After Washington's Pac-10 semifinal win last night, guard Isaiah Thomas spoke of today's championship game as a chance for revenge against Arizona and a second opportunity to win a conference championship.
The Huskies, the preseason favorites that finished third, desperately want to prove themselves going into the NCAA tournament by defending their Pac-10 tournament title and taking it to the Wildcats after splitting the season series.
With reserve guard Venoy Overton suspended for the entire tournament, it's been Thomas who has played 78 minutes over the past two days and taken it upon himself to get the job done.
"He was going as if he hadn't played any minutes, as if he was fresh," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "He's just doing a great job of leading this team."
Will Washington have enough depth to beat Arizona? Thomas had 10 points and 12 assists, but struggled in going 2-of-11 from the field against Oregon, so he'll need help. The Huskies have also adjusted their lineups depending on the matchup, most recently starting guards C.J. Wilcox and freshman Terrence Ross alongside Thomas.
A game against a deep Arizona team might not be the best matchup for Washington while it runs on fumes. Derrick Williams is coming off another big game, and the Wildcats have begun starting Kevin Parrom while getting good production from Jamelle Horne and freshman Jordin Mayes off the bench against USC.
And Arizona coming off its regular-season title is no less motivated for this game.
"We came here trying to separate our regular-season championship and pursue a quest for the conference tournament championship," coach Sean Miller said. "You have that postseason now, and these guys understand that from this point forward after a lot of hard work and a great regular season that when you lose, you go home."