During the tail end of Sean Miller’s tenure, and for the first two seasons under Tommy Lloyd, Arizona only played one public exhibition game. The other, a so-called “secret scrimmage” against another Division I team, was played behind closed doors.
Maybe that’s the better course of action, because the Wildcats didn’t look nearly as crisp in Monday’s 94-65 win over Division II New Mexico Highlands as they did in the previous exhibition 10 days earlier.
“There’s a standard of intelligence and fundamentals that we demand, and I don’t think we’ve met those today,” Lloyd said afterward. “And I know we’ve been practicing them. I know they’ve been emphasized, but you know what, I probably got to go back to the drawing board and emphasize them a little bit.
“I’m glad it happened, because it’s just gonna be a great teaching tool. Hopefully it can get our guys’ attention.”
The Wildcats assisted on 28 of 34 made field goals but also turned it over 24 times, with New Mexico Highlands getting 22 points off those miscues. And they shot 48.6 percent for the game but took more 3-pointers than twos, something it only did twice in Lloyd’s first two seasons (and one of those was a loss at Stanford last February).
“We pride ourselves on being a team that shares the ball and plays the right way, but I thought we actually played selfish in stretches today, and maybe a little bit careless combined with that,” Lloyd said. “We shouldn’t be doing that. So I’m glad it happened, because it’s just gonna be a great teaching tool. Hopefully it can get our guys’ attention.”
As for the shot selection, Lloyd said some of that was probably due to the opponent packing the paint and begging Arizona to beat it from outside, but the UA only made 11 of 37 3s.
“I don’t really have a formula, but if I did, that wouldn’t be it,” Lloyd said.
Caleb Love once again led Arizona in scoring, his 19 points coming on 8-of-13 shooting. The North Carolina transfer had 23 in the first exhibition and said he’s feeling very comfortable in the Wildcats’ system.
“Our offense creates a lot of movement, a lot of space to maneuver throughout the floor, so it’s easy for me to just get downhill and just make the right play,” Love said.
After three scholarship players missed the 110-70 win over Lewis-Clark State on Oct. 20, two were out this time. Lloyd said Pelle Larsson is “still working his way back into practice” from an ankle injury while Henri Veesaar is out indefinitely with an elbow injury.
Lloyd wouldn’t comment on the circumstances around the injury, other than that it happened away from the court, but said it may not be as bad as originally thought.
“I think we got the best case scenario, so I really think there’s an opportunity Henri is back sooner rather than later,” he said.
Bigs Oumar Ballo and Motiejus Krivas both played after sitting out the first exhibition, with Ballo starting and getting seven points with five rebounds in 16 minutes and Krivas having seven (making all three of his shots) in 14 minutes off the bench.
Filip Borovicanin, Keshad Johnson, KJ Lewis and Paulius Murauskas each had 10 points, with Johnson adding seven points and four assists.
Arizona starts playing games for real next Monday when it hosts Morgan State, a team it beat 93-68 just before Christmas last season.
“We got about another week to get ready for it,” Lloyd said. “We got to get better.”