After listening to coach Sean Miller incessantly preach defense, Arizona took his message to heart its last time out.
The Wildcats, though, haven't been able to slow down Washington of late.
No. 8 Arizona kicks off what Miller believes could be a difficult two-game road stretch Thursday night hoping to avoid a fourth straight loss to the slumping Huskies.
Two nights after giving up their most points this season in an 84-73 loss to UCLA, the Wildcats (17-2, 5-2 Pac-12) made sure to clamp down Saturday in a 74-50 rout of USC. Sophomore Nick Johnson scored 14 to lead four players in double figures for Arizona, which posted a season-best 28.1 opponent field-goal percentage.
The suffocating defense helped the Wildcats build a lead of 34, which allowed Miller to give leading scorer Mark Lyons some extended rest. The senior scored nine in 25 minutes after averaging 18.8 points in 34 minutes in his first six conference games.
"Once in a while when you lose, all of a sudden it's really the focus," Miller said, "not just for me or our staff, but for everybody. That's why it's so difficult to win every game, and when you lose, what you hope is you learn from it. You're able to move forward, kind of refocus yourself on the things that make you a good team, or more important, maybe some things that we really had to get better at."
The Wildcats now look for their momentum to carry over against a Washington team that's taken five of six in this series. The Huskies (12-8, 4-3) are also averaging 80.6 points during a five-game winning streak over Arizona on their own court.
"We have a really big road trip coming up at both of the Washington schools - places where we have not won in recent times," said Miller, whose team visits Washington State on Saturday. "Being in Seattle always makes it a difficult game."
Washington yielded 56.0 points per game in opening 4-0 in conference play but has since surrendered an average of 76.3 during a season-worst three-game slide. The first two defeats of the skid came against Utah and Oregon State, neither of which had a conference victory before beating Washington.
The Huskies gave up their highest point total of the season Saturday in an 81-76 loss at then-No. 16 Oregon, allowing the conference-leading Ducks to shoot 57.8 percent.
Washington, though, kept things close by shooting 51.9 percent and forcing a season-best 23 turnovers - six more than its previous high. Freshman Andrew Andrews had 15 points off the bench while C.J. Wilcox, averaging 19.0 to rank second in the league, added 14.
"I am really proud of our effort, of how we stayed with it. We didn't quit," coach Lorenzo Romar told the school's official website. "We did a good job coming out being ready to play. ... If we bring that focus and effort we'll be on the positive side more than not."
While things haven't gone their way of late, the Huskies know beating the Wildcats could help get their season turned around.
"We need a good quality win, especially at home," Wilcox said. "We need to get this done now."
If they don't, the Huskies will be entrenched in their first four-game losing streak since 2008.
Washington has dropped nine of its last 10 against Top 25 opponents, but all of those games came away from home. It has won four straight over ranked teams on its own court, most recently beating then-No. 19 Texas A&M in December 2009.
"We need to play at our highest level," Romar said, "and we need the crowd to be at its highest level. And I know what that highest level is like."
Copyright 2013 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press.
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