The Arizona Wildcats opened the Tommy Lloyd era with a convincing 81-52 victory over NAU Tuesday night. Our game recap can be found here.
After the game, Lloyd, Kerr Kriisa and Dalen Terry spoke with the media, where they discussed the Wildcats’ up-tempo offense, the return of crowds to McKale Center, where Kriisa got the idea to wear a headband and more. Here’s what they said, with videos of the pressers at the end.
Lloyd on the locker room celebration: “I’ve been in a lot of locker room celebrations, I’ve been fortunate, I but I’ve always been a guy that’s been a little bit more behind the scenes and let coach (Mark) Few go in there and do that type of stuff. To be honest with you it literally caught me off guard. I was gonna go in there and congratulate the guys and tell them we have some work to do. It was a great moment. Great moment for those guys. They’ve been a real special group to be associated with every day and I’m lucky to coach them.”
Lloyd on the flow of the offense: “We saw some zone and we get ended up with some funky lineups in there that kind of disrupted maybe the pace and the tempo early, but all in all, it was okay. I think our OER (offensive efficiency rating) was just a little bit under 1.2. And I thought we left a lot of meat on the bone with some missed layups. You make a few of those and your OER is 1.3, which is amazing. The nitpicky part of me is yeah, we need to be a little bit better. But overall, it’s not a bad start and I think there’s some things for some guys to learn from.”
Terry on playing a faster tempo offense: “They just told us right now that we had 25 assists but that’s what we like. Sharing the ball. Playing running basketball. Kerr got hot. 17 (points). That’s crazy. He got off.”
Lloyd on Arizona playing Warriors-style basketball: “Yeah, I mean, sure. Obviously we really value sharing the ball and moving it around, and it was great. It’s great when teams play with that type of joy and togetherness. I think it’s fun for the fans. It’s fun for the coaches. It’s fun for the players. 25 out of 28 may be a little bit of an anomaly, but all in all, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. The biggest thing I was happy with today, overall, which is, I think we had six turnovers. Maybe we had some that felt like were close to turnovers. DT threw some of those lobs, I don’t know who would have caught them, they were so high. And again, this is part of this maturing as a team. Kim missing the dunk, that kind of stuff. At the end of the day, we just want points and I don’t need style points we just need points. So those will be conversations we’ll definitely have.”
Terry on whether the half court was less effective than transition: “Nah, we always got a plan if they start to transition. I feel like we run our offense to the best of our ability. Obviously scoring on a lot of assists so our offense in the half court worked and our transition worked.”
Kriisa on his overall impressions from the game: “I think we made 28 shots and 25 were assisted. That’s some Warriors basketball right there. Defensively, we did great scouting on them. We were really prepared for the game. I think in general we can be happy with the win tonight and get back to work tomorrow.
“Lloyd on Kriisa’s overall performance: “I thought Kerr was great. Kerr, I’ve been steadfast in my belief in him and I think he’s gonna have a really good year. I think he’s going to be one of the better point guards in college basketball. He really gets us going and on top of all the good things he does on offense, I think there’s still room for him to grow, which is awesome on that end. But I think he’s a really good defender. So I love having him out there and I feel good every second he’s out on the floor.”
Kriisa on his tendency to take charges: “I kind of take pride in my charges. I feel like it’s super important not only for me but for the team, too. It kind of sets the tone that we’re gonna play hard. Also, I’m super happy that Pelle took some charges. It shows that (it’s) contagious. If you take charges, it shows you’re playing hard, you’re ready to play and kick some ass.”
Lloyd on what he tells a player after an off night like Benn Mathurin had Tuesday: “It’s gonna happen. You’re a really good player. Let’s step back and take a look at maybe where some of the struggles were and address them. I think most of Benn’s struggles were finishing and finishing a lot tougher than it looks, especially when you get in there with the physicality and the vertical contesting these refs are allowing. I think if he makes a few of those layins, we all feel a little bit different but all in all, he’s getting right to where he needs to be. Just has to kind of refine his plan under the lights in the moment and make sure he’s getting baskets or free throws when we get the ball that close to the rim.”
Lloyd on Oumar Ballo becoming more aggressive near the rim: “I want Oumar to become a little bit more of an enforcer. Oumar has had a tough journey, and he’s been with me for a long time and it hasn’t been easy. And I love him for sticking with it. It didn’t start easy today. He had a tough scrimmage against Saint Mary’s. Had to battle back. Then we kind of got on him and he really picked it up the next couple weeks of practice and was getting better. I mean, making real progress. You can see his body changing, and you can see his production on the court change. And then today, it’s funny that first game, the first thing or two didn’t go right for him. I think he gave up a free throw block out right when he got in the game and maybe another mistake and I just told him this game challenges you. It doesn’t let things come easy. You got to keep your head up and keep fighting and keep moving forward. I was really happy to see him kind of respond and I think Justin threw him a lob and he kind of went up and caught it and then came down and dunked it which was huge progress for him. So, things to build on for sure.
It was great to see him be a physical force and a rim protector and rebound above rim and finish shots. And I think he did a great job shooting his free throws.”
Terry on Christian Koloko’s potential to be a perennial shot blocker: “He can do that every night. He does it every day in practice and he got so much better this summer and over the offseason. So it’s like that’s nothing that we’re surprised about. We see him do it all the time. We just hope he stays consistent about it and keeps doing it.”
Lloyd on Pelle Larsson’s outing: “I thought Pelle looked better today than he has in practice, which didn’t surprise me. Pelle’s a really good player. He’s kind of been feeling his way in practice a little bit. Maybe overanalyzing things a little bit. I thought he’s an experienced player, if we get out under the lights, and I didn’t have any like hard minutes thing on him tonight, I just kind of wanted to see how he played. I was just hoping he had a good play or two to build off of and I think he did.”
Lloyd on Kriisa’s defense: “He’s got great feet. Great activity, great energy. He’s tough, he’s gritty. He’s got a knack for legitimately taking charges. He has maybe the best charge taking percentage I’ve ever seen. It seems like he’s 80-90% of the time, he’s getting charge calls, and they look like charges to me. So I love having him out there. We put him on their best player to start the game… he burned off him. He did a great job staying all over him. Then we switched, put some size on him with DT, which is great to be able to pass the baton on to the next guy. I thought the combination of who we put on him and how he guarded him was really effective.”
Terry on his assist production: “That’s the way our offense is. I was in a lot of positions where I could have either shot it or take the assist. I take pride in my assists. I always play with a pass-first mindset. I feel like in this system, I’m allowed to show my vision a little bit more. I feel like that’s just how it’s gonna be this year.”
Lloyd on who Kerr reminds him of: “The easy one is TJ McConnell, Kevin Pangos. Those kinds of guys. They play hard and maybe have some of TJ’s griddyness and Pangos’ shooting. And I hope he continues to learn to get those guys’ passing feel for the game, which I think we’re getting close.”
On whether Lloyd got nervous before the game: “Not really. I took a nap at home, woke up a couple hours from the game, jumped in the shower, came down here, watched my son’s game in my office. And then went down, talked to the team about 30 minutes before the game and let it rip. Like I I told you, the game’s gonna start at 8:30. Me being nervous and uptight all day, I don’t think that does anybody anything.”
On how much film study Lloyd and the staff does after a game like this: “We’ll watch the film tonight. I like everybody to kind of watch it individually. Coaches are world famous for everybody getting in a room and watching the same film together and it turns into a five hour marathon. So we’ll all go home with our families, watch it individually, kind of get our notes and our thoughts together and we’ll get together tomorrow mid-morning and kind of debrief on the game. And then the great thing about college basketball is you have one coming up three days later so we’ll start what can we get better at, what can we learn from the last game and what do we got to do to try to find a way to win the next one.”
Terry on playing in front of a crowd again: “I loved it. This is why you come to Arizona for stuff like this. Packed out house, double header. Fans out there screaming our names. Even though we had an exhibition, this was a really good feeling. We’ve been waiting for this all our lives. Last year it really changes how you play. I’m an energy guy. The crowd get into it, I get happy. I like that. (Kerr) hits a few threes, the crowd is screaming “Boom.” You’re gonna keep shooting.”
Kriisa on the difference of playing in front of crowds versus empty arenas: “It was day and night. Last year obviously no fans. It was super weird to even play basketball. This mass situation. Plus I feel like we have a lot of guys on the team, if the fans get behind us, they get themselves going. I’m an emotional guy. Dalen is a really emotional guy. Benn (Mathurin) is. Even (Azuolas Tubelis) gave some emotion. If Zu is giving some emotions, that means the crowd is doing something right, and he’s doing something right, too.
Terry on whether the crowd was as he remembered visiting in high school: “It’s exactly how I remember. I remember Red and Blue, the dunk contest. Like I still have visions about it, how it was. Last year, everybody could hear each other’s shoes squeaking. You could hear coach. Now it’s like you got to relisten to what coach is saying on the sideline, you got to listen to the bench. It’s just a lot of energy. Playing defense, everybody is screaming. (Kerr) hits threes, everybody is screaming. It makes you want to keep doing that, you know?”
Lloyd on the role of the returners from last year: “I told you guys from day one and it wasn’t lip service, it was really important to get a lot of the guys back that were here last year. And those guys were well coached. They had experience as young players. And I’m sure there was a lot of growing pains last year and it was good to get them a foundation of experience. And then coming into this year, they were able to build on it. And they’re gonna continue to build on it. And guys, I think we got a great core group that can get Arizona basketball to where we’re back to where we want to be in the next two to three years. Obviously we’re gonna give this year everything we got. And we’re gonna see what we can squeeze out of this year, but we got a great nucleus moving forward.”
Lloyd on Kerr wearing a head band: “I just told Kerr this, Kerr has some swag. As long as he plays with confidence, he plays with high effort, and he plays with intelligence, then I’ll let him be swaggy. But if he doesn’t play with intelligence, he doesn’t play with great effort, then he can’t wear the headband. So that’s the rule. As far as that type of stuff, it’s crazy, I don’t even notice. I couldn’t tell you what pair of shoes anybody wore today. I couldn’t have told you Kerr wore a headband. I’m here to watch a basketball game and coach the team and if I start to notice it, then it’s probably not a good thing. But all in all, as long as they’re respectful of the game, their teammates, our program, I have no problem with guys individually expressing themselves.”
Kriisa on where the headband started: “Technically I was wearing the pink headband because of breast cancer awareness month last month. Because my practices were so good, Coach (Jason) Gardner came up to me and said, “man you got to get a headband and you got to start playing with it because you play good with it.” After that, I asked Mr. ZonaBriggs (for) a headband and he gave it to me. I’m going to keep wearing that.”