Arizona basketball has consistently been ranked in the top 10 this season, but the Wildcats were bested by Washington State for a second time this year on Thursday. The loss drops Arizona to second in the Pac-12 standings with five games left.

It's the first time Washington State swept Arizona in the regular season series between both programs since the 2009-10 season. The Cougars defeated the Wildcats at the McKale Center for the second consecutive season having beaten Arizona 74-61 in January 2023.

Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd applauded the opposition on Thursday.

“Obviously we had opportunities but they've been really good in close games all year,” Lloyd said per Bruce Pascoe. “They’re a team on a roll right now and they were able to find a way. They made a bunch of clutch, big-time plays down the stretch.”

Indeed Washington State has been in a lot of close games this season. The Cougars are 9-4 in games deciding by single digits. They have five such wins during this current eight-game win streak. Both wins over Arizona this season were by three points.

Washington State is now 12-4 in conference play and has a half-game lead over Arizona for the Pac-12 regular season title. Both teams will find themselves in the NCAA tournament, but a conference title might be what separates Arizona from a one-seed, barring a losing streak.

Defending their crown

Arizona Wildcats head coach Tommy Lloyd against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Hall of Fame Series at Footprint Center
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona basketball captured the Pac-12 tournament championship in each of the last two seasons. They're favored to win it again this year, but the Wildcats are vulnerable and might not have the mental edge over Washington State were the two sides to meet again.

Still, Tommy Lloyd's group is built for March. Don’t be surprised if Arizona bounces back with a big win over Washington on Saturday to set the Wildcats up for the stretch run.

“We’re a good team. I believe in these guys,” Lloyd said. “We just lost to another good team that's on a roll right now. I don't think it’s anything more than that, and we have an obligation to try to come out and play really well on Saturday.

“That's our job. No one's gonna feel sorry for us. I certainly don’t.”

Thursday's loss to Washington State was Arizona's third home loss under Lloyd. The Wildcats are 45-3 at home in Lloyd's three seasons. All three losses were to Pac-12 foes.

Arizona will try to quickly brush off this unexpected loss and try to find some momentum heading into the postseason. Three of its remaining five games are against opponents with a losing conference record. The Wildcats could secure five more wins before the Pac-12 tournament and be one of the hottest teams in the country at the right time.

Every top team has stumbled a bit this season. Every top 10 team has at least three losses and seven of the 10 have five or more. Arizona basketball is one of those teams with five or more (6) but the losing could be over for the Wildcats, at least until the NCAA tournament when it's a potential one-and-done for every team.