No. 3 Arizona looks for rebound win vs ASU
No. 3 Arizona, coming off a loss to its biggest rival, will try to bounce back against its in-state rival on Saturday when the Wildcats host Arizona State in Tucson, Ariz.
Arizona (16-2, 6-1 Pac-12) fell 75-59 at No. 7 UCLA on Tuesday to end a three-game road trip. It was the first frustrating offensive game of the season for the Wildcats, who shot 30.7 percent (23 of 75) and were held 30 points below their scoring average.
Nobody is looking for redemption more than point guard Kerr Kriisa, who endured the worst game of his career. He missed all 12 shots, including nine from 3-point range.
But first-year Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd has infused his players with confidence and hasn't put up any red lights to his fast-paced, quick-shooting approach.
"Kerr is a tough kid," Lloyd said. "When you're a good, aggressive player, you're going to have nights like that. And he wasn't the only one. So we definitely aren't going to pin anything on him. He's our guy, and going forward he's going to deliver. I'm confident in that."
Arizona State (6-11, 2-5) has lost five of its past six games, dating to Dec. 19. The Sun Devils most recently dropped a road trip to Stanford (79-76) and USC (78-56). Coach Bobby Hurley and guard Jay Heath were suspended for the USC game on Monday because of a postgame altercation with the referees after the Stanford game.
"I had enormous regret that I was not able to be there for my team against USC," Hurley said. "I just think we ran out of steam playing with seven guys and no head coach. It was a lot to ask playing a very good USC team."
Arizona State heads into the matchup with personnel concerns.
Alonzo Gaffney (hit in face vs. USC) and Kimani Lawrence (non-COVID illness) are questionable. The Sun Devils are offensively challenged even at full strength, shooting 39.3 percent, including 27.7 percent from behind the arc.
DJ Horne leads ASU with 13.6 points per game and is the team's top 3-point threat (45 of 113, 39.8 percent).
For Arizona, second-leading scorer Azuolas Tubelis missed one game because of a left ankle sprain and did not start against UCLA. He managed eight points and six rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench but wasn't moving as well as usual. Because a rematch with the Bruins is looming on Thursday, it might make sense to not push Tubelis too hard on Saturday.
"We'll see how we come out of this," Lloyd said after the UCLA game.
Arizona, averaging 87.1 points per game, is led by Bennedict Mathurin's 17.4 points per game. Tubelis is next at 14.7. Christian Koloko averages 13.1 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds.
Before facing the Bruins, Arizona had rolled through six conference opponents, with the lowest margin of victory being 16 points (against Washington).
"It didn't go our way," Lloyd said of the UCLA loss, "but we have to make it a great learning experience to make the best of it. That's our job as coaches and players, so that's going to be the mindset moving forward."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 28, 2022