Arizona knocks out No. 4 Michigan in Roman Main Event championship game

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Under the bright lights of Las Vegas, Sunday night’s title bout featured a heavyweight battle between two talented frontcourts.

In one corner were Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson, Moussa Diabate and Brandon Johns Jr. In the other were Arizona’s Christian Koloko, Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo.

The latter group packed a powerful punch and was dominant on the interior as the Wildcats pounded the No. 4 Wolverines, 80-62, in the Roman Main Event championship game at T-Mobile Arena.

BOX SCORE: Arizona 80, Michigan 62

Fifth-year senior guard Eli Brooks scored 14 and Dickinson had 11 points and seven rebounds for Michigan (3-2), which shot 1-for-14 from 3-point range, was outscored 54-30 in the paint and was disjointed much of the contest.

"We didn’t do a good job of going at their length," Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. "I think at times we forced the issue by driving and trying to finish over top of their length inside.

“They did a good job getting anything they wanted when they wanted to. That was the only game that we’ve played thus far that we’ve allowed a team to beat us in the paint."

Michigan center Hunter Dickinson (1) and Arizona guard Dalen Terry (4) fight for a ball during the first half on Sunday.

After trailing by as much as 10 in the first half, it didn’t take long for the game to start teetering for Michigan. Turnovers continued to be a problem and Arizona turned its defense into offense, using a pair of free throws from Tubelis to give the Wildcats a 45-33 lead with 17:54 remaining.

Johns hit a 3-pointer — the team’s first after a 0-for-7 start — to momentarily quell the momentum, but Michigan had no answers for Arizona on either end as the Wildcats made their first nine shots in the second half.

Tubelis threw down a thunderous dunk. A turnover from Diabate led to a fast-break slam from Terry. Koloko swatted a shot by Diabate at the rim that led to a 3-pointer during a 10-2 flurry that put Michigan in a 59-42 hole with 13:18 to play.

Things never got any better from there. The Wolverines struggled to pick themselves up off the mat and couldn't get anything going on offense. Koloko essentially delivered the knockout blow by scoring 10 straight points and throwing down numerous dunks for Arizona over a 3-minute, 13-second stretch to make it 72-52 with 5:27 left.

The Wolverines could barely put a dent in the deficit and never got closer than 16 points the rest of the way as they were dealt their worst nonconference loss since an 18-point defeat at UCLA on Dec. 10, 2016.

Koloko finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, Tubelis had 13 points and eight rebounds, Bennedict Mathurin scored 16 and Dalen Terry added 13 for Arizona (5-0), which shot 50% from the field (33-for-66). The Wildcats entered the game with one of the tallest rosters and top interior defenses in the nation.

“We played our hearts out,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “We always talk about swag. Our Arizona swag is confidence, but it’s backed up with intelligence and effort. (The players) are getting that and they’re showing the way they’re able to scheme and game plan and understand game situations.

“Arizona basketball earns everything it gets and that’s the way we want it. We don’t want anything given to us. We’re going to go take what we’re going to get.”

The teams traded punches early during a fast-paced, back-and-forth start. Arizona used its size and speed to score its first five baskets in the paint and force uncomfortable possessions.

Michigan used a 10-4 spurt that was fueled by the freshmen, featuring a jumper from Diabate, an up-and-under layup from Caleb Houstan and a strong drive by Frankie Collins, to take a 16-12 lead with 11:58 left in the first half.

Turnovers, though, became an issue for the Wolverines as unforced errors and offensive fouls led to a string of empty possessions. The Wildcats took advantage with a 7-0 run that Koloko capped with a short hook to pull ahead, 19-16, at the 10:10 mark.

Grad transfer guard DeVante’ Jones stopped the run with a floater and Dickinson tipped in his own missed shot to regain a 20-19 edge before things started to go sideways. Jones picked up his second foul at the 8:21 mark, Dickinson was given little room to operate and the Wolverines struggled to find a rhythm in the half court, making just three baskets over the final 7:57.

Arizona went right back to its big men to go back on top for good, with Koloko scoring on a hook and throwing down an alley-oop during an 11-2 spurt that put Michigan in a 32-23 hole with 2:59 left in the half. An offensive rebound and putback put the Wildcats up 10 before a late layup from Brooks cut the deficit to 37-29 at the break.

“I thought we got off to a really good start early with our energy and effort," Howard said. "I expected our guys to get a little tired and we were going to get into our rotation a little early. But once we got into our rotation and the other guys got back in, the energy level sort of dwindled away.

"It’s part of the game, adversity. When adversity hits, it defines the man on how he responds the next time.”

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins