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Top-ranked Arizona men’s basketball outmuscled by No. 3 Purdue in first loss of season

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-purdue-boilermakers-recap-final-score-highlights-stats-2023 Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Arizona will not be going unbeaten this season, and it won’t be the No. 1 team in the country on Monday. The Wildcats also learned about deficiencies that need to be addressed before two more high-profile nonconference games next week.

The UA fell 92-84 to No. 3 Purdue in Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon, a game it led for less than seven minutes after leading the vast majority of its previous eight contests.

Arizona (8-1) rallied from down 15 in the second half to get within two scores on multiple occasions but couldn’t get over the hump as Purdue (10-1) shot 53.8 percent and had three players with 20 or more points. Reigning national player of the year Zach Edey had 22 points, nine rebounds and a career-high five assists but wasn’t the usual dominating force, as his .533 shooting percentage was the second-lowest of the season.

Instead it was Purdue guards Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith who combined for 53 points on 20-of-33 shooting including 9 of 16 from 3. They had 46 of Purdue’s first 69 points.

The game was decided on the glass, as Purdue outrbebounded the UA 32-26, with the Boilermakers1 picking up 11 offensive boards. Arizona had only 10 rebounds in the first half, contributing heavily to falling behind by double digits before the break.

Caleb Love had 29 points and Keshad Johnson added a career-high 24, with 11 points in the first 5:34. Oumar Ballo had 13 and Pelle Larsson 10 but Kylan Boswell was 3 of 9 from the field and missed all four 3-pointers after coming in shooting 52.5 percent from outside.

Down 49-38 at the half, Arizona got within eight about three minutes but then Purdue scored seven in a row to lead 64-49 less than a minute later. The Wildcats tried to press, and also started playing zone, but nothing was working on the defensive end.

But then the UA’s 2-3 zone started to pay dividends and provided an avenue to get back in the game via an 11-0 run that actually decreased the margin by 13.

Arizona technically was down 17 when Johnson scored seven in a row, then during a media timeout the officials took away a Purdue basket that was given earlier due to basket interference on Jaden Bradley, cutting the deficit to eight. Ballo then had back-to-back jams and the Boilermakers called timeout with their lead down to 67-63 with 10:22 remaining.

Purdue ended a nearly 6-minute scoring drought when Edey made a pair of free throws. The Boilmakers went more than eight minutes without a field goal before Edey hit a bank shot to make it 73-65 with 6:45 left after Arizona had multiple chances to get within one score.

Two Love free throws cut the deficit to 75-71 with 5:08 to go, but Lance Jones drained a 3 on the ensuing possession. Smith then nailed a 3 to make it 81-73 with 4:19 remaining and the lead was back to double digits not long after as Purdue made four straight shots after missing nine of the previous 10.

Arizona picked a terrible time to go 3 ½ minutes without scoring, falling behind by 12 before making a late push to get within five with 12.4 seconds left. Purdue prevented it from getting any closer when Loyer broke a trap in the corner and fed Jones for a 3-point play.

The early action was so fast and furious that the under-16 media timeout didn’t come until 11:47 left in the first half. At that point it was tied at 17, after Arizona had led by six but then turned it over on three straight possessions.

The game had seven tied and even more lead changes until Loyer hit back-to-back 3s. That triggered a 9-0 run that grew to 16-4 and a 46-34 Purdue lead with 1:41 left.

Arizona is back in action Wednesday when it faces Alabama in Phoenix, with a matchup against No. 15 Florida Atlantic in Las Vegas three days later.