Arizona has lost just seven times in the Tommy Lloyd era, and it still requires losing to the same opponent twice in a row.
The Wildcats overcame sloppy first-half ballhandling and an ongoing offensive drought for much of the second half, but never fell behind in a 63-58 win at Washington State on Thursday night, retaliating for their 13 points -Loss at home to the Cougars on January 1st. 7.
Sixth-seeded Arizona (18-3, 7-3 Pac-12) improved to 4-0 under Lloyd as he faced a team they lost to last time out. It also moved within a game of UCLA, which lost at USC earlier Thursday, for first place in the conference.
Azuolas Tubelis had his ninth double-double of the season and sixth in his last seven games with 18 points and 12 rebounds Kerr Kriisa had 15 points thanks to 5 out of 10 shooting from 3 point range and Pele Larson had 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists off the bench.
Arizona shot 44.8 percent and was 8 of 22 of 3, doubling its three-pointers made from the previous WSU game but taking a season-low six free throws and making just three. The Wildcats also turned it over 16 times, 11 in the first half, but WSU converted those giveaways into just eight points while the UA made 17 of 14 WSU turnovers.
The Cougars (9-13, 4-7) were held at 32.8 shooting percent and were 4 of 17 of 3 after making 12 three-pointers at the McKale Center. And after scoring 22 second-chance points in the previous matchup, WSU only had six.
Arizona led 36-32 at halftime, having led by as much as 12. The Wildcats were stone cold early in the second half, missing 5 of their first 6 shots, but the WSU were just as cold on 1 of 10 and came up empty handed from three chances to equal or take the lead before the first media timeout.
The combined goals in the second half didn’t reach double digits until the 11:15 mark Larsson drove the baseline away from a turnover to give UA a 42-36 advantage.
The Cougars hit their second 3 (in 14 attempts) and a Mohammed Guyeye Ride brought them to within a point only to see Larsson dive off the baseline 10 seconds later as the scoring pace finally picked up. This dunk started a 10-3 run in Arizona in which he made 5 of 7 shots Kylan Boswells Drive leading 52-44 with 6:10 remaining.
Kriisa’s fourth triple made it a 10-point game, and his fifth put the Wildcats 60-51 with 2:14 to go. But he was also called out for a blatant foul TJ Bamba After the fact, WSU gave two free throws and the ball, although the Cougars turned it over after Bamba took the foul shots.
A 3 of Courtney Ramey (who dealt with foul trouble was 1 of 8 overall and 0 for 4 from outside) with 55 seconds to ice it.
WSU trainer KyleSmith was forced to call a timeout 71 seconds into the game after Arizona took a 6-0 lead. The Cougars cut the deficit to one less than a minute later, but the Wildcats went on a 10-2 run to build a cushion they would keep the whole half.
A 3 of Boswell made it 21-9 in under nine minutes, and Arizona was 26-16 with 7:52 before halftime after Kriisa’s third 3 in as many tries. But UA only made three shots in the last 7+ minutes as their turnovers piled up and WSU lost the advantage.
Arizona returns to action Saturday afternoon in Washington, which defeated ASU 69-66 in overtime. The Wildcats had to recover from a 14th place finish in the first half to beat the Huskies 70-67 at home on Jan. 5.