LAS VEGAS—Arizona got all it could handle from ninth-seeded Stanford in Thursday’s Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals, winning 84-80 after trailing several times in the second half.
Our full recap can be found here. Below is what coach Tommy Lloyd, center Christian Koloko and wing Bennedict Mathurin had to say about the victory, Kerr Kriisa’s injury and what’s ahead for the Wildcats.
Lloyd on the win: “I knew this game was gonna be hard. These first games in these tournaments, especially when you have a bye, they’re like this. The other team has a little rhythm and a little bit of belief from a special game the day before where they kind of pulled a rabbit out of a hat, so to speak, but you give a ton of credit. They’re a spirited group, high character group, and I knew it was gonna be a tough game today. I tip my hat to Stanford, they played great. They had a good plan. A lot of times you got a great plan, you still got to make the shots, and they made the shots.
On Kerr Kriisa’s injury in the final minute: “It’s a sprained ankle of some kind. I have no idea the severity of it, or anything like that, but obviously it’s a quick turnaround. So it’ll be tough, we’ll just play it by ear.”
On if Kriisa will be able to play in the semifinals: “I’m gonna talk to my trainer after this and I’ll see. I’m not making any of those calls right now.”
On the decision to sit Mathurin late: “You’re a team. And Benn’s a heck of a player. Defensively, we had a lineup that I felt really good about. At the end of the day I got to make tough decisions sometimes and we had a defensive unit out there that I felt best, and I felt like we’re gonna have to get stops to win the game. On offense we subbed him back in, called Benn’s number and he delivered. Basketball is a team sport and luckily, some of the calls we made worked down the stretch.”
On Koloko: “When teams are switching like that the game gets really physical inside. A lot of times when you’re a bigger guy playing against a smaller guy, the smaller guy might have some advantages down low. So he had to battle, and for him to go 10 of 12 with all that traffic in there shows how far he’s come and how he handled it, he did a great job, kind of slowing down, getting balanced, and made some big free throws down the stretch, too. I felt comfortable with our attack. I didn’t the offense was our issue for the most part, but Christian being able to play against those switches like that was a really important piece of the puzzle today.”
On Arizona’s defense: “I’m gonna give (Stanford) some credit. They made some shots, made some shorts that normally you would live with. Then they started making enough of them, so we had to make some adjustments in our coverages. That’s how these games go, it’s single-elimination games, it’s not the NBA where it’s one of 82. Well, we’ll get them next time, it’s just a make or miss do. You can’t coach like that, because these games mean a lot, and I want to make sure I’m giving these guys every opportunity possible to come out on top. Our defense has been great all year. It hasn’t been far from perfect, and we’ll get back and watch the film and ratchet it down and hopefully the ball will bounce our way a little bit tomorrow.”
On the importance of the Pac-12 Tournament: “It’s great, for this group and for me, being a first-year head coach. C-Lo probably played in a conference tournament game a couple of years ago, one game, and then Benn’s never played in one. So we’re a new group, experiencing and a lot of things, so it was good to get get tested today. And obviously Stanford gave us everything we wanted and then some. I love this time of year. I love coaching in these games, and they mean a lot, and obviously you want to win, because if you don’t win you got to go home. So it’s a position I’m comfortable to be in, and I can’t wait to get on that court tomorrow.”
On the atmosphere at T-Mobile Arena, AKA McKale North: “Someone told me, we win today, wait till you see this place Friday night. So I can’t wait to see what it looks like tomorrow.”
On being on Mike Krzyzewski’s radio show earlier in the week: “It was an honor. First thing I asked was, how far down the line did your producer have to go to land on me, the Monday after your last (home) game. It was an honor to be on there, and obviously it’s a program that I have a ton of respect for and he’s a coach that’s really built college basketball into what it is today. I look forward to try to continue to build on what he what he started.”
On meeting up with other members of the Gonzaga coaching tree (Bulldogs coach Mark Few, Long Beach State coach Dan Monson and Boise State coach Leon Rice) in Las Vegas: “I’m like the little brother in the group. I was with those guys for a long time, and they’re all kind of a similar age, and I was here 15 years younger. They’ve been great mentors to me. And more than that, our families are all really close. You’re talking vacations and birthdays and weddings. We do all that stuff together. So I’m happy for those guys, and I know they’re happy for me, but there’s no time to reminisce now. It’s about winning games and trying to get to the next one.”
On facing either Colorado or Oregon—it will be Colorado—in the semifinals, and if he has a presence: “I’m gonna say they’re both really good teams, and whichever one we play, it’s gonna be a hard fought game. I mean, I don’t know. I respect both programs. And both of them, obviously played us tough. Colorado kind of gave it to us last time, and Oregon gave us everything, it was a game very much like today’s, everything we needed. So a lot of respect for both programs, both coaches, and whichever one ends up winning today, it would be an honor to play him in the semis.”
On Arizona’s potential NCAA Tournament seed: “I think the media narrative is the seed is secure, and the coaching narrative is I really don’t care. I mean, I think we’ll get a decent seed. And in the NCAA’s thing on it is it’s probably not secure. I think there’s just a lot of speculation out there. I’m a competitor, and I want to just win the next game. So I love these tournaments. And for me, I have had to recalibrate, because I’m used to ... being at Gonzaga for 22 years, being at home today watching this game on TV, team resting, coaches kind of tinkering with what’s coming next, what do we need to work. You almost get like a 4- or 5-day training camp with your team to kind of clean things up, so this is different and I’m going through it for the first time and I’m gonna learn as much as I can.”
On Stanford’s Spencer Jones, who had a career-high 28: “Jones is on fire right now. In our (last game) he had four 3s, then I think he had six 3s yesterday and I think he made a bunch more today. To overcome a performance like that in an elimination game is pretty special.”
On defending Jones: “We might have had a mistake here and there, but when a guy’s that hot, there’s contesting the shot and there’s not allowing somebody to have a shot. He probably slid over to that category and we gave him a couple. He’s got a quick trigger and he’s got a high shooting pocket and he’s tall, so you put those things together, he kind of can shoot right over the top of defenses, and not many guys can do that.”
On Stanford’s Harrison Ingram: “Obviously he’s a talented player, he’s McDonald’s All-American, freshman of the year in the conference. I thought he maybe had been trending downwards a little bit, just hitting the freshman wall or whatever reason. But today he kind of came out, and you saw he had a little bounce in his step and I think he made a play or two early. And like their whole team, their whole team rose to that occasion. They’re spirited, their locker room wasn’t too far from ours. They were excited to play, excited at halftime. They’re in the same hotel was as us, I was in the elevator with a bunch of them today, and they’re great kids. High character coaches, high character program and they gave a great effort.”
Koloko on his 10-of-12 performance: “I’m just taking what the defense gave me.”
On playing a close game after so many blowouts this season: “We have a young team, so I think we need those kind of games just to get ready for what’s next for us. I think we did a pretty good job, just executing the game plan and following everything Coach taught us in the game. We just need these kind of games. Lucky we won today, so just got to prepare for tomorrow.”
Mathurin on Kriisa: “Kerr means a lot to the team. He’s the starting point guard. He has a great impact on the team. Whatever happens will happen. We hope he’ll be back soon.”
On the game atmosphere: “I felt at home in Vegas.”
On how Stanford defended him: “I noticed they were a little bit more aggressive when I got into the paint, but I took advantage of it. It was a little bit different, but I had a chance to involve my teammates.”
On playing a close game: “It’s all about preparing for the next game, game after game. Just sticking to the plan and just win.”