The Arizona Wildcats defeated the Arizona State Sun Devils by a score of 80-67 in their second matchup of the season.
Terrell Brown Jr. was the team’s leading scorer tonight and had a season-high 18 points on 4-9 shooting from the field and 9-10 from the free-throw line. Brown played 35 minutes in this game, which is 11 more than his season average of 24 minutes per game.
“He’s capable of scoring and doing more,” head coach Sean Miller said. “He can continue to be the distributor, but we need some scoring from him, and he has really risen to the challenge.”
Tonight was freshman Azuolas Tubelis’ seventh time scoring in double-digits out of the last ten games of the season and has found a way to keep improving every game. He finished with the night with 16 points and 12 rebounds, giving him his first double-double of his career. That also makes it his fourth game with eight or more rebounds in his last six games.
“We were locked in and played well and fast,” Tubelis said. “My confidence was better in the second game.”
James Akinjo played 37 minutes tonight and affected the game in many different ways as he finished it with 16 points, six assists, two rebounds and made nine foul shots.
“[Akinjo] is learning that there are so many different ways you can help your team win,” Miller said. “He's our heart and soul and his confidence is contagious. His teammates feel that confidence from him.”
Arizona’s turnover issue has been improving every game but not tonight against their interstate rival. They turned the ball over 17 times, as a lot of those happened in the second half as it was a very sloppy performance by both teams in the last 20 minutes of the game.
“We were ready to play, and we played with a really good pace,” Miller said. “Our guys were confident. Three games in five days is really challenging. It was a difficult task and I’m really proud of our guys for being ready.”
It wasn’t all smiles for the Wildcats after the 13-point victory as freshman star Bennedict Mathurin went down with what appeared to be a scarier injury than it turned out to be.
“[Mathurin's] ankle is not broken, it's sprained,” Miller confirmed after the game. “He’s going to be okay. We will know more probably by Wednesday.”
Mathurin’s injury, along with Jemarl Baker Jr’s season-ending wrist surgery, has quickly wiped away Arizona’s deep roster depth. Miller, however, indicated that help may be on the way soon.
Freshman guard Kerr Kriisa, who Miller confirmed could start practicing as early as tomorrow after suffering a broken nose a few weeks back, is scheduled to be eligible to make his season debut on Feb. 6 against Colorado.
“[Kriisa] comes to us at a very good time,” Miller said.
The Wildcats returns to action Thursday, Jan. 28, when they host Stanford, followed by Cal on Saturday, Jan 30.
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