Men’s basketball notebook: Tubelis dominates, Kriisa back for the tournament? and trilogy with UCLA awaits


Ryan Wohl

Arizona Center Christian Koloko on the bench before their game against Colorado on March 11, 2022.

Ryan Wohl

LAS VEGAS —Arizona looks to win their first Pac-12 tournament championship since 2018 at 6:00 P.M. PST/ 7:00 MT on Fox against the UCLA Bruins. Before the game starts, checkout my latest basketball notebook with everything going on.

Arizona beats the University of Colorado without Kriisa

The Wildcats were down by seven points during the first half but showed their heart and passion while getting past Colorado in the end by 10 points. Free throw shooting has been a constant issue throughout the entire season, but that wasn’t the case against the Buffaloes. Arizona finished the game 24-25 from the free throw line while also shooting 52% the field and 40% from deep.

Wildcats starting point guard Kerr Kriisa was unable to play in yesterday’s game due to a sprained ankle so Justin Kier filled in for him in the starting lineup and played very well. Kier scored 13 points, five rebounds and three assists and provided a different pace to the game. Head coach Tommy Lloyd said after the game that Kriisa might return to the lineup in the first weekend of march madness.

During the past four games, Azuolas Tubelis didn’t look like the player Wildcat fans know and love. But in T-Mobile Arena Friday night, we saw that version of Tubelis return on the floor. He had a double-double in the contest totaling 20 points and 11 rebounds on an excellent 9-14 shooting from the field.

Enough good things cannot be said about what Dalen Terry has provided for this team during the entire season and against Colorado. During the last ten minutes, Terry made 2 huge three pointers to give the Wildcats a comfortable 9 point lead to seal up the win. For a guy that shot the ball 32% from deep this season and isn’t known to be a sharpshooter, it was a big boost for their offense.

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

The Bruins escape the Trojans

UCLA played well last night against their rival in USC and ended u beating them by 10 points. Four out of the five Bruin starters scored in double figures and were led by Jaime Jaquez who scored 19 points. Jaquez has been their leading scorer throughout the past two months after talented forward Johnny Juzang has been in a slump. He added 10 points in the game but was 4-11 from the field and only attempted one three-pointer.

For the Trojans, guard Boogie Ellis led the way for them scoring 27 points on a terrific 9-17 shooting from the field, but it wasn’t enough to pull off the upset victory.

Pac-12 tournament championship preview

The time has come for the trilogy. The season series is 1-1 between the Wildcats and Bruins but this time it will be on the neutral court at T-Mobile arena.

UCLA won the first matchup at Pauley Pavillian by 16 points after a terrible shooting night from the Wildcats. Just a few weeks after that first game, Arizona won by double digits [10 points]. On that night, the Bruins were ice cold shooting the ball and the Wildcats looked a lot better shooting it. Lloyd’s group did a great job of defending the three-point shot during that win while holding them to 21 percent from deep.

Without having Kriisa on the floor tonight, the Wildcats need to play smart basketball and not turn the ball over a lot. When they play a faster pace, they make more mistakes and then forces them to take bad shots. Arizona’s big men have looked excellent this week and that should be the focus in this third matchup if they can pull off this tough victory.

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