EditorsNote: Corrects Nnaji’s point total at halftime in final graf; other minor edits
Arizona true freshman Zeke Nnaji scored 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting as the No. 21 Wildcats cruised past visiting Northern Arizona 91-52 on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams in Tucson, Ariz.
Nnaji, a 6-foot-11 power forward, did most of his work on offense off post moves, although he also went coast to coast for a layup after a steal in the first half. He pulled down four rebounds, blocked a shot and had a steal.
He was one of three freshmen in the starting lineup for Arizona, which is trying to bounce back after a 17-15 season. Point guard Nico Mannion had nine points and four assists with one turnover. Forward Josh Green posted 10 points, six rebounds and two steals.
The Wildcats’ defense and superior size hounded the Lumberjacks into 31.5-`percent shooting (17 of 54). Northern Arizona had more turnovers (19) than made baskets.
Cameron Shelton scored 17 points to lead Northern Arizona in the debut of interim head coach Shane Burcar, who took over this summer when Jack Murphy left to become the associate head coach at Arizona. Isaiah Lewis scored 13, and Brooks DeBisschop led Northern Arizona with eight rebounds.
Arizona’s Stone Gettings, a transfer from Cornell, hit 3 of 4 3-point attempts en route to 13 points. Dylan Smith scored 10.
The Wildcats expanded on a 22-point halftime lead, going up 67-35 at the midpoint of the second half on a 3-pointer by Max Hazzard, a grad transfer from UC Irvine.
The game was tied at 8 at the 12:36 mark of the first half before Arizona went on a 15-3 run, started by two baskets in the paint by Nnaji. Mannion capped the run with two free throws for a 23-11 lead with 7:16 left before halftime.
Arizona made six consecutive shots — including four from behind the arc — at one stretch of the half and led by as many as 24 before taking a 44-22 lead into intermission. Nnaji had 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first half.
—Field Level Media