The post-clinch-a-conference-title-hangover is a real thing, and Arizona took a while to find the cure.
The Wildcats, fresh off locking up the Pac-12 regular-season title in impressive fashion at USC, sleepwalked through much of the first half before flipping the switch just before halftime en route to an 81-69 win over Stanford on Thursday night at McKale Center.
It was the 17th conference win for second-ranked Arizona, tying the record for most in Pac-12 history. The Wildcats can break the record Saturday against Cal in the regular-season finale.
Arizona (27-3, 17-2) shot 50.9 percent from the field but got dominated by Stanford (15-14, 8-11) on the boards, losing 35-28 after being minus-10 at one point in the second half. The Cardinal only managed 11 second-chance points, though, while their 17 turnovers were converted into 23 UA points.
Bennedict Mathurin led the Wildcats with 24 points, adding five rebounds and four assists, while Christiain Koloko had 21 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks and Azuolas Tubelis had 11 points.
The UA trailed 39-37 at halftime, the second consecutive home game in which it was behind at intermission. It took its first lead since 12:21 to go in the first half on a 4-point play by Kerr Kriisa, who drained a triple and was fouled, then after Koloko swatted a Cardinal shot Tubelis jammed one home to make it 47-43 with 17:52 remaining.
The dunk wasn’t nearly as impressive as this one in the first half:
Stanford retook the lead at 52-51 with 13:47 to go on a layup by 7-foot-1 freshman Maxime Raynaud, part of an 8-0 run to lead by three. Much of that was during a stretch when Koloko, Mathurin and Tubelis were all on the bench, but after a TV timeout Mathurin was back in and he drew enough of the defense to allow Justin Kier to drain consecutive 3s for a 59-54 UA lead with 10:53 remaining.
The Cardinal had a chance to cut the deficit to 2 with 7:41 left, but Lukas Kisunas missed two free throws and 50 seconds later the Wildcats were up 67-58 after a Mathurin 3 and a Mathurin dunk off a Tubelis 3.
Two Pelle Larsson free throws with 4:40 left gave the UA its first double-digit lead, at 73-62, and it stayed that way for much of the rest of the way. The late stages did have some drama, though, when Dalen Terry went down hard with 3:38 to go and had to be helped off the court and to the locker room, though he returned to the bench before the game was over.
Stanford, which shot 53.6 percent in the first half including 7 of 10 from 3, was 2 of 9 from deep in the second half and 42.4 percent from the field.
Arizona’s shots wouldn’t fall early, starting 2 of 9 and 5 of 17 from the field. It was the opposite for Stanford, which made 9 of its first 16 shots and started 6 of 6 from 3.
A 3 by Michael O’Connell—who had all of his 16 points in the first half—put the Cardinal up 22-15 with 9:41 left as the Wildcats went nearly five minutes without scoring. They got within 23-22 with 6:17 remaining on a steal and dunk by Larsson, but Stanford built a 35-26 edge with 2:26 to go before halftime.
The UA hit its final six shots of the first half, including a runner by Mathurin with four seconds to go to cut the deficit to 39-37 at the break.