TUCSON, Ariz. – Nico Mannion scored 15 of 23 his points in the second half, Zeke Nnaji added 21 and Arizona raced away from Washington State for an 83-62 victory Thursday night.
The Wildcats (20-10, 10-7 Pac-12) labored through a lethargic first half, managing to keep the Cougars close behind Nnaji’s 14 first-half points.
Mannion, who had seven assists, took over in the second half and Arizona turned a close game into a rout with a 26-0 run to end a three-game losing streak.
Washington State (15-15, 6-11) shot 4 of 19 from 3-point range, 32% overall and had a scoreless streak of more than 7 1/2 minutes as Arizona pulled away in the second half.
Isaac Bonton led the Cougars with 21 points.
Arizona went from being in the hunt for the Pac-12 regular-season title to fighting for a first-round bye.
The Wildcats arrived back at McKale Center after losing three straight, the last one 69-64 to UCLA on Saturday after coach Sean Miller was ejected in the second half.
That left Arizona in a logjam with Stanford, Colorado and Southern California with seven losses entering the final week.
Arizona beat Washington State 66-49 in Pullman last month after the Cougars shot 3 for 18 from the 3-point line.
Washington State again had trouble finding the range early against Arizona in the rematch, going 4 for 19 from the arc.
The Cougars led 31-29 at halftime, though, because the Wildcats weren’t much better – except for Nnaji.
The 6-foot-11 freshman had his way with the Cougars inside early and continued to cause problems even after they started double teaming him. He hit 6 of 9 shots while the rest of the Wildcats combined to go 6 for 22.
Mannion got it going early in the second half, scoring nine quick points, and Arizona fed off his energy, reeling off 26 straight to go up 58-38.
The Wildcats shot 20 of 34 in the second half, including 6 of 8 from 3, and held Washington State without a field goal for 9 1/2 minutes.
Washington State did a nice job of making it a grinding game in the first half, but had no answer when Mannion and the Wildcats got rolling. Arizona won a game it couldn’t afford to lose with a stellar second half, keeping alive its hopes of a first-round Pac-12 tournament bye.
Washington State plays at Arizona State on Saturday.
Arizona hosts Washington on Saturday.
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