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Arizona men’s basketball destroys Wyoming in battle of unbeatens

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A battle of unbeatens resulted in a beatdown, one that’s becoming very familiar for Arizona’s opponents this season.

No. 11 Arizona overwhelmed Wyoming from the opening tip, blitzing its way to a 94-65 victory on Wednesday night.

A lively McKale Center crowd, which included a sizable faction of the New York Giants who used the UA’s football practice facility earlier in the day, saw the Wildcats (8-0) built a 10-point lead before the first TV timeout and never let up in sending the Cowboys (8-1) to their first defeat of the year.

Bennedict Mathurin had 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, while Kerr Kriisa and Christian Koloko had 17 apiece, with Kerr tying his career high and draining a career-best five 3-pointers to go with five assists.

Arizona, the nation’s leader in assists per game, hit its season average with 23 dimes while shooting 52.8 percent from the field and 39.3 percent (11 of 28) from 3-point range.

The UA played without junior forward Kim Aiken Jr., who missed the game due to personal reasons, but his absence was never felt even as Christian Koloko went scoreless in the first half and both Kriisa and Pelle Larsson spending time in the locker room with lower leg injuries.

Wyoming’s strategy to pack the paint and force Arizona to shoot 3s backfired almost instantly, with the Wildcats hitting four before the first media timeout. They made 5 of their first 6, three by Kriisa, but after making the third with 13:21 left in the first half he came up hobbling and went to the locker room before returning to action with 7:16 to go before halftime.

The Cowboys switched to a variety of zone defenses in hopes of stopping the assault from deep, but all that did was open things up for Mathurin to start slashing to the basket.

The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week dunked on back-to-back possessions, the second on a lob from Dalen Terry, to make it 43-20 with 3:56 left in the first half. Terry finished with seven points, six assists, five rebounds and five steals.

The UA led 53-22 at the half thanks to 57 percent shooting. Wyoming hit 5 of its first 8 3s in the second half, four by Phoenix-area product Xavier DuSell, to get within 72-45 with 12:08 left, and a 5-0 Cowboys run cut the margin to 24 before Kriisa hit his fifth 3.

DuSell finished with 22 points, making 6 of 12 3s, while the rest of Wyoming shot below 40 percent from the field and 2 of 13 from 3.

Arizona hits the road again for a Saturday trip to Illinois, which is 7-2 and has won five in a row.