University of Arizona vs Washington (copy)

Arizona forward Azuolas Tubelis, right, gets a paw on the ball defending Washington guard PJ Fuller II during Round 1 of Wildcats-Huskies at McKale Center on Jan. 5, 2023. The rematch is slated for 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Seattle.

Probable starters


G Kerr Kriisa (6-3 junior)

G Courtney Ramey (6-3 senior)

F Cedric Henderson (6-6 senior)

F Azuolas Tubelis (6-11 junior)

C Oumar Ballo (7-0 junior)


G Keyon Menifield (6-1 freshman)

G Noah Williams (6-5 senior)

F Cole Bajema (6-7 senior)

F Keion Brooks (6-7 senior)

C Braxton Meah (7-1 junior)

How they match up

The last time: Arizona overcame a 14-point first-half deficit and an uneven second half to beat Washington 70-67 on Feb. 5 at McKale Center. The Wildcats shot only 36.4% from the field but took six more free throws (outscoring UW by seven at the line) and scored 20 points on 17 Husky turnovers. Azuolas Tubelis led the Wildcats with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while freshman Kylan Boswell had nine points, six rebounds and six assists in 20 minutes off the bench.

The last time at Hec Ed: Former Wildcat guard Terrell Brown scored 24 points for Washington in the first half alone, helping the Huskies take a 14-point lead before halftime, but the Wildcats flipped the deficit into a 92-68 blowout win on Feb. 12, 2022, in Seattle. Tubelis had 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Bennedict Mathurin had 25 points on 8-for-11 shooting and Dalen Terry had 12 points and seven assists.

Series history: Arizona has a six-game winning streak over Washington and has won the last three games in Seattle. But the Huskies handed Arizona one of only eight losses in 2017-18 at Hec Ed, beating the Wildcats 78-75. Arizona leads the series 59-31 overall.

What’s new with the Huskies: Since giving Arizona a scare on Jan. 5 and losing two days later at ASU, Washington has been on an upswing, winning four of its last five games. UW swept Stanford and Cal at home, though the Huskies needed overtime to beat the Bears on Jan. 14. They then split the mountain trip, winning at Colorado before losing at Utah. Then, upon returning home this week, they avenged their loss at ASU by beating the Sun Devils 69-66 in overtime Thursday.

The Huskies averaged 77.8 points in the four recent wins, though defense is really what continues to fuel them. Washington runs a full-time 2-3 zone defense made trickier by rim-protecting 7-footer Braxton Meah, who blocks 6.7% of opponents’ shots when he’s on the floor. Kentucky transfer Keion Brooks continues to lead the Huskies in scoring (17.6) and rebounding (7.2).

Both Meah and Brooks played 42 of 45 possible minutes against ASU on Thursday, with Brooks collecting 22 points, seven rebounds and three blocks while Meah went scoreless with four turnovers but had 11 rebounds. Overall, the Huskies held the Sun Devils to just 18.8% shooting in the first half and 30.7% for the game, allowing UW to win despite shooting only 39.3% itself. When Meah is out, the Huskies get smaller with either Brooks or 6-9 Langston Wilson at center.

He said it

“They’re playing better than they did when they came to our place. They just seem to play with more confidence and score better. They were down 12-zip against ASU but came back to win the game, so offensively they’re clicking much better .

“At the end of the day, you’ve always got to make shots against the zone. They’re long, they’re active and they create problems for you to get good looks at the basket.

“(In Meah) you’re talking about one of the best shot blockers in the country. He cuts off a lot of lanes to the basket and makes it difficult for you. I’m sure they can gamble more (defensively) because they know they’ve got somebody behind them who can block shots. They can also come in with a smaller lineup. Wilson is athletic and not quite as big.

"We’ve got to make shots and take care of the basketball. Certainly, those are two keys.”

— UA assistant coach Steve Robinson, who scouted the Huskies

Arizona St Washington Basketball

Washington's Keion Brooks looks for a pass as Arizona State's Marcus Bagley guards him during the second half of the Huskies' overtime victory Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, in Seattle.

Key players

WASHINGTON — Keion Brooks

The transfer from Kentucky, who drew recruiting attention from Arizona out of the portal last spring, led the Huskies with 16 points and nine rebounds at McKale Center earlier this month. He’s a versatile, athletic forward who can play under the basket and give the Huskies a dramatically different look when Meah is on the bench.

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ARIZONA — Kerr Kriisa

The Wildcats’ polarizing point guard has been a streaky shooter, so there’s no telling if he’ll keep firing in 3-pointers at the 5-of-10 clip he did Thursday at WSU. He was a combined 5 for 22 from 3 in three previous games. The Wildcats will probably need him to hit at least a few over the Huskies’ zone defense.


Dogged defenders

While Washington lost 70-67 at Arizona on Jan. 5 despite taking an early double-digit lead, the Huskies flipped the script Thursday against ASU.

They trailed the Sun Devils 12-0 early and pulled out a 69-66 overtime win at Hec Ed.

To no surprise, the Huskies did it with defense, holding ASU to just 30.7% shooting.

“One of the biggest keys was transition defense,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said after Thursday’s game. “That’s how they beat us in the game down there. Defense, and you make a couple of shots, and it changes everything. When our defense is elite, we get in transition, get great flow and we get really good scoring opportunities.”

UA coach Tommy Lloyd became familiar with that sort of defense on Jan. 5.

“They were better than us for probably 30-plus minutes at McKale,” Lloyd said. “Fortunately we were playing at home on a night when we were not playing well, and it was kind of enough for us to get over the top.

"I thought they played really well that night. I think they have really good pieces, and their zone bothered us. We’ve gotta play better against the zone this time. They’ve got some talented players.”

So does Arizona, the way Hopkins sees it.

“We hang our hat on our defense. It’s got to be at a high level," Hopkins said. "Arizona has the best interior in the country. They got a point guard who’s fearless in Kerr Kriisa. They aren’t shooting the ball great in league, but they made 9 3s against us. They’re a tough team.”

Arizona Washington St Basketball

Arizona center Oumar Ballo, middle, struggled offensively at Washington State, scoring only one point. He tweaked an ankle during the game but is expected to be fine for Saturday's game at Washington.

Ballo expected to play

Arizona center Oumar Ballo didn’t score a single point Thursday after making a free throw on the Wildcats’ first possession and played only 24 minutes, suggesting something might be wrong.

Ballo already was hospitalized three times earlier this month with a bacterial infection, and Lloyd said Thursday that Ballo “might have tweaked his ankle” against the Cougars. But Lloyd said Ballo assured him he was 100% and able to go back in the WSU game. Ballo also practiced as usual Friday in Seattle, according to UA.

“I just didn’t think he had the best game and he’s gotta bounce back from it, and he will,” Lloyd said. “Oumar’s had a tremendous year, and I think he’s got his legs under him and his energy is back again, where a couple of weeks ago he was maybe laboring a bit.”

As it turned out, Ballo contributed in multiple ways other than scoring. He pulled down nine rebounds against the Cougars, blocked two shots, recorded two steals — and helped make WSU center Mouhamed Gueye work hard for his 15 points. Gueye was just 6 of 19 from the field while turning the ball over four times.

“I didn’t realize he was 6 of 19,” Lloyd said after Thursday’s game. “To have a big guy go 6 for 19, with four turnovers? That’s a good job. And 'Zu' (Tubelis) did a good job playing at the five as well.”

Consolation prize

After his team lost 58-55 to Colorado last Sunday, Washington State coach Kyle Smith said Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle told him the Cougars were the “best 9-12 team in the country.”

So, after Arizona beat the Cougs 63-58 on Thursday, does that make WSU the best 9-13 team in the country?

“I would definitely echo that,” Lloyd said after Thursdays’ game. “They’re doing a nice job. They’ve got good players. They’ve got a good mix and a good game plan. They are definitely a handful. And getting a road victory here is definitely meaningful.”

Numbers game

12 — Arizona wins in 13 games when the Wildcats have made eight or more 3-point shots.

25.5 — Arizona’s average victory margin in its past two games at Washington.

58 — Spots in national defensive-efficiency ranking that Arizona has moved up over its past three games, to No. 29 (allowing only 94.8 points per 100 opponent possessions).

Contact sports reporter Bruce Pascoe at On Twitter: @brucepascoe

Originally published on, part of the BLOX Digital Content Exchange.


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