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Defense, foul shooting lead Arizona to road win at UConn

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arizona-wildcats-uconn-huskies-college-basketball-recap David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Can’t win if you don’t make shots, right? That depends on what kind of shots you mean.

The Arizona Wildcats (6-2) pulled off a 76-72 road win against the UConn Huskies on Sunday afternoon despite not making a field goal in the final 6:43 of the second half. They managed that by making 12 of 13 free throws in the final 2:13, finishing the game 19 of 22 from the line.

Brandon Randolph was 7 for 7 from the line in that late stretch, making up for a 5-for-15 performance from the field. Randolph only attempted two field goals in the second half, making both, scoring 14 of his team-high 20 points after halftime.

Chase Jeter had 14 points and seven rebounds and Arizona’s bench once again came through, scoring 24 points with 10 apiece from Ryan Luther and Dylan Smith.

Arizona shot only 38.5 percent in the second half but UConn (6-2) couldn’t capitalize because of 19 turnovers. The Wildcats led for the final 27 minutes, though never by more than eight.

Arizona led 62-54 with 8:06 left after Brandon Williams faked out multiple UConn defenders on a drive and then blocked a shot on the other end to kickstart a Randolph Eurostep layup.

But after Smith hit a layup with 6:43 left, giving the Wildcats a 64-57 edge, they went more than four minutes without scoring. Randolph ended the drought with a pair of free throws, but UConn’s Tyler Polley hit a three on the other end to get the Huskies within 66-64 with two minutes to go.

Randolph was then fouled on a three-point attempt late in the shot clock and responded by hitting all three foul shots. Polley hit another three with 1:09 left to keep within three at 69-67.

Luther made a pair of free throws with 43.9 seconds left to make it 71-67, then UConn’s Christian Vital hit a pair of foul shots on the other end.

Luther made 1 of 2 from the line with 25.2 seconds to go for a three-point lead, then Jeter picked up his fifth foul with 14.3 seconds left on a drive by Jalen Adams that nearly went in. Adams missed the first, made the second and then Randolph hit a pair of free throws with 13.7 seconds remaining.

Adams hit a layup with 8.1 seconds remaining but Williams made a pair of foul shots with 4.5 seconds to go to cinch a quality true road victory.

The Wildcats led 42-38 at halftime, shooting 51.5 percent, but UConn shot 53.3 percent. Ten Husky turnovers (to five for Arizona) were the difference in the opening 20 minutes.

Arizona led for the first 10-plus minutes, leading by as many as six points, before UConn’s frenetic pace began to produce. The Huskies used an 8-0 run to go up 22-20 with 9:19 left.

The Wildcats and Huskies then traded leads (with numerous ties along the way) for three minutes before steals by Justin Coleman and Smith fueled baskets on the other end and then Emmanuel Akot dunked off a feed from Luther to put Arizona up 32-27 with 5:24 left.

Back-to-back threes by Smith—who had been 2 for 16 from outside in the previous five games—upped Arizona’s lead to 40-33 with 3:24 to go.

Arizona returns to action Thursday at home against Utah Valley before going back on the road to play Alabama.