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January 2, 2014

No. 1 Arizona puts Wazzu on wrong end of history



Top-ranked Arizona did not have its cleanest performance to open the new year, but it did not matter because Washington State turned in the worst half and full game of basketball in McKale Center's 41-year history.

Playing without their leading scorer, the Cougars (7-6, 0-1 Pac-12 Conference) set a new standard for futility in points (25), field goals made (9) and shooting percentage (20) for a visiting opponent.

The Wildcats (14-0, 1-0 Pac-12) led by 21 at the half and cruised to a 60-25 win in the league opener for both teams Thursday night.

UA head coach Sean Miller said afterward "it's a little bit of both" a poor offensive performance and a stellar defensive effort.

"When you take your leading scorer off of our team, or any team, it can feel different - especially on the road," Miller said. "So we certainly didn't get their best shot.

"We know they were playing shorthanded. Having said that, we have to play the game and I thought our defensive effort was outstanding."

It marked the fourth time in the last five games - and the third consecutive contest - that Arizona has held an opponent below 50 points. The win also matched last season's 14-0 start, tying the second-best start in program history.

UA center Kaleb Tarczewski, who returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games with a sprained right ankle, led the way as the game's lone double-figure scorer with 11 points. Freshman forward Aaron Gordon collected a game-high 10 rebounds.

Wazzu was in trouble from the start as Davonte Lacy, who ranks fifth in the Pac-12 in scoring at 18.9 points, missed his second consecutive game while recovering from an appendix attack. The Cougars looked like a team missing its leader, missing its first 16 shots before Royce Woolridge's layup at the 6:42 mark of the half.

"I think maybe with about seven minutes left, there was one point I was like, 'Hey, they haven't scored a field goal yet,'" Gordon said. "But I think everybody noticed that."

In the first 13:18, the Wildcats raced out to a 21-3 lead. But UA scored just seven points the rest of the way and finished the half at a mere 34.8 percent shooting and turned the ball over eight times against a match-up zone defense.

The Cougars set McKale Center first-half records with seven points, two made field goals and a 2-of-21 shooting display for a 9.5 percent clip from the floor. WSU did not crack double digits until a 3-pointer by Will Diiorio made the score 38-12 with 12:21 to play.

"It was different. You don't see too many games like this," said UA guard Nick Johnson, who finished with eight points and three steals.

The only thing left to watch was whether the Cougars would challenge the all-time record for fewest points (20) in a college game, set by Saint Louis in 2008. Stuck at 17 points with three minutes remaining, they escaped history on Woolridge's free throw with 1:25 left to tie the mark and James Hunter's layup with 1:02 remaining to avoid it entirely.

Junior Longrus paced the woeful WSU scoring with six points.

"I think we leave here feeling good about what we were able to accomplish," Miller said.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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