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What Tommy Lloyd, Christian Koloko and Oumar Ballo said after Arizona’s win over ASU

Arizona State v Arizona Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

The third-ranked Arizona Wildcats overcame a poor shooting day to beat rival ASU 67-56 at McKale Center Saturday. Our recap of the game can be found here.

After the game, coach Tommy Lloyd and bigs Christian Koloko and Oumar Ballo spoke to the media. Here’s what they said.

Lloyd on winning an ugly game: “I had a feeling this game wasn’t gonna be pretty. We were a team that’s still trying to recover from that long road trip. A season kind of builds up on you a little bit. You kind of go through these dog days sometimes and to get a positive result against a rival when you don’t play your best is a positive thing.”

Lloyd on whether opponents are doing anything different defensively: “Not in particular. It just seems like we’ve kind of lost our flow offensively a little bit and maybe we aren’t making some shots that we hit early. Then maybe you have some guys questioning themselves a little bit, which is natural. So we’ve got to do a great job as a staff at building them back up, and they’ve got to do a great job as individuals of just making sure that they’re keeping their confidence at a high level.”

Lloyd on his reaction to seeing Kriisa make a few 3-pointers: “After his first one I was happy. Then he came down and he shot a really tough next one. That’s not how you get yourself back on track. The way to get yourself back on track is you shoot quality shots within the rhythm of the offense. And maybe I felt like we were maybe trying a little bit too hard at some points today to kind of get ourselves going a little bit. And listen, it’s because guys care. They want to contribute to the team and so it’s not a bad thing, but we just got to have a little bit of understanding of what efficient, good shots can be, because those are the ones you’re gonna make.”

Lloyd on the team’s free-throw shooting success: “The first half was great. You just felt it was choppy game. We were being physical inside, and guys were posting up hard or driving to the basket. It kept us in the game. We were ice cold. To be able to go into half tied when you shoot in the 20s, it’s a positive thing.”

Lloyd on Oumar Ballo’s improved free-throw shooting form: “It looks like it helps. Every once in a while, he has one where you’re trying to encourage him to get a little more arc on it. Oumar said he’s worked really hard. Obviously he’s kind of become an anchor of what we’re doing right now. He deserves a ton of credit. He’s put together like four games in a row played at a high level, and we need that out of him right now. Obviously, we’re not quite at 100% physically and so his growth has been really important for us.”

Lloyd on the timeline of deciding to play Azuolas Tubelis: “He wanted to play. I think he’s getting closer. Maybe his timing’s off a little bit. He hasn’t been able to practice much. And then he just doesn’t quite have his legs under him like he normally would. We’ll continue to attack it, and if we think that he’s making progress, he can help the team even if it’s in a lesser role, he’s the type of teammate that’s willing to sacrifice to do that, which says a lot about his character.”

Lloyd on the surprise of Azuolas and brother Tautvilas Tubelis’ mom visiting: “It’s really cool. I don’t think a lot of people even realize during COVID, these international guys, they might have been able to go home, but their families have never been able to come over to see how they live. So to be able to show their their mom where they live and how they live and the people around them, being face to face is really special.”

Lloyd on Arizona’s second half defensive adjustments: “I thought we were a little more attentive. Obviously, (DJ) Horne, I think we let him get loose and he was 5-8 from 3 in the first half. I know he got four more tips in the second half but just feel like his rhythm was kind of good. I just thought we were more attentive and our pressure was a little more solid. We’re a great defensive team. To be able to hang your hat on your defense on a stretch of the season where your offense is struggling like it is, it’s really important to be competing for championships. Obviously, that’s what we want to do. That’s the standard. I’m proud of how the guys defended and hanging with it.”

Lloyd on opening the game with a press: “The press even looked good, it felt good. Offensively, we weren’t getting any separation from them so then I just felt like we probably needed to get back on the half court and just be a little more solid defensively. I thought they were going to struggle if we got in the half court defensively and for the most part we did. Obviously this game was a rock fight. Both teams shot 32%, which I haven’t been a part of any games like that.”

Lloyd on Arizona winning the rebounding battle: “We’re a good rebounding team. We want to attack the glass at both ends. It’s really important for what we do. For Christian to go out and get 13 rebounds today and playing over 30 minutes, that’s huge. He didn’t have his best game maybe offensively, but just to be able to control the glass like that that and impact defensively he did says a lot. He had five blocks, three steals, three assists, no turnovers. That’s impressive.”

Lloyd on his equivalent of getting extra batting practice: “Yeah, it’s taking extra shots for sure. Is it making sure you feel good? Mentally making sure that the coaching staff and the player are in tune with each other because at the end of the day, one of the only things I could do when I played was shoot the basketball. I know these guys don’t miss on purpose, and when they miss, they feel worse than you do. So just go to hang with it sometimes. The other thing that we have to evaluate is the type of shots we’re getting, that our offense is getting us, and the types of decisions we’re making on those shots. Are we turning down good shots to take tougher shots? Who do we want to taking those shots, where do we want to get them within our offense. All that stuff we’re continuing to look at and as you get deeper in conference seasons, teams scout more. They make adjustments. We’ll have to kind of make our own adjustments to that. And sometimes the adjustment is just doubling down on what you already do. So we’ll figure that out this week.”

Lloyd on the plan for the next few days ahead of UCLA rematch: “Rest. We’re gonna rest, take a breath. I’m still tired from last week. I can’t imagine what the guys are going through. When you get back after a long road trip, an emotional game and Wednesday, you’re getting back in the middle of the night, you have to deal with Thursday, Friday. I still feel it Saturday morning. It’s real. So just resting and trying to get our energy level back up and clear our minds a little bit and try to make that next push.”

Lloyd on whether opponents are trying to slow Arizona down: “I’m sure that’s what every team wants to do. I’m not naïve. I know that sometimes as you get later in the season, these games aren’t going to be track meets. I think it’s important to be able to win games in a lot of different styles. We’re okay having to grind it out in the half court, we’re not afraid of that. It doesn’t bother me a bit when you can defend like we do, and sometimes if there’s less possessions, it could be to our advantage. We’ll keep trying to play the way we want to play with great pace and tempo and ball movement, but if the game kind of comes to a screeching halt, I’m not opposed to starting to throw the ball inside more and see what those guys can do.”

Lloyd on the importance of getting to the foul stripe often: “I don’t know if it’s always gonna be there. I don’t know if you can always trust the whistles. You know what I mean? When you play with force, a lot of times the interior defenders on the other team get in foul trouble. Each one of those fouls gets you closer to the bonus. Once you’re in the bonus, you can get fouled at 4-50 feet from the basket and get points out of it. It just makes scoring easier. And that’s the approach and it’s kind of a cumulative effort as I’ve talked about before. It’s just how do we want to impact the game. Offensively great pace, great ball movement, try to make good decisions good shot selection, attack the offensive glass. If you foul pressure on them and free throws are part of that, that’s a lot for the defense. It’s a lot of opportunities for them to make a mistake.”

Lloyd on whether he expects more games like this: “Yeah, for sure. Listen, it’s my first time through it. I’m expecting every game to be tough. I’m not sitting up here thinking because we’re ranked or our record is such and such that we’re going to show up and beat teams. I know that’s not how it works. So we’re gonna stay locked and loaded, and we respect every team that we’re going to play. I know this. I know we got the LA schools coming in here next week. Then we got to go to ASU. It ain’t going to be easy. Then we got to go to the Washingtons. That ain’t going to be easy. I also understand that the first time you play somebody, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how the next game is gonna be. So definitely it’s got our attention.”

Lloyd on whether Arizona may take a couple days off: “We’ll see. I haven’t gotten that far. Technically our rest starts a little bit earlier than normal because it was an early game today. So we’ll see where we’re at Monday and what wil be the best plan going forward?”

Lloyd on whether Tubelis practiced Friday: “He got up and down the court a little bit, but we didn’t do too much live. This is kind of becoming a tough time of the year for him where it’s maybe hard to have a lot more live practices full of contact type stuff. Listen, Zu is an amazing person. I know a lot of you probably haven’t had a chance to sit down and visit with them, but he’s a really special guy, high character and what he’s trying to do for us right now, I’ll tip my cap to him and I’m very thankful.”

Koloko on the difficulty of not getting upset when shots aren’t falling: “It’s pretty hard but you just got to trust your teammates. Oumar is doing a good job inside today, so we just got all the assets to win games. Shot wasn’t going in, we started throwing the ball inside and I think Oumar did a good job delivering.”

Koloko on maintaining defensive intensity when struggling offensively: “To have a good offense, you’ve got to have a good defense, because good offense comes from stops on defense and stuff like that. Even though shots are not going in, you’ve got to keep playing hard on defense because you can have easy transitions and stuff like that. We’re always working defensively.”

Ballo on what the last few games have been like: “This season is long. Sometimes it’s hard. People just find their way. It’s a long stretch, and just being patient and keep working and trusting your work and it will fall.”

Ballo on what’s starting to click for him right now: “Just energy. I know that we have really good guys. Especially in practice, Christian and Zu they be ahead of me so much to get bigger. Practicing with them every single day just makes me better to play.”

Ballo on whether it was hard to maintain patience early on in the year: “Not really, because when you trust someone, and I trust Arizona basketball and I trust coach Tommy Lloyd, so I knew it was kind of worth it.”

Koloko on whether defenses are trying anything different: “Yeah, definitely. They’re focusing a lot more on guys like Benn and they’re pressuring a lot more (on) Kerr. DT was open the whole time, but they left DT open like this, all the guys just harping on Benn. Sometimes me too. When I get the ball, all the big men go into the four men inside. They try to do different stuff. Just to got trust our offense. Keep moving the ball and we’re going to have easy shots.”

Ballo on whether he senses any frustration from the guards: “Not really. We know them. We know they’re able to make those shots. We trust them, and we will be glad for them to shoot and we can crash the offensive board and give the ball back to them again, because we know they can shoot the ball. We will never get frustrated when the shot won’t fall.”

Koloko on whether the bigs encourage the guards to keep shooting: “(We tell them) ‘Just keep shooting.’ We know the next shot is going to go in.”

Koloko on the importance of getting to the foul line: “All their bigs getting in foul trouble today, I think me, Oumar, Zu, we did a pretty good job inside drawing fouls stuff. Every time our shot’s not falling in, we do something else. We went inside today and they got in foul trouble. We shot 80% from the line which is pretty good so I think we did a good job.”

Koloko on his and-one steal and dunk: “In practice I’ll be switching a lot. So I know I can guard the perimeter sometimes. The way we play defense we want to deny. So when I have the chance to steal the ball, I’m going to be happy every time to do it. When I have the opportunity to do it, I’m always going to do it. Trying to go all in and dunk it.”

Koloko on the significance of winning the rebounding battle: “It’s really important. Of all the games we played, the games we lost we lost the rebounding battle. So it’s always important for us to rebound the ball well. We know when we rebound the ball well we have a chance to push the ball and run our offense.”

Ballo on how much he works on free throw shooting: “A lot honestly. This summer I worked a lot with coach (Riccardo Fois). He helped me with shooting form so I work a lot. … Coach (Fois) told me to put (the ball) a little bit higher in front of my head so that it go up. In the beginning it was not going in. I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is going to work.’ But I stick with it, and it finally worked out.”