When the Arizona Wildcats roll into the Palouse, they will face their second white out crowd of the season. Arizona will visit Washington State late on Saturday night, looking for the first road sweep of the Pac-12 season.
The Wildcats are coming off their first win on the road against Washington in five years. Arizona won a close game with what has become a steadily improving defense. It wasn’t a pretty game, but the victory is one that the team won’t look down on.
The Cougars are limping into the game on their last leg. After staring the season on a strong note and finishing the non-conference schedule with a 9-4 record. They have lost six of the last eight games since conference play started. Washington State did beat Utah and Oregon State, but both of those teams reside beneath the Cougars in the Pac-12 standings.
The game will be an important one for Arizona in the grand scheme of things. The Wildcats haven’t had a road sweep of the Washington schools since the 2005-2006 season. In addition, an Arizona victory would keep it in the hunt for the Pac-12 title after Oregon stumbled in the Bay Area.
The Wildcats will look to Brandon Ashley to stop the Cougars' leading scorer Brock Motum. The Aussie is above and beyond the best player on the roster and it is easy to see why. The 6-foot-10 senior is averaging 18.5 points per game to go along with 6.8 rebounds. If he has a better than average game, Arizona could be in trouble.
Motum will be joined in the frontcourt by D.J. Shelton. The junior isn’t incredible productive on offense, scoring just over a hundred points all season. Shelton does his main work on the glass, coming in third on the team with 5.7 blocks per night. He also does a decent job on defense, with nine blocks on the year.
The only other double-figure scorer for the Cougars is Mike Ladd. The 6-foot-5 guard is a big scoring threat who has found his stroke as of late. Over the past five games, Ladd has scored an average of twenty points in each. The senior is also second on the team with his passing game, dishing out 48 assists this year.
The leading assist man for Washington State is sophomore Royce Woolridge. He has accumulated 56 assists on the season, but has also turned the ball over 39 times. Woolridge has chipped in with some points as he is scoring eight points a game as well. The 6-foot-3 transfer from Kansas will likely be guarded by Arizona’s transfer guard Mark Lyons.
The final member of the starting lineup will be guard DaVonte Lacy. After suffering a knee injury against Kansas, he missed four games. When Lacy returned, he wasn’t as effective as he was before the injury. He is averaging just under nine points a game, but has a one-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio.
One of the first players off the bench for Washington State should be Dexter Kernich-Drew. The sophomore guard is another Australian-born player on the roster. He has started seven games this season, all of which came while Lacy was recovering from his knee injury. Kernich-Drew is still seeing 22 minutes of action each game and making progress offensively with over seven points per game.
Another face that will come off of the Cougar bench belongs to Will DiIorio. The junior forward hasn’t produced much lately and has seen his minutes fall, but he is still trying to improve. DiIorio played fourteen minutes in Washington State’s last game against Arizona State, grabbing two rebounds. However, he also went scoreless and had two turnovers.
Arizona has lost the last two white out games that it has played in. With Washington State staging a whiteout in honor of the Wildcats appearance in Pullman, it will give them a chance to break that streak and get the sweep of the Washington schools on the road for the first time since 2006.
With road wins at a premium in the Pac-12, a sweep would go a long way for Arizona. Most teams in the conference can beat any of the other teams on any given night. A victory for the Wildcats may just give them that extra boost to make a run at the Pac-12 title.