The Arizona Wildcats raced out to an early lead and never looked back Friday night, topping UT-Rio Grande Valley 104-50. Our game recap can be found here.
After the game, Tommy Lloyd, Christian Koloko and Azuolas Tubelis spoke on the Wildcats’ offensive efficiency, Koloko’s shot blocking ability, the team’s turnover issues and more. Here’s what they said, with videos of the pressers at the end.
Lloyd on his overall takeaway from the game: “I thought it was gonna be a physical game, and I knew they had some experienced players. So we really challenged our guys. When I was looking for this game is, it’s gonna be a street fight. And, are we down for a street fight, because to be a great team, you can play fast and do all these things that are cute, but unless you’re down for a street fight, you’re gonna have nights where you get out-toughed And I didn’t want our team to get pumped tonight. I thought that they had potential to come in and be really physical and aggressive and I thought our guys came out and and hit first and then hit often and then kind of broke their will.”
Lloyd on scoring over 100 points: “I’d love to. I think that we’re starting to figure out we can score easier. And some guys are figuring out how they can score easier. Hey, in college basketball, it’s hard to score 90 points. To average 90 points is almost impossible in this day and age. So if you’re playing consistently and you can average over 80, you’re gonna be one of the top scoring teams in the country. And I just think when you can play at that pace and score like that, it puts so much pressure on the other team and it gives you a little bit of a margin of error on certain nights. The other team today, there’s gonna be a night where it’s gonna be hard to get to 70. But, if you get to 70 against some of those great defensive teams, maybe they’ll struggle to get to 70 because you know what, I think we’re a great defensive team. So that’s the reason I like to score. Not because it’s fun, because I think it gives us a margin for error.”
Lloyd on prioritizing 2-pointers over 3-pointers: “I think in the first half we were 4 for 15. You know what we were from two? 16 of 17. So what does that tell you? We should shoot more twos. The value of the two point shot is so underrated, because they’re at the rim, they (create) foul pressure. You put 10 fouls on guys, their best players are on the bench rather than just jacking a lot of threes. So hey, I thought all the threes, if you went back and watched them isolated, probably all pretty good shots. But when you look at the context of what we were doing, like maybe we should like, there’s nothing wrong with making a bunch of twos. You can score 100 points making a bunch of twos. It’ll be a little bit of a give and take. I don’t want to crush their spirit and tell them they can’t take the threes, but I just think we just have to have a little bit of a feel. Maybe as we get a little more experience, we’ll walk that fine line a little better.”
Lloyd on Koloko’s start to the season: “I told you guys, he’s really good. He’s a really good player. I think he’s a force. He impacts the game every possession at both ends. And I think he’s going to gain more and more confidence as the year goes on. I think people are going to have their hands full figuring out what to do with him.”
Koloko on his performance Friday: “I felt great. Just coming in, I knew I had to be ready. I knew they were undersized, so all the bigs had to be ready and just go at the paint, and I think that’s what we did tonight. I think we did a good job.”
Tubelis on Koloko’s growth from last year to this year: “He did a really good job in summer. You can see the progress going up. He’s a better player. He is way stronger than last year. And he can do a lot of more things. So I’m just enjoying to play with him. I’m happy that he’s here.”
Lloyd on Azuolas Tubelis’ performance Friday: “I’ve challenged Zu all year on being more physical, playing better defense. He’s checking all those boxes, and I think he could be the best running big man in the country. If you notice, he’s running the floor and (Koloko) is trailing him. That’s because Zu is so fast, and I think if he is playing against other fours, he has an advantage.”
Lloyd on Benn Mathurin’s start to the season: “I think Benn’s going to be on his way. He’s been a little bit inconsistent and I think he would tell you that. It was good to see him hit those threes. The thing that Im looking for Benn and what I thought when I start making sense for him, is when he lets loose with his effort over an extended period of time. Now he’s been picking and choosing his effort spots a little bit and having to maybe go back and watch film. You see some where he’s kind of pausing or hesitant in the action, and I’m talking about to a loose ball, to a rebound, block out to a defensive assignment. I’m not talking like hesitant to shoot. … I know we’re on the right path for him. I’ve been down this path with good players like him before and we just got to stay on it and he’ll figure it out.”
Lloyd on Mathurin’s adjustment into the offensive system: “I don’t think Benn has ever played in a movement. Now that he is, and the beauty of the system is, rarely are we calling plays for any individual. The plays are happening randomly. I can’t necessarily dictate who is going to be in the next action or who’s going to get the next screen or we’re going to get a shot here. But that’s also what makes it really hard for the defense to figure out. So he’ll get more comfortable in it and he’ll learn how to pick and choose his spots and where he can have a ton of success. And he’s had success. And now he just needs to have it a little bit more consistently.”
Lloyd on Koloko’s shot blocking ability: “He’s probably always been a great shot blocker. We’ve worked with some things on some of his vertical contests. I think you’re starting to see our guys are really coming over. The vertical contest Pelle (Larsson) had, that was when I know, okay, he’s close to back. He came over and it was a foul, but he delivered blow. And it was like, man, if you’re gonna come down in here, it ain’t gonna be easy. And so I think he’s just kind of increased his physicality. (Koloko) has, and he’s taking rim protecting serious and the block shots are great. They can lead to a fast break but so is a great vertical contest missed layup. That’s where a lot of your fast breaks start.”
Koloko on his block production: “I just let the game come to me. Just get out there and see and try to get as many blocks as I can. I think timing is a big part of it. You got to know when to go get the ball. You can’t just jump every time. If you jump every time, you might get father (away) than the (other) player. You just know how to have good timing and be smart on timing.”
Koloko on practicing timing on blocks: “I don’t work on it at all. We work on that. You just walk on that in practice, you know. Just be ready during practice and try to simulate the game situation during practice and that’s all you do.”
Lloyd on Arizona’s 18 turnovers: “I’m not happy with those. We got to take care of the ball. We got to take care of the ball. You play fast, you play with fundamentals. You can’t let your guard down because, like I said, a lot of these plays are happening randomly. So you have to have a foundation of fundamentals and trust some of the decisions. And if you get a little greedy, now you’re making hard plays and hard plays lead to turnovers. It’s something we’ll definitely address. Like I told you, six is an anomaly last game. 18, it better be an anomaly, because we need to be right in the middle of those two is probably the ideal spot.”.
Lloyd on what caused the increase in turnovers: “I think they’re probably scrappy. And I bet when we go back and look at it, our guys put themselves in tough spots and didn’t make great decisions. That’s usually what turnovers come down to. So you have got to put yourself in better spots. You got to make better decisions. It’s not a complicated solution.”
Lloyd on hitting 25 assists for the second straight game: “I think there’s great joy in making an assist, right? You’re doing something for somebody else. You create a culture where guys feel as good about making an assist as they do a three, now you got something. You always think you have it, you think you’re right there, and then human nature. Why can’t I score more? It’s this constant battle of fighting that fine line of making plays for others and finding your opportunities.”
Koloko on playing against an undersized team: “There’s no real difference in how you play against an undersized team. You just want to dominate the paint, get offensive rebounds… just go to work and do good in the post. I think that’s all we did tonight.”
Koloko on Arizona’s rebounding advantage through two games: “Every game we go to the game like we going to get more rebounds than the opposite team. We try to do it every game. Even some nights it’s not going be perfects, but we always want to try to get more rebounds than the opposite team.”
Tubelis on what team needs to work on most after two games: “Just simple mistakes. When we have a good run, we need to keep that pace. We don’t need to slow down. We need to keep move the ball and just cut hard, run fast every time and just just fight, just fight and like we fought tonight, and will win a lot of games.”
Koloko on what needs to improve: “I also think we need just need to take care of the ball more. I think we had a little bit more turnovers tonight than we had last game, and that’s a big emphasis because coach told me he want us to take care of the ball. For sure it’s not easy. The way we play, we play really fast, so we’re going to turn the ball over but we just need to reduce the number of turnovers.”
Lloyd on his long-sleeve apparel: “This a sweatshirt. I like wearing sleeves because sometimes they get a little cold on the bench. But I was almost sweating a little bit tonight. So, I’d like a little thinner, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.”