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Streak snapped: Arizona falls to Baylor, ending non-conference home winning streak at 52

Sofia Moraga | The Daily Wildcat Arizona's Ira Lee (11) goes up for the shot during the Arizona-Baylor game on Saturday, Dec. 15 at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.

While tip-off was at 9 p.m. against Baylor on Saturday night in McKale Center, the clock struck midnight on Arizona men's basketball's luck, losing 58-49 to snap a 52-game home win streak against non-conference foes. 

Arizona has lived life on the edge at home this season and it finally caught up to the them. In three of their five home games to start the season, the ‘Cats have led by single digits, or trailed, using big second halves to blow out lesser opponents.

This time, there was no second-half McKale magic.

Arizona Men's Basketball Head Coach, Sean Miller, watches his team after a foul during the Arizona-Baylor game on Saturday, Dec. 15 at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.

Baylor deployed a zone defense against the Wildcats, and it proved effective. Arizona was held to a season-low 49 points and shot just 35.8 percent, including 32.1 percent from 3. They were also not particularly aggressive, getting to the free-throw line just six times on the night. 

“It’s the first time this group has played against a zone,” Miller said. “Obviously, we had that ‘deer in the headlights’ look. The way they chose to play zone, it’s not about carving it up with plays, it’s about putting guys in the right position.”

The story of the game lies in the rebound margin. Arizona was out-rebounded 50-19 by Baylor, including 18-5 on the offensive glass. Baylor shot just 21 percent from 3-point range and committed 20 turnovers, yet got 19 second-chance points, while Arizona only had two. 

“I think when you’re dominated like that, it starts to feel funny," head coach Sean Miller said. “We didn’t execute against the zone and lost confidence as the game wore on.” 

Arizona had a 23-20 lead at halftime, despite being out-rebounded 13-2 on the offensive glass. Baylor shot just 27.6 percent from the floor and had 13 turnovers, allowing Arizona to stay in the game despite the rebounding margin. The ‘Cats were out-rebounded as a whole 27-11 in the first half. 

The Wildcats struck first in the second half on a Justin Coleman 3, but a 17-5 run, spurred by nine points from graduate transfer Makai Mason, gave Baylor the lead for good. Arizona tried to claw back, thanks to back-to-back Dylan Smith 3s to make it 39-37, but never got any closer, with Baylor using an 11-2 run after to put things away.

Baylor's Mario Kegler (4) goes up for a layup during the Arizona-Baylor game on Saturday, Dec. 15 at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.

Mason, who scored 31 points to defeat Baylor as a sophomore in the 2016 NCAA Tournament while playing at Yale, scored 15 of his game-high 22 in the second half. 

The loss was the first at home against a non-conference opponent since a 61-57 defeat against San Diego State in 2011. Arizona hadn’t scored below 50 points since 2004, and below 50 at home since 1985. 

“These are our circumstances,” Miller said. “It’s easy to play and coach when things are going well. Things aren’t going well right now. With that, I know what comes. We have to get better and get ready for our next challenge."

Arizona was led by Brandon Randolph with 15 points, with nobody else scoring in double-figures. While the ‘Cats moved the ball well, with 15 assists and only 10 turnovers, they shot 33.3 percent in the second half from both the field and from three-point range, never able to catch a rhythm.

The ‘Cats will be back at home Wednesday, Dec. 19, as they take on the visiting Montana Grizzlies. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network. 

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