LAS VEGAS — Arizona struggled with Washington’s aggressive zone in a loss to end the regular season.
The Wildcats got payback on a much bigger stage.
Josh Green scored 19 points, Nico Mannion added 14 and Arizona opened the Pac-12 tournament with a 77-70 victory over Washington on Wednesday.
“We lost last week to Washington, so our biggest thing was coming back to practice, working on what we’ve got to work on, come to the tournament all guns going,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “I think our team did a great job. We really locked in last week at practice and I think we’re going to keep it going.”
The fifth-seeded Wildcats (21-11) bounced back from an ugly home loss to the Huskies four days ago with a dominating start to the second half. Arizona held the No. 12 seed Huskies (15-17) without a field goal in the opening 6 1/2 minutes of the half, stretching a five-point lead to 15, then held off Washington’s late charge.
Dylan Smith had 14 points and six assists for the Wildcats, who move on to face No. 4 seed USC in Thursday’s semifinals.
“The big thing for us was using ball fakes, whether you shoot it or not, just trying to draw the defense out so we can hit the same passes, get it to the high post,” Mannion said. “We know they guard an area, not a man. So using our ball fakes to get them out of position and get the ball where we needed to get it.”
Washington shot 3 for 23 from the 3-point arc and had 19 turnovers to end a once-promising season with a thud. The Huskies managed to cut Arizona’s lead to five in the final two minutes, but came up short.
Isaiah Stewart led the Huskies with 29 points and 12 rebounds.
“They were packing the paint so much that we were able to get some shots and, unfortunately, we had a game where we shot 3 for 23,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said. “A little bit of us and a little bit of Arizona, but in a game like this, you’ve got to be able to make some of those.”
The Huskies were the last-place team no one wanted to face.
Picked third in the Pac-12 preseason poll, Washington failed to live up to expectations before starting to click the final two weeks of the regular season. The Huskies won three of their final four games, including a difficult road sweep of the Arizona schools.
Washington closed out the regular season with a 69-63 win at Arizona’s McKale Center.
Arizona struggled against Washington’s zone in that game, but was much more efficient against it in the first half of the Pac-12 tournament. Green had 12 points and the Wildcats led 35-30 at halftime despite no field goals in the final 6 1/2 minutes.
Arizona had all kinds of trouble with Stewart at the other end. The 6-foot-9 freshman repeatedly powered his way past the Wildcats, making all six of his shots while scoring 18 first-half points.
Arizona hit four of its first six shots to open the second half and shut down the Huskies to stretch the lead to 49-34. The Wildcats swarmed Stewart while holding Washington without a field goal until Jaden McDaniels hit a jumper at 13:28.
The Huskies whittled the the lead to seven with four minutes left and pulled within 71-66 with 58 seconds left, but Arizona hit six free throws down the stretch.
“We kept fighting when we got down the second half,” Hopkins said. “We pressed them, had a good, valiant effort and just came up a little bit short. I’ve got to credit Arizona for a really good game plan and a good game.”