Post Game Analysis: UA/Washington

Arizona and Washington stood toe to toe last night and traded blows for nearly 35 minutes before the Wildcats delivered the knockout punch by outscoring the Huskies 12-5 down the stretch. Washington got 29 points from its bench but that wasn't enough to overcome four of Arizona starters scoring at least 20 points each.

Washington outrebounded Arizona and made more field goals. They had less turnovers and more steals. So, how did they lose?

Efficiency.

Arizona (12-1, 3-0 Pac-10) shot a remarkable 65.3 percent from the field, making 32 of 49 shots. They also converted 21 of 23 free throws (91.3 percent). Washington also shot the ball well but it took them 67 attempts to make their 36 shots (53.7 percent).

Washington (10-4, 0-3 Pac-10) did an outstanding job in attacking the offensive glass, grabbing 12 of their 25 rebounds while on offense. Most of the rebounds can be attributed to Arizona's commitment to front the post on both Spencer Hawes and Jon Brockman. This had the Wildcats out of position to box out all night. Still, when things mattered most, Arizona pulled down four rebounds to Washington's one in the game's closing minutes.

Freshman Chase Budinger led the way for Arizona with 23 points. Marcus Williams had 22 points on 10 of 14 shooting while Ivan Radenovic finished with eights points and eight rebounds. The two stat lines of the night though belonged to Mustafa Shakur and Jawann McClellan.

McClellan made 6 of 9 three pointers on his way to 22 points. His outside shooting continued to keep Washington off balance on defense and helped thwart several runs by the Huskies. Shakur had another impressive game as he continues his tour of the country proving wrong every naysayer who has ever doubted his abilities as not just a point guard, but an elite player.

Shakur scored 21 points on very selective shooting (5-6 FGS). He made all nine of his free throws and dished out 11 assists. He did have five turnovers but two of those came on questionable palming calls by the officials. Shakur let the game come to him all night long and when he had to, knocked down two momentous three pointers in the game's final eight minutes that kept Arizona rolling along.

Washington rode the heels of hot shooting Quincy Pondexter in the first half as they jumped out to a 45-31 lead. Pondexter made his first six shots and finished the half with 21 points. The Wildcats held Pondexter in check the rest of the way as he would end the game with 25.

Washington's largest lead of the game was bolstered by a 22-4 run that featured everything from acrobatic lay-ins to deep three point shots. Arizona responded with a 15-0 run of their own too retake the lead 46-45 with 2:22 on the clock. Washington then scored six of the next eight points and led 51-48 at the break.

Arizona used brilliant passing in the second half to create easy scoring chances. At one point, Williams made three lay ups in scoring eight straight points. The crisp passing also freed up Arizona's outside game as the Wildcats made 11 of 20 three pointers.

For the half, Arizona shot an astonishing 76 percent from the field. In doing so, they won their 12th straight game.

Up next for Arizona is a flight and long bus ride to Pullman for their game against Washington State Saturday night.

Before we breakdown that game, let's take a quick look at the good, the bad and the ugly from last night's win:

The Good

After trailing 45-31, Arizona outscored Washington 65-41 to win going away. This game was played at an NBA pace and was played well by both teams. Don't be fooled by the high percentage shooting of both teams as time and again, players simply made shots despite a hand in their face. Appleby made a step back 18-footer with Shakur's hand inches from the ball and the clock winding down. Similarly, Williams' three consecutive lay ups were all hotly contested as twice he had to duck under and use the rim as an ally in putting it off the glass on the other side. McClellan's stroke from three was a thing of beauty and Budinger's showed again that he can score inside, outside, from the press table, wherever. Mustafa is playing with a vengeance. Although he may never shut up those who think he's overrated, let me just say that he's in the process of putting together one of if not thee best seasons of any Arizona point guard in history. I'm not talking about statistics either. I'm talking about pure leadership and playing with heart. Mustafa is clearly tired of Arizona losing games and is doing everything in his power night in and night out to help the Wildcats win.

The Bad

Arizona lost the rebounding battle 25-19 but most of that can be attributed to their decision to front the post on defense. Sacrificing inside position to players such as Hawes and Brockman was worth the risk though as neither had much success scoring out of their set offense. In fact, a majority of Washington's points came on what seemed like broken plays with guys hitting off balance jumpers and so forth. The fact they made the shots is a testament to the quality of players the Huskies have. Washington's aggressiveness also forced the Wildcats into several careless mistakes. Radenovice had a very uncharacteristic six turnovers while the team finished with 15. Still, considering the pace of the game and the fact that the Wildcats had 24 assists on 32 field goals, I think all can be forgiven.

The Ugly

What's ugly about shooting 76 percent in the second half and 65 percent for the game? Or about being outrebounded by six boards in a game that saw very few missed shots? Nothing and nothing. In fact, this was one of the most enjoyable games I've ever watched and I can say this knowing that even if Arizona had lost my appreciation would be no less. What I like most about this year's version of the Wildcats is not only do they flow on offense like an NBA team, they're even beginning to attack opponents in a way that an NBA team would. Here's what I mean:

In the NBA, good teams will find a weakness and then exploit it until the other team makes a change. In college, a team will run the pick and roll once for a lay up and then brick four straight three point shots, basically stopping themselves. Also in the NBA, when a player gets hot from the floor the team will make sure that player gets shot after shot until he cools off. In college, this is not always the case. Last night both of these occurred for Arizona. One, when McClellan was grooving in both halfs Arizona found a way to get him the ball. They also went to Williams on four straight plays and he made all four shots. Second, and this is the most key aspect of last night's game, once Hawes picked up his third foul all Arizona did was attack him for the next five minutes by driving to the basket. In fact, as Arizona kept attacking the big man I couldn't help but think how great it would've been to hear Barry Tompkins put a spin on his old Rocky IV routine by breaking out a line like, "and the Wildcats are chopping the Russian down!"


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