Through the ups and downs of the Pac-12 season, the Arizona Wildcats have never left the race for the conference crown. On Saturday afternoon, they will get a chance to continue towards the goal of winning the Pac-12 title.
That road will have to go through Washington State in the second to last home game for Arizona on the season. The Cougars are heading into the game having lost seven in a row and on the losing end of twelve of the last fourteen games, including one to the Wildcats.
Arizona beat Washington State earlier in the conference schedule, pulling away early and finishing with a fourteen point win. The Wildcats shot 47-percent from the field, while Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill carried the team to victory. Hill’s game was highlighted by six treys, including a three-quarter court shot to end the first half.
Since the loss to Arizona, WSU has endured a tough stretch. The Cougars were swept on the road in Los Angeles, narrowly losing to USC before being blown out by UCLA. They returned home to face the Oregon schools, losing by a combined three points in both games.
Six-foot-10 forward Brock Motum is the leader for Washington State. In the first meeting between the two teams, he scored fifteen points, though most of them came late in the game when it was out of reach. He was forced into turning the ball over four times and shot 50-percent from the field.
Motum will be joined in the front court by D.J. Shelton. The junior played well in the previous matchup, scoring thirteen points and hitting three triples in the process. He was up against Kaleb Tarczewski, who let Shelton have the perimeter jump shot. He made Arizona pay and it will be interesting to see if Shelton can shoot like that again.
Sophomore Royce Woolridge is leading the Cougars in assists. However, he has also taken time to work on his offensive skills. Woolridge scored fourteen against Arizona in Pullman and could easily have a similar performance down in Tucson. His decision making will be the key in how effective the guard is in the game.
Since playing the Wildcats, the Cougars have been without guard Mike Ladd. While he was ineffective against Arizona, Ladd was averaging twelve points per game and six rebounds. Dexter Kernich-Drew will replace him. The sophomore played 29 minutes in the first game, but scored just two points it that time.
The final member of the starting lineup will be guard DaVonte Lacy. Lacy could easily be one of the biggest threats in the game. He scored a team-high fifteen points in the game and got most of those from the free-throw line. Given the way that Arizona’s defense was performing prior to the Washington game, Lacy could be a high-powered scorer in the game.
Another face that Arizona will see belongs to Will Dilorio. He played just four minutes in the first game, barely having time to see action. In WSU’s recent loss to Arizona State, the junior had two points in 24 minutes.
Arizona will be putting more than just first place in the Pac-12 on the line on Saturday. The Wildcats will also be protecting their home court and trying to play their way into a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. The pressure will be on for Arizona, but if it can take the momentum from a recent win over Washington, then the Wildcats will be in good shape.