TUCSON, Ariz. (AP)—Arizona coach Lute Olson told his team to hit the boards hard and the 10th-ranked Wildcats took his words to heart.
The resulting domination in rebounding led Arizona to an 87-62 victory over Houston on Sunday night.
“Just take a look at the rebound totals,” Olson said. “(Houston) has a bunch of leapers and guys that can get on the boards. We had a 58-26 (edge). I didn’t know it was that big of a difference. We got good contributions from everybody.”
Marcus Williams had 15 points and 12 rebounds to lead the way for Arizona (8-1). Ivan Radenovic added 16 points and 11 boards.
There were plenty of rebounds to grab as Houston (4-3) shot only 31 percent from the field.
“We just missed open shots,” Houston coach Tom Penders said. “You can’t keep missing and giving a team opportunities. Sooner or later they are going to break you down.”
Arizona, the ninth-best scoring team at 86.6 points per game, started the second half with a 16-7 run fueled by a series of dunks and layups that led to a 57-40 lead with 14:45 left in the game. Mustafa Shakur scored four points in the spurt and finished with 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
Williams had a pair of dunks and a short jumper in the outburst. Chase Budinger added four points in the spurt and finished with 15.
Shakur finished the run by sending a pass off the backboard that Williams grabbed for a dunk.
“In the last game against San Diego State we had a similar play and I told Marcus, ‘Next time, if you’re behind me I am just going to throw it off the glass,”’ Shakur said. “He just knew what I was going to do.”
Robert McKiver, the nation’s sixth leading score, led Houston (4-3) with 13 points, 11 below his average.
Dion Dowell started and scored 12 points for the Cougars in his first game since becoming eligible after transferring from the University of Texas.
The Cougars entered the game as the nation’s second-best scoring team at 91.7 points per game.
“It’s not their offense that beat us, it’s our lack of offense that beat us,” Penders said.
While Arizona was scoring in the paint, the Cougars were settling for 3-pointers, but made just 12 of 41 attempts. They came into the game as the nation’s second-best 3-point shooting team.
“I really think we are getting better on defense every game,” Olson said. “These guys are doing a good job of communicating on switches and you can see with their 3-point shooters that we have (long arms) to put pressure on them.”
The Wildcats went on a 14-3 run midway through the second half, capped by a pair of Shakur free throws after he was intentionally fouled on a breakaway.
Nick Wise finished off a 10-point run with a 3-pointer from NBA range for an 84-53 lead down the stretch.
Houston stayed close in the first half by closing to within six points on a Dowell 3-pointer. Shakur responded with a driving layup before the buzzer to give the Wildcats a 41-33 lead at the break.