Ristic, No. 19 Arizona holds off Texas A&M
HOUSTON -- Playing with a seven-man rotation, Arizona coach Sean Miller admitted his team wore down late against Texas A&M.
The Wildcats had just enough left to fight off the Aggies on Saturday.
Dusan Ristic tied a season-high with 18 points as No. 19 Arizona had to hold off a furious rally by Texas A&M for its fourth straight victory, 67-63.
“We have seven scholarship players, and we hit around that 10-minute, 8-minute mark and guys start missing shots and defense is not that easy as it once was,” Miller said. “That is why depth is so critical. . When they sensed we were running out of gas, they put it into overdrive.”
Ristic scored 14 of Arizona’s first 24 points and finished 8 of 12 from the field for the Wildcats (10-2), who shot 40 percent from the field, including 48 percent in the first half.
Lauri Markkanen added 17 points and seven rebounds, and Kobi Simmons chipped in 14 points for the Wildcats.
“We were fortunate to hold on, but I also think we deserved to win,” Miller said.
Tyler Davis had 23 points and 10 rebounds, Robert Williams added 15 points and Admon Gilder had 13 points for the Aggies, who shot 45 percent from the field, including 53 percent in the second half.
Texas A&M (7-3) had its three-game winning streak snapped.
The Aggies mounted a rally over the final 5 minutes, using an 18-0 run to close within 65-63 with 22 seconds left on a 3-pointer by DJ Hogg.
“It demonstrates that we have the ability if we show effort on both ends of the court to win games against really good teams,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “Arizona was better than us for the majority of the game.”
But Rawle Alkins hit two free throws with 15 seconds left to put the Wildcats up by four.
“After the first one, I felt comfortable,” Alkins said. “Coach trusted me and Lauri to make the play happen.”
Tonny Trocha-Morelos missed a 3-pointer, and Davis missed the ensuing putback, allowing Simmons to grab the rebound and dribble out the clock.
Arizona ended the first half with a 9-0 run led by Alkins’ five points to take a 41-28 lead and carried that momentum into the second half, pushing the lead to as many as 22 points with a 17-8 spurt over the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Texas A&M didn’t hit a field goal over the last 5:17 of the first half and shot 3 of 10 with eight turnovers to start the second half.
“For a large portion of the game, that was our best effort because we were playing against a really good team as well,” Miller said.
Arizona: The Wildcats have continued to play well since losing to No. 8 Gonzaga on Dec. 3. Arizona defended well, forcing 14 turnovers and converting them into 18 points. The Wildcats were aggressive and attacked the paint, scoring 32 points.
Texas A&M: The Aggies are still looking for a marquee win after falling to 0-3 against the Pac-12 this season. The Aggies allowed Arizona’s post players to control down low until the final 10 minutes and couldn’t take advantage of 15 offensive rebounds, scoring 13 second-chance points.
Arizona: The Wildcats could move up a couple spots after their fourth straight win.
Texas A&M: The Aggies, who were receiving votes to start the season, will likely remain without votes.
Arizona junior guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who missed his fifth straight game Saturday with a high ankle sprain, is closer to returning, Miller said.
“We are anxious to get him back,” Miller said. “He is moving in the direction of coming back. If we can have a couple good weeks, we might get him back a little more to the beginning of the conference season.”
Arizona: Hosts New Mexico on Tuesday before taking 10 days off ahead of Pac-12 play, which starts Dec. 30 at California.
Texas A&M: Hosts Saint Francis (Pa.) on Wednesday before an eight-day break ahead the start of SEC play Dec. 29 against Tennessee.
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