Arizona refuses to take North Dakota State lightly

NCAA Men

Arizona won its first two games by 29 and 54 points, but it might not be another walkover when the Wildcats face North Dakota State on Tuesday night in Tucson, Ariz.

Arizona (2-0) has certainly taken to new coach Tommy Lloyd’s more fast-paced, free-flowing style of play, which includes an aggressive defense that has led to easy opportunities in transition, where the Wildcats show their athleticism. Arizona scored 104 points and shot 60.7 percent on Friday night in a rout of UT Rio Grande Valley.

North Dakota State (2-1) played in the 2021 Summit League tournament title game, won the league tourney in 2020 before COVID-19 shut down the postseason and went to the NCAA Tournament in 2019.

“You’re facing a team that has a winning culture,” Lloyd said. “They come from a one-bid league, so that means basically every year they outperformed everybody in their league. That’s really impressive.”

North Dakota State could be a bit fatigued, considering that it battled UNLV to the wire on Monday night in Las Vegas, losing 64-62 before traveling to Tucson.

The frontcourt battle should be interesting.

Arizona’s 7-foot-1 center Christian Koloko is off to a hot start, including blocking five shots in each of the first two games. He scored a career-high 18 points vs. UTRGV. Azuolas Tubelis is averaging a team-best 16.5 points. He is shooting 76.5 percent (13 of 17) from the floor and is a clever scorer around the basket as well as a 3-point threat (2 of 3 this season).

The Bison counter with 6-11 Grant Nelson and 6-10 Rocky Kreuser, who each spend considerable time beyond the 3-point arc, creating matchup problems.

They have combined to take 35 3-point shots in three games. Kreuser scored 17 against UNLV and is averaging 19 per game. Nelson is next at 12 points per game.

“There’s still a lot of new faces and we’re working through some things,” coach David Richman told the Arizona Daily Star. “So we’re counting on the leadership of those older guys and yet still feel we have a lot of room for growth based on some youth and inexperience with some other guys.”

North Dakota State is without Sam Griesel, a second-team All-Summit League selection last season. He underwent surgery to repair an internal abdominal issue last week, according to the school.

–Field Level Media

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