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Zeke Nnaji stays perfect in Arizona’s win over New Mexico State

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Arizona Jacob Snow-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe Zeke Nnaji will never miss again?

The 6-foot-11 freshman had 19 points on 7-of-7 shooting, running his consecutive field goal streak to 17, as the Arizona Wildcats demolished New Mexico State 83-53 on Sunday afternoon at McKale Center.

“I always have confidence when I shoot the ball,” said Nnaji, who also made all five free throws. “I wouldn’t shoot it if I didn’t have confidence.”

Nnaji paced an offense that shot 52.6 percent overall and were 10 of 21 from three, averaging 1.24 points per possession. He was also huge on the defensive end as Arizona held NMSU to 32.7 percent shooting, forced 20 turnovers and blocked six shots.

Arizona’s school season record for field goal percentage is 66.7 percent, by Al Fleming in 1973-74. Nnaji is at 84.6 percent after four games.

Jemarl Baker Jr. scored 16 points off the bench, making 4 of 6 threes, and Nico Mannion added 15 points 5-of-7 shooting as the Wildcats (4-0) won by 20-plus for the fourth straight game on coach Sean Miller’s 51st birthday.

“We got contributions from a lot of players,” Miller said.

The last time Arizona won by 20 or more in four straight games: the 2012-13 season.

Arizona opened the game on a 10-0 run, keeping NMSU (2-2) off the scoreboard for the first 5:20 as the Aggies missed their first six shots. But as soon as the Wildcats started to sub NMSU found its footing, going on an 8-0 run (against five reserves) to trail 15-12 with 11:31 left.

“It’s important for us to come in and try to keep the flow,” Baker said. “It’s not always easy.”

Miller called a timeout and got some starters back in, and that resulted in a 10-2 run with Arizona making all five of its shots on one end and blocking two shots while forcing three turnovers on the other.

Mannion picked up his second foul with 7:25 left in the first half and then Chase Jeter was called for his third only 13 seconds later, but this time there wasn’t any dropoff with the reserves. Arizona outscored the Aggies 18-7 over the final 6:14, ending the half on an 11-0 run.

The Wildcats got the lead to 30 early in the second half and kept it there, never leading by fewer than 27 over the final 16:09. The only notable blemish in the second half came when Mannion was hit with a technical foul for taunting following a second made three-pointer in as many possessions.

“Nico has great confidence,” Miller said. “We want him to be like that. Obviously, we don’t want him to get a technical.”

Arizona returns to action Thursday night at McKale against South Dakota State, continuing a season-opening six-game homestand.