Arizona is eventually going to lose a home game under Tommy Lloyd, but the Wildcats were determined not to make that happen on Thursday night.
The fifth-ranked Wildcats overcame a terrible offensive night by ratcheting up the defense in the second half, rallying past Washington 70-67. It was their 28th consecutive win at McKale Center, but for much of the night it looked like the win streak was in serious jeopardy.
Arizona (15-1, 3-1 Pac-12) trailed by as much as 14 in the first half and didn’t make a field goal in the second half until almost nine minutes in. It shot 36.4 percent, including 31 percent in the second half, yet had runs of 13-0 and 15-0 and made up for the poor shooting by turning 17 Washington turnovers into 20 points and blocking a season-high seven shots.
Four of those blocks were from Azuolas Tubelis, who had 18 points but was just 7 of 18 from the field. Tubelis added 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Oumar Ballo had 15 points (on 5-of-11 shooting), Pelle Larsson had 12 points and 5 assists and both Kerr Kriisa and Kylan Boswell hit three 3s while Boswell chipped in five rebounds and six assists.
Down 42-41 at the break, Arizona missed its first three shots and turned it over once, allowing Washington (9-7, 1-4) to go back up by 5 and prompting Lloyd to call timeout. He’d held off doing so during ASU’s big run to start the second half on Saturday but went the other direction this time.
The move didn’t work, as Arizona went more than six minutes without scoring while the Huskies extended their lead to 50-43 on a Braxton Meah dunk with 12:11 to go.
The Wildcats missed their first 10 shots before Kriisa hit a 3 with 11:19 left, and that shot lit a fire, starting a 13-0 run to lead 56-50 that was as much about defensive intensity as figuring out things on offense. Arizona forced four turnovers in less than two minutes, scoring after the last three, while Tubelis had a pair of blocks during the run.
Kriisa’s third triple gave the UA its biggest lead, 63-56 with 3:22 to go, then Boswell hit his third 3 to make it 68-61 with 53 seconds left.
Washington kept fighting, making it a 3-point game twice in the final minute, and after Tubelis missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 16.7 seconds left the Huskies got a chance to tie but Keion Brooks’ 3-pointer clanged off the front rim and Tubelis picked up his 10th rebound.
Arizona’s offense looked like it set the alarm for 10 p.m., starting 7 of 26 from the field as Washington’s zone kept it from getting any flow. The Huskies jumped out to an 11-3 lead and kept the margin at two or three scores before getting it into double digits.
A Jamal Bey 3-pointer put UW up 38-24 with 4:50 left, but Arizona responded with a 15-0 run capped by 3s from Larsson, Boswell and Kriisa. Kriisa’s 3 gave the UA its first lead with 52 seconds left in the first half, but it was short-lived after Cole Bajema drained a corner 3 with 19 seconds to go before halftime.
Kriisa was called for a flop technical during that possession, and Bajema made the free throw to complete a 4-point play before Ballo dunked an alley-oop from Larsson just before the buzzer.
Arizona is back in action Saturday afternoon at home against Washington State. The Cougars (6-10, 1-4) lost 77-71 at ASU on Thursday night.