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MBB: Tempestuous Week For Arizona Concludes With Wildcats Still A Top PAC-12

(Arizona Player Introductions before a marquee matchup at 9PMMT Vs Washington State.)

TUCSON, AZ—Following a night in which Arizona suffered their first loss at McKale, got swept on the season series to Washington State, and fell to second place in the PAC-12 standings, the Wildcats just 48 hours later are right where they started. Arizona got a much needed favor from their rival Arizona State, referred to by many on campus as, “The team up north.” Arizona State, who the Wildcats play this Wednesday, delivered a much needed upset victory against Washington State, who led the PAC-12 prior to their matchup Saturday Night in Tempe. 

Arizona was arguably at their highest point of the season following their 105-60 victory over Arizona State, riding a 6 game winning streak into Thursday Night. However, the Wildcats were slated to host Washington State, who was expected to be their most formidable challenger to enter McKale Center all year long. That expectation proved true at halftime when the Cougars led Arizona in a tightly contested game, 34-33. Washington State is a team that prefers to play slow and keep the score low and possessions down. Conversely, Arizona looks to maximize how many possessions they get per game and try to run their opponent out of the gym. The halftime score was indicative of the style of game that was played, and a sign that Washington State was imposing their will. 

The Wildcats came out strong in the second half, at one point going on a 9-1 run and leading by a score of 43-39. The remainder of the half was remarkably even and the scoring was well balanced. With roughly one minute left, the two were tied at 71. On Arizona’s ensuing possession Caleb Love provided the team with a much needed clutch play, a contested and one layup and a pivotal momentum shifter. With Arizona now leading 74-71, Washington State was in desperation mode. The Wildcats locked them up, but a loose ball bounced perfectly into the hands of Jaylen Wells who was camping out in the corner. Keshad Johnson aggressively closed out on Wells and accidentally deprived him of a sufficient landing area. Wells connected on the three and drew the foul, sending him to the line with an opportunity to convert a rare 4 point play and give the Cougars the lead. Wells did just that, putting a ribbon on his 27 point performance, and placing all of the pressure firmly on Arizona. It seemed Arizona would have the last possession and all eyes were on Senior Caleb Love. Love, who already had 27 points on the night,  held the ball with under 10 seconds left. He drove right side and just before going up for roughly an 8 foot floater slipped on the court and morphed his shot attempt into an errant pass. With that the rest was a formality. Washington State would tack on two more points from the free throw line and send the capacity McKale crowd home with a 77-74 loss. Following the upset, The Cougars now controlled their own destiny and could be the 1 seed in the PAC-12 tournament if they ran the table. The Wildcats fell into the second spot and had to prepare for a quick turnaround, Saturday at Noon vs Washington. 

The University of Washington was the next challenger, embarking on McKale. Considerable underdogs and in a tough position facing an bellicose Arizona team. For Arizona, this game occurred roughly 36 hours after the conclusion of their down to the wire loss vs Washington State. The Wildcats jumped on the Huskies early, and never looked back. Arizona scored 52 points in the first half and Caleb Love had 20 first half points. Washington would get as close as 69-60, but never got it tighter than 9 in the second half. Arizona would go on the games final run and win by a convincing 16 point margin 91-75. Love led the team with 28 points and Senior Center Oumar Ballo chipped in with 14 points and 14 rebounds. 

(A packed McKale crowd supports Arizona during their 91-75 victory vs Washington.-Ray Chavez Kamp Student Radio)

Suddenly, Arizona became spectators, no longer controlling their own destiny they watched the nationally televised showdown between The Sun Devils and Cougars. Arizona found themselves in an odd place rooting for Arizona State desperately. The Sun Devils did just what Arizona was hoping, knocking off Washington State 73-61, and replanting Arizona into the 1 spot in the conference standings. Arizona will have an opportunity to punish Arizona State for their benevolence Wednesday night when they travel up to Tempe for their final regular season matchup against The Sun Devils. As for the present moment, Arizona did drop their first home game this year, but did not lose any ground in conference and likely won't fall much if at all nationally from the 4 spot in the AP Polls. As the adage goes, “No harm, no foul.” 

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