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Arizona cruises to late-night win over Washington State

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at Arizona Rebecca Sasnett-USA TODAY Sports

An already late start time to Thursday night’s game was pushed back further when the contest airing before Arizona and Washington State on FOX Sports 1 went to overtime.

Good thing Arizona’s defense had loaded up on energy drinks during the pregame warm up.

The Wildcats held WSU to 31.7 percent shooting and held its high-scoring guards in check in a 69-53 win at McKale Center.

Arizona (16-8, 10-8 Pac-12) shook off a sluggish first half to shoot 54.5 percent in the second half and 50 percent for the game, getting 19 points from James Akinjo and 14 from Bennedict Mathurin (on 5-of-7 shooting), while Azuolas Tubelis had 9 points and 9 rebounds and Terrell Brown Jr. added seven points, five rebounds, eight assists and four blocks in his first start since Feb. 6.

Brown started in place of Kerr Kriisa, who missed the game with a groin injury.

Washington State (14-11, 7-11) went 7 of 28 from 3-point range after making 25 triples in home wins over Cal and Stanford. Noah Williams, who had 40 against the Cardinal in triple overtime on Saturday to win Pac-12 Player of the Week honors, was 2 for 15 from the field while Isaac Bonton had just three points in his return from an ankle injury.

The only thing Arizona struggled with on defense was rebounding. WSU pulled down 16 offensive boards, the most of any opponent this season, yet only converted those second chances into 12 points.

The Wildcats led 28-24 at the break, holding the Cougars to 29.4 percent shooting in the first half. A 6-0 run got Wazzu within 31-30 with 16:57 left before Arizona went on a 10-2 run to lead 41-32 with 13:32 to go, with half those points coming from the line as the UA got into the bonus early.

A 3-pointer by Akinjo, followed by an Akinjo free throw after WSU coach Kyle Smith was hit with a technical, put the UA ahead 47-35 with 12:01 to go.

The Cougars got within 60-48 with 4:50 left before the Wildcats closed the door with six straight points, a transition dunk from Dalen Terry capping the run. Terry had eight points, his best output since scoring 10 against Stanford on Jan. 28.

Arizona went scoreless for more than three minutes midway through the first half, allowing WSU to take a 19-16 lead on a 3-pointer by TJ Bamba. The Cougars got up by four before Arizona ended the first half on a 10-2 run, with transition baskets by Akinjo and Terry building the 4-point halftime edge.

It’s a super quick turnaround to Arizona’s next game, which is Saturday at 12 p.m. MST vs. Washington. Former Wildcat greats Al Fleming and Ernie McCray will be inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime.