Wildcats collide with Cougars in Pac-12 affair

Feb 15, 2015 - 3:36 PM Pullman, WA (SportsNetwork.com) - The seventh-ranked Arizona Wildcats close out a three-game road trip on Sunday, as they take on the Washington State Cougars in a Pac-12 matchup at Beasley Coliseum.

Sean Miller's Wildcats were able to distance themselves from last weekend's upset loss at rival Arizona State (81-78), by pummeling the Washington Huskies in Seattle on Friday, 86-62. With the win, Arizona moved to 21-3 on the season, including a 9-2 league ledger, good for a first-place tie with Utah in the standings.

Ernie Kent's first season in Pullman has been a struggle at times. The team is two games under .500 both overall (11-13) and in the Pac-12 (5-7). Washington State is however, coming off a 74-71 victory over Arizona State on Friday, and is now 7-3 at home this season.

This marks the 75th all-time meeting between these two programs on the hardwood. The Wildcats hold a 58-16 advantage in the series and have won each of the last seven meetings.

Stinging from last weekend's loss to the Sun Devils, Arizona took out its frustration on the Huskies on Friday night, shooting an impressive 52.5 percent from the floor in the lopsided win. Five Wildcats notched double figures, led by freshman star Stanley Johnson's 20 points. Rondae Hollis- Jefferson poured in 17 points, followed by Gabe York (13 pts), Brandon Ashley (11 pts) and T.J. McConnell (10 pts), who completed a double-double with 10 assists.

Solid play at both ends of the court is the norm in Tucson this season. The Wildcats are sporting a +16.2 scoring margin, averaging 75.5 ppg on an impressive 49.3-percent shooting, while holding foes to a mere 59.3 ppg and an even 40 percent efficiency. In addition, Arizona lives comfortably in terms of rebounding (+7.3) and turnover (+3.0) margins. Johnson is a rising star in the Pac-12 and comes into this contest leading the team in both scoring (14.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg). Ashley (11.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Hollis-Jefferson (11.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg) add to a deep and talented frontcourt. McConnell runs things from the point and has shown the ability to both score (9.7 ppg) and distribute (5.9 apg) at a high rate.

Kent went with Dexter Kernich-Drew in the starting lineup for the first time since late November and the move paid off, as the senior erupted for a career- high 27 points in leading Washington State to a come-from-behind win over Arizona State. The Sun Devils dominated inside in the first half, but the Cougars rallied and were able to earn their fifth Pac-12 victory of the season. Kernich-Drew was joined in double figures by DaVonte Lacy, who had 17 points for WSU, which shot 51.9-percent from the floor overall.

That kind of efficient shooting has not been the norm for Washington State this season, as the team comes in netting just under 43 percent from the floor overall, leading to 70.6 ppg. While those numbers aren't horrible, the defensive effort has been for the most part. Opponents are averaging 75.8 ppg and are shooting a healthy 46.4-percent from the field. The team does possess a potent one-two punch in the form of Lacy and Josh Hawkinson. A senior guard, Lacy is netting 16.9 ppg to rank fifth in the conference. Hawkinson, a 6-10 sophomore, adds 14.8 ppg (12th in the Pac-12), while leading the conference in rebounding (10.7 rpg).

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