After a thrilling last-second victory in Tempe against rival ASU on Thursday, Arizona looked to make it two straight wins over the Sun Devils Monday night in Tucson at McKale Center.
The Wildcats dominated the first half taking a 40-18 lead, and the rest was history as Sean Miller‘s team walked away with an 80-67 victory giving them the season sweep of the Sun Devils.
Arizona (12-3, 6-3 Pac-12) flexed its muscles during the first half holding ASU to 22 percent shooting from the field and forced the Sun Devils to go 1-for-13 from behind the arc. The Wildcats capitalized on the defensive effort and went 14-for-25 from the field while only shooting three 3-point attempts.
In the middle of Arizona’s impressive first half, forward Ben Mathurin twisted his ankle while coming down from a block attempt. Mathurin tried to give it a go during the team’s warmups for the second half but had to go back into the locker room, ending his night with eight points, seven rebounds, and an assist. X-rays on his ankle came back negative, and the program will evaluate him in the next coming days.
Arizona freshman Bennedict Mathurin was helped to the locker room after landing awkwardly on his right leg.
Hopefully he’s OK. He’s had a great season. pic.twitter.com/DhDPQNaK75
— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) January 26, 2021
Last time against ASU, Arizona guard James Akinjo had 24 points while going 8-for-17 from the field. Akinjo followed that up with another impressive performance even though he shot just 3-for-10 from the field. He found a way to get his points from the foul line going 9-for-11, finishing the night with 16 points, two rebounds, six assists and just one turnover in 37 minutes.
Arizona got a much-needed lift from guard Terrell Brown Jr., with the team losing Mathurin in the first half. Brown finished the game with 18 points, four rebounds, and three assists while going 9-for-10 from the foul line in 35 minutes.
Azuolas Tubelis hit the game-winning shot against ASU in Tempe but struggled throughout that game finishing with just eight points. Five days later, it seemed as if it was an other player on the court as Tubelis was spectacular, ending the game with 16 points, 12 rebounds and a blocked shot in 33 minutes.
Here are Tubelis and Brown Jr. talking about the team’s performance and how they were able to overcome Mathurin’s unexpected injury:
Although Arizona never trailed, it still had issues that allowed ASU to get back into a game in which the Wildcats led by 26 points in the second half. The main problem was turnovers; Miller’s squad turned the ball over an alarming 17 times, with 10 turnovers coming in the second half.
Here’s Miller talking about the team’s victory over ASU and giving insight into how the team has developed since the loss to UCLA earlier this month:
FOLLOW TROY HUTCHISON ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Troy Hutchison hails from Tucson and is a lifelong Arizona Wildcats follower. He has been involved in sports journalism over the last two years while taking communications courses at Pima Community College.