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What Tommy Lloyd, Oumar Ballo and Pelle Larsson said after Arizona’s win over Wisconsin

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-wisconsin-badgers-tommy-lloyd-oumar-ballo-pelle-larsson-2023 Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

It was another sellout at McKale Center on Saturday, but unlike previous games so far this season it felt like a packed house. Arizona fans were loud from the outset, getting up out of their seats on a regular basis throughout the Wildcats’ 98-73 win over Wisconsin.

“That’s the standard we want,” said UA coach Tommy Lloyd, who last month was critical of the empty seats and lack of energy. “It’s not being greedy, it’s just, when you have an opportunity to make something special, no matter if you’re a fan, a player, a corporate sponsor, whatever it is, make it special. And that’s all I want.”

The recap from Arizona’s first win as the No. 1 team in college basketball since 2015 is here. Below is what Lloyd, Oumar Ballo and Pelle Larsson said afterward.

Lloyd on if this was Arizona’s best start-to-finish performance: “I think so. And I genuinely think that Wisconsin was the best team we played up into this point,just the way they’re built and how they play. They’re gonna have a great season, and every once in a while you go on the road and really things unravel a little bit. Our guys were really locked in and focused in and made it really tough for them. Made a nice run at the end of the first half and kind of got them them on their heels a little bit and then we were kind of able to play pretty steady in the second half.”

On players being aware of the UA’s history with Wisconsin: “We spend a lot of time talking about our Arizona basketball legacy. This group right now, we’re in the sun, the sun is shining on us now. The sun has set on some of the guys in the past and it hasn’t risen on our future yet. So we take it really serious.”

On Steve Kerr being at the game: “Steve just caught a good break and had a few days off and they’re in Phoenix and he brought his whole staff down here. And after the game we didn’t have Steve talk to the team, he’s talked to them enough. We had Bruce Fraser, Steve’s right hand guy and former teammate here, talk to the team, and that’s really cool because anyone whose worn our uniform is a significant part of what we do and we want to honor it. Not just the superstars and the big names. When they talk, our guys listen.”

On Pelle Larsson’s career-high 21 points: “Pelle is one of these guys, man, he’s gonna give you what it takes to win. He’s a really good player who is coming into his own. I know how talented he is. I think he’s one of the better wings in the country, without dispute, and I think people are gonna start to see that now over the course of the season.”

On Larsson shaking off early foul trouble: “He’s handling it better, he’s made some adjustments yet. He had some foul issues in the Michigan State game and we talked about it, he’s too important to our team. Pelle is a proficient charge taker, and the way they’re calling the block/charge now, secondary on defenders there are just not going to be as many opportunities. He picked up two charges as a secondary defender against Michigan State, and Pelle has to kind of adjust to the rules. And so Pelle is really smart, and he’s made those adjustments, but he’s an aggressive player. He’s gonna foul some, he’s tough, he’s physical and it’s part of the deal. But I feel really good being able to absorb a little bit of foul trouble with this team and play other guys. And I trust Pelle, I played him in the first half with two fouls and he was a huge part of our run towards the end of that first half.”

On what makes this team different from last year’s squad: “I don’t know. I mean, you guys can draw your own opinions on that. I just love this group. I love the force we play with, I love the depth we have. Obviously, I love the physicality. It’s been one of the best groups I’ve ever been around at executing a game plan, and that’s been really cool. And that’s really cool as a coach, because you and your staff spend so much time scheming and how do you want to do certain things. When you’ve got players that walk in and take it serious and go out and make it happen? I mean, that makes us look good. And it’s all about them. But anytime we can put them in a good position, we’re happy to.”

On the key to being a good rebounding team: “A lot of us effort, toughness and grit and want to. We want to be a great rebounding team and it is something I never take for granted. I never assume we’re gonna pound someone on the glass. You got to go make that happen. I know that other coache is addressing his team, and they’re gonna come out and they’re gonna go to war on the glass because they know that we do as well. It felt like they missed a lot of shots and it felt like we got quite a few of the rebounds.”

On the defense: “I mean, our defense was great two years ago, maybe maybe better or as good as our offense. Last year, our defense was good, not great. I think we’re back in the great category now. But again, like rebounding ... you don’t just show up and assume you’re gonna play a great defensive game. You got to go make it happen, and our guys are doing a good job of that now.”

On backup guards Jaden Bradley and KJ Lewis: “Jaden is a tough kid. He’s battling a turf toe deal right now and I could see him out there today not moving quite as good. Maybe that’s why I’m trying to maybe limit some of his run a little bit until we get him back to 100. He tells me he’s 100, he doesn’t look like he’s moving like 100 but he does help. I told him, ‘hey, you need to go take the baton from Kylan and you need to go do a great job on No. 23 defensively, and I thought he did a good job. Listen, KJ has played good every practice, every game he’s had an Arizona uniform on, and he just keeps trending up and up and up.”

On getting new players to buy into being part of an unselfish team: “We have a way we play and we have a way we develop players that we think is beneficial for our team and beneficial for the player. We just harken back to that, and we’re constantly talking about we need to be a team that enjoys your teammates’ successes as much or more than your own. We want to be a team that shares the ball, and I told our guys today, I don’t need any heroes. I don’t need anybody to stand out above anybody else. But at the end of the day, I want people to say that Arizona basketball team kicked some ass, and that’s what we’re fighting for.”

On the crowd’s energy: “Obviously, you bring an opponent of Wisconsin’s stature in for a nonconference game your crowd is gonna be excited. Obviously your crowd wishes your team could play games like this every day, and maybe going to the Big 12 next year we’ll play a lot of them.”

On moving on to the next game: “I feel like we’re right where we need to be, but at the same point, the moment I leave this deal, my mind is gonna start thinking about next week or things we got to get better at within our program. How are we going to scout ourselves? What do we got to get better at? And then what do we got coming down the pipe. That’s what makes this job cool is, you don’t get too much time to rest on your laurels. You’re on to the next one.”

On being able to get Wisconsin to play at Arizona’s pace: “I don’t ever think about dictating pace. I just think our guys want to get out and run, and we play a system that gets out and run. I knew, I was like, okay, if we can go into battle with these guys on the glass, and they’re sending guys to the offensive glass, they got a decision to make with their transition defense. And we’re comfortable, we’re comfortable, very comfortable going six, eight, 10 possessions in a row up and down. We have no problem with that. We’re used to it, so I want to see if other teams are used to it and how they respond, and fortunate enough we got some of those stretches today where there were six, eight possessions where the game flowed pretty fast.”

On Caleb Love: “I asked Caleb come here and fit into this team and be a great all-around player. Because I know Caleb is going to play at the next level. But I think Caleb could play at the next level as a guy that can do multiple things, gives you great effort defensively. He’s really some he’s a really smart player. I mean, with scouting reports and stuff he’s really smart and he’s savvy with all that stuff. And then now I said, I asked him hey, I think you can give more effort on the glass. He has, and I’m on him about it, because we got to build that habit. Offensively, I said hey, I’m not worried about shot attempts, I’m worried about just stacking up good, simple decisions over and over and over and over again. And he’s bought into it. Now, that being said, he also has a nose and a knack for scoring the ball, so I don’t want to stifle that either. So you put it all together, you got one heck of a player.”

Ballo on dealing with Wisconsin’s bigs: “We had to keep them out of the paint. You have to stand our ground. For the most part we did a really good job.”

On the history with the Badgers: “This Wisconsin game was was bigger than just (today). We had to come out tonight and play for the city and our school.”

On being aware of past games against Wisconsin despite not being around for them: “It’s because we are part of the family. This is our home, this is our family. Whatever happened in the past it could affect us right now.”

On being able to go on a 20-2 run: “I think we just kept our energy. And I feel like when you play us, you gotta have your energy the whole game. As soon as you relax, we’re gonna keep going. So we just kept going, trusting what we do, and eventually we’re gonna get that run.”

On if his shot felt better during pregame warmups: “I mean, I felt the same. I actually made a joke to one of our managers that show felt good after one shot and actually should stop, not even warm up. But I don’t know, I felt the same as always.”

On if he’s changed how he plays to try and avoid foul trouble: “I always try to play the same way and not foul. I did it today and some days you don’t.”

On facing Wisconsin: “This one was for sure special because of the history. And also we were having teammates and friends from Tucson explaining what happened. Maybe it gave us a little extra juice.”

On if this was the best start-to-finish game of the year: “I think we hit most of our goals and boxes for this game. I didn’t feel like we gave up like too much of a run to them.”

On looking ahead to Purdue next weekend: “This game is over, so that’s when you start. We’re going to watch film probably, and see our mistakes and then we’re gonna battle next Saturday.”