No. 2 Arizona went into the Battle 4 Atlantis as one of the favorites to win the tournament in its three days in the Bahamas.
Now, the Wildcats (3-2) will look to avoid going winless at the event after falling to SMU 66-60 Thursday night in their second game of the tournament.
Strangely enough, Arizona will still get a chance to play another ranked team in the seventh-place game Friday night at 9:30 p.m. ET with No. 18 Purdue also looking to avoid going winless at the tourney.
The Wildcats took a late first-half lead Thursday night, but 20 turnovers and 20 offensive rebounds surrendered to the Mustangs took their toll as SMU (5-1) did enough to pull away in the end.
It was much of the same from the Wildcats on night two of the Battle 4 Atlantis — lapses on defense, stretches of ineffectiveness on offense and missed free throws. The added element in Thursday night’s loss, which wasn’t there in the loss to North Carolina State on Wednesday, were the turnovers.
The Wildcats turned the ball over more than they have at any other point this season finishing with 20 to SMU’s eight.
Arizona’s bench was once again mostly a non-factor in Thursday’s loss as freshman power forward Ira Lee was the only reserve to score, finishing with five points and six rebounds, plus two blocks. The rest of Arizona’s reserves went 0-for-5 from the field in the loss.
The Wildcats’ bench was outscored 39-6 in Wednesday’s loss to N.C. State.
Allonzo Trier led Arizona with 22 points on Thursday night, to go along with five rebounds and three assists, while freshman big man Deandre Ayton collected his fifth double-double in as many games with 17 points and a career-high 15 rebounds.
Thursday night’s game was one of runs, with Sean Miller’s Wildcats up by 10 points during one stretch of the game. SMU’s largest lead was 11 points with 14:06 left in the second half. The Mustangs didn’t make a field goal over the game’s last 3:44.
SMU dominated the offensive glass in the win, as well, leading to 14 second-chance points.
Arizona has struggled in the tournament with the smaller lineups of N.C. State and SMU, but Purdue has plenty of size — as well as an older, experienced team.
“Clearly there’s a lot on the line,” Miller said of the Friday night matchup. “Just like our program, they have a lot of pride.”
The Boilermakers dropped their game with Western Kentucky 77-73 Thursday night. Purdue lost its opening game of the tournament 78-75 to Tennessee in overtime.
“More than anything, I think it just bothers guys when their shots don’t fall,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We took some good shots in the first half that didn’t go down, and you can’t let it bother you. You’ve got to be able to grind it out. … I don’t know if we strung together two stops in the first half. We gotta be a better defensive team. We gotta be a better rebounding team.”
Purdue (4-2) was led by senior big man Isaac Haas in the loss Thursday night as he finished with 22 points and six rebounds. The Boilermakers had three players finish in double figures.