The Washington State University Cougars stormed into McKale Center and defeated the University of Arizona with a score of 74-61.
Other than Azuolas Tubelis pouring in 29 points and 14 rebounds, the rest of the Wildcats decided not to show up today. Excluding Tubelis, the group only converted a total of nine field goals. As a team, the Wildcats shot 32% from the field and shot 16% from 3-point range.
“We dug ourselves into a big hole and couldn’t get out of it,” Kerr Kriisa said. Today was the second consecutive game where the Wildcats trailed at halftime, predominantly because of lackluster energy from the tip-off.
Unfortunately, Arizona faced reality today because ill-advised starts in Pac-12 play will not be sustainable like it was against the University of Washington on Thursday evening. The Wildcats trailed by as many as 18 points at the 11 minute mark in the second half.
Cougar forward Mouhamad Gueye was brilliant against the Wildcats on Saturday.
“He [Gueye] was the best big on the floor today,” head coach Tommy Lloyd said. “He controlled the game, took a number of timely shots and was great on the glass.”
The sophomore was a matchup nightmare, stretching Oumar Ballo away from the basket and challenging him to defend away from the rim. Gueye finished with 24 points on 10 of 22 shooting from the field and was active on the glass with 14 rebounds.
As a team, the Cougars were drilling numerous shots from the perimeter in the first-half and had answers on the defensive end, stringing together key stops when the Wildcats showed signs of life. Kyle Smith witnessed his team connect on 43% of their 3-point shots, helping maintain leads throughout the afternoon.
The McKale Center crowd felt a punch to the chest as fans hit the exits halfway through the second half. Tonight marked the first home loss in the Tommy Lloyd era since his arrival last fall.
“I think I keep a pretty good perspective on things,” Lloyd said. “You are not going to go undefeated forever.” So although the result was unfamiliar, the need to panic is somewhat unnecessary for Wildcat fans.
For Arizona to get back on track, the backcourt must step up and help support Tubelis. Kriisa and Courtney Ramey had a somewhat disappointing weekend, struggling to hit shots. Lloyd will look for the duo to bounce back Thursday evening as the Wildcats travel to face Oregon State University.
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