Brandon Williams had 15 points and 10 rebounds to help Arizona overcome a 12-point halftime deficit and beat Utah Valley 80-69 on Thursday at McKale Center, extending the Wildcats' home-court nonconference winning streak to 52 games.
Brandon Randolph added 16 points, making four 3-pointers during an early second-half spurt to erase UA’s halftime deficit. Justin Coleman had 15 points and Chase Jeter had nine rebounds.
Arizona shot 60.7 percent in the second half to finish at 50 percent for the game.
The Wildcats (7-2) have not lost a home-court nonconference game since San Diego State beat them 61-57 on Nov. 23, 2011, during a season UA finished in the first round of the NIT.
But with Utah Valley leading 41-29 at halftime, the streak appeared in danger in what was something of a “sandwich” game for Arizona, which was coming off a road win at UConn on Sunday and has another big road game scheduled for Sunday at Alabama.
But after Randolph almost singlehandedly pulled them back from a 12-point halftime deficit, hitting all four 3-pointers he took over the first four minutes of the second half, the Wildcats stayed within a possession or two of the Wolverines over the middle of the second half before pulling away for good with a 19-5 run toward the end of the game.
Arizona made it 74-62 after two fast-moving plays: Emmanuel Akot fired a pass from the 3-point line to Brandon Williams as he drove the baseline, with Williams making the layup, and Dylan Smith hit a 3-pointer.
Just 1 for 5 from the field in the first half, Randolph was a different player in both body language and shooting through the first four minutes of the second half.
Playing with expressive energy and confidence immediately after UA returned from halftime trailing 41-29, Randolph hit all four 3-pointers he took over the first four minutes, giving UA a 45-43 lead with 16:45 to go when he hit one in transition.
But the Wildcats had trouble expanding the lead over the middle of the second half, with Conner Toolson hitting a 3-pointer with 11:24 left to put UVU up 53-50, then later returning for two free throws that made it 55-50.
UA then scored seven straight points, on a 3-pointer from Dylan Smith, and layups from Coleman and Williams. The Wildcats held a 59-57 lead heading into the final eight minutes before pulling further ahead down the stretch.
In the first half, TJ Washington scored 11 points to lead Utah Valley to a 41-29 halftime lead.
UVU shot 50.0 percent while converting 11 UA turnovers into 19 points. UA shot just 38.5 percent from the field despite hitting 4 of 8 3-pointers.
The Wildcats fell behind 7-2 early after UVU’s TJ Washington stole the ball from Emmanuel Akot and turned it into a three-point play two minutes into the game. But 3-pointers from Coleman and Williams put UA in a 10-7 lead with 17:37 left in the half and the Wildcats went on to take an 18-11 lead on a 3-pointer from Alex Barcello three minutes later.
But two turnovers from Ira Lee led to UVU baskets while the Wolverines went on a 9-0 run to take a brief 20-18 lead, and UVU expanded the run all the way to 21-4.
Arizona wound up scoring only 11 points over the final 14:27 of the first half.
UVU made it 27-22 after Conner Toolson stole Justin Coleman’s pass and made a layup and ultimately finished their 16-4 run with a 3-pointer from TJ Washington and a layup from Benjamin Nakwaasah.
Through the first 16 minutes of the game, UVU had scored 18 points off 10 UA turnovers.
UA coach Sean Miller started Akot for the third straight game over Ryan Luther at power forward, while Akot responded with seven points, three rebounds and four assists over 23 minutes.