TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Tommy Lloyd had big shoes to fill when he was hired to replace Sean Miller at Arizona. So far, so good.
Azuolas Tubelis had 19 points and Bennedict Mathurin added 14 as the No. 8 Wildcats shook off a slow start to beat Cal Baptist 84-60- on Saturday.
Arizona (11-0) is off to its best start since opening the 2014-15 season with 12 straight wins, and Lloyd is the first coach in Pac-12 history to win his first 11 games since Stanford’s Walter Powell did so in 1920-21.
This one wasn’t easy early on.
The Wildcats trailed by 11 less than four minutes into the game and didn’t take their first lead until 9:01 left in the first half.
“We’ve had a couple of slow starts in a row,” said Lloyd, who spent 22 seasons as an assistant at Gonzaga before taking the Arizona job. “We’ve got to start up better, we’ve got to execute the plan better. I think we’ve kind of let our guard down with that.”
Tubelis was 7 of 16 from the field after starting 1 of 6, adding seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks, while Mathurin was 5 of 11 and had three of Arizona’s eight 3-pointers.
Christian Koloko added 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks and Oumar Ballo had 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks as Arizona blocked 12 Cal Baptist shots — 10 in the first half — and turned 12 offensive rebounds into 19 second-chance points while the Lancers (8-3) didn’t score on any of their 12 offensive boards.
“I think we need our bigs to play at a good level for us to be a successful team,” Mathurin said.
Arizona extended a seven-point halftime lead to 16 less than 3 minutes into the second half, with 10 of its first 12 points coming from Tubelis. A 3-pointer by Pelle Larsson capped an 8-0 run to put the Wildcats up 61-41 with 12:31 remaining.
Cal Baptist was led by Ty Rowell, who had 11 points and was 3 for 3 from 3-point range, while freshman guard Taran Armstrong — who came in leading Division I in assists at 8.3 per game — finished with nine points, three assists and four turnovers.
The Lancers hit their first six shots including five 3-pointers to build an 18-7 lead with 16:14 left in the first half. But they missed 19 of their next 21 shots, clanking 13 in a row during a 14-0 Arizona run to put the Wildcats up 26-22 with 7:29 to go before halftime.
“We did a good job throwing the first punch,” Cal Baptist coach Rick Croy said. “We took too many tough 2-point shots over guys that are hard to shoot over. But it’s also our first time playing against that kind of length.”
Arizona outscored Cal Baptist 28-11 over the final 8:37 of the first half to lead 40-33 at the break.
Cal Baptist: The Lancers are in the fourth year of a five-year transition from Division II to Division I and won’t be eligible for the Western Athletic Conference or NCAA tournaments until 2022-23. They are now 0-5 all-time against power-conference programs, including a loss earlier this season at Texas.
Arizona: The Wildcats are about to begin a four-game road trip, their longest since 2008. Arizona doesn’t play again at McKale Center until Jan. 13 when it hosts Colorado for its Pac-12 Conference home opener.
Cal Baptist: Hosts Southeast Missouri State on Tuesday in its final non-conference game before starting WAC play.
Arizona: At No. 18 Tennessee on Wednesday.
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