SAN DIEGO — Christian Koloko scored 17 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and keyed a big second-half surge for top-seeded Arizona, which beat No. 16 Wright State 87-70 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night.
Bennedict Mathurin scored 18 points and Dalen Terry had 16 for the Wildcats (32-3), who were cheered on by thousands of red-clad fans who made the drive from Tucson. Arizona won its seventh straight game and earned its first NCAA Tournament win since beating Saint Mary’s in the second round in 2017. First-year coach Tommy Lloyd, a longtime assistant at Gonzaga, has Arizona in the NCAAs for the first time since 2018.
Arizona advanced to face the winner of the nightcap between No. 8 Seton Hall and No. 9 TCU in the South Region.
Grant Basile scored 21 points and Trey Calvin had 16 for Wright State (22-14), which beat Bryant 93-82 in a First Four game not far from its campus in Dayton, Ohio, on Wednesday night. The Raiders took a redeye flight to San Diego after their first NCAA Tournament victory.
Arizona led by 16 points late in the first half and was up 42-31 at halftime before the undersized Raiders – a 21 1/2-point underdog, according to FanDuel Sportsbook – pulled within 49-42 on a 3-pointer and a three-point play from Basile.
That woke up the Wildcats, who responded with a 15-2 run keyed by Koloko. The 7-foot-1 center from Cameroon had seven points in the run, including an alley-oop dunk, a hook shot and three free throws. Koloko, who had only four points in the first half, had two dunks in the final minutes of the game and finished with six assists.
Wright State also got 15 points from Tim Finke. Tanner Holden was held to 12 points after scoring 37 points and clearing 11 rebounds in the First Four game.
Arizona was back in action for the first time since an impressive run through the Pac-12 Tournament, capped by a big comeback win over UCLA. Arizona also won the regular-season title.