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February 16, 2012

Wildcats head to Washington schools for 'difficult' trip

In recent years, the Arizona men's basketball team's trip to play both Washington schools has been both long in terms of travel time and outcome of the games.

The Wildcats are just a combined 1-5 at Washington State and Washington in the last three seasons.

UA head coach Sean Miller called it "one of the more difficult trips" to make and hopes that chartered flights - and staying in Spokane, Wash., as opposed to nearby Moscow, Idaho - will make a difference when the 'Cats (18-8, 9-4 Pac-12 Conference) begin their trip Thursday night against the Cougars (13-12, 5-8 Pac-12) in Pullman.

Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. PST.

"It will be very beneficial," Miller said. "You just try to put your team in the best position, and I believe staying in Spokane is the best position."

Wildcats junior forward Solomon Hill welcomes the change of routine.

"He's changing it up," Hill said of Miller's decision. "I think it will be, this year, one of the better trips staying in the city. Coach is taking steps to take away from that first year's trip."

Playing the Cougars first as opposed to the Huskies will also be a change from past seasons.

"We've never played Washington State first. We've always played them second," Miller said. "This trip is much different than our previous two."

UA also is banking on its recent road success to trump any past results in Washington, where the Wildcats have not swept a road trip since 2005-06.

The 'Cats have won three of their last four away from McKale Center - including an improbable Bay Area sweep over California and Stanford, becoming the first Pac-12 team to win a game this season at either venue.

The Wildcats also are hoping for a repeat of the first meeting with the Cougars. UA posted a 24-point victory over WSU, which lost key reserve Faisal Aden to a season-ending ACL tear in the contest.

But the 'Cats will still have to deal with 6-10 forward Brock Motum, whose 20.5 points per game in Pac-12 play trails only Oregon State's Jared Cunningham by one-tenth of a point. Miller said that if Motum equals his average tonight, "it's going to be hard for us to win."

"When you average 20 points a game in conference play you're a first-team all-conference player," Miller said. "He's very physical, he rebounds the ball at a very high level and he can score both facing the basket and with his back to the basket.

"He's one of the hardest individual players that there is to guard in our conference. It's not going to be a 1-on-1 matchup, we have to do it as a team."

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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