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Wildcats Seek Revenge at Pullman

Cats Look for Revenge in Pullman

By Lance Epstein

TUCSON, Ariz— The last time Washington State (14-8, 4-6) and Arizona (12-10, 6-4) squared off in Tucson in early January, the Cougars hit a buzzer beater pull off the 78-76 win.

Since the dramatic last second victory for the Cougars, they have been reeling. WSU enters the game, losers of 5-of-7 (three straight) and by an average margin of 10 points per game. As for the Wildcats, they have won 4-of-5 and sit in a 4-way tie atop of the Pac-10 standings.

In order for Arizona to avenge their loss to Washington State on Jan. 8, the Wildcats must contain the Pac-10’s second leading scorer Klay Thompson. Thompson is averaging 21.5 point per game.

However, as he has struggled so have the Cougars. In the last three games (all losses), Thompson has averaged 13.3 ppg and shot a horrid 25 percent from the field. Besides his scoring Thompson also second on WSU team in rebounds (4.8 ppg), assists (2.9 ppg) and leads the team in steals at 1.8ppg.

This will be a monumental challenge for the young Wildcats to guard Thompson. Kevin Parrom, Jamelle Horne and Solomon Hill have struggled to guard athletic wings that have the ability to shoot from the perimeter and put the rock on the floor.

The previous two games the Wildcats have had no answers to players that mirror Thompson’s game. Washington guard/forward Quincy Pondexter scored 30 points and California small forward Theo Roberson had career high 27 points. Thompson is a streaky shooter, so the Wildcats need to come out with stifling defense and a game plan to completely take him out of his rhythm, if they expect to win.

As for the Wildcats, they cannot have a repeat performance of Thursday night’s game at Washington. The inexperienced Wildcats committed 20 turnovers (season high), shot 10 percent below their season average from the line and surrendered 18 offensive rebounds to the Huskies.

What might be even more significant to the Wildcats is senior, point guard Nic Wise not exhibit a déjà vu performance of Thursday night. Wise played one of his worse games of the season, shooting 4-of-17 for 13 points and committing five turnovers.

A positive coming out of the loss at Washington is UA Head Coach Sean Miller possesses the luxury of a fresh Derrick Williams. Williams played a season low eight minutes before fouling out with only 3 points.

While this game is being played on the road for Arizona, the Wildcats are still a better team and have proven thus over the last five games. Even with the cardiac Cats playing one of their worst games of the season, they took the defending and experienced Pac-10 champions to the wire.

It is never easy for any Arizona team going on the road into Pullman (games up there are always close regardless of the team’s records). An enormous intangible for the Cougars is the Wildcats coming in after facing a showdown game that was very physical and highly emotional two nights ago. There is a big time potential for Arizona to have a letdown game.

With that said, Arizona has beyond a doubt matured and appears to be the class of the Pac-10 much sooner than anyone could have expected.

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