Arizona men’s basketball team snaps losing streak, sweeps season series against Oregon State


Arizona guard James Akinjo dribbles down the court against Oregon State on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021 in Tucson, Ariz. in McKale Center. (Courtesy of Mike Christy/Arizona Athletics)

Ryan Wohl

The Arizona men’s basketball team defeated the Oregon State Beavers on Thursday, Feb. 11, by a score of 70-61.

James Akinjo and Bennedict Mathurin each had 14 points to lead the team in scoring while Kerr Kriisa made his first career start and had eight points with two made three-pointers.

“I feel like it was amazing for him to have his first start at Arizona,” Mathurin said. “He’s a great player and he helps the team.”

Head coach Sean Miller said his decision to insert Kriisa into the lineup was to improve the Wildcats’ defense. Not only did his energy and quickness boost the team’s defensive efforts, but his offense also played a big role as he looked much more confident shooting the ball than in the past two games.

The Wildcats struggled shooting the ball from the field as they were 20-50 (40%) but made 23 free throws as a team which was a big reason for how they didn’t let this game slip away from them. They also were 7-18 from deep but Mathurin was 3-6 from there and hit some big shots tonight when the team needed it.

“My shot wasn’t as good at the beginning of the season, but I have been in the gym before and after practice working on my shot,” Mathurin said.

“He doesn’t take bad shots, we have to do a good job of finding him,” Miller said. “He is our team’s most improved player, and he is much more sure of himself.”

Ira Lee sat out tonight’s game after injuring his ankle in Wednesday’s practice. Miller said the injury is still too early and the possibility of being available against Oregon on Saturday is unclear.

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“He hurt his ankle in yesterday’s practice, he couldn’t do much on it today,” Miller said. “I don’t know his status yet.”

So with the Wildcats crippled further by injuries, Christian Koloko took on the extra minutes and had one of his best all-around performances tonight in a game where the Wildcats arguably needed him the most.

Koloko finished with nine points, eight rebounds, one block, one steal and was 5-6 from the foul line. He looked more comfortable and sure of himself while driving to the basket more often tonight.

“I knew coming into the season that I had to do a better job at shooting free throws because last season I was terrible,” Koloko said. “Every day after practice, we have to shoot 50 free throws.”

Jordan Brown also had a solid game off the bench, scoring nine points to go along with seven rebounds and two blocks. Brown has been up and down this season but when he’s feeling it, he is a major force inside the paint for defenses to guard.

The Wildcats face the Oregon Ducks on Saturday, Feb. 13, at 12 p.m. This is the first matchup between the two teams of the 2020-21 season as their first scheduled game was postponed earlier in the season.

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