TUCSON, Ariz. (AP)Azuolas Tubelis scored 23 points and No. 17 Arizona went on a massive opening run to begin its second season under coach Tommy Lloyd with a 117-75 rout of Nicholls State on Monday night.
The Wildcats won 33 games and went to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 last season, earning Lloyd national coach of the year honors.
Lloyd retooled his roster after losing three players to the NBA, adding several veteran transfers to go with a core of Tubelis, Kerr Kriisa, Oumar Ballo and Pelle Larsson.
The Wildcats hit the hardwood pounding, repeatedly working the ball inside to score or kick it out to open shooters against the Colonels. Ballo added 18 points, helping Arizona set a school record with 71.7% shooting from the floor against the reigning Southland Conference regular-season champions.
The Wildcats scored 16 straight points during a game-opening 30-4 run, went 11 of 18 from 3-point range and had 30 assists to win their 20th consecutive home game.
It started with Tubelis.
Lloyd wanted the big man from Lithuania to be tougher this season and he took it to heart – and to the Colonels.
Tubelis had 11 points and three assists in Arizona’s big opening run, leaving Nicholls State and coach Austin Claunch struggling to find a way to stop him.
The 6-foot-11 forward used his added strength to bully the Colonels inside and his agility to knife through them, scoring 20 points by halftime. He finished with seven rebounds and six assists.
Tubelis also helped anchor a big Arizona lineup that made it tough for Nicholls State to get any good early looks at the basket. The Colonels missed 13 of their first 14 shots before getting a few to fall.
Arizona led 59-37 at halftime.
Micah Thomas led Nicholls State with 20 points.
Nicholls State had the worst possible start in one of college basketball’s toughest road venues. The Colonels managed to put up a fight after the early gut punch, something that should help them once the Southland Conference schedule rolls around.
Arizona did what was expected, overwhelming Nicholls State early and dominating inside to win its 16th straight season opener.
Nicholls State plays at Wyoming on Wednesday.
Arizona hosts Southern on Saturday.
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