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Arizona men’s basketball overcomes slow start against Cal Baptist to improve to 11-0

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-recap-california-baptist-lancers-unbeaten-pac12-wac-2021 Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd has wanted his team to face more competitive conditions at home in nonconference play. In that case, this week counts as a mission accomplished.

The UA overcame a double-digit first-half deficit before pulling away to beat Cal Baptist 84-60 on Saturday afternoon at McKale Center to improve to 11-0.

Azuolas Tubelis had 19 points on 7-of-16 shooting with seven rebounds and four assists, Christian Koloko had a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double, and both Oumar Ballo and Justin Kier added 10 points off the bench. Arizona shot 50.8 percent, outrebounded Cal Baptist 44-33 and outscored the Lancers 44-27 in the second half.

The Wildcats have now won all seven of their home games by at least 24 points, but the last two haven’t felt like the previous blowouts.

On Wednesday, a hot-shooting night from Northern Colorado’s top scorer kept the Bears within single digits past the midway point of the second half. It took a late run for the Wildcats to comfortably distance themselves in what turned out to be a 101-76 win.

The Wildcats faced a similar dynamic in the opening four minutes of the first half Saturday, as Cal Baptist’s Reed Nottage and Ty Rowell combined to make five 3-pointers to give the Lancers an early 18-7 edge.

Eight and a half minutes in, Cal Baptist led 22-12. Over the next four minutes, Arizona went on a 14-0 run, with eight of those points coming from Kier.

The Wildcats led 40-33 at the half, struggling to put away the Lancers who eight first half 3-pointers. Arizona shot 15 of 31 in the half, led by 11 points from Benn Mathurin, who finished with 14.

The UA opened the second half on a 9-0 run, a margin that Cal Baptist never seriously cut into for the remainder of the game. The Wildcats tightened down on perimeter defense, holding the Lancers to 0 for 12 from behind the arc in the second half. Arizona scored 28 of its 44 points in the paint over the final 20 minutes.

Arizona had 29 points from its bench, including nine from Pelle Larsson, who tied a career high with three 3s.

The UA begins a 4-game road trip at No. 18 Tennessee (8-2) Wednesday and won’t play against at McKale until Jan. 13.