With the Arizona Wildcats announcing earlier this week they had banned themselves from the postseason, there was uncertainty about how the players would react with much less to play for.
Those worries were for naught, at least for one game.
Arizona led from wire to wire against struggling Washington, rolling to a 80-53 win over the Huskies on Thursday night. It was the Wildcats’ biggest margin of victory in Seattle since a 39-point beatdown in 1987.
The UA (8-1, 2-1 Pac-12) used a balanced scoring attack and solid defense to win their 130th conference game of the decade, 10 more than any other team in the league. With no Pac-12 or NCAA tournament possible, a first conference title since 2018 is the top goal left.
Arizona had four players score in double figures, with freshman Ben Mathurin 13 points off the bench the top output. Jordan Brown had 12 points and 7 rebounds, Azuolas Tubelis had 10 points and 10 boards and Terrell Brown Jr. added 10 in his return to Seattle.
The UA only shot 42 percent but made up for it with a dominant 58-30 rebounding edge, turning 19 offensive boards into 19 second-chance points. Washington (1-7, 0-3) shot 31.3 percent overall, just 26.7 percent in the second half, and made only 6 of 31 3-point attempts.
The Wildcats led 42-28 at halftime, building that to a 54-30 edge with 13:35 left thanks to a 10-0 run. The edge remained over 20 or more the rest of the way.
Arizona hit five of its first seven shots, including a pair of Jemarl Baker Jr. 3-pointers, but then missed seven of eight. The cold streak didn’t matter, though, because Washington started 3 of 15 from the field.
The Huskies didn’t score consecutive baskets until the 10-minute mark of the first half, getting within 19-13, only to see Arizona score six points in a row.
Washington couldn’t get closer than eight after that, with Arizona using a 7-0 run to make it 36-21 with 3:59 left in the first half. The run was highlighted by a sequence where 7-foot-1 Christian Koloko swatted 7-4 Washington center Riley Sorn’s shot from behind, leading to James Akinjo draining a three in transition off a pass from Tubelis.
You don't see many 6-foot-11 forwards handle the ball the way Azuolas Tubelis just did.— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) January 1, 2021
Impressive play by the freshman (and obviously a nice shot by James Akinjo too). pic.twitter.com/SgSPWgh1zc
Arizona turned the ball over just 10 times, giving them only 25 giveaways during their 3-game win streak.
The UA finishes up the Washington trip with a Saturday night visit to Washington State, which at 8-0 is the only unbeaten team left in the Pac-12.