Prior to his team heading overseas for an 11-day international trip, Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said the basketball portion of the itinerary was far from the most important part. He was excited about the cultural experiences his players would have visiting Israel and Abu Dhabi.
Early Thursday, a little of both came together for history.
The Wildcats beat UAE Select 127-90 in an exhibition, their second of three games on the trip. The scrimmage, played in front of roughly 40 people inside the Mubadala Dome, and with 300 or so watching on YouTube, marked the first time a college basketball team had played in the United Arab Emirates.
The UA also made history the day before when they took a 3-hour charter flight, with Kansas State’s men’s basketball team, from Tel Aviv, Israel to Abu Dhabi. It was a flight that wasn’t possible until three years ago, when Israel and the UAE signed the Abraham Peace Accords that opened up full diplomatic relations between the nations.
As for the game itself, Arizona was clearly the more polished group. Sophomore wing Filip Borovicanin and freshman center Motiejus Krivas led the Wildcats with 17 points apiece, with Krivas making all eight field goal attempts and Borovicanin adding nine rebounds and five assists. Freshman guard KJ Lewis, who missed the 124-77 win over Israel Select on Monday, had 15 points in 16 minutes.
The UA shot 55 percent and outrebounded UAE 58-25, collecting 27 offensive rebounds.
Arizona will face much tougher competition for its final exhibition, taking on the Lebanon National Team at 6 a.m. MST Friday at Etihad Arena. The game is the first half of a doubleheader, with Germany and Greece playing later that day in a tune-up for the FIBA World Cup.
Lebanon, ranked 43rd in the world by FIBA, is one of 32 teams set to play in the World Cup from Aug. 25-Sept. 10 in Indonesia, Japan and the Phillippines. The Lebanese roster includes former Villanova power forward Omari Spellman and current Michigan forward Youssef Khayat.