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No. 2 Arizona falls to SMU, 66-60, for second straight loss

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The Wildcats probably can’t wait to go home

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Arizona vs SMU Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats probably can’t wait to get back to the mainland.

No. 2 Arizona dropped its second game in as many days in the Bahamas on Thursday, falling 66-60 to the SMU Mustangs in the Battle 4 Atlantis consolation round.

The Wildcats fall to 3-2 on the season, losing consecutive non-conference games for the first time since November of the 2011-12 season.

Deandre Ayton recorded his fifth double-double with 17 points and 15 rebounds and Allonzo Trier had 22 points, five rebounds, and three assists, but also had five turnovers, a few of which were committed down the final stretch of the game.

Arizona trailed 51-40 with 13:17 left, but rallied with a 13-0 run led exclusively by Ayton and Trier to take a 53-51 lead with 8:37 to play.

Arizona’s offense went cold down the stretch, scoring just seven points in the next seven minutes, while the Mustangs lived at the free throw line.

Two free throws by Shake Milton put SMU up 64-57, then Trier answered with a deep 3 with 57 seconds left to move Arizona within four. The Wildcats opted not to foul on SMU’s ensuing possession and forced a miss by Milton, but Trier fired again from 3 and it was off the mark.

Trier was 8-16 from the field, 3-9 from 3, and 3-6 from the free throw line. Ayton and Trier were nearly Arizona’s only source of offense in the second half, accounting for 25 of UA’s 29 points.

Dusan Ristic was Arizona’s next highest scorer with six points, but he played just one minute in the second half after struggling defensively.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Dylan Smith, and Ira Lee each added five points.

Emmanuel Akot and Keanu Pinder each played over 20 minutes, but went scoreless. Brandon Randolph and Alex Barcello went scoreless, too, though they played under 10 minutes.

In other words, it was certainly not a balanced effort for Arizona, which shot 47 percent from the field.

Arizona’s defense held SMU to 31 percent shooting, showing major improvement from Wednesday’s 90-84 loss to NC State, but the Wildcats were marred by turnovers and offensive rebounds.

Arizona had 20 turnovers to 11 assists, and surrendered 20 offensive rebounds to the Mustangs. SMU had 19 points off turnovers and 14 second-chance points. SMU also had success with the long ball, draining eight of its 22 3-point attempts, and only turned it over eight times.

Arizona led by as many as 10 in the first half, but only held a 31-30 lead at the break.

Back-to-back buckets by Ristic put Arizona up 21-12 with 10:31 left, then UA’s offense went cold, missing 10 of its next 13 shots.

SMU only shot 30 percent in the first half, but 12 offensive rebounds led to nine points, while nine UA turnovers led to 12 points.

Ben Emelogu, who finished with 20 points, had 14 points in the first half on 5-9 shooting. The rest of the Mustangs were 7-31 from the field.

A free throw by Ayton gave Arizona a 15-5 lead with 14:33 left in the half, but SMU countered with a 17-6 run capped by a jumper by Jimmy Whitt to take a 22-21 lead, its first of the game.

SMU struggled from the field as a whole, but did sink four 3s in the half. Emelogu made three of them.

The Wildcats finished just 5-20 from 3 after shooting 2-17 from distance against NC State. They also made just 11 of their 19 free throws.

That poor shooting along with turnovers and forfeited second-chance points proved to be too much to overcome, despite a strong defensive effort.

Arizona will face No. 18 Purdue at 7:30 p.m. MST on Friday for seventh place in Battle 4 Atlantis. The game will be streamed on ESPN3.

Arizona has not lost three games in a row since 2009-10.


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire