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Arizona races past Eastern New Mexico in exhibition

arizona-wildcats-basketball-mens-eastern-new-mexico-recap-2021-exhibition-tommy-lloyd-mathurin-kier Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hope you kept your eyes wide open for Arizona’s debut under Tommy Lloyd, because if you blinked you may have missed multiple possessions.

Promising an up-tempo style, Lloyd had Arizona keep its foot on the pedal throughout a 96-50 exhibition win over Division II Eastern New Mexico on Monday night at McKale Center.

The UA had 78 offensive possessions, more than in any game last season, and took 72 shots. The Wildcats made 36 of them, shooting 50 percent overall and 39.4 percent (13 of 33) from the 3-point range.

The amount of 3s taken was a little too much for Lloyd, who believed the Wildcats settled for too many outside jumpers.

“My biggest deal is you can’t settle,” he said. “They really softened their defense over the course of the game and we settled for a a lot of threes.”

Bennedict Mathurin led all scorers with 18, needing only 10 shots, while Kim Aiken Jr., Justin Kier and Christian Koloko had 14 apiece. Kier made 4 of 6 3-pointers, Aiken was 2 of 3 from deep (while also chipping in eight rebounds and four assists) and Koloko hit a triple from the top of the key and added 10 rebounds.

As exciting as it was to watch, that pace did lead to a fair amount of sloppiness, with the UA committing 16 turnovers including 10 in the first half. It was called for six offensive fouls, including a moving screen on Koloko just 10 seconds into the game.

“I think there’ll be a lot of things that we can work on,” Kier said.

Arizona was credited with 17 fast-break points but it felt like much more, particularly when running off a turnover. It forced ENMU into 22 giveaways, leading to 35 points.

ENMU scored the first basketball of the game but then Arizona used a 13-2 run to take control, building the edge to 50-31 at the half and extending to a 30-point lead during an 18-2 run early in the second half.

The Wildcats emptied the bench late in the game, with only Utah transfer Pelle Larsson not seeing action as he recovers from a Jones fracture in his right foot. Lloyd said afterward he thinks there’s a chance Larsson could play in the regular-season opener.

Arizona will play for real on Nov. 9 when it hosts NAU at McKale. The Wildcats have not lost a regular-season opener since 2006.