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Bench fuels Arizona men’s basketball in home win over Colorado

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-recap-colorado-buffaloes-covid-pac12-2022-highlights-stats Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

Arizona’s starting five can go toe-to-toe with any team in the country. But it’s nice when the backups get involved as well.

Following a season-low 3 points against Washington, the reserves outscored Colorado’s starters as No. 6 Arizona beat the Buffaloes 76-55 on Thursday night at McKale Center.

Sixth-year guard Justin Kier had a UA-best 14 points including three 3-pointers while Pelle Larsson had 12 points and two 3s. Both also helped a defensive effort that limited Colorado to a season-low 32.8 percent shooting.

Playing its first game in 10 days and second in 22, Arizona (13-1, 3-0 Pac-12) shot 56.7 percent in the second half and 50.9 percent for the game. Azuolas Tubelis had 14 points and eight rebounds, Bennedict Mathurin had 13 and Kerr Kriisa had a career-high 10 assists.

The only blemish was the Wildcats’ performance at the foul line. They were 11 of 19 overall including 7 of 14 in the second half.

Colorado (11-4, 3-2) was led by freshman guard KJ Simpson, who signed with the UA last year but changed his mind after Sean Miller was fired in April. Simpson had a career-high 17 points, but after going for 14 in the first half he was 1 of 4 in the second half.

Arizona led 32-28 at the half, getting outscored 18-7 over the final six minutes of the first half, but six minutes into the second half the margin was up to 49-34, forcing Colorado to call timeout. Tubelis had six consecutive points during one stretch, then Arizona had a 7-0 run capped by a Dalen Terry basket off a no-look pass from Kriisa.

The Buffaloes would get as close as 53-43 with 10:50 left but Arizona responded with a 17-3 run.

Colorado didn’t make its first field goal until nearly six minutes into the game and started 4 of 21 from the field as Arizona built a 25-10 lead. That included a 14-4 UA run that saw Kier drain a 3-pointer from the Lute Olson signature to beat the shot clock and hit an and-one.

But the Buffaloes owned the rest of the opening half, using a 7-0 run to get within 27-21 with 3:41 to go and trailing by only four at the break thanks to two Evan Battey free throws with less than a second remaining.

Arizona hosts Utah (8-8, 1-5) at 6 p.m. MT Saturday before going out on what’s now scheduled to be a 3-game road trip to Stanford, Cal and USC.