They say everything is bigger in Texas, but Arizona won’t be leaving Waco feeling like the rims were.
Behind their worst shooting performance of the season, the Wildcats were outworked for the second straight year against the Baylor Bears, falling 63-58 for their first loss of the season.
Despite the poor shooting and trailing by double figures most of the game, a late rally gave the 'Cats a chance to force overtime, eventually coming up short.
Arizona shot 27% from the floor and just 11% from 3-point range, despite coming into the game No. 4 in the nation in 3-point percentage. Nico Mannion led Arizona with 15 points, but shot 3-for-14 from the floor.
The Wildcats got down by double digits early, with Baylor hitting six shots in a row and using a 15-0 run to push the lead to 22-8 with 9:25 left in the first half. Arizona lacked effort and was beaten to loose balls and rebounds, much like last season when they were out rebounded 51-19 in a loss to Baylor at McKale Center that snapped a 52-game non-conference win streak at home.
Despite its poor shooting, Arizona wouldn’t quite go away. Within single digits much of the second half, things started to get interesting with 3:40 remaining.
A 5-0 run brought the Wildcats to within six points with 2:51 remaining, before a Baylor layup on the following possession pushed the lead back to eight. After two free throws by Mannion, Jemarl Baker connected on a 3-pointer with Zeke Nnaji being fouled under the basket, resulting in five points and a one-point Baylor lead with 1:48 left.
After two empty Arizona possessions, Baylor made three free throws to push the lead to 60-56 with 37 seconds remaining. Mannion kept Arizona alive on a floater, and after Baylor went 1-2 from the line, Josh Green got an open look at a 3 to tie the game that missed badly, the story of the night for the Wildcats.
Both shooting percentages were the worst for an Arizona team in the Sean Miller era. The Wildcats also had a season-low seven assists, while committing 16 turnovers.
While the game was ugly for the most part, Arizona did have some positives. Baylor was held to just 30% shooting and 25% from 3, while also committing 16 turnovers. Leading scorer Jared Butler was held to 13 points on just 3-for-12 from the field, and the Bears didn’t make a field goal the last 2:35 of the game to give Arizona at least a chance to win.
Arizona will head back to Tucson to face the University of Nebraska-Omaha on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. inside McKale Center.
Follow Mark Lawson on Twitter