Wildcats win 20th game, fend off Huskies upset bid

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Heather Newberry | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona's Kadeem Allen (5) attempts a basket during the Men's Basketball game against Washington on Jan. 29. 

The University of Washington Huskies came out swinging and brought the fight to the Arizona Men’s basketball team in McKale Center on Sunday afternoon. Arizona led by a bucket at the end of the first half, but was able to muster a big offensive second half and win their 20th game of the season, 77-66 over the Huskies. It is the seventh straight season that Arizona has won at least 20 games and the game was the 100th Pac-12 Conference win for Arizona head coach Sean Miller.

Senior Kadeem Allen led the Wildcats with 14 points and five assists. The Wildcats had five scorers in double figures.

The Huskies jumped out to a quick lead thanks to early turnovers and a lack of rebounding. Just 12 minutes into the game they managed seven turnovers and had just a single assist. Turnovers made it difficult for Arizona to settle in and make a run, but the Wildcats finally came alive in the final five minutes of the first half.

The Wildcats scored 14 points in the final five minutes to cut the deficit from nine points to two. Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins each hit 3-pointers in the final two minutes to give Arizona momentum heading into halftime.

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Many believed the Wildcats would be able to maintain a decided advantage down low, but the Huskies competed on the glass and dominated the points in the paint battle 42-28. They also had 18 second-chance points against the Wildcats, allowing them to stay in the game.

“You can’t give them those second shots and tonight they had 18,” Miller said. “You give a team 18 second-chance points it’s very, very hard to win. Those second shots really hurt us badly.”

The Wildcats struggled in every offensive aspect in the first half. After shooting 57 percent on Thursday night in their game against the Washington State Cougars, they only managed to shoot 42 percent (10-24) in the first half against the Huskies. A slow start for the Wildcats could have been due to the afternoon tip-off time or a lack of focus after a successful week.

“Coming off of the heels of our L.A. success we were given a lot of respect, I think deservedly so,” Miller said. “I don’t know how well we’ve handled that. All the sudden to me we’re a little bit further ahead of ourselves, a lot of people saying great things. Watching our effort level, our consistency, our togetherness—we weren’t near this week where we were coming in. We have to get that back.”

The Huskies kept their foot on the pedal in the second half, scoring the first four points, but the Wildcats came alive and took control of the game.

On an afternoon where the offense wasn’t clicking the way it had been as of late, the Wildcats took care of the little things, and it made a big difference.

The Wildcats’ ability to get to the free-throw line and keep the Huskies off of it, played a major role in the final outcome. They went 22-30 from the stripe; 17 of those attempts came in the second half, while the Huskies took only 17 trips to the line in the entire contest.

After their turnover woes in the first half, the Wildcats were able to take advantage of the Huskies’ miscues. Arizona scored 18 points off of 10 Husky turnovers. The defense held the Huskies to 38 percent (12-32) shooting in the second half.

Washington forward Noah Dickerson fouled out with 7:33 to go after fouling Trier and giving him a chance at a 3-point play. Dickerson had been playing with four fouls for nearly the entire second half, and the Washington offense struggled without his presence.

The Huskies brought the deficit to 6 points with 6:01 to go, but Arizona made enough plays to pace the final five minutes of the game.

Junior center Dusan Ristic extended the lead back out to eight points after hitting a tough fall-away jumper in the paint as the shot clock expired.

Freshman Kobi Simmons put his stamp on the game with a highlight-reel dunk on the following possession that put the Wildcats ahead by double digits. Trier, to the delight of the McKale Center crowd, put the dagger in the Huskies with an emphatic slam dunk of his own that kept the lead at 10.

Arizona was able to pull out two close victories after slow starts this week, and Miller wants his team to recognize that there is still room for improvement, even if the Wildcats are victorious.

“If you lose a tough game and you played your heart out, then I think you have to recognize that,” Miller said. “Every once in a while you can win a couple of these games and you really start looking at yourself and saying ‘we have to be better moving forward.’ I think we have to be better moving forward.”

Arizona heads to the Beaver State next week for matchups with the Oregon State Beavers and the Oregon Ducks. Arizona sits alone atop the Pac-12 Conference after this week, and they know they will be getting each team in Oregon’s best shot this weekend.

“We’ve struggled at Corvallis with some of our best teams, it’s a difficult place to play at,” Miller said. “I hope that what we just went through strengthens us, because we have to be ready on the road regardless of who we play. You fast forward to next Saturday it will be one of the biggest games of the season based on how good Oregon is. We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves.”

Arizona squares off with the Beavers on Thursday, Feb. 2 in Corvallis. The game will be aired on ESPN2. 


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