TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona struggled to get shots to fall and had careless turnovers, spending the first half looking like the worst version of itself.
The Wildcats (20-10, 10-7 Pac-12) labored through a lethargic first half, managing to keep the Cougars.
Washington State (15-15, 6-11) shot 4 of 19 from 3-point range, 32% overall and had a scoreless streak of more than 7 1/2 minutes as Arizona pulled away in the second half. The Cougars have struggled on the road this season, going just 2-8 away from Pullman.
Isaac Bonton led the Cougars with 21 points.
“We turned it over a couple times and it went from three to six, and we kind of hung our heads,” Washington State coach Kyle Smith said. “It went from up five to down 20 pretty quick and they have that ability to that.”
Arizona went from being in the hunt for the Pac-12 regular-season title to fighting for a first-round bye.
The Wildcats arrived back at McKale Center after losing three straight, the last one 69-64 to UCLA on Saturday after coach Sean Miller was ejected in the second half.
That left Arizona in a logjam with Stanford, Colorado and Southern California with seven losses entering the final week.
Arizona beat Washington State 66-49 in Pullman last month after the Cougars shot 3 for 18 from the 3-point line.
Washington State again had trouble finding the range early against Arizona in the rematch, going 4 for 19 from the arc.
The Cougars led 31-29 at halftime, though, because the Wildcats weren’t much better — except for Nnaji.
The 6-foot-11 freshman had his way with the Cougars inside early and continued to cause problems even after they started double teaming him. He hit 6 of 9 shots while the rest of the Wildcats combined to go 6 for 22.
“He’s just a relentless motor,” Smith said. “To be a freshman and compete that hard on every possession is pretty impressive.”
Mannion got it going early in the second half, scoring nine quick points, and Arizona fed off his energy, reeling off 26 straight to go up 58-38.
The Wildcats shot 20 of 34 in the second half, including 6 of 8 from 3, and held Washington State without a field goal for 9 1/2 minutes.
“The confidence that might have been lacking in the first half, it came back to us,” Miller said.
Washington State plays at Arizona State on Saturday to close out the regular season.