Late into the Thanksgiving night, Arizona fans were definitely thankful for Nico Mannion.
The freshman point guard had his first double-double of the season, finishing with 16 points and 11 assists, including a runner with 2.1 seconds left that gave Arizona a 93-91 victory over Pepperdine in their first game of the Wooden Legacy in Anaheim.
In their first game away from the friendly confines of McKale Center, the 'Cats were given all they could handle from a Pepperdine squad coached by former Wildcats’ assistant coach Lorenzo Romar.
Both teams traded blows early on, with neither team leading by more than five points in the first half. The Waves shot 53.6 percent from the floor and hit six 3-pointers to keep things close, with Colbey Ross scoring 16 points before halftime.
A 10-0 run by Arizona gave the ‘Cats a 69-57 lead with 10:41 left, but Pepperdine followed right back with a 9-0 run of their own over the next 1:46 to bring the score to 69-66.
In a game that saw 25 lead changes, there was no shortage of them from that point on, as the two teams traded leads eight times over the final 6:29 of the game. Arizona guard Dylan Smith hit a 3 with 3:57 left to give the ‘Cats an 83-81 lead, before Pepperdine forward Kessler Edwards hit one of his own the next possession to take the lead back. Smith answered with back-to-back 3-pointers after Edwards’ brother Kameron made two free throws to give Arizona an 89-86 lead with 2:38 left. Skylar Chavez tied the game with 1:39 remaining, before a penetrating Mannion found Zeke Nnaji for a dunk with 19 seconds left to put the Wildcats back up by two.
Ross drove down and hit a floater with seven seconds remaining to set the stage up for Mannion, who pushed the ball up court and hit a running layup off the glass to put Arizona on top for good.
Five Wildcats scored in double figures, with Josh Green leading the way with 24 points. Mannion, Smith and Nnaji each had 16, and Chase Jeter had his best game of the season offensively with 10 points. Arizona as a team shot a blistering 60.7 percent from the floor, including 55 percent from 3-point range.
The hot shooting helped Arizona overcome allowing the Waves to shoot over fifty percent from the floor and have five players of their own score in double figures. Pepperdine also only missed one free throw on the night, while the Wildcats missed 10.
Arizona will be back in action tomorrow against Penn, who defeated the University of Central Florida 68-67 in their game earlier on Thursday. Tip-off is set for 9:30 p.m. Arizona time on ESPN2.
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