Arizona has the exact same record at this point in the season as it did a year ago when it went on to dominate the Pac-12, win the conference tournament, get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney and reach the Sweet 16. But unlike last year, the Wildcats won’t be heading into the holiday break on a loss.
The UA cruised past overmatched Morgan State 93-68 on Thursday night at McKale Center, shaking off another sluggish start to improve to 12-1.
The win was the 45th in 50 games for coach Tommy Lloyd, tied for the second-best start to a college coaching career. The only better start was Wisconsin’s Doc Meanwell, who went 49-1 for the Badgers from 1911-14.
Arizona’s 27th consecutive home win at McKale, tied for the second-longest active streak in Division I, saw it top the 80-point mark for a Division I-leading 11th time this season despite only scoring 23 points in the first 13-plus minutes before flipping the switch. The Wildcats shot 57.6 percent, including 58.8 percent in the second half and dished out 25 assists for the third time this season.
Azuolas Tubelis had 26 points on 9-of-10 shooting, hitting two 3-pointers and also showing off his amateur magic skills on a steal and dunk midway through the second half, while Oumar Ballo added 21 and made all eight field goal attempts. The Wildcats, not surprisingly, had a 48-20 edge on points in the paint and outrebounded the Bears 40-19.
The Wildcats led 41-32 at the break, ending the first half on a 7-0 run and then starting the second half with a 10-2 burst to lead 51-34 with 17:12 remaining. Morgan State (4-8) kept it from ever becoming a major blowout, mostly by hitting a season-high 12 3-pointers after averaging only 6.5 per game, though back-to-back 3s by by Kerr Kriisa and Pelle Larsson keyed an 10-0 run to lead 79-58 with 5:25 to go.
Arizona trailed by as many as five early in the first half as Morgan State, known mostly as a 2-point shooting team, started 6 of 8 from 3-point range. The Wildcats took the lead for good with an 8-0 run to go up 31-25, then used a 7-0 run to end the first half.
The UA is back in action Dec. 31 at ASU. The Sun Devils, who jumped into the Top 25 this week, are coming off a 97-60 loss at San Francisco on Wednesday.