LAS VEGAS – Two weeks into the regular season, the Arizona Wildcats are no longer perfect.
Butler’s Tyler Wideman bulldozed his way in for a three-point play with 29 seconds left to give Butler the lead for good in a predictably close Las Vegas Invitational final, and the Bulldogs beat Arizona 69-65.
Unranked Butler moved to 6-0 while the eighth-ranked Wildcats dropped to 5-1.
The game was tied at 63 entering the final minute, but UA forward Lauri Markkanen was already fouled out, and Parker Jackson-Cartwright missed a defended layup.
The Bulldogs then went ahead for good when Wideman drove inside for a basket and picked up a foul from Kadeem Allen.
Wideman converted the ensuing free throw to give Butler a 66-63 lead and, after Kobi Simmons missed a three-pointer on the other end with 13 seconds left, the Bulldogs hung on while converting free throws as UA began fouling.
Simmons finished with 14 points while Markkanen had 15 and five rebounds.
Butler turned a two-point halftime lead into leads of up to nine points early in the second half, but the Wildcats went on a 15-2 run until the final three minutes to go ahead 61-57.
Scoreless at halftime, Simmons scored 12 points over those first 17 minutes of the second half to key UA’s run, bringing the UA fans at the Orleans Arena on their feet with a dunk to cut Butler’s lead to 55-52 with eight minutes left. Simmons later made two straight layups to give UA leads of 59-57 and 61-57.
However, Markkanen fouled out with 3:10 remaining, having collected 15 points and five rebounds and Butler then tied the game back up at 63, heading into the final minute.
At the end of the first half, Butler raced the ball downcourt with 4.7 seconds left to get a layup from Sean McDermott at the halftime buzzer, giving the Bulldogs a 36-34 halftime lead.
Butler point guard Tyler Lewis took the inbounds pass and drove to the top of the key before finding McDermott under the right side of the basket.
UA had a chance to go ahead 36-34 itself but Kadeem Allen missed two free throws with 50 seconds left, and the game stayed tied at 34 until the final basket.
In the first half, Markkanen had 13 points and four rebounds to lead Arizona while Kelan Martin and Avery Woodson had 10 for Butler.
Butler shot 5 of 10 threes against the Wildcats and hit 9 of 11 free throws but UA outrebounded the Bulldogs 20-12. Arizona shot 44.4 percent from the field.
The game stayed close throughout the first half, with both sides shooting well Butler hit 5 of 6 three pointers through the first 12 minutes of the half.
The Bulldogs took a 27-26 lead when Woodman converted a four-point play, hitting a three and converting a free throw after Jackson-Cartwright fouled him on the shot.
With four minutes left, Arizona squeaked ahead 30-29 thanks to a pair of free throws from Markkanen and an inside basket from Dusan Ristic.
Arizona was without guard Allonzo Trier for the sixth game this season, meaning Trier’s pending eligibility situation has already cost him roughly one-fifth of UA’s regular season.