Top-ranked Arizona basketball drops 1st game of season to No. 3 Purdue

Dec 16, 2023, 4:59 PM | Updated: 7:59 pm

Pelle Larsson #3 of the Arizona Wildcats...

Pelle Larsson #3 of the Arizona Wildcats rebounds the ball against Trey Kaufman-Renn #4 of the Purdue Boilermakers in the Indy Classic at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on December 16, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

No. 1 Arizona basketball lost its first game of the season against No. 3 Purdue, 92-84, in a battle of top programs at the Indy Classic Saturday in Indianapolis.

Purdue (10-1) received three 20-point performances in the victory from guards Fletcher Loyer (27) and Braden Smith (26) along with 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey (22). Loyer scored a career high by shooting 5-for-9 from beyond the arc, while Smith added four 3s.

Arizona (8-1) had not allowed more than 73 points in any game this season before Saturday.

The Wildcats fell behind 49-38 at halftime, and the Boilermakers led by 15 points in the second half. But Arizona changed the game by turning to a zone and going on an 11-0 run to cut the deficit to 67-63 with 10:30 remaining.

But Purdue withstood the onslaught and held onto a multiple-possession lead throughout. Lance Jones and Smith hit a pair of clutch 3s in the final five minutes, and Edey put Purdue up by 10 with a bully-ball hook in the paint. Purdue knocked down 10 of 24 triples on Saturday, while Arizona shot 6-for-16 from deep.

Caleb Love led Arizona with 29 points on 19 shots to go along with six rebounds, while Keshad Johnson dropped 24 points on 13 shots and eight boards.

Purdue jumped ahead in the first half by taking advantage of offensive rebounds and turnovers. The Boilermakers had an 18-4 advantage at halftime in second-chance points and scoring off turnovers combined.

Arizona largely flipped that script in the second half to storm back.

“I’m not trying to be the No. 1-ranked team in December. (The media) decides that, not me,” Wildcats coach Tommy Lloyd said. “It was two great teams going at it and thought it was a great atmosphere. It was basically a road game for the most part. I think our guys dug in and fought back. I think this is going a long way to really help our program.”

The Wildcats entered Saturday’s marquee matchup 3-0 against ranked teams. Purdue was the top-ranked team in the country until a 92-88 loss against Northwestern on Dec. 2 knocked them down, but it has a claim to the top spot after knocking off Arizona.

Saturday was Purdue’s first victory over the AP No. 1 team in the country since 2000 against Arizona.

“Their good players played real well,” Lloyd said. “We tried some things and some work and some didn’t. I love this team we have.”

The Wildcats have two more games in the nonconference schedule.

They face Alabama at Footprint Center on Wednesday in Jerry Colangelo’s Hall of Fame Series and No. 11 Florida Atlantic next Saturday in Las Vegas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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