Arizona MBB notebook: Wildcats escape overtime with TCU, Mathurin and Koloko take over and a matchup with No. 5 Houston awaits

The Wildcats are two wins away from their first Final Four since the 2000-01 season

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Ryan Wohl | The Daily Wildcat The Arizona men's basketball team huddles up during a timeout on March 20, 2022 versus TCU in the Round of 32 during the NCAA Tournament.

After the Arizona men's basketball team beat the TCU Horned Frogs this past weekend in the round of 32, they will now travel to San Antonio, Texas this Thursday to face off against the University of Houston in the Sweet 16. Here is my new notebook recapping the last week and previewing tomorrow's game. 

Survive and advance

The Arizona men’s basketball team beat the Horned Frogs in a crazy overtime game by a score of 85-80. Arizona’s best player and Pac-12 Player of the Year Bennedict Mathurin shined when the lights were the brightest after hitting a three-pointer to tie the game up with 10 seconds left before heading to overtime. In overtime, he completed an and-one play to put them over the edge, get the victory and advance to their first Sweet 16 since 2018. 

“I think we got big game players and I think they are excited to be here and tomorrow they are going to go out and let it rip,” head coach Tommy Lloyd said. 

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While playing in March, the saying "survive and advance" is the mindset teams need to have to continue moving forward. The Wildcats had 35 turnovers throughout their first two games in the NCAA Tournament but escaped each contest with the most important thing: the win. 

RELATED: Mathurin and Koloko combine for 58 points leading Arizona MBB past TCU in overtime and advancing to the Sweet 16

Mathurin and Koloko dominate 

Arizona guard Mathurin had one of his best games of the season in a win-or-go-home game versus TCU and could not be stopped. He finished the contest with 30 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. He also had a dunk with a few minutes left that energized the crowd to an unbelievable level. 

“I want [Mathurin] to leave Arizona with the habits and work ethic required to be a good NBA player because it will not be easy,” Lloyd said. 

“Growing up in Douala, Cameroon not many people made it out for basketball I think the only person is Pascal Siakam,” said center Christian Koloko. “To be here right now is crazy, and I am going to continue to work hard and keep praying.”

Koloko is having an incredible season and has improved in every area of his game. He put together one of his best games since arriving in Tucson three years ago against TCU. Koloko scored 28 points on a near perfect 12-13 shooting from the field while grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking three shots.  

During the five postseason games throughout the past two weeks, he averaged 18 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per contest. 

“I’m not feeling anything different; I’m playing the same way, I’m just more aggressive,” Koloko said. 

Kriisa is back

“I haven’t had any issues coaching-wise all year, and I will roll with him every day of the week,” Lloyd said. “His ankle continues to make progress and we will continue to take it on a day-by-day basis.”

Arizona starting point guard, Kerr Kriisa has been battling through a sprained ankle that he suffered in the Pac-12 tournament. He returned to action against TCU while coming off the bench. He played 27 minutes in the contest but didn't provide a ton on the court. He was 1-10 from three-point land while scoring three points.

“My ankle is doing better,” Kriisa said. “I feel like I have benefited a lot from the past two-three days.”

Sixth year guard Justin Kier has started in Kriisa's absence but only played in 14 minutes of the game last weekend.

“I honesty haven’t even thought about what I am going to do about the starting lineup yet,” Kier said.

16 teams remain in March Madness

Staying in the south region, No. 11 University of Michigan beat No. 3 seed University of Tennessee to advance to the Sweet 16 where they will play No. 2 Villanova University who have had two impressive performances in the tournament. The Wildcats would potentially match up with the winner of that game in the Elite Eight on Saturday. 

The Wolverines will play in the same arena as Arizona on Thursday at 4:29 p.m. PST against the Villanova Wildcats. 

Sweet Sixteen preview: No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 5 Houston 

When first looking at this bracket, many people discussed a possible rematch between Arizona and Illinois, but that match up will not happen. Head coach Kelvin Sampson and his very tough and battle-tested Cougars will be the next team on the radar for Lloyd’s squad. 

“The effort and energy they play with and attention to detail is almost unmatched,” Lloyd said.

Houston blew out Illinois and dominated big man Kofi Cockburn by 15 points, and they did it by playing phenomenal defense and smart basketball. 

“I think this struggle is good for him and I think he is going to be a better player for it and hopefully it will start to show tomorrow,” Lloyd said. 


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