Arizona 79, Washington State 70: It's all lining up for UA

Almost-perfect night from free-throw stripe helps Cats stay on roll
2011-02-18T00:00:00Z 2014-07-24T09:57:53Z Arizona 79, Washington State 70: It's all lining up for UABruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 18, 2011 12:00 am  • 

When Sean Miller told his Arizona Wildcats they missed only two free throws while beating Washington State 79-70 on Thursday, it didn't take Kyle Fogg long to figure out what that meant.

He missed two free throws in the final 2:22 of the game.

"You messed up the streak," teammate Solomon Hill jokingly told Fogg during post-game interviews.

"I did," Fogg said. "Coach told us at the end of the game that we were 24 of 26, and I was thinking I missed two free throws. I was hoping nobody would call me out, but it happened to be Solo. Thanks, man."

Of course, everyone was still smiling. As it turned out, 24 free throws was plenty, even during a game when Washington State's Klay Thompson dropped 30 points on the Wildcats.

With Derrick Williams hitting all 12 free throws he took, Arizona ended up just shy of its free-throw percentage record of 26 for 27 (minimum of 20 free throws) set in 1951. But the Wildcats had enough to win their seventh straight game and keep on top of the Pac-10 heading into a showdown with Washington on Saturday.

The win, Arizona's 16th straight at McKale Center, moved the Wildcats to 22-4 overall and 11-2 in the Pac-10, and the Cougars dropped to 17-9 and 7-7. Washington improved to 18-7 and 10-4 after beating ASU 79-62 on Thursday.

"It will be a tough game, a down-to-the-wire game," Hill said of Saturday's ESPN-televised contest. "I look forward to it."

But to UA coach Sean Miller, Thursday's game meant just as much as any other.

"This game wasn't any bigger than our game at ASU, and although Saturday's game, for a lot of reasons, is going to be a big one outside of our arena, we get the same win or the same loss if we win or lose," Miller said. "We have five games left in the conference season and each one of them we pay the same price. So that's our focus, to be ready for each of the five."

Despite the sandwich nature of a game that came between Arizona's 15-point win at ASU on Sunday and the game Saturday against the preseason favorites to win the league, the Wildcats did not suffer from sluggishness early.

Thanks to six points from Jesse Perry over the first 10 minutes, the Wildcats took early leads of 20-9 and 22-11, and did not trail the rest of the game. They led by up to 17 in the second half before Thompson's late scoring made it closer.

They never lost their lead because they hit free throws and, midway through the first half, they managed to find Williams to help him to a 26-point game.

Williams wound up tying for third with Fogg and five other players on UA's single-game free-throw list - the school high for perfect free-throw nights is Jerryd Bayless' 16 for 16 against Stanford in 2008 - and he took advantage of assists from his teammates.

Williams' 26 points was the most he has scored since spraining his pinkie Jan. 27 against UCLA, and he showed more comfort than ever in playing with the heavily wrapped digit.

"He's worried about it less, you can tell," Miller said, "which makes sense because today represents the three-week mark since he had the injury. And what we talked about is this period of time he'll start to feel better. We have taken him out of a lot of noncontact (practice drills) the first few weeks. It's helped his hand; it may not have helped his defense. But I think big picture-wise he's going to really return to form."

Williams actually had fewer fouls, three, than in any game since he's been hurt and did so while facing WSU's physical post player, DeAngelo Casto.

As it turned out the only major defensive issue was the fact that Thompson managed 30 points on 11-for-24 shooting after scoring just nine last month against the Wildcats in Pullman, Wash.

"You could tell he was going to be more aggressive," Fogg said. "I tried my best … but he's tough to stop. You just try to slow him down."

Fogg was Thompson's primary defender in both WSU games, but Miller defended his effort. Fogg has guarded the opponent's best perimeter player all season and added 26 points against ASU on Sunday.

Fogg also had seven assists and only one turnover Thursday.

"Kyle gave great effort," Miller said. "Sometimes you focus only on the player guarding him, but we broke down off the ball, some screens where we should have switched.

"You can really see all the things Kyle Fogg does for us if you look at the last two games."

Even if he's not perfect.

Up next

• What: Washington at Arizona

• When: 4 p.m. Saturday

• TV: ESPN

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)

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