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Arizona’s comeback falls short in loss to Washington State, snapping 28-game home win streak

arizona-wildcats-wsu-cougars-recap-highlights-stats-pac12-mckale-2023-home-win-streak-mckale Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

All good things must come to an end.

Arizona lost for the first time at McKale Center under Tommy Lloyd on Saturday afternoon, falling 74-61 to Washington State. That ended a 28-game homecourt win streak and an 8-game overall win streak for the Wildcats, who find themselves in their first prolonged offensive rut since before Lloyd took over.

Fifth-ranked UA (14-2, 3-2 Pac-12) shot 31.7 percent, its third straight game shooting below 40 percent, and a basket by Azuolas Tubelis avoided tying for the lowest point total of the Lloyd era. The Wildcats have averaged 66.7 per game over the last three after scoring 90.2 per game over the first 13.

Tubelis had 29 points and 14 rebounds but was 9 of 20 from the field. Oumar Ballo had 11 on 4-of-11 shooting and was 3 of 10 from the line, while Kerr Kriisa had 10 points but was 2 of 11 from 3.

Arizona made only 4 of 25 3s and was 17 of 28 from the line.

WSU (7-9, 2-4) shot only 39.1 percent but hit 12 3s. Big man Mouhamed Gueye had 24 points and 14 rebounds while three Cougars hit three triples apiece.

Arizona faced a double-digit deficit in the first half for the second game in a row, trailing by 10 at halftime and as much as 18 in the second half. But unlike Thursday’s comeback win over Washington, this time the Wildcats couldn’t put together any sort of prolonged run, never getting closer than five.

Down 37-27 at the break, Arizona gave up a 3 to DJ Rodman just 12 seconds into the second half. Back-to-back 3s by Rodman made it 53-35 WSU with 12:44 to go as Arizona’s defense continued to leave shooters open.

A 3 by Kriisa, that cut the deficit to 55-40 with 11:10 left, brought the McKale crowd to its feet. The same happened after Ballo made two free throws (he’d missed seven of its first eight) to get the UA within 59-46 with 7:37 to go, and a corner 3 by Tubelis 24 seconds later to make it a 10-point game led to the biggest ovation yet.

Arizona had a chance to cut it to single digits on its next possession, but Courtney Ramey’s 3 was off. The Wildcats were then called for three fouls in a 4-second span on the other end, putting WSU into the bonus with 6:15 remaining.

Kriisa’s 3 with 5:53 left made it 61-54, and Arizona forced a shot clock violation on the other end, with Kriisa making two free throws shortly after to get within five.

That’s as close as the UA would get.

WSU ended a 5-minute field goal drought with a pair of TJ Bamba drives, while Arizona went four straight possessions without scoring. The dagger came with 1:54 left when Gueye nailed a corner 3 to make it 68-56.

Tubelis scored Arizona’s first seven points, all inside, and the Wildcats started 5 of 7 from the field. They then missed 11 of the next 12 shots as WSU jumped out to a 4-point edge and maintained a lead until Ballo hit a free throw with 5:23 left in the first half for a 21-20 UA edge.

The Cougars went almost 4 ½ minutes without scoring but then drained three triples in 63 seconds, the last two by Jabe Mullins to go up 29-21.

WSU ended up making 6 of their last 10 shots, including a 3 by Bamba at the buzzer for the 10-point lead.

Arizona hits the road for its next two games, beginning Thursday at Oregon State (7-8, 1-3).