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Balanced scoring thru 3 games an early indication of Arizona men’s basketball’s improved depth

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-scoring-double-figures-balance-offense-tommy-lloyd-2023-2024 Arizona Athletics

Arizona has scored 297 points in its three games, including 122 in the season opener and 81 in a road win over Duke. This time a year ago the Wildcats had dropped 316 and would average more than 100 per game until the day before Thanksgiving en route to being the nation’s No. 6 scoring team for the season.

But what makes the UA’s scoring output so far in 2023-24 so notable is that isn’t not just being done by a couple guys. It’s being done by almost everyone.

The Wildcats have had 19 players score in double figures, including six in Monday’s 97-59 win over Southern. Eight did so in the season opener and five at Duke, with Caleb Love’s nine points against Southern making him the only starter not to get to 10 or more in a game this season.

“Team success leads to individual success,” said wing Pelle Larsson, who had a career-high 18 in the opener, 12 at Duke and 10 against Southern. “Everyone has been working really hard in practice. We have a lot of guys having a good day any day. It’s just really good to hear.”

Keshad Johnson has been the leading scorer overall, at 15 per game including a career-high 17 on Monday, with Kylan Boswell at 13.3, Larsson at 12.7, Oumar Ballo at 11.7, Love at 10.7 and freshman Motiejus Krivas at 10 despite coming off the bench.

As balanced as Arizona has been with its scoring, it’s also meant no single player has gone off and had a huge offensive game. In fact, Arizona’s 297 points through three games are the third-most by a Division I team since 1996-97 to start a season without having a 20-point scorer.

It’s the second-most points of any Pac-12 school during a 3-game span since 1996-97 without anyone going for 20, behind 301 scored by Washington early in the 2005-06 season.

“I always like to be balanced,” UA coach Tommy Lloyd said. “You look at some individual stats because they tell a little bit of a part to the story, but the main one that I look at is I look at our team stats. I want to know how many points it says under Arizona, then I try to figure out how we’re getting those points. I don’t really care who they come from, or how we get them.”

Lloyd said the Wildcats’ system lends itself to making it possible for everyone to contribute in the scoring column. The added depth compared to his previous two seasons, though, makes it even more likely.

“We’re a passing program, we’re an attack the paint program and we’re a pressure defensive program,” he said. “Those three principles are things we hang our hat on.”

Arizona had plenty of double-digit scorers in 2022-23, 138 to be exact over its 35 games. But nearly half of those came from Azuolas Tubelis (34) and Ballo (29), while only 24 came from reserves. There have already been five bench players to score 10-plus, compared to one during the first three games a year ago when the Wildcats collected more total points.

It also helps that seven players are currently averaging at least two assists per game. Last season only four Wildcats managed that.