Maui, HI (SportsNetwork.com) - Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson each had 15 points as second-ranked Arizona won its Maui Invitational opener with a 72-53 decision over Missouri.
Hollis-Jefferson went 5-for-6 from the field and added six rebounds, while Stanley Jefferson contributed 14 points for the Wildcats, who used their trademark tough defense to dominate the game's final 24 minutes and advance to Tuesday's winner's bracket matchup with Kansas State.
"That first game (of a tournament) is always the most difficult," Wildcats head coach Sean Miller. "I think we feel good about the fact that we've won. There are a number of things that I know and I think we know we can do better."
Arizona (4-0) scored 24 points off 17 Missouri turnovers and held the Tigers to 36.4 percent shooting to overcome a slow offensive start.
"Their defense was good. It put pressure on us. It forced us to be uncomfortable," said Tigers head coach Kim Anderson. "You look at the stats, they had 24 points off turnovers, and basically that was the difference in the game."
Montaque Gill-Caesar paced Missouri (2-2) with 13 points and Johnathan Williams III and Keith Shamburger each finished with 11 in the loss. The Tigers will next take on Purdue, which fell to Kansas State in Monday's first game, in the consolation round.
The Wildcats struggled to hit shots for most of the first half and found themselves in a 21-21 deadlock with four minutes to go in the period, with Missouri drawing even on an 8-2 run led by six points from Gill-Caesar.
Arizona took control from then on, however. Johnson buried a corner trey -- ending an 0-for-8 start for the Wildcats from beyond the arc -- and T.J. McConnell came through with a pair of baskets, part of an 11-4 run that sent the Pac-12 powerhouse into the break owning a 32-25 lead.
Hollis-Jefferson then deposited five straight points to open the second half, and Missouri never got closer than eight points down the rest of the way.
"Coming into the game with the energy I always have is a great feeling for our team," said Hollis-Jefferson, who started the second half after serving as the Wildcats' sixth man throughout the season. "We need that spark sometimes off the bench or sometimes we may need it to start with, and Coach (Miller) knows that."
Arizona put the game out of reach with a 14-4 flurry that began midway through the final frame. The Wildcats held Missouri without a basket for the first three-plus minutes of the stretch, which was capped by Kaleb Tarczewski's hook shot that increased the lead to 63-44 with 4:47 remaining.
The Wildcats were up by as many as 21 points in the final minute.
The win extended Arizona's non-conference win streak to 31 games, the longest active run in the nation ... Wes Clark, the Tigers' second-leading scorer on the season, injured his right knee in the first half. He returned to the game but managed just three points ... The schools were meeting for the first time since the 1994 West Regional Final, a 92-72 Arizona victory ... Missouri had a 34-32 edge on the glass, the first time the Wildcats were outrebounded this season.