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What Tommy Lloyd, Kerr Kriisa and Azuolas Tubelis said after Arizona’s win over USC

USC v Arizona Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats used a late 10-0 run to rally from behind and top USC 72-63 Saturday. Our recap of the game can be found here. After the game, Azuolas Tubelis, Kerr Kriisa and coach Tommy Lloyd spoke to the media. Here’s what they said.

Lloyd on his overall impressions of the game: “Knew it was gonna be a tough one. SC’s a good team. Obviously anytime you have a home weekend and you have to a highly ranked UCLA team and a highly ranked USC team, It’s going to be tough. So if you come out through these games 2-0 no matter how they looked or felt it’s quite an accomplishment.”

Lloyd on winning with a slower tempo: “I think we can win a lot of ways. We’re a great defensive team. So the end of the day, that’s probably going to be your calling card. Play great defense, and then hopefully certain nights you’re explosive on offense, but obviously that’s going to be tough to do that every single day. So we’re more than comfortable getting in games like that. We’ll run opportunistically, we’re going to keep pushing the pace, but SC is a really good defensive team. They had a good scheme tonight and they really made us work, especially in that first half, the second half, I think our efficiency went up about 1.3, which is elite if you can do that. Our guys made some good adjustments in the second half, made a few shots, made some free throws at the end.”

Lloyd on whether he envisioned Oumar Ballo would have such a large role this year: “I’ll be honest with you guys at the start of this year I didn’t have any preconceived notions about anybody. I was gonna let it play out and however it felt and who earned the opportunities I was going to give them to. I’m really proud that he can be in there for a defensive lineup, flows in the games. I think you guys see, you put him and (Christian Koloko) out there with Dalen (Terry) and Pelle (Larsson), it’s pretty formidable. To me, all those shots around the rim all of a sudden they got pretty tough. And then our guys did a great job getting some rebounds there at that last two minutes.”

Lloyd on ending the game on an 18-3 run: “We’ve been in so many of those games as a coach that just you got to hang with it. You got to hang with it. It’s just about one play leads to the next. I think Dalen kind of got it started with he got penetration to the pain, got two feet on the ground, calmed down, checked one, checked two and (Tubelis) kind of able the back cut on check three and you got an and-one. Then, okay, there we go. And then Kerr comes down the next time in a transition deal, hits a three and you’re back tied, so now you’re in a ballgame. I just think just understanding you just got to hang with it. There’s just a lot of possessions left in those games. I’m proud that our guys are showing that grit.”

Lloyd on reeling in Kriisa’s emotion at times: “He and I are having a constant battle. I’m not feeling that emotion. Like when I talk to him, he stops, he looks at me and shakes his head. This game is meant to be played with passion. That’s why he’s the perfect point guard for our program. He’s passionate. Our fans are showing that passion too. So it’s a great combination.”

Lloyd on cutting down on turnovers in the second half: “It’s always important. I think Benn (Mathurin) had two transition turnovers in a row and he’s gonna have those. To be a high level team, you just got to cut those out. Benn was trying to be aggressive. C-Lo was casual passing the ball inbounds. You had one where I didn’t see it but Dalen almost had his head taken off. It was a collision. Then there’s a turnover. And then he had another one that was almost a turnover. We just got to tighten it up a little bit. It’s that time of year.”

Lloyd on Tubelis’ double-double: “He looked to me like he’s getting pretty close back to what we’re expecting. I’ve been cautiously optimistic every game, and I’m just kind of letting it play out in front of my own eyes. But I have had backup plans, like if he didn’t look good or he wasn’t moving good, to play other lineups. So hey, maybe him getting hurt wasn’t great for him or maybe our team, but maybe it allowed us to grow a little bit. Obviously, since that injury, Oumar has taken off. Pelle’s played really well, too. Those are the two guys that have kind of slid into some of those minutes. It gives us more options going forward, which is a good thing.”

Lloyd on the importance of Tubelis’ mom visiting: “He and (brother Tautvilas), they love their mom and she’d never been here. So for her to come here and see the life that they’re living, I think they were really proud to show her around. I think she was really proud to see how first class everything was and how they’re getting treated.”

Lloyd on the quick turnaround to prepare for USC: “It was a short prep. We dialed it down a little bit. We kept it pretty simple as far as adjustments. Usually when we play a Thursday, Saturday, I’ll spend some time Monday on Saturday’s game a little bit. Maybe just introducing a few concepts. But this week with the crazy schedule we’ve been through and everything, we literally took Monday off. So Tuesday, Wednesday we were 100% on UCLA, and then when that game ended, we we dug into SC and had basically a walkthrough yesterday, shoot around this morning and went out there and did it. Our guys obviously I think defensively did a pretty good job. We made some mistakes. I thought we were helping out of the strong corner a little bit too much on some of those threes, and I don’t know where that came from, but that’s fixable.”

Lloyd on whether he got into the team for their mistakes: “I got into him early? I was a little frustrated. I was trying to light a little bit of a fire underneath him because we had that blank look. I think actually for the first ever I broke a clipboard. It was totally unintentional. Steve Kerr told me you get three breaks a year. So that’s number one on the clipboard deal. At the end of the game, it’s not about being fired up. It’s about making sure they’re confident. In the second half, I said what I needed to say halftime and I took a breath and I just wanted to win the game. I didn’t want to be emotional.”

Lloyd on the team’s struggles making free throws: “I think we’re a good free throw shooting team. I think our games need to step up, take a breath and make them. I’m not gonna make any crazy about it, but I think it was just in the first half, I think we were just a little bit casual. You just got to understand, a point at the 13 minute mark in the first half is equal to one with 13 seconds to go. You got to step up and make them.”

Lloyd on what he expects against ASU: “We know it’s going to be tough. These guys, SC, were in a dogfight Thursday. That’s what we expect. We expect it’s gonna be a bare knuckle boxing. Knockdown drag out and we’re built for it.”

Lloyd on UCLA’s Mac Etienne spitting on fans: “It’s disappointing probably on both sides. Who knows what was said. I think we can all come to this view that we can be rowdy, have a damn good time, but I don’t think we need to get personal with student athletes. I don’t even know if it was. I’m just saying, if that’s happening and obviously the reaction probably is disappointing on their end. At Arizona, our goal should be to be the rowdiest, classiest fan base in the country.”

Kriisa on the team’s mindset down six late: “Not to panic and play defense. I feel like they are by age they’re a more experienced team, so we have to just stay calm. Do what we do. Just getting stops. On defense I think we did a perfect job with it. Nobody really panicked and we put it inside.”

Kriisa on where his confidence comes from: “I think it comes from the work that you put in. We all have been working hard on our game, on our shots, and why would you work on it if you don’t use it? You got to have confidence to make plays.”

Kriisa on the defense toughening up as the game went on: “I feel like in the beginning we were kind of soft (on defense). I think that’s sfor the whole team and me too. Our offense basically starts from the defense so you gotta get stops, you gotta get our spark and have things going.”

Tubelis on finishing the game strong: “We knew that we can play defense and when we were down five or six points we didn’t panic like (Kriisa) said, because we knew that we can stop them. They made some tough threes, tough twos, and we came back and stopped.”

Tubelis on the importance of his mom visiting: “I want to thank the Arizona staff who brought my mom here, my coach here, and two more Lithuanians. It felt awesome. I’m really, really happy that she saw how I how I practice, all that stuff. We spent a lot of time together. She stayed at our apartment. We have some space. We were with her all the time.”

Kriisa on the difficulty of playing a half court style: “You got to fight to get better positions and better shots. Earlier in the year it was easier, I’m not gonna lie. But people do their scouting. Gotta keep the flow going, gotta keep passing, gotta keep moving. It’s hard to do but if you do it, you’re gonna be one of the best in the nation.”

Kriisa on what close wins do for the confidence of the team: “These are big wins. We had the LA schools in town, and these are hell of teams. The fact that we’re so young and we come up strongly late in the games, that shows the team character, calmness, the togetherness. I think we have a good thing going on here.”

Kriisa on whether he feels like he’s grown coming off a tough few weeks: “I feel exactly like I was two weeks ago. If you go through a slump, it’s not like I’m gonna panic and I’m gonna cry at home. Just take some extra shots, sleep more, play more Fortnite. Just try to get back on track.”

Kriisa on the fan support: “I’m happy that fans are behind us. Obviously, beginning of the season it was a little bit tough. Nobody really believed in us. I’m just happy that we can show as a group and as a staff just prove people wrong and that we’re a good team and we play for each other and we just love basketball.”

Tubelis on the team feeding the bigs late in the game: “I don’t know why (Koloko) wasn’t top 10 big man in the nation, but we all know he’s top three if not the best. We all trust our bigs and downlow especially at the end of the games because they are the ones who get their game starting in the first place so why not give them the chance to finish up games, too. Our bigs do a great job and I’m really proud of them.”

Tubelis on the timeline of his ankle injury recovery: “When I sprained my ankle at Stanford it was really painful. I didn’t play at Cal. I tried to play at UCLA because I told coach that I would play no matter what. I had some minutes but still that wasn’t me. We came here and I did better against ASU and then I kind of felt that I can play against UCLA. I just gave everything I have. I left everything I have on the court. Tonight like I said I didn’t feel it.”