Arizona No. 14 was great fun, rolling over three overwhelmed opponents in a flash, but the competition will be stiffer in the Maui Invitational, which begins Monday against Cincinnati in Lahaina, Hawaii.
The Wildcats (3-0) set a school record for shot percentage (71.7) in their opener against Nicholls, caught a triple-double from point guard Kerr Kriisa against Southern and set another school record against Utah Tech on Thursday by by they scored 22 of 22 free throw attempts.
“I think we’re good,” said coach Tommy Lloyd. “We got through those first three games and our boys are getting a feel for how hard you have to play. The new guys understand that there is a certain level of effort and standard that goes into being an Arizona basketball player. They’re starting to hit that.”
Cincinnati (3-1) hasn’t displayed the same kind of offensive prowess as Arizona and suffered a 64-51 loss at Northern Kentucky on Wednesday, in which they scored just 11 points in the second half. The Bearcats shot 33.9 percent from the field.
“We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves,” said guard David DeJulius after the game. “We all understand how big this week is for us and the whole of our season. … We can’t let that get us down.”
Fast-paced Arizona is averaging 105.3 points in three games, shooting 63.2 percent and has a plus 16.0 rebound margin. And the lineup should get better.
Texas transfer Courtney Ramey, who was serving a three-game ban for participating in an offseason NBA draft showcase before returning to college, is expected to make the starting roster. He replaces Cedric Henderson in the backcourt.
Ramey, a senior, started 106 games and scored 1,275 points for the Longhorns from 2018-22.
“Everyone on our team loves Courtney and they know he’s a really good player,” Lloyd said. “That makes us better. We’re adding a really good player to the mix who’s an efficient ball carrier, an efficient shooter, tough, proven, and who plays his butt on defense.”
Arizona excelled early in the season, in part due to a large size advantage up front with 6-foot-11 Azuolas Tubelis (20.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 78.1 shot percent) and 7-foot Oumar Ballo (17, 0ppg, 9.3rpg) .
The Bearcats have length on the fringe but need 6-11 Post Viktor Lakhin (9.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg) to neutralize the Wildcats in the post.
DeJulius leads Cincinnati with 18.3 points per game, followed by Landers Nolley II with 14.0 points per game. Nolley, who played at Virginia Tech and Memphis, was a key offseason addition for the Bearcats on the wing.
Freshman Dan Skillings Jr. (4.3 ppg) did not play against Northern Kentucky due to an ankle injury but is expected to be ready for the Maui Invitational.
The team that prevails in this game meets the winner Ohio State-San Diego State in the semifinals. The other side of the eight-team bracket consists of Texas Tech, Creighton, Louisville and Arkansas.