Arizona Wildcats set shooting record, score most points under Lloyd in 117-75 romp over Nicholls | National | #schoolshooting

Just in case anyone wondered if Arizona might tone down its fun-loving, pace-pushing offense just a bit in Tommy Lloyd’s second season as head coach, with three players off to the NBA and their strength appearing to shift slightly inside, the answer arrived about halfway through the Wildcats’ season opener Monday.

No. No. No.

Not if their 117-75 romp over Nicholls at McKale Center on Monday was any indication, at least.
The Wildcats not only scored their most points yet under Lloyd, the uptempo-minded former Gonzaga assistant who won national coach of the year honors as a rookie head coach last season, but they also set a school-record 71.7% shooting from the field while doing so.

All that came with an important footnote, however: Nicholls also runs one of the nation’s fastest tempos and aims to do it partly by lunging for the ball, and managed Monday to score 28 of its points off 24 UA turnovers.

But, well, Arizona still scored 117 points. And 117 points is 117 points, no matter how you look at it.

“Honestly, I didn’t expect that,” UA center Oumar Ballo said. Defensively, the Colonels “go crazy and we give a lot of credit for them. They have a unique style of defense but if you play small against us, you just gonna pay the price for that.”

Asked if his team’s production Monday was a sign it might be a lot like it was last season, Lloyd joked that he “just watched Paul Westhead’s Loyola Marymount deal and we’re gonna try to score 130 a game,” then put it all in perspective.

Arizona Wildcats head coach Tommy Lloyd talks with Arizona Wildcats guard Pelle Larsson (3) in the second half during the season opener game at McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. on November 7, 2022. Arizona won 117-75.

Moving at a really fast tempo takes both teams, after all, and Nicholls kept running even after UA pushed its leads into the 30s and 40s during the second half Monday.

“Our opponent had a lot to do with it today. They wanted to get up and down,” Lloyd said. “For me, it’s really going to reinforce that when we play with fundamentals and do things the right way, we can be really, really good. But when we get a little bit loose and aren’t quite tough enough with the ball, we are susceptible.”

Twenty four turnovers says the Wildcats were a little looser than Lloyd would prefer but again, 117 points is 117 points. And 71.7% shooting tends to make up for a lot of other mistakes.

“Awesome,” Lloyd said of the Wildcats’ shooting. “But let’s not couple that with 24 turnovers. We work on finishing every single day and to shoot 71% and also attempt 40 free throws (UA was 30 for 40 from the line), I think that also means we’re for the most part executing our game plan because we wanted to attack more today.”

The Wildcats barely beat the percentage shooting mark of 71.4 they set on Feb. 24, 1985 against Oregon State. But Arizona took only 35 shots in that game, hitting 25, while the Wildcats hit 38 of 53 on Monday against Nicholls.

The final score of 117 was the most UA had scored since beating ASU 127-99 on Jan. 5, 1998, in a game that still stands as UA’s McKale Center scoring record. (UA’s overall scoring record came in a 133-78 win over Duquesne in the 1987-88 Great Alaska Shootout at Anchorage.)

In Lloyd’s first season as a head coach in 2021-22, the Wildcats scored 90 or more 12 times, including three games in triple digits. Arizona scored 105 on Sacramento State, 104 on Texas-Rio Grande Valley and 101 on Northern Colorado.

Azuolas Tubelis led the way Monday with 23 points on 10 for 12 shooting while adding seven rebounds and six assists. He was the first Arizona player to have as many as 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a game since Ivan Radenovic had 37 points, nine rebounds and seven assist against Stanford on March 3, 2007.

Leading 59-37 at halftime against the equally uptempo-minded Colonels, the Wildcats smoothed over some early bumps in the second half to turn the game into a blowout. The Wildcats already set a Lloyd-high scoring mark of 106 with 3:57 still left when freshman point guard Kylan Boswell hit a 3-pointer.
Leading 106-66 after Boswell’s 3, Arizona played forward Dylan Anderson with four walkons, including Jordan Mains, Luc Krystkowiak, Grant Weitman and Matt Lang. Over the final two minutes, the Wildcats went with forward Tautvilas Tubelis and four walk-ons.


Arizona Wildcats guard Kylan Boswell (4) and Arizona Wildcats guard Cedric Henderson Jr. (45) are all smiles as they watch a free throw in the first half during the season opener game at McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. on November 7, 2022.

While Tubelis led the Wildcats in scoring, Ballo had 18 points and nine rebounds while guard Pelle Larsson had his first career double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Larsson exited the game with 9:03 left and did not return, since UA was already leading 90-54 at that point.

After taking a 22-point halftime lead, the Wildcats struggled early in the second half before Adama Bal pushed their lead to 30 points with a four-point play. Bal sank a 3-pointer from the right wing while drawing a foul from Caleb Huffman and falling backward – then hitting the free throw to make it 77-47 with 14:06 left.

In the first half, Tubelis crammed 20 points and five rebounds into just 17 minutes to lead Arizona to a 59-37 halftime lead.

Tubelis hit 9 of 10 from the field to lead an efficient Wildcat offense that converted 70.4% of its shots from the field and 7 of 11 from 3-point range. Nicholls shot just 41.3%, hitting just one of their first 14 shots from the field.

The Wildcats took control of the game with a 16-0 run over less than a five-minute span early in the first half, getting a 3-pointer from Bal with 11:54 left to take a 30-4 lead.

Nicholls then went on a 7-0 run with two 3s by Micah Thomas and a dunk from Latrell Jones but the Wildcats still led most of the rest of the half by at least 20 points.

As expected, Lloyd went with Cedric Henderson in the starting lineup because combo guard Courtney Ramey was serving the first of a three-game suspension for participating in a predraft camp last spring that was not certified by the NCAA.

However, starting point guard Kerr Kriisa ran into quick foul trouble, forcing Lloyd to play Boswell much of the first half in his place even though Boswell has been cleared to play for only two weeks after offseason surgery to repair a broken foot. Boswell is also just 17 years old, a would-be high school senior who reclassified over the summer.

Kriisa picked up two fouls in the first four minutes of the game and then picked up a third just 88 seconds after being reinserted midway through the half.

Over 15 minutes played in the first half, Boswell had three points, three assists, four turnovers and one rebound. He missed his only field goal but was 3-for-3 from the free-throw line.

Boswell finished with eight points, one rebound, five assists and four turnovers in 23 minutes.

“He knows how to hoop,” Larsson said of Boswell. “Especially him coming a year early, it’s really impressive how well he’s adapting.”

The Wildcats also lost Bal for about three minutes midway in the half after he took a hit to his shoulder before returning with seven minutes to play. Lloyd said he didn’t know the specifics of what happened but was told Bal was able to return, so he wound up playing Bal for 17 minutes.

Arizona will have two more early season warmups at McKale before heading to the Thanksgiving-week Maui Invitational: On Friday against Southern and on Nov. 17 against Utah Tech.

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