TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A holiday break did nothing to slow Arizona’s free-flowing ways.
Coming off their biggest win of the season, the No. 17 Wildcats picked up where they left off before Thanksgiving, dishing out 31 assists to overwhelm Sacramento State 105-59 Saturday night.
Azoulas Tubelis scored 22 points, Christian Koloko added 20 before leaving with an ankle injury and Arizona had assists on all but seven field goals to avoid a letdown after beating Michigan earlier in the week.
“I feel like that’s the test of a good team, once you have a big week, come back home, everything feels good and relaxed, you’ve got to play with more energy because more teams are going to want to beat you,” said Arizona’s Justin Kier, who had 11 points and four assists. “We want to be a great team. We don’t want to be satisfied with what we’ve done.”
The Wildcats’ first season under coach Tommy Lloyd has been impressive so far. Arizona opened with three straight blowouts and survived a tough game against Wichita State in Las Vegas. The Wildcats picked up a marquee win in Sin City last Sunday, dominating then No. 4 Michigan 80-62, which moved Arizona into the Top 25 for the first time this season.
The Wildcats (6-0) had a huge size advantage against Sacramento State, and exploited it, overpowering the Hornets by scoring 29 points in the paint. Kerr Kriisa had nine assists for Arizona, which shot 55%.
Koloko also had seven rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot but left early in the second half with a sprained ankle.
“It you put the team first, get joy out of setting up others, it’s a beautiful thing,” Lloyd said.
Sac State (3-3) has had an up-and-down start to the season, starting with coach Brian Katz’s abrupt retirement for health reasons just before it started. The Hornets lost by 25 to Utah and 15 to UC San Diego, but picked up a win over rival UC Davis in their last game.
Sac State had never beaten a ranked opponent in 15 tries since joining Division I in 1991, so it was going to be a tough climb Saturday. The Hornets fell into a big hole early and never recovered, losing its second lopsided game to a Pac-12 opponent this season. Cameron Wilbon had 14 points to lead the Hornets, who shot 36%.
“They did a great job defensively of pressuring and challenging us,” Hornets interim coach Brandon Laird said. “Offensively, their speed, tempo, and size were too much for us. They were attacking really hard.”
Koloko had two early alley-oop dunks as Arizona opened the game on a 16-5 run and the Wildcats kept running from there. In the first half, Tubelis had 17 points, Koloko 10 and the Wildcats shot 19 of 38 to lead 47-22 at halftime.
Koloko opened the second half by blocking a shot on an alley-oop dunk attempt and put down one of his own after a steal. Arizona scored the first 10 points to go up 57-22. Koloko limped off soon after that, but the Wildcats went on a 15-2 run to go up 88-42.
“One of the biggest things you’ve got to compete against is human nature,” Lloyd said. “Our guys did a great job of that tonight.”
Sac State: The experience of playing Arizona on the road should help the Hornets once Big Sky play rolls around.
“Good opportunity to compete and measure ourselves against one of the best teams in the country,” Laird said. “I think the positives are what we will learn from this and how we can grow.”
Arizona: Didn’t suffer a letdown after its big win against Michigan, dominating the Hornets at both ends.
Lloyd has been saying this season that Utah transfer Pelle Larsson was going to have a breakout game as he has worked his way back from a foot injury.
The Swedish guard had it against Sac State, scoring 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting, including 3 of 4 from the 3-point arc.
“It felt good to see some shots go down,” Larsson said. “But I felt good in the other games, too.”
Sac State: Hosts Montana on Thursday.
Arizona: Starts Pac-12 play Thursday at home against Washington.
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