For much of this season, Arizona’s defense has been as impressive as its offense, if not more so.
But in their return to action on Monday night, the Wildcats’ ability to score almost at will might have kept it from a devastating upset.
Eighth-ranked Arizona (12-1, 2-0 Pac-12) shot 55 percent and hit 12 3-pointers—including six by Kerr Kriisa—to beat Washington 95-79 on Monday night at McKale, but it was arguably one of its worst performances of the Tommy Lloyd era.
Washington (5-6, 0-1) had 16 second-chance points and scored 25 points off 21 Arizona turnovers, keeping the conference’s lowest-rated team within striking distance for nearly the entire night. The Huskies tied the Wildcats 40-40 in the paint, while former UA guard Terrell Brown Jr.—the first ex-Wildcat to play in McKale since Laval Lucas-Perry with Oakland in 2011—had 28 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Brown was 10 of 22 from the field, making 8 of 11 shots in the first half before the UA clamped down on him in the second half.
Bennedict Mathurin had 27 points, Christian Koloko matched his career high with 22 points and 10 rebounds and Kriisa had a career-high 21, giving Arizona three players with 20 or more in the same game since 2009. That trio was 24 of 39 from the field, while Dalen Terry came two assists short of a triple double with 13 points and 11 rebounds as the Wildcats assisted on 28 of 33 field goals.
The 28 assists were the most for UA in a conference game since 2004.
Arizona shot 60.9 percent in the first half but only led 49-41 as Washington scored 17 points off 10 UA turnovers. The Wildcats twice extended the edge to 13 in the first seven minutes of the second half but the Huskies kept hanging around thanks to second-chance points and scores off UA miscues.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Washington’s Emmitt Matthews Jr. cut Arizona’s lead to 72-67 with 7:48 left, but Arizona scored 19 of the next 24 points to put the game away. That run included Kriisa’s sixth triple as well as dunks by Koloko and Terry.
Washington, which shot 41.3 percent, missed 15 of its final 21 shots.
Arizona made its first six shots, scoring on eight of its first 11 possessions with the only empty trips because of turnovers. Kriisa and Terry each hit a pair of 3-pointers early, while Koloko had nine points in the first seven minutes of play.
The UA heads to Tempe to take on ASU (5-8, 1-2) on Saturday. The Wildcats have won three of the last four against the Sun Devils.