Arizona Basketball

Arizona’s “unselfish” teamwork impeccable in rout of Sacramento State

It was indeed one-sided: Arizona had 31 assists and Sacramento State made only 22 shots from the field.

The 17th-ranked Wildcats routed the Hornets 105-59 on Saturday night at McKale Center in an offensive and defensive clinic.

Azuolas Tubelis had 22 points, six rebounds and three assists, and as dominant as that performance was, it was lost among the games most of his teammates enjoyed.

Arizona (6-0) kept the ball rolling after last weekend’s impressive wins in Las Vegas against Wichita State and Michigan.

“That’s the test to a good team is after a big week, coming back home and everything feels really good and everyone’s relaxed and stuff like that, you’ve got to come out and play with even more energy,” Justin Kier said. “More teams are going to want to beat you. We want to be a great team. We don’t want to just be satisfied with what we’ve done. We’ve got a long way to go. We want to continue just to be consistent.”

A scare: Christian Koloko, who scored 20 points making 8 of 10 shots from the field with seven rebounds, left the game for good with 16:14 left and Arizona leading 62-22 because of an injury to his left ankle trying to block a shot.

He returned to the bench with ice on his left ankle after being treated in the locker room.

“As far as I know, it’s nothing serious,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said of the injury after the game.

Arizona hosts Washington and former Wildcat guard Terrell Brown Jr. on Thursday, so Koloko has a few days to recuperate and rehabilitate the ankle to be “superhuman” again.

“Koloko impacts the game in the time he’s in there,” Lloyd said. “The possession I remember most, they ran a lob play out of halftime and it kind of got us on it. I don’t even know how he blocked it. I mean, he was superhuman so that was really cool.”

Kerr Kriisa interacts with Shane Nowell in a recent game (Arizona Athletics photo)

Sacramento State (3-3) went on a 9-0 run after Koloko’s exit but 3-pointers made by Kim Aiken Jr. on consecutive possessions pushed Arizona’s lead to 70-35 with 12:00 left.

Tubelis was 9 of 13 from the field, and he made one of Arizona’s nine 3-pointers. The Wildcats made 9 of 17 shots from beyond the arc.

Pelle Larsson had a career-high 17 points, Kier finished with 13 and Aiken had 10.

They combined to make 7 of 11 from 3-point range.

“We’ve got the confidence that we think we can knock down shots,” Kier said. “As you saw Pellee shot the ball really, really well tonight (6 of 7 from the field, 3 of 4 from 3-point range). I think he’s gonna continue to do that because he is putting in the work for that.

“We’ve got guys who can just knock down that three … We’ve got great shooters. … We put in the work to be great shooters. We’re all confident in that kind of stuff.”

Arizona finished with 31 assists on 38 made field goals with Kerr Kriisa recording a career-high nine and Aiken having six.

“If you put the team first and you play unselfish and you get joy out of setting up others, it’s a pretty cool thing,” Lloyd said.

The Wildcats also outrebounded the Hornets 47-24 and outscored them 53-25 in the paint.

Cameron Wilbon led Sacramento State with 14 points and Bryce Fowler had 10 points and seven rebounds.

Arizona took control of the game with a 17-5 lead following a 15-2 run less than six minutes into the game.

The Wildcats scored 11 unanswered points to increase the lead to 40-15 with 4:40 remaining in the half.

Tubelis scored nine of those points and had 13 of Arizona’s 15 points in a stretch that gave Arizona a 44-19 lead with 3:39 left until halftime.

He had 17 points at halftime, when Arizona led 47-22.

The Wildcats made 50 percent of their shots from the field in the first half and recorded 17 assists on 19 made field goals.

“I think it’s just the way we play and the chemistry that we have,” said Larsson, who was one of nine players who recorded at least one assist. “We just like playing with each other. We like passing it to each other. If the guy has an open shot, you don’t mind giving up a good one to get a great one.”

Arizona shot 61.3 percent from the field in the second half to finish at 55.1 percent in the game.

Sacramento State made only 25.8 percent of its shots in the first half and had as many turnovers (eight) as field goals made at halftime.

The Hornets finished shooting 36.7 percent from the field with 17 turnovers.

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District

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