What are Pelle Larsson’s expectations this year for himself as Arizona begins its season?
“Just win,” he said.
Mission accomplished on Monday night in more ways than one given Larsson had his first double-double – 16 points and 10 rebound – of his career and Arizona scored what seemed like a million points at McKale Center against smallish Nicholls.
Arizona won 117-75 for both team’s season opener. Arizona shot a school-record 71.7 percent from the floor, sizzling from the outside and near the basket. It surpassed the previous shooting night of 71.4 percent set in 1984.
It felt like old times at McKale. And by old I mean just like last year and for many of Lute Olson’s seasons when running and stunning was the norm. In fact, the 117 points – the most under current UA coach Tommy Lloyd at UA – was the most in a season opener since 1990-91 (Austin Peay) and most since Arizona scored 127 in 1998 vs. Arizona State.
For the Arizona faithful that was when names like Bibby, Simon, Dickerson roamed the halls of McKale. But that was then, and this is now so don’t read too much into it, but it was a pretty darn good start for No. 17 Arizona.
And a good start for a coach who called himself a “paranoid coach” every game because one never knows what’s going to happen.
“I’m sitting there thinking about what do you got to do to get better,” said Lloyd. “We got another team coming in here Friday that’s probably going to present some different types of challenges. And, you know, I’m kind of locked into my day-by-day, game-by-game mode. I’m gonna figure out what tomorrow looks like when I get home.”
Until then, he’ll review and think: it was a pretty good night. And one where he said he didn’t expect to see what he saw. It was a major blowout where seemingly everyone who played, played well.
Four players finished in double figures with most having great numbers.
Azuolas Tubelis had 23 points, hitting 10 of 12 shots. He added seven rebounds and six assists. Oumar Ballo finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Adama Bal, who left the game after suffering a non-serious injury, added 14 points.
Points here, there and everywhere.
Arizona took nothing for granted against is lower-level opponent given it’s a “handsy” pesky team that creates problems for opponents. It just didn’t for Arizona at any point on Monday.
Arizona jumped out to a huge lead early – 30-4 – and never looked back. It was 59-37 at the half.
“To win by this margin says something about this group,” Lloyd said.
Of course, there was some hiccups. Arizona had 24 turnovers against its handsy opponents.
“It’s definitely something we’ve got to clean up,” Lloyd said. “We tried warning the guys, but they didn’t heed the warning. Against a team like that you can’t be casual. But we were pretty efficient.”
The master of the efficiency was Tubelis, who scored at will near the basket. But that’s what he does against smaller lineups and that was the case Thursday.
“Zoo being Zoo,” Larsson said.
“Zoo scores easy, he’s built to play in this system,” Lloyd said. “He’s so great in the open court running. He’s getting really efficient inside. I really challenged him to improve finishing inside. His numbers are good, but I think they can be great.”
And so, we’re really making a push with him and you know, this week I got on him earlier in the week. I want him to be a little more proficient making his layups. I thought he’d been getting us off to a great start. And a lot of it (comes) when he’s making layups.”
As for Larsson, it was easily one of his better games. Of course there was the double-double but he had a Michael Jordan-esque move under the basket to get the crowd excited.
“Pele has been great, he’s relentless. He’s got great energy,” Lloyd said. “And he’s just he’s very tenacious. I just need him to reel it in. He’s such a good player. I just don’t need him to try to make four hard plays in a row. … He understands. You can coach him hard and talk to him directly. … he’s a really good player and we’re lucky to have him.”