When it doesn’t turn the ball over, Arizona is nearly unstoppable. And as long as it doesn’t stop itself, it doesn’t look like anyone else in the Pac-12 is going to anytime soon.
The fourth-ranked Wildcats turned a 4-point lead into a 22-point advantage over a 7-minute span in the second half, picking apart Washington State’s conference-leading defense in a 72-60 win on Thursday night.
Arizona (21-2, 11-1 Pac-12) shot 49.1 percent for the game and 55.2 percent in the second half, including a 13-of-15 effort during which it outscored the Cougars 29-12. The Wildcats also went of 19 from 3, with three of those from Bennedict Mathurin, who had 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting.
Azuolas Tubelis had 15, Oumar Ballo added 10 and Christian Koloko had 6 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks to move into sixth on the UA single-season list with 71. Dalen Terry added a career-high 12 rebounds, including four of the Wildcats’ 10 offensive boards as they won the rebounding battle 46-31.
The win tied Tommy Lloyd with Russ Pennell for most victories by a UA coach in his first season. Pennell went 21-14 in 2008-09 when he took over just before the season following Lute Olson’s retirement.
Three days after turning it over 20 times at ASU, the UA gave it away 18 times and Washington State (14-8, 7-4) converted those miscues into 24 points. But the Cougars only scored on 15 of their other 53 possessions, shooting just 34.2 percent for the game.
Arizona, meanwhile, scored on 32 of 49 possessions that didn’t result in a turnover. For the season it is scoring on more than 66 percent of possessions where it doesn’t give it away.
The UA led 33-20 at the half but was up 17 with 90 seconds left before the break. Wazzu, which shot 28.5 percent in the first half and was 0 for 12 from 3, started the second half 6 of 9 and drained three 3s to get within 39-35 with 15:11 left.
The Wildcats scored 12 of the next 14 points to get back up 14, making seven consecutive shots at one points after starting the second half 1 of 7. A 10-0 run that included five points each from Mathurin and Justin Kier made it 64-42 with 7:51 left.
Wazzu got 12 of its first 14 points off eight Arizona turnovers in the first 11 minutes of play, but the Wildcats only turned it over once more the rest of the first half and forced the Cougars into bad shots.
The UA led just 20-16 when it went on a 13-0 run, holding Wazzu scoreless for more than six and half minutes as it missed 11 consecutive field goals. The run was started by consecutive 3-pointers by Pelle Larsson and two by Kerr Kriisa.
Arizona continues its Pacific Northwest swing when it visits Washington on Saturday afternoon.