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NCAA Tournament: Arizona men’s basketball outlasts TCU in overtime, advances to Sweet 16

arizona-wildcats-basketball-ncaa-tournament-tcu-horned-frogs-recap-highlights-sweet-16-2022-overtime Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

SAN DIEGO—Good things come to those who wait, even if those extra five minutes are excrutiatingly stressful.

Arizona got 30 points from Bennedict Mathurin and a career-high 28 from Christian Koloko, including the game-sealing putback dunk with 11.5 seconds left in overtime to give the Wildcats an 85-80 win over TCU in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night at Viejas Arena.

The UA (33-3) moves on to the Sweet 16 for the 20th time in school history, first since 2017, and will face No. 5 Houston (31-5) at 6:45 p.m. PT Thursday in San Antonio.

“I believed the whole time, and I think they did too,” said UA coach Tommy Lloyd, who is one win away from tying the record for most by a first-year coach in Division I history. “I knew we just needed to hang in there, make a play or two and we would get this thing over the top.”

It was the 7th overtime NCAA tourney game in school history, first since the Elite Eight loss to Wisconsin in 2014. The Wildcats hadn’t won an NCAA game in OT since a second-round win over Gonzaga in 2003.

Top-seeded Arizona had a chance to win the game in regulation when Dalen Terry stole the ball from TCU’s Mike Miles Jr. at midcourt and sprinted to the basket for a potential game-winning shot before time expired. Instead of pulling up for a jumper or trying to lay it in, Terry went for a dunk but the ball didn’t leave his hands until a fraction of a second after the buzzer.

The Wildcats outscored TCU 10-5 in OT, with Koloko and Mathurin scoring every point. Koloko was 12 of 13 from the field, adding 12 rebounds, while Mathurin was 8 of 19 (and 3 of 11 from 3) but he went 11 of 13 from the the line and also had eight rebounds.

Mathurin tied his career high with 41 minutes, Koloko played 40 and neither sat in the second half or regulation.

“Those two guys were obviously special today,” Lloyd said. “And they pulled us through in moments when it didn’t look good.”

Arizona shot 45.6 percent but was just 5 of 27 from 3 after tying the school tourney record of 11 3s in the first-round win over Wright State. Kerr Kriisa was 1 of 10 from deep in his return from a sprained ankle that caused him to miss three games, but in his 27 minutes off the bench Arizona outscored the Horned Frogs by 24 points.

Ninth-seeded TCU (21-13) got career highs in scoring from USC transfer Chuck O’Bannon (23) and Eddie Lampkin Jr. (20), with Lampkin adding 14 rebounds including 10 of the Horned Frogs’ 20 offensive boards. TCU had 19 second-chance points and scored 12 more off Arizona’s 16 turnovers but shot only 35.1 percent for the game and were 2 of 10 in overtime.

Arizona led 39-36 at the break after leading by as many as five late in the first half. TCU used an 11-2 run to go ahead 47-41, then after Azuolas Tubelis scored on a 3-point play the Frogs’ Miles—who had 20 points but was 5 of 20 from the field—drained a triple to keep it a 6-point margin.

Then, finally, the Wildcats woke up. The UA went on a 13-2 run to lead 57-52 with 12:41 to go, and in the middle of that was the best (and most impactful) dunk of Mathurin’s career.

TCU cut it to 59-58 with 9:58 left and had a chance to take the lead, only to see Kriisa drain a corner 3 and then Mathurin score in transition after a rushed drive by the Frogs. Another empty TCU possession led to Koloko scoring inside and getting fouled.

Koloko missed the free throw, but Mathurin got his hands on the rebound before getting fouled, and he made 1 of 2 to make it 67-58 with 7:52 remaining.

TCU followed with seven straight points, forcing Lloyd to call timeout with 5:19 left and Arizona up 67-65. The run extended to 12-0, with Miles’ driving layup giving the Frogs a 68-67 lead and his two free throws upping the edge to 70-67 with 3:39 left.

Terry drained a corner 3 to tie it at 70 with 2:43 left, but then Lampkin scored inside and was fouled (but missed the free throw) and then converted his eighth offensive board into 1 of 2 from the line, putting TCU up 73-70 with 1:17 to go.

Mathurin scored on a backdoor drive to get within 73-72, then after Lampkin scored on another putback Mathurin drained a deep 3 late in the shot clock to tie it with 12.9 seconds remaining. That set up TCU’s final possession of regulation, which after Terry’s steal and just-too-late dunk sent the game to OT.

In OT, Arizona got four of its first six points from the line and then, after Miles scored on a 3-point play to get TCU within 81-80 with 1:44 to go, the Wildcats put the game away with a Mathurin putback (the fourth shot on the possession) and Koloko’s flush that came after Mathurin missed a corner three.

The UA finished with 14 offensive rebounds, scoring 16 second-chance points, but were outrebounded 48-44 including 27-16 in the second half.

“I thought Lampkin gave us our lunch a little bit,” Lloyd said, calling Arizona’s handling of TCU’s physicality “just okay. We haven’t had a big guy do that to us all year.”

The Wildcats missed their first three shots, while TCU was efficient early with an 8-0 start before Koloko scored on a layup with 17:25 left. The Horned Frogs led 10-2 before Arizona went on a 16-7 run to take its first lead on a Koloko 3-point play with 13:38 to go.

That was in the middle of 12 straight UA points for Koloko, who had 18 points (on 8-of-9 shooting) and six rebounds in the first half. Also during that run Kriisa make his first appearance, drawing a charge less than a minute into his return.

“Our trainer, Justin Kokoskie, did a great job of getting him available to play,” Lloyd said of Kriisa. “To have 27 minutes recovering from a sprained ankle, and to have a plus/minus of 2, I think that tells you what he means to our team.”

TCU retook the lead at 24-22 off a steal and drive by Miles, but a Mathurin 3 put the Wildcats up 27-24 with 6:32 remaining and they held the lead the rest of the first half.

Arizona will face a Houston team that easily handled No. 4 Illinois, a team Arizona beat on the road in December, by 15 earlier on Sunday. The Cougars are in the Sweet 16 for the third year in a row and are ranked in the top 10 on KenPom.com in both offense and defense.

Beat Houston, and Arizona would face either No. 2 Villanova or No. 11 Michigan, whom the Wildcats beat by 18 in Las Vegas in November but has looked impressive in upset wins over No. 6 Colorado State and No. 3 Tennessee.

“We’ve got a daunting, daunting task ahead of us,” Lloyd said. “The grit and toughness (from) the teams on our side of the bracket, it’s pretty formidable.”