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Arizona’s offense shines in win over Cincinnati to open Maui Invitational

arizona-wildcats-college-basketball-cincinnati-bearcats-maui-invitational-recap-highlights-stats Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

Arizona was hardly tested in its first three games, its own mistakes the only reason the final margins weren’t larger. The trip to the Maui Invitational would mean a huge step up in competition, and thus give a better glimpse into how good this team could be.

One game in, things still look pretty good.

Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo dominated inside, while the transfer duo of Cedric Henderson Jr. and Courtney Ramey combined for 31 points with a mix of drives and perimeter shots as the 14th-ranked Wildcats shook off a slow start to run past Cincinnati 101-93 on Monday night in Lahaina, Hawaii.

The UA (4-0) will take on No. 17 San Diego State, an 88-77 winner over Ohio State, in the Maui semifinals at 8:30 p.m. MT Tuesday.

Arizona shot 62.3 percent, hitting 79.3 percent of its shots in the second half including the first 12 en route to 61 points after halftime. Tubelis had 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting, adding 11 rebounds, while Ballo had 20 on 8-of-11 shooting with 10 boards.

Per Pac-12 researcher Greg Mroz, it’s the first time Arizona has had a pair of 20/10 guys in the same game since Channing Frye and Luke Walton in 2003.

Ramey, making his UA debut after sitting out the first three games, scored 17 points off the bench with three 3-pointers, and Henderson was 6 of 7 from the field for 14 points off the bench. Kerr Kriisa added 11 with three more triples and seven assists.

After turning it over 62 times in the first three games, Arizona turned it over just 10 times. Cincinnati (3-2) converted those miscues into 18 points, mostly via perimeter shooting. The Bearcats, who shot 62.9 percent from the field in the second half after shooting 31.4 percent in the first half, made 17 3s.

Nine of those were from Landers Nolley II, who had a career-high 33 and was 12 of 18 overall.

Arizona led 40-30 at the break, going scoreless the final 2:59 of the first half after building a 16-point lead. Cincinnati got within seven in the first minute of the second half, but Tubelis then scored inside on four consecutive possessions—including a full-court pass from Kriisa—to make it 50-35 with 17:41 to go.

The Bearcats got within 62-55 with 12:52 left on Nolley’s sixth 3, but Tubelis ran behind the defense to record his 900th career point and Henderson dunked in transition to get it back to double digits. A 7-0 run upped the lead to 75-59 with 9:37 remaining.

Cincinnati again cut the deficit to 81-74 on a 3 by Mika Adams-Woods with 5:17 to go, but Ballo dunked quickly on the other end and then Ramey blew past Jeremiah Davenport, fouling him out. A 3 by Henderson, followed by five straight points from Ramey made it 93-77 with 3:23 remaining.

Ramey ended up scoring 10 straight down the stretch, along the way picking up a technical after he and Cincinnati’s David DeJulius got in a shoving match during a TV timeout with 3:19 to go.

The UA was up 18 with 1:34 left before Cincinnati scored the game’s final 10 points, covering the 9.5-point spread.

The Wildcats started the game cold, missing their first five shots with three of them getting blocked, but then hit seven of their next 10 to lead 16-13.

A 14-2 run extended the edge to 40-24 with 2:59 left in the first half, a run that saw Tubelis score six straight points including two on this coast-to-coast play.

The UA made 15 of 24 shots in between its cold start and an 0-3 finish to the half, turning it over just four times in the opening 20 minutes.

Arizona has scored 100 or more three times in four games, though its season scoring averaged dropped to 104.3.