A week ago, Kerr Kriisa had to leave Arizona’s game early due to an illness. A few days later, he still didn’t look 100 percent.
Whatever he had seems to have passed.
Kriisa hit six 3-pointers, the highest scoring of six Wildcats in double-figures in a 85-64 win over Montana State on Tuesday night at McKale Center.
It was the 26th consecutive home win for fifth-ranked Arizona (11-1) and the 44th in 49 games in Tommy Lloyd’s coaching career. A win Thursday at home against Morgan State will match him with three others, including Brad Stevens, for the best 50-game start to a coaching career at 45-5.
Kriisa had 18 points, making 6 of 9 from outside, while Cedric Henderson Jr. went for 16, Azuolas Tubelis had 14 and Pelle Larsson added 12.
Despite leading for the final 34 minutes and holding a double-digit margin for most of the second half, it wasn’t a particularly crisp offensive display for the Wildcats
Oumar Ballo had a double-double, with 11 points and 10 rebounds, but he took only seven shots while Tubelis was 6 of 13 as Montana State (7-6) flooded the paint, resulting in a season-low 26 paint points for the UA, which shot 43.5 percent overall and was below 50 percent on 2-pointers for only the second time this season.
Defensively, Arizona held the Bobcats to 42.9 percent shooting, including 36 percent in the second half, and forced 20 turnovers that it converted into 20 points.
The UA, which led 44-37 at the half, doubled the margin before the first media timeout thanks to a 9-0 that began with Kriisa’s fifth 3 and ended with a triple from Larsson. The lead was 12 a few minutes later when Larsson drew contact on a layup attempt but didn’t get the foul, prompting Kriisa to take a foul and then bark at the official and draw a technical.
It was Kriisa’s second tech in as many games, picking one up in the second half of the Tennessee win.
The Wildcats kept the lead in double digits until just before the midway point of the second half when Montana State scored four points in 12 seconds to get within 59-52 with 10:11 remaining.
The Bobcats could get no closer, and a flop on Jubrile Bello on a Ballo hook shot started a 6-0 UA run in which Montana State turned it over three times as the Wildcats led 71-54 with 7:34 left.
Despite a sluggish start, Arizona led by as many as 12 in the first half, going up 31-19 after Kriisa’s third 3-pointer with 6:26 left. But the Wildcats only made three of their last 11 shots before the break, with Montana State getting as close as 40-37.
Kriisa’s fourth 3, off a drive and fish from Larsson, swished with three seconds left before halftime to provide the 7-point margin.
Arizona is back at it Thursday night at home against Morgan State (4-7) in its final nonconference matchup. Pac-12 play begins Dec. 31 at No. 25 ASU.