In what was easily the biggest challenge of the young season, Arizona pulled away from Irvine late in the second half to win 71-54 Wednesday night.
Mamadou Ndiaye scored his first bucket of the game, but Elliott Pitts answered with a three. Ndiaye then got another basket and Dusan Ristic matched it. An offensive rebound from Will Davis then proceeded to cut Arizona’s lead to 9-6 with 11:46 left in the first half.
Jefferson picked up a three-point play that Luke Nelson answered with a three-pointer. Johnson then made two free-throws and Mike Best got on the board with a jumper to keep Arizona’s lead at 14-11 with 7:40 remaining in the half.
Alex Young made a jumper and a three by Travis Souza forced Sean Miller to call timeout with the Wildcats down 16-14.
Young made a three-pointer and McConnell made now of his own. Souza then made another three-pointer before Brandon Ashley made two free-throws. A three by Gabe York and layup by Hollis-Jefferson then gave Arizona a 24-22 lead with 3:46 left in the first half.
Ndiaye scored a bucket and added two free-throws. York made two from the line and Ndiaye made one of two. Two free-throws from Nelson then gave Irvine a 29-26 halftime lead.
Davis scored and Johnson made two consecutive buckets to get the Wildcats to within one. However, Nelson made a jumper and Souza hit a three to bring the lead right back to six.
Ashley got in the lane and scored before a free-throw by Davis. Hollis-Jefferson made his two free-throw attempts soon after and got a dunk in the lane to bring the Wildcats to within one and force an Irvine timeout with 14:52 left.
Dominique Dunning made two free-throws and then got in the lane and scored. McConnell and Souza then exchanged shots from behind the arc before a jumper by Ashley cut the Irvine lead to 43-41.
Young made a free-throw and Best then made a jumper. Tarczewski and Hollis-Jefferson proceeded to make two free-throws each and brought Arizona to within 46-45 with 7:53 left in the second half.
Hollis-Jefferson made two free-throws and Ashley hit one of two. Tarczewski then scored on an offensive rebound off the second missed free-throw and a layup by McConnell off a turnover gave the Wildcats a 52-46 lead with 6:55 remaining in regulation.
Tarczewski and Hollis-Jefferson scored before Nelson did the same. Hollis-Jefferson proceeded to make two free-throws and Young added a bucket to cut Arizona’s lead to 58-50.
York made one of two from the line and Hollis-Jefferson added two of his own. McConnell's two free-throws then sealed the victory.