A weekend road sweep? Check.
A more confident team? Check.
A complete game? Check.
It was that kind of night/weekend/experience for the Arizona Wildcats and because of it, Arizona easily defeated host Washington State 66-49 on Saturday night to get – can you believe this? – the first road sweep by a Pac-12 team this season.
Everything meshed for Arizona. It had just six turnovers and outrebounded WSU 49-36.
“I’m very, very pleased with the effort of our team,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.
After a shaky start, Arizona shook the Cougars with a bigtime run to take over with about 10 minutes left in the first half and then cruised behind a mix of sound-and-solid Stone Gettings and an ever-improving Nico Mannion.
And, oh yes, most everyone else filled in with strong role play to get Arizona to its 15th overall win and fifth win in the conference.
Lest I forget the defense Arizona had on the Cougars’ all-or-nothing attack from the perimeter. UA limited WSU from beyond the 3-point line, keeping its offense moot. UA limited CJ Elleby to just seven points, frustrating him all night as he went 2 for 12. He scored his points when WSU led 15-8. He didn’t score again.
“Watching Washington State on film, and we had a lot of respect for them, CJ Elleby is a terrific player and he’s put it on a number of teams this year, especially here in Pullman,” Miller said. “I thought our team did an outstanding job guarding him and we did an equally outstanding job guarding Isaiah Stewart two nights ago, and that’s a sign of a good defensive team—when you can take what the other team does very well or a particular player that continuously produces, but against your team he doesn’t have that same type of night.
“And we had a really good team effort here tonight against Elleby.”
Conversely, WSU had no answer for UA’s Stone Gettings, who proved to find his niche this weekend in the great northwest. He followed Thursday’s 13-point performance with a 19-point, 12-rebound night against WSU for his first double-double of his UA career. It was his seventh of his career after getting six at Cornell.
Welcome to the Conference of Champions, @Stone_Gettings!
“Stone Gettings has really given us a lot,” Miller said on the show. “He had 19 and 12, and if the guy could ever make free throws…I mean, my goodness, he’d really be playing. But he’s a difference maker on our team.”
Since being inserted into the starting lineup because of a bad back and poor production from senior Chase Jeter (who was unavailable on Saturday because of the back), Gettings was back at it again, hitting 8 of 13 shots. It seemed his 12-footer was automatic.
“It’s been great with the guys that we have,” Gettings said on the Pac-12 Network after the game. “We can offer a lot of different looks – four out and one in. Teams can’t really crash (inside) when you have four shooters outside.”
Freshman Zeke Nnaji had the team’s other double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Mannion had 14 points and four turnovers. And he played defense like he hadn’t all season.
“In my mind, Nico continues to get better,” Miller said. “He’s more of a complete player. He does it on defense, he’s rebounding the ball more, he understands concepts. Not that he didn’t before, but in fairness to all these freshmen, it takes a little bit of time for them to master the nuances of the game. Experience still means something, and I believe that Nico is a more complete overall player here on February 1 than he would have been on January 1.”
What it all means in March is anyone’s guess, but what Arizona did this weekend was crucial as it attempts to stay near the top of the crazy Pac-12 race. The win helped UA stay just one loss behind first-place USC before Thursday’s game with the Trojans in McKale Center.