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New Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd has been preaching about "playing fast with fundamentals."
That worked out well in his debut against Northern Arizona, and he'll look for further improvement when the Wildcats (1-0) play University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) on Friday night in Tucson, Ariz.
The Wildcats dispatched NAU 81-52 on Tuesday, committing only six turnovers while assisting on 25 of 28 baskets. Sophomore point guard Kerr Kriisa, playing in his ninth career game, scored a game-high 17 points with five assists and no turnovers in 29 minutes.
"I thought Kerr was great," Lloyd said. "I've been steadfast in my belief in him, and I think he's going to have a really good year and I think he's going to be one of the better point guards in college basketball.
"He really gets us going, on top of all the good things he does on offense. There's still room for him to grow, which is awesome on that end, but I think he's a really good defender. So I love having him out there and I feel good every second he's out on the floor."
UTRGV (1-0) opened its season with a 74-59 home victory over Division II Texas A&M International on Tuesday. LaQuan Butler poured in 19 points to lead the Vaqueros in the debut of Matt Figger, who was previously the head coach at Austin Peay.
"Offensively, we want to play fast and share the ball," said Figger, whose team tied for ninth in a preseason WAC coaches poll.
"Some may say we shoot too many 3s, but that's a higher percentage-yielding shot when you drive, touch the paint and pass it out. We want to play a fun, fast style of basketball."
The Vaqueros rely on Ricky "Doc" Nelson to set the pace. He opened with six assists on Tuesday.
Arizona used a solid nine-man rotation in the opener. The Wildcats are flush with athletic wings, including Dalen Terry (11 points, seven assists vs. NAU) and Bennedict Mathurin, who shot poorly (2 of 13) against NAU.
Lloyd opted to play small at times with stretch four Azuolas Tubelis as the lone post instead of being paired with one of two 7-footers on the roster. That helps fuel the pace and team-wide passing ability Lloyd wants - and what he became used to seeing during 20 years as a Gonzaga assistant.
"The nitpicky part of me is, yeah, we need to be a little bit better," he said. "But overall, it's not a bad start."
--Field Level Media