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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Two key reasons why Arizona MBB is one win away from a Pac-12 Championship

Ryan Wohl
Arizona Guard Justin Kier (#2) shoots a free-throw against Colorado on March 11, 2022 at T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
  1. Improved Free throw shooting 

LAS VEGAS —From the tip-off, Arizona was in attack mode on the offensive end. The Wildcats got to the line 10 times in the first half, converting on nine. Azuolas Tubelis got off to a hot start having 18 points in the half. Consequently, Arizona was able to get in the bonus early forcing the Buffaloes to shift their focus to Tubelis, leaving driving lanes open resulting in fouls. 

Colorado made it a priority at halftime to contain Tubelis and limited him to just four second half shot attempts, resulting in only two second half points. However, this did not phase head coach Tommy Lloyd’s group as they have many offensive options. Because of this deep roster, a critical five-minute stretch run of Oumar Ballo off the bench was impactful as he got to the line four times, converting each attempt. 

For the entire group, the Wildcats shot 15/15 in the second half. This was because of their length and size. Arizona got to the line 25 times causing opponents to gamble on the defensive end resulting in free throw opportunities. If the Wildcats can continue to make their free throws at a high percentage, they will continue to play with early leads allowing them to do what they do best, playing at their own pace. 

RELATED: No.2 Arizona MBB got revenge against Colorado with a 10 point victory without Kriisa

2. Justin Kier 

Because of a sprained ankle, starting point guard Kerr Kriisa could not dress. Kier got the start in his absence, and from the jump he was ready to anchor this offense. Kier’s added boost of energy resulted in him attacking downhill and making himself a presence with eight first-half points. He also got to the free-throw line six times, making all of his attempts.

Kriisa and Kier are two different types of guards. Kriisa is more of a threat with his long-range shooting. Kier is at his best when he can put the ball on the deck and get inside the lane and finish at the rim. The ability for Kier to get in the lane and use his body played a factor in the number of free throw opportunities for the Wildcats. When speaking with Kier after the game, he expressed his confidence going into the matchup. 

“I knew what I had to do for us to come out and win,” Kier said. “I had to fill Kerr’s spot, and these guys give me the most confidence in the world, when I get confidence from them, that’s all I need.”

Kier saw more time on the court yesterday after logging 33 minutes. His senior leadership significantly impacted the whole team on a night when they needed someone to step up.

Follow Aidan Alperstein on Twitter

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