Arizona Wildcats feeling ‘pretty good about themselves’ but lots of work to be done

And they are off!

Like really off and running … and running. They would be the University of Arizona men’s basketball team.

Tommy Lloyd & Co.  They probably won’t see a shot they won’t like. It didn’t seem that way in Arizona’s 96-50 win over visiting Eastern New Mexico.

Fiver players scored in double figures with sophomore Ben Mathurin leading the way with 18 points. Arizona hit 13 of 33 3-pointers – good but not great numbers – but they took plenty.

Heck, even 7-foot center Christian Koloko turned into a guard on Monday night, hitting a 3-pointer at the top of key. What a difference a year makes.

“I was open, so I shot it,” said Koloko of his 3-pointer in the second half that brought cheers from the fans and a mile to his face as he ran back to play defense. “I know that’s not what the team needs from me, but it’s just one time.”

One a game – if that – from Koloko. From the others? It looks to be a free for all.

Sit back and enjoy.

And be a bit patient with how it all works. Shots could come from anywhere and, well, anyone, given what last night’s exhibition win looked like.

What will be a good shot in this wide-open offense?

“A good shot, you know, will be a great shot for that individual,” Lloyd said. “I mean, obviously, these guys are feeling pretty good about themselves right now and shooting some shots. My deal is that you can’t settle. You want guys who are comfortable and hunting good shots for them, but we can’t settle. So, there’s a context in shooting – time and score.”

Arizona settled for a lot of threes. Sometimes that won’t be a good thing – even if they go in like Koloko’s did. But it was fun for a night. So, he’ll let them shoot. But it’ll have to be smart shots. Good shots.

“I don’t want to take their confidence and their spirit,” Lloyd said. “You want guys when they shoot shots, you want them to feel comfortable that they can make them. I don’t want them to sit there and question them.”

He did like that his team was better defensively than it was in the secret scrimmage vs. St. Mary’s last week. And his offense finished better.

Ben Mathurin shoots over Eastern New Mexico (Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics)

“But I still think there’s room for growth there, as well,” he said about his offense.

Time and circumstance don’t come easy. It’s also a learning gauge of when and where for a young team still trying to figure out what’s next in a long season.

Justin Kier, who went 5 for 7 and finished with 14 points may have explained it the best way for everyone: “I take the best shot that there is. I’m confident in my shot so if I’m open and feeling pretty good I’m going to take it and confidently. We have a lot of guys who can shoot it on this team.”

Again, time and circumstance will be key.

“it’s a constant evolution and evolving thing,” Lloyd said. “That’s the beautiful thing of basketball. It’s a complex game with a lot of moving parts.”

He said the same shot one game might not be a good thing the next one. Again, time and circumstance. What will make things happen – or at least create some things to happen is the pace.

Arizona had a frenzied pace.

“You want to get the game going up and down a little bit because that’s when you get some easy baskets in transition,” he said.


In fact, if the pace makes the race, then Arizona will be a run-to-the-wire racehorse.

“It was good for the most part,” Lloyd said referring to the pace of the game. “I think there’s some things to clean up. We’re a movement-based team in transition and in the half court. We got a little stagnant in stretches, but we’ll get back to ways we can move and things of that nature.”

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