Arizona hammers Washington in second half for lopsided win, road sweep
Arizona played perhaps its most complete game since Pac-12 play got back under way Saturday afternoon in Seattle to take down Washington 95-72 and secure a road weekend sweep to move within half a game of first place in the conference.
Wildcat fans couldn’t have asked for a better day. Arizona (19-3, 8-3 Pac-12) got its offense to fire on all cylinders, kept the defensive intensity that helped it to an LA-flavored sweep last week, got the bigs looking like their early-season selves again, and got one of the best games of the season from guard Kerr Kriisa.
Azuolas Tubelis posted a 25-point, 10-rebound performance for his seventh double-double in eight games. Oumar Ballo — held to one point in the win over Washington State on Thursday — made all nine of his shots from the field and three of his four free throws to put up a 21-point, 12-rebound double-double that also featured six assists.
Washington (13-10, 5-7 Pac-12) had no answer for the Arizona bigs.
“Our bigs delivered,” said coach Tommy Lloyd after the game. “I had a better feel about the game when I saw Oumar had his first catch and really attacked the guy’s body and went right into him. This is the mentality we need and we carried it on for most of the game.”
Arizona took complete control of the game early in the second half with a 21-3 run. Tubelis scored at the cup twice, both to open and close the run. Ballo added a bucket of his own. Courtney Ramey hit two triples. Kriisa knocked in three triples. In a little over six minutes of game clock, Arizona turned a 42-40 deficit into a 61-45 lead.
A jumper from Cole Bajema with 5:59 to play got the margin down to 10, providing a potential last-gasp opportunity for Washington to make a late charge.
Arizona responded with a 15-0 run.
Five came from Ballo. Five came from Tubelis.
Washington certainly gave the defending Pac-12 champs a scare, though. The Huskies were hot out of the gates as they connected on nine of their first 13 shot attempts and built a nine-point lead eight minutes in.
But the Wildcats didn’t panic. After opening 7-for-16 from the field, the UA made seven of its final 11 in the first half to close out and take a two-point lead into the locker room at the break. Tubelis and Ballo combined for 22 first-half points. Of them, 16 came after the UA fell down by nine.
Kriisa’s three second-half triples came within four minutes of each other as the Wildcats’ effervescent guard was finally able to catch fire.
He might not want to leave the state of Washington either. In the weekend sweep, Kriisa scored 33 points and knocked in 11 of his 21 3-pointers. Kriisa shot 6-for-11 on Saturday (all of them from 3) in what was his best shooting game since Dec. 20.
Washington got 25 points (9-19 FG, 4-9 3P) from Keion Brooks Jr. and another 21 (8-17 FG) from Keyon Menifield, but the defense failed the Huskies. Arizona went to work in the high post and attacked the Husky zone.
The 57 second-half points Arizona put up were the most by an opponent against UW in any half this season.
“There wasn’t one thing that wasn’t better,” Lloyd said of the Wildcat attack. “The way we shot the ball, the way we moved the ball. Just the patience we played with. We didn’t run a bunch of sets. We kind of let the guys hoop and they did a great job playing with fundamentals and using their pass fakes and movement. … You have to have some patience about you and you have to have some savvy.”
After back-to-back games held under 65 points — and contests that were both decided by six points or less — Arizona put forth its best offensive display since scoring 99 on Dec. 13.
“We were flowing and it was great to see,” Lloyd said. “It was great to have a game like that because we haven’t had a lopsided one in a long time.”
Arizona hosts Oregon next Thursday. The Huskies head to Los Angeles to battle UCLA.