SPOKANE, Wash. - Because all that new Pac-12 media money opened up the world of charter flying for Arizona, the Wildcats have already solved what has often been the toughest part of the Washington road swing.
After beating Washington 57-53 on Thursday night, the Wildcats (18-2, 6-2) made the easy 10-mile trek to Boeing Field in Seattle, breezed through security and hopped a charter flight over the Cascades.
They were in their luxurious Spokane hotel rooms well before midnight, well rested for a practice at Gonzaga on Friday evening and then a 90-minute bus ride to Pullman today to take on Washington State.
But the actual basketball part of the trip may not be so easy, even though the Cougars are just 11-10 overall and 2-6 in Pac-12 play.
Defensively, the Cougars run several different schemes that can throw off a team like Arizona - which already has practically thrown itself off because of impatience in recent games against UCLA and Washington.
Offensively, WSU still has the big Aussie known as Brock Motum, a guy who demands attention at all times because he can score and create mismatches just about anywhere.
The solutions to these issues may sound simplistic but they can be far from easy. Here's what the Wildcats need to do in order to pull off their first road sweep in Washington since 2006:
Offense: Pass the ball more
Arizona struggled with ball movement for the second time in three games Thursday, coughing up 17 turnovers largely because it shot too quickly and failed to adjust to the fact that Husky 7-footer Aziz N'Diaye happened to be standing in its way much of the time.
While the Cougars don't have a dominant shot-blocker inside, they do run three different defenses that can cause trouble for opponents who don't take the time to work through it: a matchup zone defense, a straight man-to-man and one that will switch all five men on screens.
Together, the schemes demand attention and patience, unless there are fast-break opportunities before the Cougars get set defensively.
"The very thing we have to do against Washington State's defense is what we didn't do well in the first half against Washington and that is you can't rush it," UA coach Sean Miller said Friday before the Wildcats' practice. "It has to be three or five passes and (then) when you make your decision to go, the ball has moved and you've moved them around. That's your best case."
While UA did move the ball better in the second half against Washington - and consequently had just five turnovers - forward Solomon Hill said the Wildcats have been guilty of occasionally trying to do too much by themselves.
"We have to learn how to trust each other," he said. "Playing together, in the second half, that's when we started getting easy baskets. And Nick (Johnson) made some defensive stops and our guys ran out on breaks."
But Miller said the problem isn't about being selfish, but more about communication and good decision making.
Like avoiding 7-footers in the post.
"Early in the game sometimes you underestimate a guy like Aziz and you attack the rim," Miller said. Your shots are "almost like a turnover because he's so big. The chances of something good happening aren't nearly as high as you might think."
Defense: Pay attention to Motum and the boards
Freshman forward Brandon Ashley, anointed a stopper of sorts after he helped limit ASU's Carrick Felix to 1-of-8 shooting on Jan. 19, will get another big challenge today. He may be the primary guy asked to defend Motum, the Cougars' leading scorer, who is third in Pac-12 scoring (18.5 points per game), 14th in rebounding (6.8) and is making 40 percent of his three-pointers in conference games.
But Ashley will also get some help. Miller said Hill, Grant Jerrett and possibly even Kevin Parrom will see time against Motum.
There are two problems, though. For one thing, UA can't forget about WSU's perimeter players, especially combo guard Mike Ladd, who is averaging 16.8 points in conference games.
Another problem happens when Motum plays alone in the post without center D.J. Shelton. For Arizona, that would mean Kaleb Tarczewski would match up with Motum, unless Miller swaps some personnel around.
With Motum at center "they surround him with perimeter players so it really puts you in a tough position because your bigger player has to guard him," Miller said. "If you choose not to have your biggest player guard him, then your biggest player has to guard a shooter.
"They try to play the game almost by mismatching. Where we have to get the advantage is rebounding."
On StarNet: Find more photos from the Washington game at azstarnet.com/gallery
• What: No. 8 Arizona at Washington State
• When: 8 p.m.
• TV; radio: Pac-12 Arizona; 1290-AM, 107.5-FM