No. 14 Arizona won the Maui Invitational championship Wednesday, topping No. 10 Creighton 81-79. Our recap can be found here.
After the game, Tommy Lloyd, Kerr Kriisa and Oumar Ballo spoke to the media. Here’s what they said.
Lloyd on his overall takeaway from the win: “Obviously, I’m super proud of these guys. They played their butts off. These tournaments are hard. To play three games in three days against three really good teams with very distinct styles and to come out of it on top the way we did, it says a lot about this group.”
Lloyd on the support of his staff: “But before I really get started here, I want to kind of mention a few names here, and I had ‘em write ‘em down so I wouldn’t forget ‘em. This wouldn’t have been possible without our support staff. And Justin Kokoskie, our trainer, we call him J-Rock, he’s a GOAT and he does an amazing job of keeping these guys ready to play to play three games in three days.
And then, hey, our strength and conditioning coach, Chris Rounds. I mean, he and Oumar are going to share this trophy because they did it together. And he’s done an amazing job with Oumar getting him ready to play.
Our nutritionist, Tanner. He’s keeping these guys well-fed at home. Our massage therapist, Paul. It’s a beautiful thing, yes, we have massage therapists these guys days. It’s a real nice thing. Our physicians, Dr. Paul and his staff, do an amazing job with this. Our sports psychology department does a great job with these guys, making sure we’re mentally sharp, with Rachel running that thing.”
And then our student managers are amazing. I mean, I was probably on their you know what’s a little more this week than ever to make sure our guys were hydrated and giving them water at shoot around and stuff like. They just did an amazing team effort to make sure these guys were primed and ready to play. And without them, this wouldn’t be possible. I mean, I don’t even — did we have one cramp the whole tournament? I don’t know, did we? I don’t think we did. I mean, you see a lot of these teams cramp up in this deal. So it says something about these guys.
So thank you for our support staff. They’re first class and they’re the best in the business.”
Kriisa on being Maui champions: “First of all, I want to say I actually did have a cramp the first game, end of first half, but okay.
But we feel good. We’ve been working hard all summer, guys did in Tucson. We have a great group of people. Like coach said, the staff, everybody surrounding us, it’s just like a great place to be, and Bear Down.”
Kriisa on what Ballo brings to the team: “I mean, if you watch the game, he brings everything. He rebounds, he scores. He had 14-17. That’s outstanding. Oumar’s been putting a lot of work in during the summer trying to get his body better, his fat down, which he has done.”
Lloyd on Ballo’s performance: “But we are proud of Oumar and he definitely deserves this. But I don’t want to give too much credit to Oumar too right now because, you know, we had, Pelle played hard on defense, Courtney made great shots. Like, that was a team effort.
So Oumar doesn’t need to get above the clouds now because we have, because, you know, next Thursday we play again, and then this tournament is already finished and we got to start playing again.”
Kriisa on distributing the ball inside: “Yeah, if you have two best bigs in the country, then you got to give them the ball, if you play smart. If you’re trying to win, then you give them the ball, and you let them do their work. Zu played, obviously, outstanding this whole tournament. It’s funny how Zu scores 12, but you don’t even realize how he scores 12.
So it comes, you know, it shows our how explosive our offense is and obviously our guard play is getting better too. So I think we’re just in a great spot right now.”
Ballo on whether he feels like Arizona has arrived: “I actually haven’t arrived because we haven’t done anything yet. It’s a long season. It’s a marathon. So I’m just trying to run with the pace and trying to be available for my team.”
Ballo on waving on Arizona fans in the second half: “I mean, we got to give a lot of credit to those people because they have our back and no matter what the scoreboard is, those people will show up and cheering on for us. For them to book a flight, book hotel, to come all the way to Hawaii to support us, it means a lot to me, and it means a lot to my team. So the only thing we can do is just play hard and do anything we can do for them.”
Ballo on whether this is the best three-game stretch of his career: “Probably. Well, I didn’t even know that. But that is a little bit crazy. But it might be, honestly.”
Kriisa (same question): “It was the rims.”
Ballo (answering Kriisa): “Yeah, probably. Yeah, the rim was really soft, so I had a lot of balls rolling in there”
Ballo on Kriisa’ passes: “Yeah, absolutely. Because he too — I’m going to give a lot of credit to the guards. Because they really found me today in those duck-ins and rolls. And this is a team that I love playing because like no one is selfish, we share the ball and we turn down a good shot to take a great shot. So I’m really proud of each of those guys in here.”
Ballo on whether he had any massages in between games: “No, I have zero massage. I just drank a lot of water. And, man, I want to play those games. I want to play those minutes. This is why I’m here. And I will do anything to be available for my team.”
Lloyd on what this experience for the team the rest of the season: “Well, it gives you incredible experiences to learn from. It’s important to learn from the good things as well as the mistakes. Our staff’s going to do a great job dissecting these three games — really haven’t had a chance to dissect anything yet — and try to figure out what direction we need to take this team.
Part of it is going to be reinforcing the things we did well and some of it is going to be areas we need to get better.”
Lloyd on whether he expects teams to play Ballo one-on-one: “Well it’s game to game. Teams are going to throw different things at us and that’s what’s really cool about it. I think we’re pretty well rounded in our approach. I’ve coached a lot of good big guys before and I’m comfortable with double teams and things of that nature.
A good friend of mine a guy named Mr. Arvydas Sabonis once told me, If you don’t get double teamed as a post player you’re not any good. So we ascribe to that and we love it when posts can draw multiple defenders and we’ll play out of it if that’s the way it is.”
Lloyd on Creighton’s push in the final minutes: “Well I was just kept looking at the score and the time and our timeouts. And I thought we had enough separation to kind of ride it out.
But you’re just hoping for a miss. You hate to say that, you need to make ‘em miss. But one of those shots bounces off, you know, and we rebound it, you know, the game could have been over a little bit earlier. But they didn’t. They went in.
I think we had one or two maybe poor decisions that, you know, a little bit, you know, frustrating, but we’ll learn from that. We practice situations a lot. So a lot of the situations came up there and I felt comfortable not calling a timeout.
I wanted our guys to rock a little bit. I want them to figure it out on their own. We practice for a reason. They don’t need me to come over and script everything for ‘em because they’re smart players. We think we do a good job with the situations. I think down the stretch at least we handled the press situations, the last free throw situation, those types of things really well.”
Lloyd on what he thinks of Benn Mathurin’s play with the Indiana Pacers: “Stud. We miss him. We love him. But he’s doing his thing. He made a huge impact on this program and he really blossomed in this program. I think he’s going to set an example for others. If you come here and, you know, buy into what we’re teaching and how we play and being great teammate and playing team basketball, you can go to the next level and have a lot of success.
Benn, when I think about the fundamental gains he made in his game the last year, it’s pretty impressive. I watched him play quite a few times and just to see him making floaters now and getting to the free-throw line. That’s stuff he wasn’t doing before. Handling the ball much better. So he’s awesome. Looks like he’s going to have a great NBA career.”
Lloyd on what big picture takeaways the tournament provided: “You know I’m a day-to-day guy. Okay? Paycheck to paycheck, bottleneck to bottleneck. We ain’t getting more complicated than that. So let’s just stay locked in here and keep getting better. We just wanted to win the game. I don’t even know when our next game is.”
Lloyd on what he learned about the team: “I learned that we’re good. We’re tough. We’re gritty. I think there’s going to be some great things for us to really double down on and some things to show our guys where we went the wrong way.
So that’s what you’re looking for in these things. You’re looking to reinforce good things, learn from the tough things. But we needed that. We needed to come here and get tested. We got tested every game. No game felt comfortable until the final horn went off.”