No. 12 Arizona is coming off one of the biggest road victories in school history as it returns home to play Southern on Monday night in Tucson, Ariz.
The Wildcats (2-0) are touting their toughness after winning 78-73 at No. 2 Duke on Friday night as they outrebounded the Blue Devils 45-33 and had a plus-eight advantage in points in the paint. Arizona led the game for almost 30 minutes and then twice had to overcome a two-point deficit in the final 2:11.
“I love this group of guys and feel like we’re going to be as good as anybody in the country,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said.
The victory highlighted what should be Arizona’s strengths — offensive balance, physical play and improved defense. Five players scored in double figures against the Blue Devils, led by Keshad Johnson’s 14, and the Wildcats came up with eight steals, including one in the final seconds that resulted in a dunk for the final margin.
Southern (1-1) is coming off an 85-71 road win over UNLV on Wednesday, only the school’s second victory ever against a Mountain West team. Tai’Reon Joseph scored 22 points for the Jaguars, who were picked to finish fifth in the SWAC in a preseason vote of league coaches and sports information directors.
“I thought our guys competed really hard and came out ready to fight from the jump,” said Southern’s first-year head coach Kevin Johnson.
“We hit some shots early, but I really liked how we played on the defensive side of the ball. We knew UNLV would make a run at some point, but we were able to withstand it and played with some discipline.”
Arizona opened its season last Monday with a 122-59 victory over Morgan State. The game against Southern tips off a three-game homestand, with games against Belmont (Friday) and UT Arlington (Sunday) to follow before a Thanksgiving showdown against Michigan State in Palm Springs, Calif.
Arizona and Southern also played in Tucson last season, when the Wildcats won 95-78 and held a 51-33 rebounding advantage. Returning players Oumar Ballo and Pelle Larsson each scored 17 against the Jaguars last season.
Lloyd quickly cautioned his team after the Duke game to not get too high emotionally.
“I just told our guys, ‘Believe it or not, you don’t get a trophy for winning your second game of the season,'” Lloyd said.
“We’re on a longer journey than this. Winning at Duke was nice, but we’ve got a good Southern team that just beat UNLV by about 20, so we are looking forward to jumping on the plane, wrapping this one up, getting ready for chapter three.”
Point guard Kylan Boswell leads the Wildcats in scoring, averaging 15.0 points per game. He has 13 rebounds, six assists and four steals in two games, while committing only two turnovers in 55 minutes.
Southern, which opens the season with eight consecutive road games, is being led early by Joseph at 18.5 points per game. Brandon Davis averages 16.5. The Jaguars have made half of their 3-point attempts (21 of 42) in two games.
–Field Level Media