About 12,000 or so people went to see Arizona win its 11th game this season. What they witnessed was a block party they hadn’t seen in some time.
Arizona’s bigs were exactly that in its 84-60 win over California Baptist. The three combined for 10 blocks and 41 points.
Swat. Score. Swat. Score. And much, much more.
They all came in impressive fashion as UA took over the game by going down low to get Christian Koloko, Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo going.
“They were doing a great job of controlling the paint,” UA coach Tommy Lloyd said.
In fact, Koloko and Ballo hadn’t played that much together on the court all season. But they sure looked good. Twin Towers? Not exactly but intimidating, nonetheless.
“It’s something we’ve talked about doing,” Lloyd said. “I probably have to do a better job of developing that lineup up offensively. I think offensively we have a plan. As luck would have the other team has a pretty good coach, too. The moment we went with the two bigs, they went zone.”
Lloyd said they hadn’t spent “one second on zone offense” with Ballo and Koloko on the floor together.
Still, “I like it,” Lloyd said. “I’m not uncomfortable doing it. I still think having Azuolas out there … he’s a little bit more mobile. He can play inside and outside a little bit. We’ll see how that how that giant lineup goes.”
Koloko said playing with the “giant lineup” is “pretty cool.
“Us together is a disadvantage to the other team,” he said. “Two seven-footers at the same time, we can just take advantage of rebounds.”
In turn, Arizona picked up the pace, going from a 40-33 halftime lead to another blowout win.
Five players scored in double figures with Bennedict Mathurin getting 14 points, Koloko 12 points, Ballo and Justin Kier each having 10.
There’s been enough of a sample size to realize it could be anyone’s day for Arizona. Whether it’s Azuolas or Bennedict Mathurin or Kerr Kriisa or the aforementioned Koloko, Arizona is clearly the sum of its parts.
As Bennedict said, “there is not one superstar, the whole team are superstars .. we were able to bond and stick together as a team.”
As Koloko said, basketball is “a team game.” “We play for each other,” he said.
It’s music to Lloyd’s ears.
“I love having a well-balanced team; I don’t mind having a go-to leading scorer, but sometimes the way we play the ball finds different guys on different nights,” said UA coach Tommy Lloyd. “I don’t think Cal Baptist was doing anything defensively. They were kind of switching between man and zone.”
Like in the 10 previous games, Arizona eventually find its way. After what Lloyd may think is a concerning slow start (its second consecutive one).
It was Tubelis who helped Arizona pull through. He finished with a game-high 19 points, five assists and one block.
“That allowed us to break the game open,” he said.