games last year, ASU is well on its way to its first NCAA tournament berth since 2009.
A 96-92, tightly contested loss to Washington on Saturday really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, because no one in their right mind thought ASU would have six conference wins halfway through the Pac-12 season.
Plus, Jahii Carson might be the most exciting player to watch in the conference right now — he scored 32 points against the Huskies.