TUCSON, Ariz. (AP)Washington has found a formula for success just in time for the Pac-12 tournament.
Freshman Jaden McDaniels scored 20 points and classmate Isaiah Stewart added 16 as the Huskies finished the Pac-12 regular season with a flourish in a 69-63 victory over Arizona on Saturday night.
Jamal Bey had 12 points and the Huskies (15-16, 5-13) limited Arizona to 35.1 shooting to complete a two-game sweep of the Arizona trip. They had lost their first seven Pac-12 road games.
”The last two games we’ve made big plays down the stretch,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said. ”I thought our defense was the best defense I’ve seen in a long time. We were taking away angles. We’re making our foul shots. That’s how you close out games. Before in the close games we weren’t doing those things.”
Dylan Smith had 19 points and tied a career high with six 3-pointers, Zeke Nnaji had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Nico Mannion had 11 points for the Wildcats (20-11, 10-8), who lost three of their last four to fall out of contention for one of four first-round byes in the Pac-12 tournament.
Washington went 8:06 without a field goal late in the second half but made nine free throws to maintain the lead before Bey and McDaniels made back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Huskies in front 65-55 with 2:45 left.
Smith made all six of of his 3-pointers in the second half. His sixth made it 65-59 with 35.6 seconds remaining before Bey made four free throws to ice it.
”A game like today is what makes March Madness so great, because anything can happen,” Hopkins said.
Arizona’s last lead was at 6-4.
”We knew that we were in for a fight and, and we were,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. ”Our performance tonight was poor. We weren’t ready to play. We didn’t run as fast jump as high, struggled to get back defensively.”
Washington: The Huskies will enter the Pac-12 tournament on a roll after winning three of their last four games following a nine-game losing streak. The Huskies picked up their first league road win at Arizona State on Thursday.
Arizona: The Wildcats will return to the NCAA tournament after a one-year absence, although their seed is in question. They are expected to be seeded in the six-eight range, depending on their play in the Pac-12 tournament. Arizona is ranked 10th in the nation in the most NET rankings, a tool used by the NCAA to help determine tournament seeding.
Five freshmen may have played their final regular-season college game here Saturday. Arizona center Zeke Nnaji and guards Nico Mannion and Josh Green and Washington center Isaiah Stewart and forward Jaden McDaniels are projected as first-round picks in the 2020 NBA draft by several reputable scouting services. Arizona coach Sean Miller has confirmed that Mannion will declare for the draft.
Arizona entered Saturday with a chance receive one of the four first-round byes in the Pac-12 tournament next week, but victories by USC and Arizona State earlier in the day eliminated that possibility.
ON TO VEGAS
Washington planned to fly directly to Las Vegas from Tucson as a precaution against the coronavirus, which has hit the Northwest hard. Washington has cancelled all in-person classes from Monday until the end of the winter quarter March 20.
”I think the university and everybody is showing great leadership in terms of the decisions that they’re making,” Hopkins said.
Arizona guard Dylan Smith went to the locker room and was tested for a concussion after being struck by an Isaiah Stewart elbow as Stewart made a field goal under the Arizona basket with 13:14 remaining in the first half. Smith, who suffered a broken nose, passed the concussion protocol and reentered with 5:57 remaining in the first half.
Arizona and Washington will play each other in the first found of the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas on Wednesday. Arizona is the fifth seed and Washington is the 12th.
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