The Huskies are coming off a 77-69 victory over Arizona State that was not quite as close as the final score. Washington pulled away early and had put enough distance by halftime that it cruised through the second half. The win put the Huskies at 11-3 in the Pac-12 and 18-8 overall.
Washington should have no problem getting up for the game as it could not only decide the Pac-12 title race, but it is also Senior Day in Seattle. The Huskies will say goodbye to two seniors: Darnell Gant and Brendan Sherrer.
A win would put Arizona tied with Washington for 2nd place in the Pac-12, while a loss would drop Arizona two games out of first place and likely out of title contention. The game could mean much more in the terms of postseason tournaments. A win for the Wildcats or Huskies could go a long way in getting their name called on Selection Sunday.
The last time Arizona and Washington met, it came down to the last shot. Freshman guard Tony Wroten knocked away Josiah Turner's layup as the clock wound down. Nick Johnson was in position for a put-back dunk, but was a second too late and Washington came away with a 69-67 road win. Now, the Huskies, winners in 7 of their last 8 games, must host the young Wildcats who are thirsty for revenge.
Wroten, at 6-foot-5, 205-pounds, has been a force for the Huskies this season and was a huge factor down in Tucson. The freshman had a team-high 17 points and the one game-saving block. Wroten added 5 rebounds, 4 of them offensive, and 4 assists. Although he had a great game by all standards, he did show his freshman mistakes with 5 turnovers.
Wroten ran the game well and didn't make too many mistakes when it became crunch time. He made key plays when it mattered and ultimately won the game for Washington.
The biggest guard on the court for Washington was 6-foot-6 Terrence Ross. The 195-pound sophomore had 16 points in the first match-up. Ross was 7 for 12 from the field, including two very big three-pointers. He played a team-high 36 minutes and his stat sheet reflects it. He had seven rebounds to go with 3 blocks and 3 steals. To top it off, he also had 2 assists in the victory.
Running the point for the Huskies is one-time Arizona commit, Abdul Gaddy. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound, junior played a good game in McKale, having some U of A fans wondering what could've been. While Gaddy only had 2 points in the 29 minutes he played, he was much more of a factor than the stat sheet represents. Gaddy had 5 assists, which is more than half of what Arizona totaled as a team (9), and only one turnover. A 5-1 assist to turnover ratio is something Gaddy will take every day, regardless of only having one basket.
While freshman forward Desmond Simmons started most of the games this season, we expect senior forward Darnell Gant to get the start on Saturday. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound Gant played 24 minutes in Tucson and Will Likely see just as much time on Saturday, if not more. The senior doesn't fill up his resume with statistics, but is a big body out on the floor. He is a veteran player who pulled down 4 rebounds against the Wildcats the first time around.
Gant only had two points, but we can't forget that a year ago, the last shot of the game was in his hands before it was swatted away by Derrick Williams. Being a senior, he could have one more breakout game on his home court.
Filling out the starting five is center Aziz N'Diaye. N'Diaye, a 7-foot, 260-pound junior who had a team-high 8 rebounds the last time these teams met. The junior added 12 points on six buckets, but missed all 3 of his free throws.
Although he didn't record any blocks, N'Diaye altered a few shots on the inside and made a few Arizona players think twice before attacking the basket with him in the way. He is another player that could have a breakout performance against the Cats, as they allowed Washington State forward Brock Motum to bully his way to 28 on Thursday.
If Gant does indeed start, the freshman Simmons should be the first player off the bench. At 6-foot-7, 220-pounds the forward may not see as many minutes as he did in previous games. He only played 16 in Tucson, totaling three points and 4 rebounds. Simmons also added a steal and an assist. Since Gant is a senior, he may be given the majority of the minutes, leaving Simmons with just a handful, but that really depends on how the game is turning out.
The last main player off the bench is 185-pound sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox. At 6-foot-5, Wilcox can play any of the guard positions, or could match up against a small forward. Wilcox's main game is shooting, although he did have 5 rebounds and two assists against the Wildcats a few weeks ago. He had 15 points on 6 of 10 from the field, including 2 of 3 from beyond the arc.
Wilcox came off the bench, but the ball was in his hands at the end of the game. He forced a blocking foul on Turner and hit a pair of free throws that decided the game. He is a scorer and one that isn't afraid to take a big shot.
Arizona's defense has been tested the last two games, so it will be interesting to see how Wilcox tests the perimeter defense on Saturday.
Coming off the bench for quick relief is Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The 6-foot-6 freshman is a big body for the Huskies. He had 2 points last time out, picking up 3 rebounds in the process, but played sparingly, just 6 minutes. Seferian-Jenkins should see the court in short spurts before media timeouts.
Another player we expect to see in minor relief is fellow freshman Shawn Kemp Jr. The 6-9 forward didn't play against Arizona last time, but has increased his playing time in the last few games. With his 265-pound frame, we expect him to see some time matched up against the size challenged Arizona team. He played 11 minutes and scored 6 points against ASU on Thursday.
In the last year, Arizona and Washington have had two games come down to the last shot. With a conference title and postseason dreams on the line, there is no reason that this game shouldn't be just as stressful. Arizona has seen Brendon Lavender emerge as a serious threat, along with the veteran leadership of Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry.
If those four can have decent games and Arizona gets some help from any of the three freshmen, then it will have a chance to hang around. The key will be in overcoming a slow start.
Arizona can't get too far behind, like it did at home, and expect to come back. Washington will be hungry to send its seniors out with a win, but the Wildcats are riding the most momentum they've had all season. The winner could be decided by a single shot.