No. 3 Gonzaga's second-half rally sinks Arizona in Maui
Arizona emptied its oxygen tank trying to defeat No. 3 Gonzaga in Maui Tuesday night but ultimately fell 91-74 in a hard fought battle for its first loss of the season.
The Wildcats headed into the locker rooms at halftime up 45-37, but Gonzaga outscored Arizona 54-29 in the final 20 minutes of play to grab the victory. The Zags were led by junior Rui Hachimura and sophomore Zach Norvell Jr., who combined for 35 of the team’s 54 second half points.
The turning point in the game came when UA’s Chase Jeter fouled out with a foul-then-technical sequence at 12:03 in the second half. Gonzaga took the lead on free throws after and were able to score at will in the paint thereafter. The Bulldogs outscored the Wildcats 39-21 the rest of the way and were able to get 26 points in the paint in the half.
Gonzaga had already started to mount a comeback prior to Jeter’s exit, but his absence in the lineup gave head coach Sean Miller very limited options for defensive and rebounding help.
Arizona’s Justin Coleman erupted for a career-high 28 points on 7-12 shooting with six 3s and was the primary reason the Wildcats were able to stay in the game with Gonzaga. The senior guard proved to be the offensive catalyst once again, a night after scoring 18 points to defeat Iowa State, and made several impressive shots on the night.
The Wildcats were able to mount a first half thanks to making 19-22 free throws while limiting the Bulldogs to 2-11 on 3-point shooting and forcing 10 turnovers. Arizona’s largest lead of the game was 13, which came at 19:11 in the second half on a fast-break 3-pointer from Coleman.
Arizona’s offense became stagnant in the final frame, as the team was unable to attack the basket like it had previously and only attempted eight free throws despite several Gonzaga players in foul trouble.
Elsewhere, Brandon Randolph and Brandon Williams scored 19 and 15 points, respectively, but none of the other Wildcats were able to make a sustained impact. Outside of the Coleman, Randolph and Williams, Arizona failed to get valuable production from any of its other players. Jeter had just three points and five rebounds, Ryan Luther had zero points in 30 minutes of court action, and Ira Lee committed four turnovers in 17 minutes.
Perhaps the most alarming stat for Arizona was that it only had an assist on three of its 21 made field goals.
The game itself lived up to the billing of an Arizona-Gonzaga matchup, a clash between two of the West Coast’s premier programs. It featured a total of 18 lead changes and 20 times where the score was tied.
Despite the loss, Arizona played with a consistent level of high energy throughout and proved it can hang in the gym with one of the top teams in the nation. Even with a win, the ‘Cats would have had to face powerhouse No. 1 Duke with less than a 24-hour window to prepare.
Instead, another tough matchup awaits in No. 8 Auburn – which lost to Duke 78-72, earlier in the day.
Arizona’s final game from the Maui Invitational takes place at 9:30 p.m. MST on ESPN.
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