Arizona blows out NAU to start Tommy Lloyd era in Tucson
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.
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.