Arizona guard Justin Kier (5) wins the race to a loose ball against Colorado guard KJ Simpson (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022 in Tucson, Ariz. (Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star via AP)
Arizona guard Justin Kier (5) wins the race to a loose ball against Colorado guard KJ Simpson (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022 in Tucson, Ariz. (Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star via AP)
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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona had a letdown to close the first half, blowing most of a 15-point lead. The Wildcats got the rout going again to start the second half, using their defense to blow past Colorado.

Azoulas Tubelis and Justin Kier scored 14 points, and No. 6 Arizona overwhelmed Colorado in the second half for a 76-55 win Thursday night.

The Wildcats (13-1, 3-0 Pac-12) dominated early, let the Buffaloes back in it and used a big run to start the second half to pull away. Arizona shot 51% and had 20 assists on 29 field goals to match its best start since 2015-16.

“We started off the game with good effort and then we kind of let our guard down,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “The guys responded and played a great second half, especially defensively. For us it’s no secret: defense is a kick starter our offense

Colorado (11-4, 3-12) recovered from its slow start in the first half, but couldn't bounce back from one in the second to remain winless in 11 all-time games at McKale Center. The Buffaloes had another rough shooting night from the perimeter, finishing 4 for 20 from 3. Colorado is shooting 28% from the arc the past six games.

Former Arizona signee K.J. Simpson led Colorado with 17 points.

“We were taking a lot of bad shots, a lot of quick shots,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “When you do that on the road, a quick shot in this building is like a turnover. We had too many bad, quick shots in the second half”

Arizona had a bit of trouble with Washington's zone defense in its first game back from a 16-day break, turning it over 21 times. The Wildcats made up for it in all other aspects on offense, shooting 55% while assisting on 28 of 33 field goals in the 95-79 win.

Arizona got off to a great start against Colorado, holding the Buffaloes without a field for nearly six minutes to start and forcing seven early turnovers while building a 15-point lead.

Then the Wildcats' turnover issues returned.

Good with the ball early, Arizona started giving it away. Colorado took advantage, going on a 12-2 run to cut the lead to 29-26. The Buffaloes scored 10 points off the Wildcats' eight first-half turnovers, turning what appeared to be headed toward a rout into a manageable 32-28 halftime deficit.

“We started good, but we can't let down,” Tubelis said. “We have to keep it going and be a consistent team.”

Arizona quickly made it unmanageable by taking better care of the ball and making 7 of their first 12 shots. The Wildcats opened the second half on a 15-4 run to go up 49-34 and made sure there was no second-half comeback.

Arizona beat the Buffaloes on several backdoor cuts and took advantage of slow defensive rotations to hit 17 of 30 shots in the second half. The Wildcats dominated the boards in the second half, grabbing 15 more, and Colorado shot 3 of 12 from the arc.

“They came out with much more intensity,” Simpson said. “Once they got the big lead, we sort of put our heads down. We can't do that.”

BIG PICTURE

Slow starts in both halves put Colorado in a tough spot. The Buffaloes fought back in the first half, but couldn't in the second for a rough start to a stretch of games against the Pac-12's top teams.

Arizona shook off its first-half turnover problems with a dominating second half to beat Colorado yet again at McKale Center.

SIMPSON'S RETURN

Simpson had signed with Arizona when Sean Miller was coaching, but never played a game in Tucson. He transferred after Lloyd was hired and ended up in Boulder.

Simpson heard some chatter from Arizona's fans early and didn't let it bother him, playing aggressively after coming off the bench. He finished 5 for 11 from the floor with four assists.

“I just kept my head, knew I didn’t want to focus on what the crowd was saying,” he said. “I knew it was going to be hyped in there. I just focused on the court, talk to my guys.”

I just felt like I had so much to give and it was tough sitting out. That being taken away from me, I didn't want to take that for granted because it can be taken away from you.

UP NEXT

Colorado plays at Arizona State on Saturday.

Arizona hosts Utah Saturday.

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