ARIZONA BASKETBALL

Arizona blows out NAU to start Tommy Lloyd era in Tucson

Nov 9, 2021, 10:46 PM | Updated: Nov 10, 2021, 12:13 am
Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd talks to the team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball ga...

Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd talks to the team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Northern Arizona, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, in Tucson, Ariz. Arizona won 81-52. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Kerr Kriisa scored 17 points, Azoulas Tubelis added 13 and Arizona opened the Tommy Lloyd era with an 81-52 win over Northern Arizona on Tuesday night.

The Wildcats shook off a sluggish start with a stifling defense anchored by 7-footer Christian Koloko and a free-flowing offense Lloyd brought with him from Gonzaga.

Koloko blocked five shots, Arizona scored 24 points of Northern Arizona’s 21 turnovers and had a 40-22 advantage in the paint.

Carson Towt led the Lumberjacks (0-1) with 11 points.

Lloyd spent 20 seasons as Mark Few’s right-hand man at Gonzaga, helping transform a small school in eastern Washington into a national powerhouse.

Lloyd was considered the coach-in-waiting at Gonzaga, but the opportunity to run an elite program like Arizona was too much to pass up. He inherited NCAA sanctions that could drop any day and a roster that lost four of its top six scorers from a year ago.

Lloyd replenished with top-level transfers and freshmen to fill in around a talented core of returning players.

The Wildcats needed a little time to rev up the engine, missing shots while allowing Northern Arizona to hang around.

Arizona ran away from the Lumberjacks once it hit the accelerator.

Using their length to create turnovers and block shots, the Wildcats went on a 15-3 run to go up 31-15, the crowd roaring with each made basket.

Kriisa had nine points, Dalen Terry six assists and Koloko four blocked shots as Arizona stretched the lead to 42-22 at halftime.

Koloko opened the first half with a block and flashed a big smile after swatting another into the crowd. That set the tone for Arizona, which kept up the pressure and its big lead for a rousing start to Lloyd’s tenure.

Northern Arizona lost its top two scorers from last season to the transfer portal, but coach Shane Burcar was able to fill the gaps with some quality replacements.

The new-look Lumberjacks held their own early in one of college basketball’s toughest arenas, overcoming a string of turnovers with stretches of solid defense. Northern Arizona lost track of the Wildcats during their big first-half run and, despite a couple of short second-half runs, never had much chance of catching Arizona.

THE TAKEAWAY

Northern Arizona would have needed a nearly perfect game to have any chance at upsetting Arizona. The Lumberjacks didn’t get it, but did enough good things that the trip should help them once Big Sky Conference play starts.

Arizona took a while to get going before showing off the type of athleticism McKale Center fans are used to seeing.

Arizona Basketball

Forward Kim Aiken Jr. #24 of the Arizona Wildcats gets fingers on a loose ball during the first hal...
Arizona Sports

Arizona Wildcats jump to No. 11 in AP Top 25 poll

One win over the week of Thanksgiving helped the Wildcats make a leap from 17th to 11th in The Associated Press Top 25 poll released Monday.
2 days ago
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff, left, and Senior Associate Commissioner Teresa Gould speak du...
Associated Press

Pac-12, alliance partners form mental health initiative

The Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten and Pac-12 launched an initiative Monday to raise awareness of the importance of mental health.
2 days ago
(Twitter photo / Arizona basketball)...
Associated Press

Tubelis leads way in Wildcats’ blowout victory over Sacramento State

The Arizona Wildcats didn't suffer a letdown after its big win against Michigan, dominating the Hornets at both ends.
4 days ago
Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates after Eno Benjamin #26 (not pictured) scores a ...
Kevin Zimmerman

What Arizona sports fans can be thankful for in 2021

The spirit of Thanksgiving is about the gratefulness that comes with not having it all, but enjoying the some that you do have.
2 days ago
Arizona center Christian Koloko (35) eyes the basket while being defended by Michigan forward Terra...
Arizona Sports

Arizona’s Christian Koloko named Pac-12 Player of the Week

Arizona junior center Christian Koloko was named the Pac-12's Player of the Week on Monday, the conference announced.
9 days ago
Christian Koloko #35 and Pelle Larsson #3 of the Arizona Wildcats celebrate after the team's 80-62 ...
Arizona Sports

Arizona basketball leaps into AP Poll after rout of Michigan

Wins against Wichita State and Michigan helped the Arizona Wildcats men's basketball team leap into The Associated Press Top 25 Poll.
9 days ago
Arizona blows out NAU to start Tommy Lloyd era in Tucson