The Wildcats are back in the win column after defeating the University of California, Berkeley 81-68. Arizona now has a record of one win and one loss in the PAC-12 conference.
Coming off a lackadaisical loss Thursday night against the University of Utah it was imperative for Arizona to get back momentum after a marvelous start of the season. Azuolas Tubelis acknowledged that the team needed to shift their focus while understanding there seemed to be limited energy from the tip in their loss up in Salt Lake City.
“I think the energy was different [tonight], maybe some players were affected by the high altitude, but we didn’t look for any excuses,” Tubelis said. “The energy just wasn’t there, we came to McKale with a different mindset and were ready.”
Despite the 13-point victory, the performance was not crisp. For the second game in a row, there were perimeter shooting woes. However, head coach Tommy Lloyd is not ashamed of the shot selection.
"At the end of the day, on offense, it's about taking great shots," Lloyd said. It happens sometimes, you make them, and sometimes you don't. We shot 49% [from the field]. I bet most teams in the country would be pretty happy; we have good shooters. The law of averages will play out."
Once again, the Wildcats frontcourt pieces shined, similar to what has been the theme since early November. Oumar Ballo finished his Sunday with 17 points and seven rebounds. Ballo has proven to be a matchup nightmare with his back to the basket, establishing deep post position, and relying on his jump hook in the lane. In addition, noting his much improved footwork has been a critical part of his early season success.
Tubelis chipped in 25 points and 12 rebounds while converting all free throws from the charity stripe. The duo continues to shine, making the argument as the top frontcourt in the country.
Arizona’s trio of guards had a bounce-back performance after a combined 5 for 27 shooting from the field. The group's consistency will determine this team's success, as Ballo and Tubelis seem to provide the bulk load of production on a nightly basis.
Kerr Kriisa was in a rhythm in the second half, highlighted by three drives finishing in the lane. Throughout the early start of the season, Kriisa has shown flashes of his scoring ability inside the 3-point line, an area that was missing in his first two years with the program. He led the team with a plus/minus differential of 17.
Devin Askew had a strong afternoon for the Golden Bears. The junior guard finished with 25 points on 9 for 19 shooting from the floor.
“Askew is a good basketball player,” Lloyd said. “He has a lot of pride, is a great competitor and has a ton of freedom. For them to score and be productive, he has to take tough shots, and he made them.”
Arizona’s next test will happen at a neutral site. The Wildcats will travel to Las Vegas, Nevada, and collide with Mike Woodson’s Indiana Hoosiers from Indiana University Bloomington on Saturday, Dec. 10, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
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