TUCSON, Arizon — Bennedict Mathurin scored 24 points, Christian Koloko added 21 and No. 2 Arizona bounced back from a sluggish start to beat Stanford 81-69 on Thursday night.
The Wildcats (27-3, 17-2 Pac-12) labored through most of the first half after clinching the Pac-12 regular-season title on Tuesday, falling into a nine-point hole. Arizona found an offensive rhythm to close the half, kept hitting shots in the second and turned up the defensive pressure to remain undefeated (16-0) at home.
Stanford (15-14, 8-11) was blown out at home in the first meeting against Arizona and was coming off one of its worst offensive performances of the season against rival California. The Cardinal were much sharper the second go-round against the Wildcats, hitting two more field goals in a torrid-shooting first half (12) than they did the entire game against Cal.
Stanford couldn’t sustain that shooting, though.
Spencer Jones scored 22 points and Michael O’Connell, who averages seven, gave Stanford a big lift with 16 points — all in the first half.
Arizona held its place in the AP Top 25 this week despite being manhandled by Colorado last Saturday.
The Wildcats bounced back with one of their best games of the season, rolling over No. 16 Southern California 91-71 to clinch their first regular-season Pac-12 title in four years.
Arizona wasn’t nearly as sharp early against Stanford, struggling to get shots to fall while coughing up careless turnovers.
The Wildcats also struggled defensively against a Stanford team that scored 39 points and shot 24% — 4 for 18 from 3 — in a 14-point loss to Cal in its last game.
The Cardinal shot 15 of 28 in the first half against Arizona, including 7 of 10 from 3. O’Connell hit all four of his 3-pointers before the break.
Arizona kept itself within reach by scoring 16 points off Stanford’s 11 turnovers, then hit its final six shots to pull to 39-37 at halftime.
The Wildcats got it rolling at both ends in the second half, defense leading to breakouts and early-offense opportunities. Mathurin had two breakaway dunks during an individual 8-0 run that put Arizona up 67-58, and the Wildcats kept stretching the lead from there.
Stanford continued to struggle with turnovers in the second half and wasn’t able to keep up its torrid shooting. The Cardinal shot 2 of 9 from 3 in the second half and finished with 17 turnovers that led to 23 Arizona points.
Stanford had a good defensive plan and moved the ball well to get open looks in the first half. The Cardinal weren’t as sharp in the second, bothered by Arizona’s defensive pressure, and missed several open shots.
Arizona needed some time to find a flow at both ends of the floor. Once the Wildcats did, they stretched the lead and prevented any type of run by the Cardinal.
Stanford: Plays at Arizona State on Saturday.
Arizona: Hosts California on Saturday.