Arizona has finally solved its UConn curse.
Behind 20 points from Rawle Alkins and a double double of 18 points and 10 rebounds from Dusan Ristic, the Wildcats beat the Huskies for the first time ever, 73-58, on Thursday at McKale Center.
UConn had beaten Arizona in all five previous matchups, the last a two-point game in the 2011 Elite Eight, and even this one looked shaky for a while.
The Wildcats never trailed UConn but were mired in ties with the Huskies early in the second half, and let the Huskies creep within one point as late as with 7:11 to go.
But the UA finally pulled away with an 8-0 run over 2:03 span late in the half that gave it a 10-point lead, allowing to coast into a final nonconference win.
Arizona shot a 50 percent from the field and kept UConn to just 44.8 percent but the Wildcats were outrebounded 33-29 while the Huskies converted 10 offensive rebounds for 15 second-chance points.
The win closed out Arizona’s nonconference season at 10-3 and kept them undefeated in the United States, with all three of their losses coming at their ill-fated Battle 4 Atlantis appearance in the Bahamas during Thanksgiving week.
The Wildcats are scheduled to take four days off for a Christmas break, then return on Tuesday to begin preparing for a Dec. 30 Pac-12 opener against ASU at McKale Center.
They are 7-1 in the final game played before taking a Christmas break under Sean Miller, not counting 2012-12, when they played over Christmas in the Diamond Head Classic.
UConn was led by Terry Larrier, who had 16 points and three rebounds.
Arizona took a seven-point halftime lead but fell back into ties at 30 and 36 early in the second half while UConn hit 56.3 percent during the first 10 minutes of the second half. The Huskies also came within a point, 52-51, after Christian Vital hit a 30-foot 3-point shot with 8:07 to go and at 7:11 when Eric Cobb made a layup.
Through the first 12 minutes of the second half, UConn had made 61.1 percent of its field goals including 3 of 4 from 3-point range. The Wildcats hit 57.1 percent but were getting outrebounded 10-5 over the first 12 minutes of the second half.
But Arizona held UConn scoreless for two and a half minutes to change the momentum. The Wildcats took a 60-55 lead with 4:38 left and the Wildcats took a 10-point lead after Allonzo Trier hit a 3-pointer and Rawle Alkins drove through the UConn defense for a layup that made it 65-55.
Trier returned to start Thursdayafter suffering a mild left knee sprain on Monday against North Dakota State. UA athletic trainer Justin Kokoskie said before the game it was just a matter of how much Trier could tolerate soreness and that he faced no additional risk in playing on it.
Kokoskie said Trier spent the past two days receiving constant treatment, a process that was easier because UA is no longer in session, and was able to regain his full range of motion.
But the soreness may have affected Trier’s initial shooting. He missed his first three shots, he made a layup to break UA out of an 11-11 tie with 10:19 to go and ultimately finished with 15 points on 5-for-11 shooting.
In the first half, Ristic had 10 points and five rebounds to lead Arizona to a 30-23 halftime lead.
The Wildcats had eight turnovers and shot just 40.7 percent from the field, while the Huskies were even worse: They shot 36.0 percent and had 11 turnovers.