The MGM Grand Garden Arena was a sea of red Saturday afternoon, to the point where you were unable to tell which fan base associated with what university. Forty minutes after the horn sounded, the Wildcats were victorious, edging out No.14 Indiana University 89-75.
The victory was a complete showing from the Wildcats this year, seeing contributions from Adama Bal and Henri Veesaar, a group that has had a slower start to the season. Bal found the bottom of the net from beyond the arc three times, each coming at a moment of disparity and limited flow in the offense.
The impact of Veesaar’s 12 minutes will not be seen in the box score. The freshman played a pivotal role in helping limit Trayce Jackson-Davis, one of the country’s best forwards, to only 11 points.
Throughout the week before the game, head coach Tommy Lloyd had been stressing the importance of trusting his younger guys and tonight he acknowledged there seemed to be a payoff.
“Henri’s gonna be a really good player, and he’s just gotta grow up a little bit,” Lloyd said. “He needs some battle scars, some calluses, kinda toughened up and he’s in that process. I really got after those young guys. I brought them into my office before practice and told them they need to get better, stop pouting and feeling sorry for yourselves,” Lloyd said.
The Wildcats could reach even higher heights with consistent playmaking off their bench. Per usual, the frontcourt shined again just dominating every opportunity they get. Azuolas Tubelis had 21 points and seven rebounds, more impressively displaying some toughness on the defensive end, keeping Jackson-Davis production to a minimal level.
Compared to his more recent performances, Oumar Ballo’s Saturday will go down as a quiet double-double, adding 15 points to his 12 rebounds. Ballo had jaws dropping in the arena late in the second half with a dime to Tubelis, even impressing himself, unaware of his capabilities.
“That was a great play, because I need to get better when the double team comes,” Ballo said. I saw a little bit of improvement with my passing and kicking the ball out.”
Ballo and Tubelis continue to make the argument as the best frontcourt in the country, and soon enough, the duo might be.
Likely the most important takeaway from the evening was the bounce-back performance of Pelle Larsson after four games of not being in sync, looking like the old Larsson we saw in the fall of 2021. Luckily, Larsson showcased the version we saw to start the season; 16 points, four rebounds, and three assists was his evening. In addition, converting from the free throw line helped him gain confidence early, eventually settling in.
The Hoosiers had two big runs throughout the game, courtesy of a much improved second-half shooting, compared to the early 20 minutes. Miller Kopp finished with 14 points on 4/8 shooting, and Race Thompson had 16 points.
Arizona remains undefeated in Las Vegas, and will host Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi on Tuesday, Dec.13, in the McKale Center.
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