Arizona has only lost seven times in the Tommy Lloyd era, and it’s still yet to lose two in a row to the same opponent.
The Wildcats overcame sloppy ball handling in the first half and an extended offensive drought for much of the second half yet never trailed in a 63-58 win at Washington State on Thursday night, avenging their 13-point home loss to the Cougars on Jan. 7.
6th-ranked Arizona (18-3, 7-3 Pac-12) improved to 4-0 under Lloyd when facing a team it had lost to last time out. It also moved within a game of UCLA, which lost at USC earlier Thursday, for first place in the conference.
Azuolas Tubelis had 18 points and 12 rebounds, his ninth double-double of the season and sixth in the last seven games, while Kerr Kriisa had 15 points thanks to 5-of-10 shooting from 3-point range and Pelle Larsson had 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists off the bench.
Arizona shot 44.8 percent and was 8 of 22 from 3, doubling its made threes from the previous WSU game, but took a season-low six free throws and made only three. The Wildcats also turned it over 16 times, 11 in the first half, yet WSU only converted those giveaways into eight points while the UA scored 17 off 14 WSU turnovers.
The Cougars (9-13, 4-7) were held to 32.8 percent shooting and were 4 of 17 from 3 after making 12 triples at McKale Center. And after scoring 22 second-chance points in the previous matchup, WSU had only six.
Arizona led 36-32 at the half after being up by as many as 12. The Wildcats were ice cold to start the second half, missing 5 of its first 6 shots, but WSU was equally frigid at 1 of 10 and came up empty on three chances to tie or take the lead before the first media timeout.
Combined second-half scoring didn’t reach double digits until the 11:15 mark when Larsson drove the baseline off a turnover to give UA a 42-36 edge.
The Cougars hit their second 3 (in 14 tries) immediately afterward, and a Mohamed Gueye drive got them within a point only to see Larsson dunk off the baseline 10 seconds later as the scoring pace finally picked up. That dunk started a 10-3 Arizona run in which it made 5 of 7 shots, with Kylan Boswell’s drive giving it a 52-44 lead with 6:10 remaining.
Kriisa’s fourth triple made it a 10-point game, and his fifth put the Wildcats up 60-51 with 2:14 to go. But he was also called for a flagrant foul against TJ Bamba after the fact, giving WSU two free throws and the ball, though the Cougars turned it over after Bamba made the foul shots.
A 3 by Courtney Ramey (who dealt with foul trouble been 1 of 8 overall and 0 for 4 from outside before that) with 55 seconds to go iced it.
WSU coach Kyle Smith had to call timeout 71 seconds into the game after Arizona went up 6-0. The Cougars cut the deficit to one less than a minute later but the Wildcats went on a 10-2 run to build a cushion they’d keep all half.
A 3 by Boswell made it 21-9 less than nine minutes in, and Arizona was up 26-16 with 7:52 to go before the half after Kriisa’s third 3 in as many tries. But the UA would make only three shots over the final 7-plus minutes as its turnovers piled up and WSU chipped away at the advantage.
Arizona returns to action Saturday afternoon at Washington, which beat ASU 69-66 in overtime. The Wildcats had to rally from down 14 in the first half to beat the Huskies 70-67 at home on Jan. 5.