Arizona Basketball

NCAA West Region Round of 32 — No. 7 Dayton (25-7) vs. No. 2 Arizona (26-8)

Oumar Ballo will face a stiff test against Dayton’s DaRon Holmes II in the NCAA second-round game Saturday at Salt Lake City (Arizona Athletics photo)

What: West Region, Second Round

Tipoff time: 9:45 a.m., Tucson time, Saturday


Radio: KCUB (1290-AM) and Varsity Network app

Location: Salt Lake City

NO. 2 ARIZONA (26-8)

   COACH: Tommy Lloyd, three years at Arizona, three years in NCAA tournament with the Wildcats (3-2 record). Career record: 87-18, third year.

   FIRST ROUND RESULT: Defeated No. 15 Long Beach State 85-65. Kylan Boswell scored a career-high 20 points for the second-seeded Wildcats (26-8), who made 13 3-pointers, the program record for March Madness.

   PROGRAM RECORD AS NO. 2 SEED: 18-8 — 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 2001, 2015, 2017, 2023, 2024

  • NET ranking: 4
  • KenPom ranking: 6
  • Quad 1 record: 8-3
  • Quad 2 record: 7-4
  • Quad 3 record: 8-1
  • Quad 4 record: 2-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 8
  • Defensive efficiency ranking: 12

   GO-TO GUYS: Caleb Love, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, leads the Wildcats with 18.1 points a game. His 495 field-goal attempts are 188 more than the next player — Kylan Boswell with 307. He has taken 260 shots from 3-point range, 93 more than Boswell. No other player has more than 100 attempts from beyond the arc. Love is shooting 41.8 percent from the field, 34.2 percent from 3-point range. He had 18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two steals against Long Beach State. Veterans Oumar Ballo (13.0 points and 12.8 rebounds per game), Pelle Larsson (12.9) and Keshad Johnson (11.6) help take pressure off Love. Ballo tallied his 19th double-double of the season and 33rd of his career with 11 points and 13 rebounds against the Beach.

Arizona top performers

  • Caleb Love: 18.1 PTS, 1.1 STL, 41.8 FG%, 34.2 3PT% (89-for-260)
  • Oumar Ballo: 13.0 PTS, 10.2 REB, 1.3 BLK, 65.4 FG%
  • Pelle Larsson: 12.9 PTS, 52.7 FG%, 43.9 3PT% (43-for-98)
  • Keshad Johnson: 11.6 PTS, 53.2 FG%, 39.8 3PT% (35-for-88)
  • Kylan Boswell: 10.1 PTS, 1.4 STL, 40.4 FG%, 38.9 3PT% (65-for-167)

KESHAD JOHNSON ON BOSWELL: “When he’s going, we’re literally the best team in the country. Him being 18 years old, he’s probably the best 18-year-old in the country. So we rely on him heavily. Whether he’s making shots or not, as long as he’s shooting and his confidence is there, we know he’s doing other things on the basketball court that’s just getting us open.”

   X FACTOR: The reserve guard tandem of Jaden Bradley and KJ Lewis. The energy they bring off the bench is crucial to an Arizona team known for needing a jolt once in a while. Arizona is 6-0 when Bradley scores in double figures and 6-1 when Lewis does the same. The lone loss was a double-overtime game against Florida Atlantic in which Lewis finished with 10 points. Bradley had eight points in 23 minutes against Long Beach State. Lewis did not score in 13 minutes.

DAYTON COACH ANTHONY GRANT ON ARIZONA: “What’s impressive about them is you look at their assist numbers. You look at their ability to take care of the basketball, the pace they play at, high-scoring team. So they’ve got a variety of very, very talented players that play well together.”

   STRENGTHS: Arizona is third nationally in scoring (87.9 points a game) and rebounding (42.6). Ballo is emblematic of both areas, averaging a double-double (13.0 points and 10.2 rebounds a game). Arizona led the Pac-12 in assists per game (18.6) and steals per game (8.3), indlcating that the Wildcats are most dangerous in transition after a steal, pushing the pace. The Wildcats have two of the most experienced players when it comes to the NCAA tournament — Love and Johnson, both of whom have played in the national championship game for different schools (Love at North Carolina and Johnson at San Diego State).

KESHAD JOHNSON: “It’s evident that having experience, the knowledge of what it takes to get there, it brings a sense of leadership, a sense of trustworthiness. When we say something, our teammates trust what we say. We’ve been there, done that. It’s easier to learn and listen to somebody who’s been there.”

CALEB LOVE: “I think having that experience, like Keshad said, our teammates trust in us, our coaches trust in us. We trust the coaches because we’ve got experience with the coaches, as far as Coach Rob (Steve Robinson) has been there plenty of times, Coach Lloyd has been to the Big Dance. I think they believe in us and we all trust in each other and we come together as one and go as one.”

   WEAKNESSES: Arizona has a tendency to go into lulls, long stretches without a field goal with turnovers, a situation that cost the Wildcats the Pac-12 tournament championship. Arizona went from a 14-point lead in the first half to a 14-point deficit in the second half in the semifinal loss to Oregon. Long Beach State went on a 13-0 run in the first half Thursday. Arizona finished eighth in the Pac-12 in turnovers averaging 12 a game. Perimeter defense is also a question mark with opponents averaging nearly eight made 3-pointers a game (7.8). Long Beach State made 3 of 17 shots from beyond the arc but the Beach has not been a threat from beyond the arc this season.

CALEB LOVE ON 3-POINT D: “I think we just got to be tight with our switches, be better with our communication, and just know our personnel.”

NO. 7 DAYTON (25-7)

 COACH: Anthony Grant, eighth year at Dayton, first year in NCAA tournament with the Flyers, fourth year overall in the NCAA tournament (2-3 record). Career record: 342-181, 16th year.

   FIRST ROUND RESULT: Defeated No. 10 Nevada 63-60, outscoring the Wolf Pack 24-4 over the last 7:39, securing the school’s first tournament victory since 2015. 

   PROGRAM RECORD AS NO. 7 SEED: 1-2 — 2016, 2017 and 2024

  • NET ranking: 23
  • KenPom ranking: 32
  • Quad 1 record: 3-4
  • Quad 2 record: 5-3
  • Quad 3 record: 9-0
  • Quad 4 record: 7-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 21
  • Defensive efficiency ranking: 70

GO-TO GUY: Former Goodyear Millennium standout DaRon Holmes II, the 2024 Atlantic-10 Co-Player of the Year & Defensive Player of the Year, was a one-time Arizona recruiting target and had the Wildcats as one of his final four choices in 2020 along with Cal, Marquette and Dayton. He was the 2019-20 Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year after averaging 23.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game. A 6-foot-10 forward who finished his prep career at AZ Compass Prep, Holmes averages 20.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. He is the only player at the Division I level who has more than 65 blocks, 65 dunks and 65 assists this season. In Thursday’s win over Nevada, Holmes had 18 points, nine rebounds, three steals and one blocked shot.

DARON HOLMES II ON ARIZONA: “Yeah, it was one of my final four. I was there following them when Sean Miller was the coach a little while back. So I went to McKale Center a couple times, have been on campus, familiar with the team and everything. So, yeah, I was a big fan when I was in high school as well. So yeah, I know a lot about Arizona. So it’s going to be exciting.”

Dayton top performers

  • Daron Holmes: 20.3 PTS, 8.4 REB, 2.1 BLK, 54.7 FG%, 38.0 3PT% (30-for-79)
  • Nate Santos: 11.8 PTS, 47.2 FG%, 42.5 3PT% (51-for-120)
  • Enoch Cheeks: 8.1 PTS, 1.3 STL, 44.7 FG%, 31.2 3PT% (24-for-77)
  • Koby Brea: 11.0 PTS, 51.1 FG%, 49.7 3PT% (96-for-193)
  • Kobe Elvis: 9.3 PTS, 37.6 FG%, 37.4 3PT% (46-for-123)

   X FACTOR: Koby Brea, a junior guard, is the Atlantic-10 Sixth Man of the Year for the second time in his career. He is just the second two-time Sixth Man (James Posey of Xavier achieved the feat in 1997 and 1998). He took the place of Javon Bennett in the starting lineup against Nevada. He improved his 3-point percentage from 49.2 to 49.7 (96 of 193) by making 5 of 8. He scored 15 points. He leads the nation in 3-point accuracy, making nearly half of his shots from beyond the arc.

TOMMY LLOYD ON BREA: “Listen, he’s a coin toss guy, which is crazy. He’s a 50 percent three-point shooter. Flip a coin, he’s going to make or miss it. That’s exceptional shooting.”

   STRENGTHS: Experience is a strength although Dayton may be a year away with a talented junior-heavy roster — its starting lineup is entirely juniors. Dayton is third in Division I in 3-point shooting percentage (40.2). The school record is .392. Dayton avoids fouls. The Flyers’ opponents shoot 12.9 free throws per game, the second fewest in the nation. That’s partially a result of Dayton playing at a slower tempo. The Flyers rank 12th in the nation when looking at fewest fouls per possession (20.2 percent).

   WEAKNESSES: Overall defense is a question mark. The Flyers rank 70th in KenPom defense. Dayton struggles to force turnovers, creating a takeaway on 15.3 percent of its defensive possessions (276th in the nation). Dayton also ranks 171st in the nation in defensive rebounds.

Arizona vs. Dayton stat comparison

Arizona RankArizona AVGCategoryDayton AVGDayton Rank
5th81.9Points Scored68.6259th
211th71.1Points Allowed61.09th
162nd8.7Off. Rebounds8.3204th
66th8.43pt Made6.6266th
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