No. 8 Arizona basketball suffers first loss, falls to Butler in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS (AP) — With six new players donning a Butler uniform this season, coach Chris Holtmann isn’t sure what to expect from his Bulldogs.
Some have labeled this season as a rebuilding year. Holtmann shrugs it off with a wait-and-see attitude.
He may not have to wait any longer, as his Bulldogs showed plenty of resolve Friday night in a 69-65 victory over No. 8 Arizona in the championship game of the Continental Las Vegas Invitational.
Kelan Martin had 16 points, while Andrew Chrabascz had 14 points and seven rebounds to lead Butler (6-0), while Avery Woodson contributed 13 points, Kamar Baldwin had 11 and Tyler Wideman had eight rebounds.
Chrabascz was named MVP of the tournament.
“It’s too early to tell what this year’s going to look like, but what we know is we’ve already had some good moments this year,” said Holtmann, who is in his third season at Butler. “Time will tell. We’re just trying to kind of grow as a team and figure that out.
“This was really important for us, because we had some shaky moments for sure in that game. I think our guys found their composure at the right time, and we played well in stretches. But I think Arizona did too. I give them a lot credit, they’re a good team and really well-coached. It’s a quality win for us.”
The Wildcats, who fell behind by as many as nine points with 14 minutes to play, used a 15-2 run to regain momentum to get back in the game before Butler made a final run down the stretch.
Freshmen Lauri Markkanen and Kobi Simmons led Arizona (5-1) with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Trailing by four points late, the Bulldogs went on a 9-2 run, highlighted by Wideman’s dunk with 29.3 seconds left that gave Butler a 65-63 lead. His ensuing free throw made it 66-63.
Both Holtmann and Chrabascz said there was never any sign of panic on the Bulldogs’ part, even when the Wildcats were ahead by five with 3 minutes left.
“We just said let’s just find a way to do what we do and hope it works — it was as simple as that,” Holtmann said. “Players make plays, and they did. We told them to move the ball offensively, we did a little bit of a defensive switch late, we just really focused them on the possessions at hand.”
Chrabascz’s layup with 1:38 left cut Arizona’s lead to two, and moments later two free throws by Baldwin tied the game at 63-all, leading up to Wideman’s go-ahead dunk.
The Bulldogs set themselves up with momentum at the close of the first half, when Sean McDermott took a pass on the run from Tyler Lewis, and banked in a soft jumper high off the glass to give Butler a 36-34 lead.
After Arizona tied the game at 38-all less than 2 minutes into the second half, the Bulldogs went on an 11-2 run to move ahead 49-40 and seize control of the tempo. The momentum shift visibly frustrated the Wildcats, who committed five turnovers inside the first 7 minutes of the second half.
Arizona: With time to regroup after a rugged start to the season, the biggest question remains when Allonzo Trier will make his season debut. The sophomore guard did not travel to Las Vegas with the Wildcats, and he’s now missed the team’s first six games for unspecified reasons. His absence has left Arizona with eight healthy scholarship players. Trier averaged 14.8 points as a freshman.
Butler: The Bulldogs received 14 votes in last week’s poll, but after knocking off Arizona to remain undefeated, one must wonder if they’ve done enough to make their first appearance in the Top 25. Three of Butler’s six wins have come against Power 5 Conference teams: Northwestern (Big Ten), Vanderbilt (SEC) and Arizona (Pac 12).
With the loss, the eighth-ranked Wildcats will likely drop out of the Top 10. Arizona has been ranked in the Top 25 for 81 consecutive weeks, the second-longest streak in the nation behind Kansas (145 weeks). Since the start of the 2012-13 season, the Wildcats have spent 60 of those weeks ranked in the Top 10.
While it was Wideman’s dunk that gave Butler the lead again, the key moment came with a little more than 3 minutes to play, when Markkanen fouled out, leaving Arizona without its key presence in the paint. Going into the game, the 7-footer from Finland led the team with 18.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
Arizona: The Wildcats won’t play again until Nov. 30, when they return to the McKale Center to host Texas Southern.
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