Stage set for Pac-10 finals

The stage is set for Arizona and Washington to play for a third time with the stakes the highest they have been all year.

Arizona will live to play another day. Saturday, to be specific.

After leaving Staples Center victorious for the second consecutive night, the Wildcats begin preparation for the Pac-10 tournament championship game where they will face the Washington Huskies, who defeated Oregon late Friday night.

In the first meeting between the Wildcats and Huskies, Arizona looked shell-shocked as Washington put on a show inside Hec Ed Pavilion with an 85-68 victory. Senior guard, Isaiah Thomas, had 22 points, 6 rebounds, 10 assists, and 1 steal which helped Washington claim stake atop the Pac-10 standings halfway through the month of January.

Four weeks passed until Arizona could seek revenge on the Huskies, when Isaiah Thomas and company traveled to Tucson for the game many remember as the ‘White Out.'

In one of the most exciting games of the Pac-10 season, the Wildcats escaped with an 87-86 victory on a play-of-the-year caliber block delivered by Arizona's Derrick Williams with less than one second remaining. The win was Arizona's eighth in a row, while the Huskies were left licking their wounds and hoping for another shot at the Wildcats.

That opportunity has arrived, as Arizona and Washington will meet on Saturday afternoon to determine the Pac-10 Tournament Champion. Both teams enter the contest with momentum on their side, as each has won two games thus far in the conference tournament.

As the game gets under way, it will be interesting to see whether Arizona can slow Washington down and limit its opportunities in transition. Washington currently leads the Pac-10 in scoring with an average of 84.2 points per game.

It will also be telling how successful the Wildcats are at limiting the Huskies' production from behind the three-point line. Washington is shooting 37.3% from deep on the year, second only to Arizona who is a remarkable 40.1%. One shooter that Arizona must account for is C.J. Wilcox, who has connected on 7 of 14 long balls thus far in the tournament.

Look for the Wildcats to get their star, Derrick Williams, involved early, which will help open up the game for his teammates. It will be critical for Arizona to receive production from its bench, as it has throughout the season and into the conference tournament.

Saturday's stage has been set. With the regular season Pac-10 championship already claimed, the Arizona Wildcats are one win away from its fifth Pac-10 tournament title, and first since 2002, in head coach Sean Miller's second year at the helm.

Arizona has the Pac-10 Player of the Year in Derrick Williams. The Wildcats even have the Pac-10 Coach of the Year in Sean Miller. Yet, this game will require an entire team effort for McKale Center to house yet another championship trophy for the University of Arizona.

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