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Arizona sweeps Washington for first time in seven years

The SportsXchange

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona coach Sean Miller on Tuesday called his team's recent 3-point defense "pathetic" and chastised the Wildcats' second-half effort.

He had no such worries Wednesday night.

Arizona pulled away after halftime and held Washington to 30.8 percent shooting as the 12th-ranked Wildcats won 70-52 at McKale Center, completing a sweep of the Huskies for the first time in seven seasons.

"It was a fun game," said senior forward Solomon Hill, who led Arizona with 19 points. "One thing we talked about before the game was to have fun. I think we had gotten away from that."

Arizona, which held Washington to 36.8 percent shooting in a win in Seattle last month, limited the Huskies to 20 of 65 shooting, including 1 of 11 from 3-point range, Wednesday night.

"It all starts for us on the defensive end," Miller said. "We have to be a team that is hard to score against. We're vulnerable if we aren't, because that's our strength. ...

"I know most of the world has forgotten that we beat both Florida and Miami, but we haven't," Miller said. "The reason we were able to beat teams of that caliber was because of our defense, not our offense. If we're going to be good in March, or finish this deal off like we want to, this defense has to be in place from start to finish."

Arizona improved to 22-4 overall and 10-4 in the Pac-12, a half-game behind Oregon. The Huskies (14-13, 6-8) have lost eight of their past 10 games and dropped their ninth consecutive contest to a ranked team.

C.J. Wilcox had 15 points to lead Washington, although he was just 5 of 16 from the field. Abdul Gaddy added 12 points.

"We can't have a pity party," Washington forward Desmond Simmons said. "This was embarrassing, but we can't point fingers. We need to keep our heads up and be men about it and take our frustration out on Arizona State this weekend."

Arizona point guard Mark Lyons fueled a 25-12 run to end the first half -- scoring 10 consecutive points for the Cats in one stretch -- and UA poured it on after leading 33-25 at halftime.

The key second-half scoring burst came from Nick Johnson, who scored nine points in a 3 1/2-minute flurry, with the last basket in that stretch giving Arizona a 49-29 lead with 13:38 left. Two of Johnson's baskets in that span came on fast-break assists from Lyons as the Wildcats excelled in transition.

Arizona led by as many as 22. Washington trimmed its deficit to 14 by the final media timeout but never mounted a serious threat.

"When we're down, don't sleep-walk through the rest of the game," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said of his message to the team. "We talk about that all the time. It's a 9-1-1 right now."

Johnson scored 12 points, all in the second half. Lyons scored 12 in the first half and finished with 14 before fouling out with 6:55 to go.

Miller started senior wing Kevin Parrom for freshman power forward Brandon Ashley for the second consecutive game. Miller said he made the move for two reasons: to take advantage of Parrom's experience and to help cure recent slow starts at the beginning of each half.

Washington, however, had the better of it early in a defensive struggle, similar to the teams' first meeting. Arizona won 57-53 in Seattle when both teams shot less than 37 percent from the field.

The Huskies took a 13-8 lead on an alley-oop dunk by Shawn Kemp Jr. with 11:05 to go in the first half Wednesday, and Arizona failed to crack the 10-point barrier until Lyons hit two free throws with 8:07 left to cut the deficit to 13-10.

Lyons went on his tear after that and woke up the Wildcats, who made 21 of their final 35 shots.

NOTES: Freshman guard Gabe York hadn't played in the past four games -- and had appeared in only three conference contests -- but he entered at 13:32 of the first half. Miller said earlier this week that he wanted to give York a shot over reserve junior guard Jordin Mayes. ... Washington center Aziz N'Diaye picked up a technical foul with 50.6 seconds left in the first half when he tossed Parrom into the courtside photographers after they scrapped for a rebound underneath the Arizona basket. ... Miller, in his fourth season with the Wildcats, has a losing record against two Pac-12 teams. He is 2-3 against Colorado and 4-5 vs. Washington. ... Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott attended the game. He told the media at halftime he was pleased at ticket sales for the Pac-12 tournament, which will be held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for the first time. Scott said some sessions were more than 80 percent sold out.
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