On a night when its defense couldn’t get a key stop when it needed one, the last thing the Arizona Wildcats could afford was offensive inefficiency.
A pair of six-minute field goal droughts, each coming late in a half, contributed to Arizona posting a season low in points in a 73-64 loss to Stanford on Thursday night at McKale Center.
Despite missing three starters from their previous win over the Wildcats in December, the Cardinal (10-5, 6-3) won in Tucson for the first time since 2008 by shooting 49 percent while forcing the UA into a season-high 18 turnovers.
Up 57-52 with 7:35 remaining, Arizona (12-4, 6-4) was outscored 21-7 down the stretch for its third home loss of the season.
James Akinjo led the Wildcats with 17 points (on 16 shots) and six assists, while Terrell Brown Jr. had 13 points, five rebounds and four assists. Dalen Terry and Bennedict Mathurin had 10 apiece, with Mathurin playing 26 minutes off the bench after injuring his right ankle late in the first half against ASU on Monday.
Arizona shot 41.5 percent overall and 39.3 percent in the second half, missing 10 of its final 12 shots.
Stanford led 33-29 at the half, turning nine UA turnovers into nine points. Arizona tied it at 35 and had a chance to go back ahead but Azuolas Tubelis was off on a 3-pointer, and not long after the Cardinal were able to build a 42-37 lead on a Spencer Jones 3.
Arizona tied it again at 42 on Akinjo’s third 3-pointer, with 13:12 left, only to see Stanford score on consecutive possessions with a Wildcat turnover sprinkled in.
But then the Wildcats finally put something together, going on a 9-0 run to lead 51-46 with 9:46 left on a Terry 3-pointer. The first six points of the run were scored by Mathurin on a triple and three foul shots.
Stanford retook the lead with a 6-0 run only to see Arizona match that spurt, but with more flair. Terry hit a corner 3 off a drive and feed from Mathurin, then after a Cardinal turnover Akinjo drove to the rim and then passed behind his back to Terrell Brown right in front of the UA bench for a swished triple and a 57-52 lead with 7:35 left.
And just like that the Cardinal retook the lead with an 8-0 run to go up 60-57 with 5:15 remaining. Another 7-0 run put them ahead 67-59 with 1:30 to go as Arizona went 6:13 without a field goal.
The Wildcats got as close as 67-62 with 48.2 seconds left but couldn’t get another stop as Stanford shot 54.2 percent in the second half.
Akinjo had the hot hand early, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the first 1:41 as Arizona led by as many as five in the first half. But turnovers kept the Wildcats from padding that lead and ultimately led to them losing it, as their seventh giveaway was converted into a Jaiden Delaire drive that put the Cardinal up 21-19 with 6:58 left.
Delaire led the Cardinal with 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while Oscar da Silva added 17 points.
Arizona went nearly six minutes without a field goal, building a 7-point lead until Akinjo hit a long 2 to spark a 6-0 run and get within 29-28.
Arizona hosts Cal on Saturday afternoon in the final game of a 3-game homestand before heading to the Rocky Mountain schools.