clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Arizona blows out NAU to open Tommy Lloyd era

arizona-wildcats-texas-rio-grande-vaqueros-basketball-game-thread-live-updates-basketball-chat Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Even the fanciest sports cars look a little sluggish when stuck in traffic. But once you get them out on the open road, look out.

Unfortunately for Arizona, a good part of its debut under Tommy Lloyd resembled rush hour on a Friday.

Arizona blew out NAU 81-52 on Tuesday night to open the 2021-22 season, showing spurts of explosive offense whenever it was able to get out and run. But when the Wildcats were slowed down, though, the production wasn’t nearly as good.

The UA had 21 fast-break points and 24 points off 21 NAU turnovers, but after pumping out 78 possessions in the exhibition against Eastern New Mexico that tally dropped to a not-as-nice 69 against the Lumberjacks.

NAU did its best to get back on defense, forcing Arizona into halfcourt sets that were a mixed bag. It didn’t help that the Wildcats missed 11 layups and four of its first eight free throw attempts; they ended up shooting 70.8 percent (17-24) from the line for the game and 40.6 percent from the field, shooting just 30.6 percent in the second half after missing their final 11 field goal attempts.

“I thought we left a lot of meat on the bone,” Lloyd said. “The nit picky part of me is, yeah, we need to be a little bit better. But overall, it’s not a bad start.”

Kerr Kriisa led all scorers with a career-high 17 points, hitting four 3-pointers, while Azuolas Tubelis had 13 points and Dalen Terry added 11 with a career-high seven assists. Christian Koloko blocked a career-best five shots and added eight points with four rebounds and Oumar Ballo chipped in eight points and nine rebounds in just 10 minutes of action.

Arizona assisted on 25 of 28 made baskets, with four players logging at least five dimes.

‘That’s the way our offense is,” Terry said. “I take pride in my assists.”

The UA led 42-22 at the half, scoring 24 points in the final nine minutes as it was able to get out in transition. But the second half started slowly again, with only four points in the first five minutes as Arizona started 1 of 7 from the field.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by NAU’s Wynton Brown and Mason Stark cut the lead to 46-31, prompting Lloyd to call his first timeout as Arizona’s coach.

On Arizona’s next possession, Kriisa drained a 3 to start a 22-10 run over the next six minutes. The lead stayed over 20 the rest of the way, topping 30 during a late 9-0 run.

Arizona found itself bogged down in too many halfcourt possessions early and couldn’t do much, leading only 18-15 after a 3-pointer by NAU’s Keith Haymon with 9:18 left.

Then, like James Bond in a sleek coupe, the Wildcats flipped a switch and kicked on the afterburners.

A 13-0 run over 3:19 featured scores by six different players and all five baskets were assisted, including Tubelis saving an overthrown lob from Kriisa and still laying it up to make it 31-15 with 5:59 left.

The Wildcats then ended the half on a 9-0 run over the final 2:04, successfully executing a 2-for-1 as Kriisa drained a 3 with 44 seconds to go and then Koloko drove from outside the top of the key and finger rolled a layup just before the buzzer.

The UA is back at it Friday at home against UT-Rio Grande Valley. The Vaqueros opened play with a 74-59 win over Division II Texas A&M International on Tuesday night.