clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Arizona men’s basketball outruns Alabama in second half

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-alabama-crimson-tide-recap-final-score-highlights-stats-2023 Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

PHOENIX—The Final Four is being held in the Phoenix area in a few months. On Wednesday night, about 20 minutes away, Arizona had the kind of performance that might just finally get it back to that promised land.

The 4th-ranked Wildcats overcame an ice cold start, persistent foul trouble and the first technical foul of Tommy Lloyd’s head coaching career to outlast Alabama 87-74 in the Jerry Colangelo Halle of Fame Series event at Footprint Center.

Arizona (9-1) won in an NBA arena for the first time in more than six years by not panicking when it trailed 9-0, or when it fell behind seven early in the second half after holding a 1-point lead at the break. The Wildcats shot a season-low 43.1 percent and made only 4 of 17 3-pointers but made up for it with a 48-38 rebounding edge including 17 offensive boards as well as 27 made free throws including 19 in the second half.

Oumar Ballo and Pelle Larsson had 16 points apiece, with Ballo adding 12 rebounds, while Kylan Boswell had 15, Caleb Love 13 (11 in the second half) and Jeshad Johnson 11.

Alabama, which lost its third straight after falling to Purdue in Toronto and at Creighton, fell to 6-5 after shooting an abysmal 8 of 40 from 3 and 33.8 percent overall. The Crimson Tide had 15 offensive rebounds, including seven in the first five minutes, but also turned it over 18 times.

Arizona converted those into 26 points while outscoring Alabama 22-4 on the break.

The UA also avoided having anyone foul out despite having three players, including Larsson and Love, pick up their fourth. Love had two early and played only 25 minutes.

Lloyd was T’d up with 8:57 left in the first half and the UA down 19-17 after criticizing a no-call along the sideline when it appeared Boswell was shoved by an Alabama player going for a loose ball that ended up going out of bounds and to the Tide. He was visibly upset and got a warning from the official, but then a few moments later as Lloyd appeared to be talking to someone behind the scorer’s table he was given the technical.

Alabama’s Sam Walters made 1 of 2 technical free throws, and Walters then made 1 of 2 after getting fouled on the ensuing possession. Arizona would make its next three shots and tied it up for the first time with 7:07 to go before halftime.

Up 41-40 at the half, Arizona went up by three before Alabama scored 10 in a row to force Lloyd to call timeout. The run included a pair of corner 3s from Grant Nelson, who was 0 for 7 from outside in the first half when the Tide were 3 of 22 from deep.

Nelson would lead the Tide with 17 points on 5-of-19 shooting, including 3 of 15 from 3.

Alabama didn’t make another field goal for almost four minutes, allowing Arizona to claw its way back, and another 4-minute scoring drought coincided with the Wildcats going on a 14-0 run to lead 64-54 with 8:14 left. The run was fueled by defense, with four steals including one by Larsson in the backcourt that led to Arizona going back ahead.

Love and Jaden Bradley got their fourth fouls in a 36-second span but Arizona was able to extend the lead as Alabama didn’t make its next field goal until the 7:13 mark. And it was the Tide that had players foul out first, with Nick Pringle and Mohamed Wague both getting their fifth in a 29-second span.

Boswell hit a 3 to make it 73-61 with 5:21 remaining, but a few possessions later he pulled up for another very early in a possession and it bricked, allowing Alabama to score quickly and cut it to 75-68. A similarly unwise 3 attempt by Love was converted into Tide points to get within 78-72 with 3:25 left.

But then Love scored six in a row on drives to the rim, sparking a 9-0 run to ice it.

Arizona was about as cold as you could be at the outset, missing its first six shots and not scoring for almost four minutes as Alabama took a 9-0 lead. The Wildcats’ first field goal came more than five minutes in.

But the UA was aided by the Tide missing so many shots, 11 in a row at one point, to only lead 11-8 after eight minutes.

The offense kicked into gear for both teams, aided in many ways by the officiating. There were 13 called in the final 11 minutes of the first half, in addition to the Lloyd technical, and Arizona ended up with four players getting two or more before halftime with KJ Lewis picking up a third in the final minute.

Arizona took its first lead with 3:35 left in the first half on a Boswell stepback, at 30-28, with neither team leading by more than two over the final 6:19 of the opening period.

The UA completes its nonconference schedule Saturday in Las Vegas against No. 14 Florida Atlantic. The game is being played at T-Mobile Arena, where the Wildcats have won nine in a row including sweeping through the last two Pac-12 tournaments.