PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — The Arizona Wildcats didn’t just lose every game in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
They became Atlantis.
That is, lost.
Stumbling appropriately through their Bahamian resort for three days, the second-ranked Wildcats completed a shocking trifecta of losses when Purdue beat them 89-64 Friday in the seventh-place game of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Arizona also lost to North Carolina State on Wednesday and to SMU on Thursday.
On Friday, the defensively challenged Wildcats allowed Purdue to slice them up for open 3-pointers and cuts to the basket alike. Purdue shot 57.4 percent from the field and hit 11 of 22 3-pointers.
Arizona shot 42.4 percent from the field but managed to make only 3 of 17 3-pointers, thus spoiling yet another strong performance from local countryman Deandre Ayton, who had 22 points and eight rebounds to just miss a sixth double-double in as many games as a collegian.
However, the Wildcats did get a spark of life from freshman Brandon Randolph, who scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half, when the game was all but over. Randolph shot 7 for 11 from the field.
Arizona wing Allonzo Trier had by far his worst game of the season, after playing spectacularly at McKale Center in the Wildcats' first three games. He scored 20 or more over his first five games, but had just eight points on 3-for-10 shooting on Friday and turned the ball over four times.
The trio of losses are highly unusual for a second-ranked team, which Arizona became when the AP Top 25 poll was released Monday. Louisville lost three in a row during the 1986-87 season in the Great Alaska Shootout, then fell out of the poll and went unranked the rest of the season.
The Wildcats previously had lost three straight under UA coach Sean Miller only during his first season at UA, in 2009-10. Arizona lost to Vanderbilt, UNLV and Oklahoma in nonconference play that season and also lost to Oregon State, ASU and Cal in consecutive Pac-10 games.
Down 50-33 at halftime, the Wildcats continued their defensive struggles early in the second half. Purdue took leads of up to 20 points through the first eight minutes of the second half, shooting 58.3 percent overall through that period.
But Randolph scored 10 points through the first 12 minutes of the second half to put the Wildcats back in the game, hitting two straight jumpers to cut the Boilermakers’ lead to 71-59 with 7:57 left.
Randolph didn’t start the second half, but played 11 of the first 12 minutes when he did get in.
In the first half, Purdue repeatedly cut up the Wildcats with their screens, going outside for open 3s and getting easily to the basket on some others. Purdue hit 7 of 11 3-pointers in the first half and shot f 53.6 percent overall.
The Wildcats shot 41.4 percent overall in the first half but made just 1 of 8 3-pointers, a shot made by the 7-foot-1 Ayton.
Arizona coach Sean Miller had stuck Emmanuel Akot back in the Wildcats’ starting lineup after he turned to sophomore Dylan Smith for UA’s first two Battle 4 Atlantis games this week. Akot played nine minutes in the first half, but missed all three shots he took and had one turnover.
Miller said Thursday he started Smith because he played the best of a group of small forwards before arriving in the Bahamas.
“I talked to Emmanuel about that,” Miller said. “But as time marches on you learn more and more about team chemistry and who fits well. With rebounding, I thought Emmanuel did a good job” with three in 22 minutes.
Arizona is still playing without returning starter Rawle Alkins, who broke his foot on Sept. 26. While Alkins is within the expected window for him to return, Miller said before the tournament he didn’t’ know when Alkins would be back.
“Part of why people think so highly of our group is because people think highly of Allonzo and Rawle, and Rawle was an excellent freshman,” Miller said Thursday. “He was going to return back for his sophomore year bigger and better. You put him out there and it’s probably a different story but he’s not out there right now. I think that some of those other guys are getting a better opportunity and hopefully down the line when we get Rawle back we can be at our best.”