Arizona Basketball

Arizona basketball: No heavy lifting in Wildcats’ rout of Arizona State

So, that’s what a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament looks like?

Fifth-ranked Arizona played its part to perfection in its 105-60 win over visiting Arizona State on Saturday night.

It was the biggest blowout in the in-state rivalry … ever. Arizona sure did look good doing it, scoring more than 100 points for the sixth time this season as it gears up for next month’s Pac-12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament.

By the way, Arizona leads the Pac-12 at 11-3 overall.

On Saturday morning, the NCAA Selection Committee revealed Arizona (20-5) is projected to be the No. 1 seed in the West. About 12 hours later, Arizona made the committee look astute.

“Long way to go. Long way to go,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said, when asked about the No. 1 seed. “I’m not even worried about it. I’ll leave all the speculating to you experts, and I’m just going to enjoy the night and get to work on the Washington schools (Sunday).”

Still, why not enjoy Saturday night, one where UA avenged last season’s last-second loss to ASU in McKale Center. Lloyd said he didn’t show any of the lowlights of that game to motivate his team this year, but …

Oumar Ballo enjoying the moment in Arizona’s big win. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics)

 “The whole world has seen video of it,” said Keshad Johnson. “In today’s age you’ve got cell phones, you got social media. Everyone’s posting it, it’s hard to miss that.”

Eleven months later, Arizona returned the favor with a no-doubt, in-your-face win over the Sun Devils. UA won every category, and for 32 minutes or so, looked like a team that could go deep in next month’s tournament (temper that with the reality that ASU isn’t that good).

“We can still be elite,” said Jaden Bradley, when asked if Arizona plays this way what could happen. “We can be a high-level team.”

Saturday night – save for a few, yes a few – one-possession trips down the court, it was sharing and passing the ball like it had no care in the world. Six players scored in double figures, with Bradley leading the way with a career-high 21 points. Oumar Ballo and Caleb Love had 15 points each. Johnson added 14 points, Paulius Murauskas added 12 and Kylan Boswell had 11.

It was like points at a buffet line.

 “I think you’ll see when we share the ball, we don’t have to really rely on one guy to do a lot of heavy lifting,” Lloyd said. “I just encouraged our guys, playing against a team like Arizona State, if you try to force a bunch of passes in small spaces, the game can get pretty difficult. If there’s small spaces in a certain area, it means there’s big spaces in other places. So, we just really encouraged our guys to maybe turn down some hard plays and see if we could find some easier plays … it wasn’t much more complicated than that. I thought they did a great job with it. And that makes us very effective.”

Down 20-15 in the first few minutes, Arizona took control and ended with a 41-29 halftime lead. It was never that close again as UA went on smallish runs throughout and eventually scoring 52 points in the paint, 26 fastbreak points, 45 from its bench and having just seven turnovers.

“Everybody (made) a great contribution,” said Johnson. “We came into this game ready. (The) first group came in and did their part. J.B. (Jaden Bradley) and the second group took it from where we left off so you could just see. It’s just another game but more than that too. We did it for Tucson, did it for the whole state of Arizona.”

Well, maybe not for the Phoenix area or Tempe. But the point was made by making so many points.

“They’ve been very explosive throughout the year, and this is an outcome I thought could be a reality for us just based on watching film watching them a lot,” ASU coach Bobby Hurley said, through the Arizona Republic. “I’m not disappointed personally. I feel bad that it’s a demoralizing loss. I understand what the rivalry means to Arizona State, but we had no answers for what they were doing.”

Overshadowed in all of it was Lloyd’s 81st victory as a head coach. It’s the most for a coach in his first three years at a major conference. He’s now 81-16 overall. Of course, it was his third 20-win season.

 “I don’t have those kinds of expectations,” Lloyd said. “I don’t write what I think our record is going to be put in an envelope for later. It’s game by game. It’s really not much more than that. Being the head coach at Arizona is an incredible honor. You guys know I love it here. Hopefully I’m adding value to the program, because I know this: the program has definitely added a lot of value for me in my life. So, I just tried to serve it the best I can every day.”

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