TUCSON - A quartet of Wildcats in double figures helped push Arizona past Florida Atlantic, 75-62, to give Arizona a season-opening victory in the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off tournament at McKale Center.
Junior wingman Chase Budinger dropped in 21, with guard Nic Wise adding 19, center Jordan Hill 12, and forward Jamelle Horne scoring 10.
The Cats were outrebounded by the smaller Owls, 37-28, but played tougher shot defense in the second half and won the shooting contest, .500 to .411. UA also helped force FAU into 16 turnovers.
The Owls had three players in double figures, led by guard Paul Graham with 23 points, backed by 10 apiece from Carderro Nwoji and Chris Watson. Watson led all rebounders with a career-high 15 boards.
Arizona will play Alabama-Birmingham in round two of the tournament Tuesday night, following a matchup of FAU against Santa Clara. UAB topped the Broncos in the tourney opener earlier Monday night.
Arizona also moved the ball well, piling up 19 assists on 27 made baskets.
Arizona opened the second half with a little run, 15-8, to open a double-digit lead.
Wise scored a pair of three-pointers to open the second half for UA and Horne added a jumper to give UA an eight-point lead, 49-41, but the Owls stayed within striking distance with a leaner by Graham.
A pair of free throws by Hill made it 51-43, and after a few misses at both end, UA's Wise drove the lane on a break and earned the bonus for an old-fashioned three-pointer and the biggest lead to that point, 54-43, at 12:56.
A pair of layups by Horne and Hill pushed it to 58-45 a short while later and Arizona never let it get closer than a dozen points after that.
In the first half, FAU made six of its first seven shots to take a good lead in the early going. The Owls shot 50 percent in the period.
Graham opened scoring with a three-pointer for FAU, but Hill answered with an inside move for UA. The Cats got a defensive stop at the other end and another bucket from Hill, but Graham nailed a jumper to make it 5-4.
The Owls kept up the long-range shooting with a jumper by Nwoji, another from Brett Royster, and a three from Nwoji to make it 13-7 at the first media timeout. Watson hit another jumper out of the break to make it 15-7.
The Owls cooled off some and UA climbed back into it.
Budinger hit his second three in as many tries to trim the lead to five points. A few possessions later, Garland Judkins worked his way to the line on a drive and made one free throw to make it 15-11 at the 12:02 mark. And Budinger worked free for a layin on the break a minute later to make it a two-point game at the second timeout.
FAU regained a little space, 22-16, before UA went on an 11-4 run. Kyle Fogg came off the bench and scored on a breakaway layup and then Horne stuck a jumper, and Fogg hit another to tie the game at 22 just inside the 7-minute mark.
Budinger drove the lane for a dunk to give UA its second lead of the half a minute later, but FAU answered with a layup from Watson, and then Horne dunked to make it 26-24 Arizona, and Owls' coach Mike Jarvis called time out.
The teams traded turnovers and missed shots before Shavar Richardson drained a jumper to knot the score again.
The teams traded scores before UA got a steal and a breakaway layup by Judkins for a 39-35 halftime lead.
Arizona starts season off right
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