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What Tommy Lloyd, Oumar Ballo and Courtney Ramey said after Arizona’s win over USC

arizona-wildcats-basketball-usc-trojans-tommy-lloyd-oumar-ballo-courtney-ramey-2023-pac12-postgame Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The slightly new-look Arizona Wildcats led wire to wire against USC on Thursday night, winning 81-66 and setting the stage for a big showdown Saturday against No. 5 UCLA at McKale Center.

“Wish I got time to take a breath and celebrate (this win), but that’s not reality,” UA coach Tommy Lloyd said after the USC victory, which improved his team to 16-3 overall and 5-3 in Pac-12 play. “We got a great challenge there ahead of us Saturday and we’re locked in.”

Our full recap can be found here. Below is what Lloyd, Oumar Ballo and Courtney Ramey had to say about the victory:

On changing the starting lineup: “I just thought it was the right thing for the team. Pelle Larsson gets a ton of credit. I mean, this wasn’t a reprimand or demotion. I just felt our bench needed something a little more consistent coming off of it, and he gives us some versatility playing at the 3 of the 4. And to be quite honest, our young big guys need a little bit more time. So now we’ll play small a little bit more, and Pelle gives us the versatility to do that. And then the flip side of it, get Cedric (Henderson) going. Cedric’s been great, he hasn’t complained one time. He’s had some really good games, he’s had some games that he probably wishes went a little better, or probably wish he got a few more opportunities. If this can help out both those guys and ultimately helps out the team, I felt like it was the right decision.

On when he decided to make the change: “I made it kind of Saturday night after we played Oregon. I just wanted to make sure our team was cool with it. I met with Pelle on Sunday and I told him I was thinking about doing it, but I wasn’t going to do it if he wasn’t comfortable, and he gave me to go ahead and said, ‘Coach, let’s do it.’”

On what goes into making such a change: “I’m a year and a half into this, I haven’t tinkered with a lot of starting lineups, to be honest with you. But traditionally, I’m probably not the guy that would change the starting lineup because I’m thoughtful. Starting doesn’t mean a lot to me. It’s about putting lineups out there and finishing games and finding combinations. I think it was a simple decision for me.”

On if the change met his expectations: “It worked out like I hoped. Obviously both guys played well, and overall our team got off to a good start playing really well. It worked for one game, we’ll see what Saturday looks like.”

On if this is a permanent change: “I’m assuming Saturday we’ll stick with what we did today. It wasn’t a knee jerk reaction. I thought it was the best thing for the team at the time and it looks like it worked out so I’ll probably do it again.”

On Courtney Ramey: “Courtney was good. He was aggressive, hunting those shots and hit some dagger three down the stretch. He played really well. And I thought he was great defensively. Boogie (Ellis) is a tough guard, and he took on the challenge and did a tremendous job. To make five 3s, and a couple of those 3s down the stretch when they made a little bit of a run at us, I think shows the kind of character he has.”

On rebounding: “Our rebounding numbers are good, but I don’t know if we’re a good rebounding team, if that makes sense. Our plus/minus is good, the percentages are okay, but I just think our team has more potential. And when you look back at some of the times we’ve struggled, I think a little bit it’s been effort-based on the last. And listen, that’s a common denominator for a lot of teams if you really dive in and evaluate the game, so we’re no different than anybody else.The better we rebound, the better chance we have to win.”

On if the guards need to rebound more: “It’s a 5-man job. Rebounding is an every-man job.”

On not playing Henri Veesaar much (or Dylan Anderson at all): “They just need to get experience, and they need to get experience playing in high-level, physical games. It’s a variety of things. They both are trending in the right direction, and they’re working hard and they have good attitudes, and I’ve communicated with them what we’re doing all along. They’re great teammates, and I think they’re gonna be a really important part of our future going forward. But we’re in a now moment, and in now moments, you kind of got to figure out the best way to help your team win games, and build your team to hopefully get to the NCAA tournament and be prepared to win games in the tournament.”

On his expectations for Kerr Kriisa: “To be a floor general. I want him to get hot from 3. I thought he did a better job today, when in the second half he maybe got a little bit fatigued, of controlling the game. And I think what’s happened to him a little bit in the past, I don’t know if it’s a mental fatigue or physical fatigue or a combination of both, I think he’s just kind of made some panic decisions versus pressure at the end of these games. So that’s what we’re trying to work on, is being a floor general. And then hopefully we can kind of rotate Kylan (Boswell) back in there a little bit more, which gets Kerr more meaningful rest. I feel way more comfortable seeing 28 minutes in front of his name than 30.”

On how Azuolas Tubelis’ defensive assignments change playing the 5 in a smaller lineup: “He’s guarding centers, so he’s probably going to be in the paint a little bit more. But Zu has really grown defensively. We did a variety of things switching with him when he was at the 4 today. Zu is an experienced, really good player, and he just needs to kind of figure it out and obviously control the glass and use his mobility on offense, maybe against some bigger, slower guys.”

On Oumar Ballo missing close-in shots: “Just make them. He’s got to get better at making them. He missed those first two to start out the (second) half and I know he got frustrated. He probably may or may have not gotten fouled, I’ll let you guys be the judge of that. But he’s just got to make them. We really value finishing, and he’s been a great finisher overall. Unfortunately, if you finish one of the first half it doesn’t count for points in the second half. You got to finish every shot, shot by shot by shot by shot.”

On Arizona’s toughness: “I think we have the ability to play with anybody. We wanted to build this team to be gritty, and I think ultimately you have to do that to win games in the NCAA tournament. And I think we have that in our DNA, but I also know we have moments where it hasn’t shown through, so we just have to keep hammering home and make it a joint effort for our guys where they take pride in just being tough, and being hard to play against.”

On Boswell getting called for a flagrant foul: “It’s probably the right call. I just know that we run a ball screen offense and I don’t know how many times I’ve seen our rollers over the years get drilled, and no call, because the refs usually don’t have it. But the referee of the called it is one of the best officials in the game, and he’s got great eyes and he’s great to work with, so I’m sure he was right.”

On if Arizona turning it over a lot comes with playing fast: “Maybe, but ultimately it comes down to decision making. You just got to make better decisions, you got to have better fundamentals. We’re not any different than anybody else. We just got loose with some of our our decision making and fundamentals in stretches of that game, and I think we can be better.”

On what it will take to beat UCLA: “We need to come out play our asses off, it doesn’t get any more complicated than that. We’re playing a great team that has all the right pieces and is well-coached. It’s going to be real challenge.”

Ramey on Henderson starting: “I just think he brought a lot of energy and just made plays early in the game, and it kind of helped the whole team. He made some big buckets in the second half, with back-to-back 2. Our offense was kind of stale before that, I think we were 0 for (6) before that. He just got us going in the second half. It was good to see him getting going in his first Pac-12 start.”

On Lloyd running potential lineup changes by the team: “If he comes to us with an idea, I just think we have to be grown men and accept it, and understand it’s best for the team. Whether it worked tonight or not, it’s a long process.”

On what has changed for him with his 3-point shooting lately: “The ball’s been going in, that’s the biggest defense. When you shoot a lot of shots, shoot a lot of 3s, some are going to go in and some go out. I was just telling Kylan yesterday at dinner I was like, I can shoot the same shot today and tomorrow, some might go in today and some might not go in tomorrow.”

On if he got frustrated with the misses: “I did a little bit, but it’s part of the game. When you prepare and you take those shots every day in practice, or after practice, you expect them to go in.”

On how going small changed things: “I think that was part of the plan to bring Pelle off the bench. Tonight it just worked well. They had to go small too because we were active on offense, active on defense.”

Ballo on Larsson’s play: “Pelle lifts us up. He’s a guy who brings us energy no matter where he’s coming from. He gives us more depth on the bench and more depth production. I’m happy he accepted his new role and he embraced it.”

On Lloyd telling the team about the lineup change: “At this point in the season we’re just looking for a way to win. So if Coach thinks this is the best plan for the win, Pelle is not a selfish guy. He’ll give up his position for success, and it paid off.”

On missing more close-in shots lately: “As we get deep in Pac-12 and whenever me or Zu catches the ball there’s two guys coming. It’s hard for one one guy to play against two. We’re doing a great job finding our guards to make a wide open shot, and thank God they’re making them, so that should be opening things up for us.”

On his time(s) in the hospital earlier this month: “It was bad, but I’m just glad I made it.”

On if he’s back to 100 percent: “I’m getting there. I still have a few more steps, but I’m getting there.”

On how going small changes the offense: “We play fast. We move the ball. It puts a lot of pressure on defense to stay locked in on defense.”