Even when Arizona appeared to be doing everything in its power to lose a 6th consecutive time at Hec Ed, the Cats were able to leave Seattle with a brutally ugly 57-53 victory and a sense of comfort that no matter how poorly they play, it’s still usually enough to win.
To give a glimpse of just how horrid of a basketball game Arizona and Washington engaged in on Thursday night, the Cats shot 3-18 from behind the arc and ended up with a higher three point shooting percentage than the Huskies (1-12).
Here’s another one: Arizona had only three more made field goals (20) than turnovers (17).
Yet through all the sloppy play and wide open clanks, it was enough to pick up a crucial road win versus Washington. That’s a testament to the Cats’ blue collar, grind-it-out mentality and suffocating defensive play.
In the first half, Arizona characteristically got off to a slow start, this time fueled by dropped passes, clumsy dribbling, and simple unawareness. The lone bright spot was the play of Kaleb Tarczewski, who did just about everything the staff could have asked for except finish his dunk attempts.
Zeus, as he is affectionately nicknamed, came down with a couple key offensive boards, put Washington’s Shawn Kemp Jr. in early foul trouble, and made all five of his first half free throw attempts.
Coming out of halftime, Arizona continued to turn the ball over at an alarming rate and bewilderingly took three pointer after three pointer, even though literally none were falling.
However, Nick Johnson stepped up on both sides of the ball, coming up with four steals and three blocks as well as a game high 15 points and three assists.
While Arizona’s two leading scorers – Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons – were both way off tonight with their strokes, they still did just enough to keep Arizona in the lead, particularly in the closing moments. Lyons made a drive to the lane only he could create on one possession and the next, Hill finished in transition to give Arizona the lead with three minutes to go.
After the Huskies re-took the lead on free throws, Johnson responded with a bank-shot to put the Cats back on top.
Washington’s poor free throw shooting sealed their fate in the final minutes. Conversely, Johnson provided the final dagger with two makes from the charity stripe to push Arizona’s lead up to four with 26 seconds to go.
There wasn’t even any need for a last second shot.
All in all, a win is a win, especially when it comes at Washington. What separates the good teams from the really good teams is the ability to fight through poor shooting, turnovers, and a hostile environment.
Arizona did just that and as a result, the Cats are now 18-2 for the first time in nine years.