Houston pulls off upset of top-seeded Arizona to advance to Elite Eight

Arizona Wildcats guard Bennedict Mathurin.
Arizona Wildcats guard Bennedict Mathurin.(Mike Christy | Arizona Athletics)
Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 8:06 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 24, 2022 at 10:04 PM MST
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SAN ANTONIO (KOLD News 13) - Turnovers and poor shooting doomed Arizona Thursday night in a 72-60 loss to Houston in the Sweet 16.

Jamal Shead led Houston (32-5) with 21 points and teammate Kyler Edwards scored 19 points.

Dalen Terry (17), Ben Mathurin (15) and Christian Koloko (10) each scored in double digits for Arizona (33-4).

“Houston is one of those teams, you are better served if you play them a couple of times,” Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd said during a postgame news conference. “They do what they do at such a high level.”

“I don’t have a lot of stuff to say,” Mathurin said. “It was a tough game. There is a lot of stuff we could have done better.”

Koloko said Houston came out and played its game.

“We just want to give credit to them,” Koloko said. “They did everything their coach wanted them to do. You have to give credit to them, they deserved to win.”

Poor shooting and turnovers were problems for the Wildcats in their first two NCAA tournament games. Against Houston, they were fatal flaws.

In the opener against Wright State, Arizona turned it over 19 times but had enough raw talent to muscle out an easy 87-70 win.

In the next round against TCU, the Wildcats had 16 turnovers and went 5-for-27 from the 3-point line. Huge performances by Mathurin, who had a season-high 30 points, and Koloko, who had 28 points and 12 rebounds, was enough to push Arizona to an 85-80 win in overtime.

The miscues turned out to be much more costly against a talented and athletic Houston squad. The Wildcats turned it over 14 times and shot only 33.3% from the field.

The good news for Wildcat fans is this was only the first of the Lloyd era. In only one season in Tucson, Lloyd has the Wildcats looking a lot like the dominant teams of the Lute Olson era.

Arizona won the Pac-12 regular-season and postseason titles while going undefeated at home.

“We started the season, nobody believed in us,” Koloko said. “We made them believe in us. I want to thank the fans for their support. We know we could have done better. There’s nothing we can do now, we have to learn from it.”

In the last few weeks, Arizona has signed five-star point guard Kylan Boswell and four-star guard KJ Lewis. Mookie Cook, also a five-star player, is also considering the Wildcats.

Mathurin is expected to be a lottery pick in the NBA draft, but the core of this year’s team should return in 2022-23. Throw in Boswell and Lewis, maybe Cook too, and it isn’t hard to see the Wildcats as a favorite to win it all.

No. 5 Houston will face No. 2 Villanova in an Elite Eight game on Saturday. The Villanova Wildcats advanced with a 63-55 win over Michigan earlier in the day Thursday.

Jermaine Samuels scored a game-high 22 points for Villanova to go with eight rebounds. Justin Moore (15) and Collin Gillespie (12) also scored in double digits for the Wildcats from Pennsylvania.

Hunter Dickinson led Michigan with a double-double (15 points, 15 rebounds).

Nova has three NCAA titles (2018, 2016 and 1985) and one runner-up finish (1971). Houston has never won it all, but finished second in 1984 and 1983. The Cougars made the Final Four last season before losing to eventual champion Baylor.

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