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Newcomers get first taste of McKale atmosphere in Red-Blue scrimmage

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-college-red-blue-scrimmage-tommy-lloyd-oumar-ballo-henri-veesaar Arizona Athletics

The score, for those who actually care, was 49-45. The shooting numbers weren’t great, especially from 3-point range, and the turnovers and fouls were plenty.

But Tommy Lloyd probably won’t even glance at the stat sheet from Friday night’s Red-Blue intrasquad scrimmage, since it won’t show him what he was looking for from the event.

“I just liked to see our guys under the lights and see how they respond,” Lloyd said. “It’s great to play basketball in front of a full stadium. You can’t simulate that experience in practice. But we’ll break this film down and we’ll treat it like we would any other postgame.

“There’s going to be some really good things, and there will be some obvious things we need to get better at. Obviously we need to be better at rebounding, we need to get better taking care of the ball, but I think that’s par for the course. There’s lots of things to figure out. It’s Day 4.”

Oumar Ballo and freshman Henri Veesaar were the top scorers, each going for 16. Veesar made 7 of 11 shots and Ballo was 8 of 13, including a dunk with 1:09 left to put Blue up for good at 46-45.

The dunk came after Ballo intercepted a pass from Filip Borovicanin at midcourt and then raced the rest of the way for the flush, showing off his improved athleticism following an offseason that included boxing training with Azuolas Tubelis.

“I’m not sure I could make that play last year, because I was not that fast,” Ballo said.

Veesaar, a 7-footer from Estonia, said he’s still getting used to how college basketball is played compared to what he experienced overseas, most recently for Real Madrid’s youth program in Spain.

“I mean, it’s a completely different style of game,” he said. “Much faster, more physical.”

Lloyd said Veesaar’s opinion could be biased because of how fast Arizona plays, but he’s glad the newcomers got a little taste of that pace.

“Today, to be honest with you, was probably the most sustained scrimmage we’ve done,” he said. “I think Tuesday we did maybe like a 10-minute scrimmage or something and we’ve done some 5-possession stuff. The way we want to play, and accumulate that pace, and just have it kind of stacked up on the other team, you need moments like this to get comfortable with it. The next time we play we’ll all be sitting on the same bench. We’ll be rotating it fresh guys, I’ll be able to keep that pedal to the metal. I think we’re going to be able to comfortably play at the pace that I like.”

To that end, Lloyd replicated what he did in his first Red-Blue game by shuffling the rosters at the half. All of the projected starters and key reserves were put on Blue, and despite that Red held a 36-24 lead with 6:55 to go before Blue outscored the side of mostly walk-ons 25-9 the rest of the way.

“I love doing that, because you got to get comfortable,” Lloyd said. “The guys that are likely going to play a lot of minutes and play together, they got to play together. And I want them to play together under the lights.”

The Red-Blue game coincided with Arizona’s alumni weekend, and a star-studded group of former players were on hand. That included the likes of Rawle Alkins, Deandre Ayton, Lauri Markkanen, Richard Jefferson, Jason Terry and AJ Bramlett.

“Those guys have left a mark on Arizona and I think we should honor those guys every opportunity we get, and then hopefully they’ll continue to come down more and more,” Lloyd said.