TUCSON, Ariz. – For the first time since 2019, the third-ranked Arizona men’s basketball team will play on Thanksgiving Day as they travel to Acrisure Arena near Palm Springs, California to take on No. 21 Michigan State in the Acrisure Classic. The game will be nationally televised live on FOX following the Green Bay Packers at the Detroit Lions with Adam Amin and Jim Jackson on the call. Tip-off is slated for 2:00 p.m. MST.
Arizona enters the game with an unblemished record of 5-0 while Michigan State is 3-2.
1) Sophomore guard Kylan Boswell is putting up video game numbers through four games of the season. He’s shooting 64.9% (24-37) from the field, 68.2% (15-22) from the 3-point line that ranks second nationally, 100% (6-6) at the free throw line while playing just 24 minutes per game. Last week he was Pac-12 Player of the Week for first time.
2) In his last 8 games against Top 25 opponents, Oumar Ballo is averaging 15.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and shooting 63.5% from the floor.
3) Under Tommy Lloyd, Arizona is 12-4 against AP Top 25 teams, the best winning percentage (.750) in the country. The Wildcats are 8-4 vs. Top 25 teams in road/neutral sites.
4) Since the start of the 2021-22 season, Arizona has 42 games of 20+ assists to lead the nation. The next best total is 26 games by Utah State.
5) The balanced attack of the Wildcats this season is evidenced by six players averaging between 11.4 and 13.8 points per game and nine players with 4.0+ rpg.
SERIES VS. MICHIGAN STATE
• Arizona leads the all-time series, 5-2, and won the most recent match-up, a 65-63 win in Honolulu on Nov. 11, 2016.
• The Wildcats beat the Spartans in the 2001 Final Four in Minneapolis, 80-61.
• The first meeting between the schools was a 47-45 Arizona win in East Lansing in 1947.
NOTING THE WILDCATS
• Today’s game is the Acrisure Classic, which is also part of the larger event called the Acrisure Invitational. This past Sunday’s game vs. UT Arlington was also part of the event.
• At least five players have scored in double figures in each of Arizona’s five games to this point, marking just the sixth time in the last 27 years that any D-1 team has done that.
• Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd is in his third season with the Wildcats and has a record of 66-11. He set the all-time NCAA record for most wins by a coach in his first two seasons and is the only Power 5 head coach to ever win his conference tournament in each of his first two seasons.
• Through 77 games of the Tommy Lloyd Era at Arizona, the Wildcats have registered 20 or more assists 42 times, including 27 on Sunday against UT Arlington.
• Arizona is outscoring its opponents, 248-124, in the paint through five games.
• The Wildcats are second nationally in rebound margin (+21.8), sixth in scoring (99.6), seventh in fastbreak points (22.8) and eighth in assists/game (22.6).
• Freshman Motiejus Krivas scored 20 points off the bench against Belmont, the first Arizona post player to score 20 off the bench since Oumar Ballo did it on Jan. 20, 2022 at Stanford.
• The preseason All Pac-12 teams featured four Wildcats: senior Oumar Ballo (first team), senior Caleb Love (second), sophomore Kylan Boswell (second) and senior Pelle Larson (honorable mention).
• Ballo was named to the preseason watch list for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award, Love is on the preseason list for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award and Keshad Johnson is on the preseason list for the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award.
• The Wildcats return 42% of the minutes played from the 2022-23 season and 41% of the scoring from last year’s squad.
• Offensively, UA has just 26% of the 3-pointers made and 27% of the 3-pointers attempted a season ago back on the roster this year.
• Arizona has six returning scholarship players and seven new scholarship players – three transfers and four freshmen – on the 2023-24 team.
• The 2023-24 season marks the 119th year of men’s basketball for the University of Arizona, and the Wildcats have an all-time record of 1,866-977.
• Redshirt senior Oumar Ballo was named a preseason All-American by Blue Ribbon Magazine and College Hoops Today. Blue Ribbon along with ESPN.com also named him the preseason favorite to earn Pac-12 Player of the Year. He was also tabbed for the Naismith Trophy, NABC and Wooden Award national player of the year preseason watch lists.
Eight different countries, including the United States, are represented on Arizona’s 18-man roster. The countries include Serbia, Sweden, Mali, Estonia, Lithuania, England, Spain and the United States.
The 78-73 win at then No. 2 Duke on Nov. 10 was Arizona’s first true road win against a team ranked in the top 2 since defeating No. 1 Stanford in 2001.
LLOYD LOVES IT
Head coach Tommy Lloyd‘s record is 66-11 in his third season as a head coach. After setting the NCAA record for most wins in his first two seasons (61), the focus turns to the three-year record. The NCAA record for most wins through three seasons is 89 wins by Brad Underwood and Brad Stevens.
After finishing the 2022-23 season on a tear from the 3-point line, Kylan Boswell picked right up where he left off in Arizona’s season opener. He finished with a career-high 18 points against Morgan State. His line at No. 2 Duke was equally impressive, tying for game-high honors with eight rebounds and five assists to go with his 12 points and just one turnover. For the season, he is shooting 66.7% percent from the floor (24-37) and 66.7% from the 3-point line (15-22).
Over his last 11 games, including the final six games of the 2022-23 season, Boswell has shot 41 of 60 (.683) from the floor and 26 of 39 (.667) from the 3-point line. Those six opponents last year included road games at USC and UCLA, three games in the Pac-12 Tournament and one in the NCAA Tournament.
Boswell also spent time over the summer playing for the USA Basketball U19 team at the FIBA U19 World Cup in Debrecen, Hungary. He was a starter for five of the seven games and averaged 6.4 points and 2.3 assists as Team USA went 5-2 at the event.
Redshirt senior Oumar Ballo is back for his third year in Tucson. He was a First Team All Pac-12 honoree last year and was named to the 2023 Pac-12 Tournament All-Tournament team as well. He garnered MVP honors at the Maui Invitational a season ago on his way to setting new career highs in nearly every statistical category. He shot 64.7% from the floor during the 2022-23 season, which ranked eighth nationally and is the second-best single-season percentage in Arizona history.
He has scored in double figures every game while only playing more than 20 minutes just once through five games. His career FG% currently ranks as the best in Arizona history (.640).
In his last 8 games against Top 25 opponents, Ballo is averaging 15.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and shooting 63.5% from the floor.
His development has been off the charts over the last three seasons, dating back to the 2020-21 season when he played at Gonzaga:
PPG RPG Min/G
2020-21 2.5 1.5 6.2
2021-22 6.8 4.4 15.2
2022-23 14.2 8.6 27.5
2023-24 12.4 5.6 18.7
THINGS YOU ‘LOVE’ TO SEE
Senior guard Caleb Love arrived at Arizona this summer after three seasons at North Carolina. He has fit right in with Arizona’s free flowing offense.
In the season opener against Morgan State, he dropped 12 points to go with three rebounds, four assists and zero turnovers. Then at Duke, he drilled four clutch free throws in the final minute to seal the Arizona win and improve to 3-1 in his career at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The St. Louis native leads Arizona with 24 assists , is second in steals (7) and is 12 of 21 (.571) on 2-point shots by getting into the lane.
BRADLEY IN FROM BAMA
Sophomore guard Jaden Bradley transferred to Arizona over the offseason after spending his freshman season at the University of Alabama. He scored a total of 11 points in the first three games this year, but has scored 18 points over the last two, including a 13-point effort vs. UT Arlington on Sunday.
With the Crimson Tide, he appeared in 37 games and made 22 starts, averaging 6.4 points and 3.1 assists per game with a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Arizona was heavily involved in his initial recruitment out of high school before he eventually chose Alabama. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he was a McDonald’s All-American as a senior at IMG Academy.
Motiejus Krivas stands 7-foot-2 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and has been a force with a soft touch around the rim from the moment he arrived in Tucson. He leads the team in free throw attempts (24) and is second on the team in rebounding (5.8). He broke out with 20 points and nine rebounds against Belmont. He is shooting 58.3% from the field and 75% from the free throw line.
In the Summer of 2023, Krivas, at the age of 18, played for Lithuania at the FIBA U20 European Championships in Crete. In the seven games, he averaged 12.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 2.0 rebounds.
LOOK OUT FOR LEWIS
Freshman KJ Lewis was a Top 100 recruit in his class, but Coach Lloyd has commented that he may have been underrated. He won the dunk contest at the Red-Blue Showcase and averaged 13.5 points and 5.0 rebounds in two games on the Summer Tour.
Through five games, he’s averaging 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists in just 18 minutes per game of action. He is 12 of 17 (.706) from the floor and 2 of 4 from the 3-point line. His activity on the defensive end is a trademark of his, evidenced by his five steals in the opener against Morgan State.