TUCSON, Ariz.: Jamarl Baker scored 33 points and made seven 3-pointers, sending Arizona to a 96-53 rout of Northern Arizona on Monday night.
Arizona (3-0) swarmed the Lumberjacks in their first game of the season, scoring the first 15 points on the way to building a 26-point halftime lead.
Baker played free and confidently from the opening tip, scoring 19 points to eclipse his career high by halftime. He hit his first seven 3s and finished 7 for 9 from behind the arc.
Arizona shot 67%, went 13 for 22 from 3-point range and had 21 assists and 32 field goals.
Luke Avdalovic led Northern Arizona (0-1) with 16 points and Cam Shelton added 15.
The Wildcats and Lumberjacks had been trying to play this game for more than a month.
The original schedule had it slated for Nov. 10. The pandemic-delayed start of the season pushed it to Nov. 25. COVID-19 issues within NAU’s program caused it to be delayed yet again.
The Wildcats arrived at McKale Center in midseason form with three wins already. The Lumberjacks had three days of practice and no games to prepare for what was already going to be a difficult challenge.
It couldn’t have started worse for NAU.
Northern Arizona coach Shane Burcar called a timeout two minutes in after Arizona scored twice on the break, including a 3-on-1, and the Wildcats raced out to a 15-0 lead.
The Lumberjacks found a bit of rhythm after the early blitz and hit a few shots.
Their biggest problem: stopping Baker.
Arizona’s junior guard confidently stroked in one shot after another, eclipsing his career high by halftime with 21 points. Baker made all eight of his shots, including five 3s, and Arizona led 53-27.
Baker didn’t cool down after the break. He hit two more 3-pointers in the first 2 1/2 minutes and capped his night with a behind-the-back move for a tough layup in traffic. He made 12 of 16 shots overall.
Northern Arizona got off to the worst possible start against a bigger, more athletic opponent. The Lumberjacks had some good moments after the early barrage, which should help them once Big Sky Conference play starts.
Arizona played with energy and efficiency from the opening tip, never giving a small-school opponent any chance of an upset.
Northern Arizona hosts UC Riverside on Thursday.
Arizona hosts Cal State Bakersfield on Wednesday.
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