No. 14 Arizona has scored 212 points in two games, is shooting 63.0 percent from the field and has room to be better Thursday night against Utah Tech in Tucson, Ariz.
The Wildcats (2-0), who have defeated Nicholls and Southern, will be playing their final warmup before facing Cincinnati in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational on Monday.
“I think when we’re not turning the ball over, we’re pretty efficient,” said Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd. “We’ve just got to keep learning … You just got to have a better understanding of valuing possession, and we’ll get there.”
Even with the hot start, Lloyd can preach improvement because his team has committed 43 turnovers. Some of those came in garbage time with backups, and other turnovers are the side effects of a fast-paced, attacking style, but Lloyd doesn’t want any excuses.
“It’s young players, old players. It’s just mistakes,” he said.
“Some of our younger guys are a little bit scared of me and of making mistakes; they’ve got to get over it. They got to grow up. I think our veteran crew … hopefully they have a healthy respect for me, but they’re not scared. They go out and they make plays, and sometimes they’re a little too aggressive, but in the end that usually is a good thing for us when they’re that aggressive for a long period of time.”
Utah Tech (1-2) will be playing its second consecutive Pac-12 foe, having played a competitive game at Washington on Monday before losing 78-67. The Trailblazers led 36-34 at halftime, and sophomore center Tanner Christensen finished with a career-high 26 points. He and Cameron Gooden are tied for the team scoring lead at 14.0 points per game.
Utah Tech, formerly known as Dixie State University, was picked to finish 12th in the 13-team WAC in polls of league coaches and media.
Gooden, a senior, talked earlier in the season about embracing the underdog role.
“We’ve got nothing to lose. We want to come out there and show we belong at Division I and we are not just another Division I team,” Gooden said. “We are a Division I team that wants to compete and be in every game as possible.”
Utah Tech will have to survive waves of offense from Arizona to compete.
Five players are averaging double-digit points, led by Azuolas Tubelis at 20.0 points per game. Fellow frontcourt member Oumar Ballo is next at 17.5. They have combined to make 26 of 33 shots, and Arizona’s size in the post figures to be a problem for the Trailblazers.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats’ guard play has been stellar, with junior point guard Kerr Kriisa coming off his second career triple-double (14 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds vs. Southern). Kriisa, who didn’t wear his customary headband in the season opener, was back sporting his accessory in the second game.
“I didn’t even notice,” Lloyd said. “I don’t notice those things. I like triple-double Kerr, whatever that looks like.”
Arizona will again be without projected starting guard Courtney Ramey. The Texas transfer was suspended by the NCAA for the first three games for participating in the Portsmouth Invitational, an NBA draft showcase, in April.
–Field Level Media