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January 4, 2014
No. 1 Arizona looks to keep defense sharp against Washington
With designs on becoming the best defensive team in the nation, Arizona appeared to be well on its way to that distinction in the Pac-12 Conference opener.
The top-ranked Wildcats are likely to face a much tougher challenge on that end as high-scoring Washington goes after its second straight conference road win Saturday.
Arizona (14-0, 1-0 Pac-12) put up a remarkable defensive performance while matching last season's team for the second-best start in program history with a 60-25 rout of visiting Washington State on Thursday.
The Wildcats held the Cougars to 20.0 percent shooting (9 for 45) and their lowest point total since Jan. 15, 1938. Those marks also broke the McKale Center records of 20.3 percent shooting and 37 points set by Northern Arizona in 1989.
Washington State shot 2 of 20 while falling behind 28-7 at the half, breaking the McKale record for fewest field goals and points by a team in a half. The Wildcats have held their opponents to fewer than 50 points in four of their last five contests.
''Our goal all season was to be a top 10 defense,'' leading scorer Nick Johnson said. ''I think we should push that to a top five and eventually the No. 1 defense in the country, because I think we have the tools to make it happen."
The Wildcats rank third nationally with 54.4 points allowed per game and fifth with a 36.2 defensive field-goal percentage.
Washington State, however, was without leading scorer DaVonte Lacy and starting guard Dexter Kernich-Drew. Arizona won't have as favorable of a matchup against Washington (9-5, 1-0), one of four Pac-12 teams averaging at least 80.0 points.
''We have to be able to put this game behind us and be ready to go on Saturday,'' Wildcats coach Sean Miller said, ''because clearly Washington is going to come in here with confidence.''
The Huskies appear to be playing their best as they go for a fourth straight win after opening league play with a 76-65 victory at Arizona State on Thursday.
Senior C.J. Wilcox, averaging a team-high 20.2 points, led five players in double figures with 17 points while hitting four 3-pointers. Sophomore Andrew Andrews also has been a key contributor, scoring 17.0 per game over his last three.
The guards, though, struggled with a combined 29 points on 10-of-45 shooting in two losses to the Wildcats last season. Arizona pulled out a 57-53 victory at Washington on Jan. 31 before winning 70-52 at home on Feb. 20.
Arizona's Johnson totaled 27 points on 9-of-24 shooting and Kaleb Tarczewski scored 20 with 16 rebounds in those meetings.
Tarczewski made all three of his field-goal attempts on the way to 11 points Thursday after missing the previous two games with a sprained ankle. He's averaging 6.4 boards per game for the Wildcats, who are tied for third nationally with a plus-12.6 rebounding margin.
Washington has been able to hold its own on the glass with a plus-9.3 rebounding margin during its winning streak.
The Huskies have lost 11 in a row against Top 25 opponents since a 77-75 overtime victory over then-No. 16 Arizona on March 12, 2011. They're 1-1 against No. 1 teams under coach Lorenzo Romar, defeating visiting Stanford 75-62 on March 6, 2004.
Washington, however, has dropped six of seven at Arizona.