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NCAA Basketball Arizona WildcatsPac 12 BasketballWashington Huskies

Dawg Performance By Arizona Proves Their Superiority

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

It appears that the PAC-12 isn’t satisfied with a night of exciting Big Ten basketball.

With the Dawgs nipping at their heals, No. 8 ranked Arizona narrowly outlasted Washington, 57-53, in Seattle, WA, moving them one game closer to PAC-12 No. 1 Oregon, who fell to Stanford Wednesday.

Senior forward Solomon Hill shot 5-for-12 from the field with 10 points and three rebounds in 37 minutes for the Wildcats. Arizona guard Nick Johnson led all scorers with 15 points, and finished with a game-high four steals. Abdul Gaddy has 10 points and six assists for the Huskies, but struggled taking care of the basketball with six turnovers.

Arizona (18-2, 6-2 PAC-12) edges within hundredths of a point of current conference king Oregon. Even though the Wildcats had an uncharacteristic shooting night — 35.1 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from three-point land — Washington proved their ability to compete with conference opponents, especially at home.

The Huskies jumped out to an early lead  in the opening minutes with a 16-3 run, partly due to seven turnovers committed by the Wildcats. Washington completely squandered by the 4:30 mark in the first half, but regained a five-point lead heading into half time.

It wasn’t until the 4:34 mark in the second half that C.J. Wilson sunk the first three-pointer of the game for Arizona, giving the Huskies a 48-46 lead. The Wildcats countered with an 11-5 run, with substantial assistance from the lackluster Dawg defense. Late turnovers by Washington led to a free throw laden final minute for the Wildcats.

Many will look at the horrific numbers by Arizona, presumed to be one of the nation’s top programs, and discount their ability to dominate the PAC-12. However, the Wildcats managed to shutdown a resilient Washington squad, on the road, with a subpar performance by their top player, Hill. So, look at this game again. Washington has proved to be one of the most difficult places to play in the conference, regardless of the talent level of the opposing team.

With Oregon experiencing more troubles with every passing game, the conference is waiting for Arizona to make a dominant push to superiority. The Wildcats aggressive second half performance against a mid-level conference opponent only strengthens the argument for them to receive No. 1 seed honors.

Washington (12-9, 4-4 PAC-12) has always proved challenging for Arizona, as Thursday’s victory was the first win by the Wildcats in the last four match ups against the Huskies. The next true test will come when Arizona visits Stanford on Feb. 6 in Palo Alto, CA. against a Cardinal team jockeying for conference respect. Washington heads into a difficult stretch which includes Arizona State, USC, UCLA and Oregon.

Follow John Engel on Twitter: @engelsportsguy