The Arizona Wildcats were on the verge of going three-straight seasons without dropping a non-conference regular season game, but the UNLV Runnin' Rebels were having none of that, scraping out a hard-fought 71-67 win over the nation's No. 3 team.
UNLV did it on the glass, out-rebounding Arizona 46-33 on Tuesday night, including a 14-7 edge in offensive rebounds. That led to 19 second-chance points for the Rebels. The Wildcats managed only eight such points.
That's 39-consecutive non-con regular season wins that Arizona had coming in, but after Rondae Hollis-Jefferson fouled out with over seven minutes left in the game, the Wildcats defense suffered as Brandon Ashley had no shot at guarding Christian Wood. Wood finished the night with 24 points and ten rebounds.
Another guy who finished the night with a double-double was Stanley Johnson (13 points, 13 rebounds), but when he had a chance to put Arizona up one in the final seconds, he missed a layup as he was driving at a UNLV defender.
At half, T.J. McConnell of all guys led Arizona with ten points, with Gabe York right behind at nine. McConnell ended up leading all Arizona players with 14 points. Five Wildcats finished in double-figures, which I think any Arizona fan would take and assume a win was attached to it.
But not with the overall lack of defensive effort inside from U of A.
Hollis-Jefferson got into early foul trouble, picking up his third foul with about two minutes before the break. During the halftime interview, Sean Miller called it the worst 20 minutes that Arizona had played this season. "Manhandled" was one word he used to describe it, which is exactly what it was.
UNLV only had three more total rebounds than the Wildcats at half, but that difference was due to the offensive rebounding, which led to 12 second-chance points for the Rebels. Arizona had five. Four blocks for UNLV at half as well compared to the Wildcats' one, which was a great hustle play by Hollis-Jefferson.
This loss leaves just eight undefeated teams in Division I. The Wildcats have plenty of time to shake off this loss and work out the kinks as the next game isn't for nearly two weeks. Arizona State comes to Tucson on January 4th.
Zeus: Kaleb Tarczewski apparently has the strongest thumbs in the game according to Doug Gottlieb, but those thumbs were not seeing the ball as often as they should have. Yes he was in foul trouble, but you have to get him more touches under the basket in this type of game.
Court storming: Uh, it happened again. It's an honor I guess, but that's a lot of regular season losses in a row where the court was stormed afterwards.
Free throw shooting: Sean Miller keeps insisting that this team is a good free throw shooting team on all days that aren't game days. But another lackluster performance at the charity stripe (16-27) leaves a lot to be desired.