There wasn’t a whole lot for the Arizona Wildcats to add to this one during the postgame interviews Thursday: WSU’s 25 points, nine field goals and 20-percent shooting -- all McKale Center record lows -- said it all.
“It wasn’t their night for a number of reasons,” UA coach Sean Miller said.
But what was a big topic of conversation after Arizona’s record-setting 60-25 win: The game in Tempe, where Washington beat up ASU 76-65 after struggling to an 8-5 nonconference season.
“Now it’s about Washington and getting ready for a team who obviously is going to come in here with a lot of confidence, with a very quick turnaround at noon on Saturday,” Miller said.
Miller said he wasn’t that familiar yet with Washington – assistant Book Richardson is doing the game scouting – but said he respected the Huskies a great deal. Especially after Thursday.
“What they just did speaks for itself,” Miller said. “Sometimes a dangerous team is that team that’s cornered, who has a chip on its shoulder, who has something to prove and I would imagine based on Washington’s nonconference season -- they played some tough teams at home -- they came into this conference season ready to prove something and they did that. So we have to be ready to go on Saturday.”
Guard Nick Johnson echoed Miller's concerns almost exactly.
"They have scorers and they play so free that they’ve always been good, for at least the time that I’ve been here," Johnson said. "They probably didn’t have the nonconference success they wanted to so it makes them all the more hungry coming in the Pac-12. They would love to come to Arizona and get a sweep. So we just have to focus on tomorrow, on the scouting, and be ready."
The Wildcats had only about 37 hours before tipoff with the Huskies by the time they walked out of McKale Center on Thursday night – facing an old-fashioned Pac-10-style tight turnaround that is rarely seen anymore thanks to TV scheduling -- but neither Miller nor his players were complaining much.
"Not at all," Aaron Gordon said. "We’re basketball players. That’s what we do.”
Miller said the tight scheduling can work either way for a team.
“We can’t control when we’re supposed to play,” Miller said. “Sometimes you feel better about it; other times you don’t. Sometimes on the road you like it, especially when you win the first one. But there’s no excuses. You have 18 of these (conference) games. We have 17 of them left. The schedule is what it is. We have be ready for these next 17, starting with game two on Saturday.
“We’ll move forward quickly. We’re accustomed to this. We’ve been scouting Washington for several games, for a 7-10 day period of time. So when this ends we’ll go to work on them. Tomorrow will be about being organized for them.”
Center Kaleb Tarczewski showed no ill effects from the sprained ankle he suffered at Michigan on Dec. 14, scoring 11 points in 22 minutes, though Miller said he took him out midway through the second half so Tarczewski could take it easy.
“No reason for him to beat his ankle up. He’s moving in a good direction,” Miller said. “I’m fortunate we didn’t have to play one of those hard, long or overtime games. This day-and-a-half is going to come quickly and we certainly want Kaleb 100 percent.”
I asked Miller if Tarczewski was only about 75 percent healthy, or how he would characterize it. Tarczewski missed two games with the sprain and stayed nearby for Christmas break to keep working on it.
“He’s closer to 100 than 75” percent, Miller said. “He experiences soreness as he moves through a long couple of hours, understandably so, but he’s had three full weeks since he was injured and during that period of time he’s worked extremely hard with Justin (Kokoskie, UA trainer).”
Add guard Elliott Pitts to the mystery list of UA players who aren’t playing. At all.
Miller played four walk-ons Thursday but kept Zach Peters and Pitts on the bench. Peters didn’t play on Dec. 11 because of what Miller said was an illness and he also didn’t play on Dec. 23 when Miller emptied the bench; after that game Miller said Peters has “been on and off” but said he wasn’t really fighting an illness.
On Thursday, Miller suggested Peters is battling health issues again, and declined to elaborate on Pitts.
“With Zach, we’re being very careful to make sure he’s 100 percent healthy,” Miller said. “He’s dealt with illness and a couple of different things in practice. And once we got through tonight, we feel more comfortable being able to put him in here. And I just didn’t play Elliott.
I asked Miller if that meant there was any type of problem with Pitts, who has played in only six games despite opting not to redshirt.
“No,” Miller said. “Elliott’s someone we believe in. We just didn’t play him tonight.”
Well, there was one thing Miller did discuss about Thursday’s game: That the Cougars forced UA to deal with a matchup zone defense, which hasn’t always been an easy thing for the Wildcats to do in recent seasons.
UA shot just 34.8 percent in the first half but hit 54.5 percent in the second. They were just 4 of 14 (28.6 percent) from three-point range, however.
“We were more comfortable against their matchup zone as the night went on,” Miller said. “We had to be more patient and we got really good shots. We learned a lesson playing against this type of defense on misses and makes. We have to be maybe more patient unless we get a great shot.”
Here's the official box score.
Elsewhere in the Pac-12:
Damyean Dotson saved Oregon in an overtime scare at Utah.
Colorado survived an ugly game to beat visiting Oregon State.
Even with injuries to Jabari Bird and Ricky Krekow, Cal's Mike Montgomery beat his old team at Maples Pavilion.