In just one game, the Arizona Wildcats actually moved all the way in the national rankings from No. 12 to No. 5 in field goal percentage defense (36.2), and from No. 6 to No. 3 in scoring defense (54.4).
That’s what happens when you hold Washington State to just 25 points and nine field goals.
During a small-group interview after the Huskies finished practicing at McKale this afternoon, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar was asked what he took away from Arizona’s 60-25 dismantling of the Cougars.
“Confirmation,” he said, drawing laughter. “They are pretty good. They defend you. Obviously Washington State was without a couple of their guys but at the same time when you hold a team to seven points at the half, in Division I basketball, that’s pretty impressive.”
Romar said dealing with that defense would be the Huskies’ biggest challenge on Saturday.
“First and foremost, you’ve gotta find a way to score,” Romar said. “They’re so good defensively, they’re so long, they protect the rim so well, they have 6-8, 6-6, 6-7 guys and they have a big guy in the middle.
“They’re so good on the backboards. They miss a shot, it’s almost like it’s part of their offense. (It’s like) `Now let’s go get it, that’s how we finish our plays.’ “
Washington is essentially playing four guards these days and there’s no question the Huskies would like to use a speed advantage to score before UA’s defense is set.
“We’re gonna have to be scrappy,” Romar said. “We can’t sit back and let them go at us. We have to be aggressive. Because we’ve got a size disadvantage, obviously.
“Once they get back and they’re set, you have all these panthers back there and they’re ready to pounce, these Dobermans. That makes it a little more difficult to score.”
The sight of Aaron Gordon wearing an Arizona uniform can’t be an easy one on Romar’s eyes. He’s known Gordon’s father for decades, and recruited both Drew and Aaron, saying he believed “for a long time that (Aaron) was coming to Washington.”
That changed either before or during last season, with Gordon announcing last April that he would become a “West Coast Wildcat.”
“He came to Arizona and was very impressed with what was going on,” Romar said. “He felt he had a chance to win the national championship.
“It was close but down the stretch, he kind of made up his mind. He knew what he wanted. We didn’t have the best year last year...”
Still, Romar raved about Gordon.
“People don’t understand that Aaron can get 10 assists and eight points, and be tickled pink because he had 10 assists. He’s an unselfish player. He’s one of the few high profile, elite basketball players who has a motor. He really gets after it. I think that sets him apart from a lot of people. He can play on any team, anywhere.”
UA coach Sean Miller was not made available by UA’s communications services staff today but he had a few remarks about Washington in the blog post from Thursday's postgame.
Miller said that the Huskies' 76-65 win at ASU was an indication the Huskies may be a dangerous team with something to prove after struggling during nonconference play. Washington held ASU to 38.6-percent shooting, including a 2-for-14 mark from three-point range.
Both Romar and Washington point guard Nigel Williams-Goss said the Huskies had confidence all along despite their 8-5 start.
"I don’t know if (the win at ASU) turned heads," Williams-Goss said. "We knew we were capable of a performance like that. It was just a matter of time until we strung 40 minutes together, with that type of focus and that type of defensive effort. We really came together last night.