In the midst of Azuolas Tubelis having a career night, one that solidified his case for Pac-12 Player of the Year and prompted some national college basketball folks to actually consider him for bigger accolades, a debate flared up in AZ Desert Swarm’s Twitter mentions about whether or not Kerr Kriisa was the worst Arizona point guard in the past 30 years.
There’s a reason they say to never read the comments.
Kriisa hit four 3-pointers in the second half of the Wildcats’ 91-76 win over Oregon on Thursday night, bouncing back from an 0 for 5 start from the field in the first half to finish with 13 points along with seven assists. He also had only two turnovers, both in the second half, while having four assists against no giveaways during that poor-shooting start.
“I thought Kerr really controlled the game,” UA coach Tommy Lloyd said afterward. “I thought he did a really good job controlling the game and managing their defenses and how they were guarding ball screens and making a lot of good decisions.
“And you love making those dagger threes.”
Two of Kriisa’s triples came in the final 75 seconds, which may or may not have caused some people who took Oregon +8.5 to react poorly.
K3333RR!!!!!— AZ Desert Swarm (@AZDesertSwarm) February 3, 2023
Kerr Kriisa is the fuckin worst. What a arrogant little prick— BIG MAN ON CAMPUS (@JeffNadu) February 3, 2023
For the season, Kriisa is averaging 11.3 points and 5.7 assists per game, shooting 37.7 percent from 3. He leads the Pac-12 in assists per game and total dimes (131) as well as made 3s (61) and triples per game (2.65). But his not-so-nice 69 turnovers are tied for second-most in the Pac-12, behind only Oregon’s Will Richardson (76), who gave it away seven times against the Wildcats on Thursday.
No other Division I player has at least 130 assists and 60 3s this season, and using his averages in those categories he’s on pace for a very unique season.
Since 1992-93 there have been 74 instances of a player averaging at least 5.5 assists and 2.5 made 3s per game, with six guys doing it twice. That includes Damon Stoudamire, who did it in 1993-94 and 1994-95.
And Mighty Mouse averaged more turnovers per game and had a worse assist-to-turnover ratio than Kriisa in both of those seasons.
Faced with all these stats, though, Kriisa critics will still point to things like his streakiness in shooting—he has more games shooting 30 percent or worse from 3 than 40 percent or better, with multiple 3-game stretches being cold from the perimeter—and at least one or more ill-advised pass per game.
But for the season, Arizona has outscored its opponents by 260 points. With Kriisa on the floor, it’s plus-274. Only Tubelis, at plus-280, is better. There’s a reason Lloyd is playing him 31.1 minutes per game.
“Anybody that wouldn’t want him on their team is crazy,” Lloyd said.
Inconsistency has certainly been an issue for Kriisa in his UA career, but right now he may be in his best sustained stretch of play. During Arizona’s 5-game win streak, Kriisa is 18 of 42 (42.9 percent) from 3, 15 of 29 in the past three games, and has 25 assists against 14 turnovers.
How does he manage to balance being both a shot hunter and a floor general?
“That’s a good question,” he said after the Oregon game. “What’s in mind is, first of all, my teammates. I’m not trying to force some crazy shots in the beginning, I’m trying to get everybody going. But I know that at some point I got to be aggressive myself. And I feel like we play our best when I’m more aggressive from 3, and in general. It’s still 50-50, but I think the past (few) games I’ve done pretty solid.”
Where Kriisa believes he’s improved the most is shaking off a mistake, whether it be a bad shot or a poor pass, which wasn’t always the case.
“It probably used to (bother me),” he said. “But now the last (few) games I’ve been pretty chill. Just YOLO mode, pretty much, and it’s been pretty good so far.”