By NOAH TRISTER
AP Sports Writer
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jon Horford did his best to protect the basket for Michigan, blocking four shots in a game the Wolverines led most of the way.
In the end, top-ranked Arizona’s tireless rebounders were too much.
“I feel like they were just throwing it at the rim and just going up and playing volleyball,” Horford said. “We have to get tougher in that aspect.”
Nick Johnson made six free throws over the final 25 seconds, and No. 1 Arizona held on for a 72-70 victory over Michigan on Saturday after rallying from an 11-point deficit in the second half.
The Wildcats had 17 offensive rebounds, including a crucial one by T.J. McConnell in the final minute, and outscored the Wolverines 34-28 in the paint.
Michigan (6-4) led by one when McConnell hustled to the corner to rebound his own miss with less than a minute to go. Johnson then drew a foul on a drive with 24.6 seconds left. He made both free throws, and Michigan’s Nik Stauskas missed at the other end. After a tie-up, the possession arrow gave the Wildcats (11-0) the ball with 9.5 seconds remaining.
Johnson pushed the lead to three with two more free throws, and Arizona fouled Spike Albrecht at the other end. Albrecht made only one of two free throws, and after two more free throws by Johnson made it 71-67, Albrecht made a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left. Arizona’s Gabe York added a free throw to end the scoring.
“The 17 offensive rebounds were a huge factor in this game,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “I thought we made a major stride today, even in defeat, of us getting better.”
Brandon Ashley scored 18 points for Arizona, which finally wore down Michigan inside in the final minutes.
Glenn Robinson III had 20 points for Michigan, but he did most of his damage in the first half. Caris LeVert contributed 15 points for the Wolverines, but this game was decided by Arizona’s late free throws and the one miss by Stauskas when Michigan had a chance to go back ahead.
“This was as quality of a win as you can have, in my opinion, in the country,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “I felt like today — we’re going to be better if we won, we’re going to be better if we lost.”
Michigan led 37-28 at halftime, and Mitch McGary pushed the lead to double digits with a dunk for the first points of the second half. But Arizona went on an 11-2 run to pull within two.
Michigan led 58-50, but the Wildcats again had an answer. Aaron Gordon and Ashley made consecutive baskets, and a dunk by Ashley cut the lead to two.
Johnson, Gordon and Kaleb Tarczewski had 14 points each for Arizona. Tarczewski went down with what looked like a right leg injury around the midpoint of the second half, but he was able to return.
It’s been a quiet start to the season for Robinson, who showed enough potential in 2012-13 that he considered a jump to the NBA after his freshman year. Against Arizona, he showed why he’s a definite candidate to play at the next level.
Robinson made all seven of his shots from the field in the first half, including a contested 3-pointer in the final seconds that gave Michigan the nine-point halftime lead.
Opponents were shooting only 27 percent from 3-point range against Arizona coming into the game, but the Wolverines were 6 of 11 in the first half. They finished 8 of 17.
The Wildcats rallied late when they finally started converting around the basket. A three-point play with 2:32 to go by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson gave Arizona its first lead of the second half at 63-62.
The lead changed hands four more times after that — for good when Johnson made it 67-66 with the first two of his six late free throws. He might not have had any free throws if not for McConnell’s rebound.
“There’s a lot of key plays in the game,” Beilein said. “McConnell running down that corner rebound — I think that’s the one where we fouled them on the drive — was a key play.”
MADISON, Wis. — Ben Brust scored 20 points to lead four Wisconsin players in double figures.
Freshman reserve Nigel Hayes scored a career-high 17 points for the Badgers (12-0), who are off to the best start to a season since 1915-16 when they started 12-0 and finished 20-1. Sam Dekker added 16 points, while Frank Kaminsky shrugged off a right foot injury that hampered him this week to add 13.
Glenn Cosey scored 21 points to lead the Colonels (7-4), while Orlando Williams added 13.
Wisconsin, which averages 21 free throws a game, went 25 of 33 from the free throw line — led by Hayes going 13 of 17. The Badgers finished 9 of 15 from beyond the 3-point line with Brust making five, two short of his school record.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Keith Appling scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half and Adreian Payne had 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead Michigan State.
Branden Dawson added 16 points and 13 rebounds for the shorthanded Spartans (8-1), who were rusty early and turnover-prone after a 10-day break.
Michigan State played without leading scorer Gary Harris, who is still nursing an ankle injury. The Spartans were also without big men Matt Costello (mononucleosis) and Kenny Kaminski (academic suspension).
Duke Mondy, the nation’s leader in steals, had 24 points and seven swipes for the Golden Grizzlies (2-9) in their home game played at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Travis Bader has 18 points and was 4 for 14 from 3-point range for Oakland, winless in 12 games in the series.
Michigan State got all but 10 of its points from Appling, Payne and Dawson and only had five players score. But a 41-32 edge in rebounds gave the Spartans just enough to bounce back from the 79-65 loss to North Carolina that knocked them out of the No. 1 spot in the poll.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Russ Smith had 14 points and 10 assists and Louisville shot 69 percent from the field in the second half.
With starting point guard Chris Jones sidelined at least a game with a sprained right wrist, the Cardinals (9-1) got numerous backcourt contributions to beat their in-state rival for the fifth straight time. Freshman Terry Rozier grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds starting in Jones’ place while reserve Tim Henderson added career highs of 12 points on four 3-pointers and four assists.
Their efforts helped Louisville pad a 31-28 halftime lead as the Cardinals made 13 of their first 21 attempts from the field after the break to build a 63-44 lead with 6:02 left. They shot 18 of 26 in the second half.
Louisville held the Hilltoppers (5-4) scoreless for nearly 6 minutes.
T.J. Price’s 22 points led WKU, which shot just 36 percent and was outscored 36-14 inside.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Le’Bryan Nash had 22 points and 10 rebounds as Oklahoma State overcame a sluggish start.
Marcus Smart scored three points in the first half and finished with 13 for the Cowboys (9-1), who had not played a game in more than a week.
Smart added five rebounds and five assists, but the Big 12 Conference’s leading scorer watched as Nash did the bulk of the scoring against Louisiana Tech (8-3).
Markel Brown scored 13 points for the Cowboys and Kamari Murphy had 10.
Chris Anderson scored 14 points and Alex Hamilton added 12 for Louisiana Tech, which held Oklahoma State scoreless over the first 4 minutes of the game. But the Bulldogs couldn’t get any closer after pulling within 49-42 in the second half in Chesapeake Energy Arena, home of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
WICHITA, Kan. — Tekele Cotton scored all 19 of his points in the second half and Wichita State is off to the best start in school history.
Darius Carter had 11 points and 14 rebounds and Cleanthony Early added 13 points for the Shockers (10-0).
Jordan McRae scored 26 points for Tennessee (6-3), which shot 16 of 47 (34 percent) over the final 35 minutes.
The game was played before 14,356 in the downtown Intrust Bank Arena.
A 3-pointer by Cotton started a 7-0 run that gave Wichita State a 58-49 lead with 4:47 remaining.
AMHERST, Mass. — Cady Lalanne scored 16 points to lead UMass.
Chaz Williams, coming off career highs of 32 points and 15 assists against Brigham Young on Dec. 7, had 12 points and seven assists for the Minutemen (9-0), who are off to the program’s best start since the 1995-96 team started 26-0.
Raphiael Putney added 13 points — including three 3-pointers in an early 11-0 run — and Maxie Esho had 12 points and seven rebounds for the Minutemen.
Dontel Highsmith led the Huskies (3-5) with 10 points.
UMass Freshman reserves Clyde Santee scored the first 13 points of his college career — all in a span of 5:34.
The 54 points were the fewest allowed by UMass this season.