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Arizona men’s basketball shakes off sluggish start to roll past Southern

arizona-wildcats-southern-tigers-mens-college-basketball-recap-highlights-stats-updates-2023-duke Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

Sports hangovers aren’t the worst of their kind, but they’re no fun. Just ask Arizona, which three days removed from one of the biggest nonconference wins in program history found themselves trailing unheralded Southern by five midway through the first half.

But once the cobwebs were shaken off the Wildcats kicked it into another gear, blowing out the Tigers 97-59 on Monday night at McKale Center.

Keshad Johnson had a career-high 17 points, including 15 in the first half, while Motiejus Krivas and KJ Lewis had 12. Three others Wildcats scored in double figures, making for 19 players in the first three games, with Caleb Love the only starter not to get to 10. He had nine points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals.

The UA shot 53.4 percent for the game, despite a terrible start, and were 28 of 36 from the line while outrebounding Southern 54-24.

Arizona also turned it over 23 times, one fewer than in its first two games, contributing to 19 points for the Tigers (1-2). Seven of those giveaways were in the first five minutes, a good indication the UA was still daydreaming about their 78-73 win at then-No. 2 Duke on Friday.

A 19-4 run gave Arizona a 35-23 halftime lead after trailing by as many as five early. The Wildcats scored the final seven points of the first half and first 10 of the second half, then another 16-2 run.

They outscored Southern 60-18 over the next 20 minutes after trailing 17-12 with 11:13 left in the first half.

The Wildcats turned it over 14 times in the first half and missed 10 of their first 13 shots but made up for it by attempting 21 free throws, making 15.

A 9-0 run midway through the first half put the UA ahead for good, a run that included a dunk by Johnson off an alley-oop pass from Filip Borovicanin and was capped by a Kylan Boswell 3-pointer.

Southern missed its final 15 shots of the first half, shooting 19.4 percent in the opening 20 minutes.

Arizona is back at it Friday night at McKale against Belmont.