Coming off a big win in Las Vegas, and with an even bigger game coming up this weekend, the acronym for Arizona’s in-between opponent may as well have been TRAP instead of TAMCC.
But with a Top-10 clash against Tennessee on the horizon, the Wildcats avoided looking ahead too much in beating Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 99-61 on Tuesday night at McKale Center.
The Wildcats (9-1) did so almost entirely without the services of point guard Kerr Kriisa, who was subbed out at the first media timeout and did not return due to what the team called a non-COVID illness. He left the bench shortly after and remained away from the court the rest of the game.
UA coach Tommy Lloyd said Kriisa was “run down” after not feeling well recently, and that his player told him he “couldn’t go” after the first few minutes. He said he expects Kriisa to be available for the Tennessee game on Saturday.
Kriisa’s absence led to some ballhandling issues at times, but his perimeter shooting wasn’t missed. Arizona was 15 of 27 from 3-point range, its most triples since January 2010, with eight different Wildcats hitting triples. Six of them had at least two including freshman 7-footer Henri Veesaar, who scored a career-high 16 points in 15 minutes off the bench.
It was the first time in at least 25 seasons the UA had six or more players hit multiple threes.
And then there was the normal inside presence of Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo, who combined for 33 points and 21 rebounds. Tubelis became the 53rd player in school history to reach 1,000 career points with his first basket, finishing with 20 points, 13 rebounds and four assists, while Ballo was 5 of 8 for 13 points and eight boards.
All told, the UA shot 56.7 percent and had 11 players score. Freshman Kylan Boswell, who played a career-high 26 points, hit a pair of 3s and finished with 8 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists as the UA assisted on 26 of 34 made field goals.
The UA came out with far less energy than it did in last weekend’s win over Indiana, turning it over five times in the first three minutes, and actually trailed 25-24 with 7:28 left in the first half after Corpus Christi got five points on one possession. But the Wildcats woke up after that, scoring seven in a row and going on a 15-3 run that included 3s from Cedric Henderson Jr., Adama Bal and the first of Veesaar’s career.
The UA ended the half on a 23-9 run, making seven of its last 10 shots to go up 47-34 at the break. The second-half margin never got below 13.
The Wildcats return to action Saturday night when they host No. 6 Tennessee. Arizona’s first loss last season came to the Volunteers in Knoxville right before Christmas.