The Arizona Wildcats relied on strong second-half shooting to put away Colorado 76-55 Thursday night at McKale Center. Our game recap can be found here.
After the game, head coach Tommy Lloyd spoke to the media about the team’s win. Here’s what Lloyd said.
Lloyd on the adjustments Arizona made in the second half: “I don’t think it was anything complicated. I think we started out the game with good effort. And then we kind of let our guard down a little bit. And after having some early success, I think we were up, what, 14 in the first half and then really let our guard down and just got stagnant on offense and made some questionable decision making and then defensively just lost our effort. And then we had a good talk at halftime and the guys responded and played a great second half, especially defensively.
"For us, it’s no secret, our defense kickstarts our offense and we were able to get to things in transition to kind of loosen up the game a little bit. I’m really proud of how the guys responded.”
On whether he made rebounding a priority at half: “That conversation entailed everything that involved the word 'effort.' Rebounding would go under that category, defensive intensity, doing your job, you know, playing unselfish on the offensive end. We talked about all those things.”
On whether he challenged the bench players to be more involved: “Pelle (Larsson) is really coming on. I really feel that and see that. I just want him to just tighten up some of his decision making and his passes just a little bit. I think he’s really about to turn the corner and is gonna be a significant contributor the second half of the season. I really challenged Justin (Kier) today. Justin is really talented and some days he’s great, some days he’s not. I was really disappointed at the end of the first half when he kind of traveled. We were running a last-second play and he got a turnover and then he missed a defensive assignment, which was more concerning the very next possession. I challenged him to play better and he came out and he played better and when he plays better he really helps us.”
On why Arizona hasn’t capitalized on first half leads the last two games: “I have been really steadfast in not using this lack of games as an excuse. I think that played into it a little bit. I think we got a little bit fatigued after that initial start and maybe I didn’t sub as much because we had a few guys with two fouls. We have a few guys with two fouls that have a tendency to foul a lot so it’s hard to put them back in the game sometimes in the first half when you’re trying to win a 40-minute game. Take a look at some of those things but all in all, I think the guys maybe got a little bit tired, maybe a little bit selfish, and that’s not a good combination.”
On Kriisa’s 10 assists: “He’s played point guard his whole life. it may not be a point guard that some people are comfortable with, but I am. He eally did a good job getting the ball moving today and finding guys for cuts and shots so I’m really excited with him. He made some really aggressive plays and probably some decisions I wish we could take back a little bit, but he and I will talk about that. I want him being aggressive, I want him making plays for us. To have 10 assists and four turnovers, it’s not a terrible ratio, but I also think he’s capable of tightening that up a little bit, too.”
On UCLA losing to Oregon Thursday night: “I saw it but I think that’s conference basketball. You get into conference season and everybody talks about these upsets, and I always think that you got to get for the first couple of weeks or the first four or five games of a conference season to really figure out what’s an upset and what’s not. Just watching Oregon the last couple games, they’ve really been coming on in the second half and maybe they did that again today, but I haven’t really had any chance to look at it. For us, UCLA’s not even on our radar. Our radar is just trying to take these games. We talk about going one hurdle at a time and the next hurdle is Utah. I think that UCLA hurdle is out in front of us a little bit, so we got a ways till we get there.”
Lloyd on the atmosphere at McKale: “It felt pretty good. Hopefully people are getting excited. These players are doing a great job and they’re very deserving. And it’s a special group of young guys and I know they appreciate the support. I don’t know final attendance numbers or anything like that, but with everything going on in the world, it’s great to have a loyal fan base that comes out in trying times so I was happy with the crowd tonight.”
On whether he likes players interacting with the crowd: “I think the game’s best played when it’s played with passion. You’re walking a fine line. Passion and emotion are part of it. They can add fuel to the fire. I enjoy that stuff. I think that it makes it a fun event for everybody. And as long as it fits into a guy’s personality and he can try to get the crowd revved up and try to get his team more energized, I’m all for it.”
On opponents handling Arizona’s pace: “I thought Colorado did a good job kind of slowing the game down in the first half. It bogged us down offensively a little bit. We had some longer, deeper possessions than maybe we’re used to. Then offensively, they were spreading it, getting multiple drives, but at the end of the day, running’s about effort and it’s not easy to be a running team. It’s a total misconception. You have to work hard. You have to fight hard for it because running opportunities are created by playing usually good defense that leads to a transition opportunity, or a guy just putting his head down, pumping his arms and outrunning somebody. I think all of us here in this media zoom, we probably don’t do sprints very often because they’re hard. And these young men do, and the harder they run, the better we are.”
On Kier’s focus needing to improve: “Justin is a great guy. I love him as a person. I can’t wait until we have a really successful year and then then after his career, he and I are going to be friends for life and good friends. He and I will be guys that hang out. I really enjoy him. I just think he’s just got to tighten it up a little bit and just be a little bit more consistent with his concentration and his effort because he’s so capable. He’s so capable. And sometimes he has mental lapses and I’m on him about it. For us to be as good as we need to be, he needs to get better.”
On whether the time off played into Arizona’s struggles Thursday: “I definitely felt our decision making in game situations wasn’t what it could have been, a lot of moments in the game especially early. You may be be able to account that to a layoff. These games and the possession games are great teachers. A lot of times they’re better teachers than what we do in practice. You can harp and say something in practice, but sometimes it’s maybe a little tougher for it to sink in. But you get game, you get footage, you get film, and you can show guys and sit down and really learn from it. This team has been really good all year at learning from film. So we’re going to continue to do that. I just told the guys hey, the seasons are long. These games are tough. They’re up and down, and I was really proud of the way they responded in the second half. And anytime you win a conference game by this margin, you’re going to take it. So we’re happy with the result and when we’re looking forward a Utah team that may be a little bit down, but they’re rested. They didn’t have a game this week. So they’re sitting there watching this game right now and I’m sure they’ve been preparing for Arizona all week. Then we get to start our preparation tonight and then tomorrow. And so we’re expecting a well prepared, well coached, tough team on Saturday.”