After a fan sank a half court shot at halftime, Arizona men's basketball caught fire to go on a 26-0 run and blow out Washington State University 83-62 Thursday night in McKale Center.
After a dismal last three games for Arizona, the Wildcats came out hot with a 9-0 run, and it seemed all was right in the world of Arizona basketball again. However, Washington State was able to weather the storm and hold Arizona to only 20 more points for the last 17 minutes of the half.
Only four players for Arizona scored in the half led by Zeke Nnaji with 14 and Nico Mannion with eight. Whether it was the late tip off or losing three games straight prior to Thursday night, the mood in McKale was off.
Washington State ended up leading at the end of the first half thanks to a zone defense that the Wildcats were unable to solve.
The second half played out a lot like the first for both teams early on. That was until a media timeout with 15:22 minutes remaining in the game. Arizona was already on a 9-0 run before going up three with Stone Gettings heading to the line for some free throws.
“I think it started with us taking better care of the ball,” Mannion said. “The first half we had eight turnovers, but in the second half we had two. That was a really big focus going on in the second half, and we were getting stops and first shot rebounds and defensive rebounds for us turn into transition.”
During the timeout, a fan was able to come on court and shoot a layup, free throw and 3-pointer for a chance to win a prize. The fan made it look easy, but that wasn’t enough for him. The contest was supposed to already be over when he took the ball and ran to the half court line and took a shot.
After the shot went in everyone in attendance exploded and lost their minds. It was the loudest the arena was up until that point, but the rest of the second half was just as fun for Wildcat fans.
Washington State eventually ended a 26-0 Wildcat run, but Arizona then had a 21 point lead. After the run, every Wildcat had scored, including a Gettings fast-break dunk, Josh Green with a 4-point play and Ira Lee getting some points as well.
"We've struggled to shoot, we've struggled to make shots," head coach Sean Miller said. "I try to be as critical as I can: 'Are they good?' No doubt at times shot selection with this year's team we've had more of an issue we've tried to address … The first half felt a little bit like that, but as you can see we certainly have it in us and when we're playing very good defense and offense. I feel like we can play with anybody and we've proved that."
Mannion eventually finished the night as the leading scorer with 23 while Nnaji added 21. The Wildcats shot 47% and went 9-18 from three.
Senior night will take place on Saturday against the University of Washington at 8:00 pm and will be televised on ESPN.
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