TUCSON, Ariz. – 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.
Now the Wildcats and Huskies will face off in a Pac-12 Tournament opener at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in Las Vegas.
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 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.”
Last call: Five freshmen may have played their final regular-season college game. 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.
No suspense: Arizona entered the day with a chance to 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 canceled 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.
Hard contact: 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.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.