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Stifling defense lifts Arizona men's basketball to win over Washington State

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Megan Ewing | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona men's basketball forward Dalen Terry goes up for a dunk against Washington State on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Tucson, Arizona in McKale Center. The Wildcats would go on to win 69-53.

The Arizona men's basketball team defeated the Washington State Cougars Thursday, Feb. 25, in going-away fashion, with a final score of 69-53. 

The game was closer than the final score as WSU either led or were level with the Wildcats for a majority of the first 20 minutes of play before Arizona closed the half on an 8-2 run to take a 28-24 halftime lead and never looked back from there. 

It was a sloppy basketball game from an offensive standpoint as the two teams combined for 25 turnovers, 28% (11-39) from three and 63% (19-30) from the free-throw line. To go along with its minimal 12 turnovers, Arizona was able to match that with a team total of 15 assists, almost doubling WSU’s total. 

Arizona head coach Sean Miller and his team looked to have found a defensive identity in this game as the Wildcats were able to keep the Cougars at an alarming 32% (20-63) from the field. 

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"Our defense improved as the game went along," Miller said.

Freshman guard Kerr Kriisa was a late scratch to tonight’s game, forcing Terrell Brown Jr. to fill his space in the starting lineup. Brown had one of his best games in recent memory by filling up the stat sheet very steadily, logging 35 minutes and putting up seven points, five rebounds, eight assists and a game-high four blocks. Brown said his mindset didn’t change at all when he heard he would be starting. 

“Whatever the team needed me to do tonight,” Brown said. 

Miller was also extremely impressed of Terrell’s performance.

“[Brown] is unselfish, smart and experienced, [Brown] is just a steady force”. Very touting words from the head coach after Brown’s overall game. 

Terrell Brown Jr. may be playing his final home game as a member of the Wildcats on Saturday and he looked back on the ride it’s been. 

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“It was a fun journey and I kinda don’t want it to end,” Brown said 

James Akinjo was the game’s leading scorer, putting up 19 points on 6-14 from the field. Akinjo also tacked on six rebounds, four assists and a game-high four steals. 

Freshman Bennedict Mathurin continued to impress as he led all players with 38 minutes, just a month after his sprained ankle. Mathurin is one of the most efficient players in the country and that was a factor tonight as he dropped in 14 points on 5-7 from the field. He also racked up four rebounds, three assists and one steal but Miller was most impressed with his defense tonight on Washington State’s outside shooters. 

“[Mathurin’s] defense got better as the game went along, same with Dalen Terry,” Miller said. 

The other freshman wing, Dalen Terry, had one of his most complete games of the season as well. Terry had eight points on 4-6 shooting with four rebounds, displaying more ball-handling confidence and consistent defensive intensity. 

Terry also provided the highlight of the game with a ferocious one-handed dunk on a fastbreak late in the game, putting the icing on Washington State’s going away cake. 

Arizona’s all-around effort was most important tonight as they had six players to score over seven points and seven players playing serious deep minutes. 

Freshman Azuolas Tubelis came close to having a double-double in back-to-back games by providing a solid and steady nine points and nine rebounds.

Arizona improves to 16-8 overall after this win and will have a chance to sweep the Washington schools on this homestand on Saturday, Feb. 27 when they play the struggling Washington Huskies at 12 p.m. MST.


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (12/8)
669 11 1.6%
Total (8/2)
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Includes tests since August 2, 2021
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated December 8, 2021