The Arizona Wildcats opened the Tommy Lloyd era with a 96-50 exhibition win over Eastern New Mexico Monday night at McKale Center.
After the game, Lloyd, Justin Kier and Christian Koloko spoke about the team’s win and their progress heading into the regular season.
Lloyd on the tempo of the game: “It was good for the most part. I think there’s some things to clean up. We’re a movement-based team in transition and in the half-court. I think in the half quarter, we got a little bit stagnant for stretches. We’ll get back to be focusing on ways we can move and things of that nature this week. We’ve got another good week of growth.”
Lloyd on what qualifies as a good shot: “A good shot (is) a great shot for that individual. Obviously these guys are feeling pretty good about themselves right now and shooting some shots. My biggest deal is, can’t settle. I think you want guys comfortable and hunting good shots for them, but we can’t settle. So there’s a context of shooting, which relates to score, fouls, things of that nature. I felt like they really softened their defense over the course of that game and we settled for a lot of threes. And individually, I talked a little bit to some of the guys during the game and we’ll try to clean that up this week. But I don’t want to take their confidence and their spirit. You want guys when they shoot shots, you want to feel comfortable that they can make them. I don’t want to sit there and question themselves, so maybe just help them have a little better framework for making that decision.”
Lloyd on improvements from the Saint Mary’s scrimmage through the exhibition: “I thought from Saint Mary’s to this week we were much better just defensively, not with effort, but just clean and not fouling as much. You can pressure and be aggressive, but if you’re fouling it negates hustle, and then teams are going to shoot a bunch of free throws which is the easiest way to score. I thought we made gains there. Offensively, we finished a little bit better than we did against Saint Mary’s, but I still think there’s room for growth there as well.”
Kier on whether the exhibition matched what they’ve worked on in practicce: “Yeah, I think so. They went under a lot of ball screens today. That’s a great team, by the way. They played hard, really well coached, they played really good. They went under a lot of ball screens today. So we shot a lot of threes just because we want to get that confidence going. And also getting into our bigs a little bit, getting them touches down low. So the high low worked pretty well today. We got some areas to get better at that with the passes and stuff and turnovers. I think I But yeah, they gave us a different look that we usually don’t see so that was good for us.”
Lloyd On Kier’s outing: “Justin played like a veteran. He played with a good place. He’s kind of playing a little bit more point guard than he has he’s kind of grown there. And I think there’s still room to grow. But I love the pace that he was shooting with and when you have that type of movement and you’re in on your offense and you’re forcing defenses to make decisions, you need guys that are ready to shoot and to make them pay, and I thought all his shots were spot on today. I’m really happy with the way he played.”
Kier on his tendency to slow the game down when things get chaotic: “That was just something I’ve been used to with my past programs. And Coach Lloyd has gotten me, tried to help me throughout practice in a couple of weeks just getting the pace right, not slowing it down. Continue to flow through the offense. I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I can continue to get better. But yeah, I’ve got the hang of it a little bit.”
Lloyd on Koloko’s performance: “I think Christian has the potential to be an all-conference player. Christian had a great stat line, but I got really high expectations for him. I didn’t feel like he played his best game today. I thought there was a couple scenarios there, and I’m nitpicking, but where I thought he reverted a little bit. But Christian worked really hard this offseason. He’s really had a good fall camp for us. But having a fall camp and having a good season are two different things. So now we need the things he did in fall camp to translate to these games where he really gets his confidence and understands how good of a player he is. I expect Christian to be as productive as he was tonight all season.”
Koloko on his physical condition in a faster-paced system: “I feel great. I think I only played like 14 or 15 minutes. I think our team should be in better shape. I think the way he wants us to play, you need to be in good shape. I felt good today.”
Lloyd on whether he’s concerned with the number of turnovers: “Yeah, I was. Our bigs turned the ball over too much. This offense, the bigs have to handle the ball a lot. That can be concerning if they’re turning it over. The bigs tend to have high turnover numbers in this system, so we’ve definitely got to work to get it lower. I think our bigs combined in the first half had eight turnovers. I think we did a much better job taking care of the ball in the second half. You both go back and look at those turnovers, it’s an illegal screen here, an illegal screen there. Forcing the ball into the post and there. That type of stuff. We’ll definitely address that on film.”
Kier on whether the staff will find areas the team needs to improve on: “There’s always improvement. There’s always areas to get better. So we’ll probably look over film and I know they’re going to look over film and just find the areas that we didn’t do great at and try to fix those. You always want to be perfect, but you’re never going to be perfect. But you want to try to be so I think there’s gonna be a lot of areas of improvement that we can do. We have a good amount of time to get ready for our first game. So yeah, I think I think there’ll be a lot of things that we can work on.”
Kier on his tendency to shoot from three-point range: Yeah, honestly I’ll take the best shot that there is. If that’s passing or making the open shot, I’m confident in my shot, so whenever I’m open or I’m feeling pretty good, I’m gonna take it and shoot it constantly. But we’ve got a lot of guys who can shoot on this team. Ben Ackerly hit a three top of the key today. But yeah, it’s just confidence and you trust in in the work that you put in behind the scenes.”
Lloyd on his biggest concern heading into the season: “I don’t think I have any concerns other than a coach heading in to starting a season is to hope your team’s ready to compete and at the end of the day, I think at the start of the year when it comes to games, your biggest concern is how to guys respond to adversity, and are they able to make adjustments in-game are they able to execute a plan that you put in place for that game? Those are the things you practice and you go over practice, but they got to show when the lights are on. You just keep growing in that area.”
Lloyd on Mathurin’s improvement this fall: “I thought Benn really showed me something this week. He didn’t necessarily have the best scrimmage or even the best week of practice, a couple of weeks of practice overall. He kind of was trending up as he approached this thing, and he just really showed me just a different level of control. The pace that he was playing with today that I think is gonna really serve him and serve us more.”