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What Tommy Lloyd, Christian Koloko and Bennedict Mathurin said after Arizona men’s basketball’s win over Oregon

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-oregon-ducks-tommy-lloyd-benn-mathurin-christian-koloko-pac12-2022 Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

Arizona ended a 7-game skid to Oregon, beating the Ducks 84-81 on Saturday night at McKale Center for its 17th consecutive home victory.

The Wildcats (24-2, 14-1 Pac-12) moved closer to its first regular-season conference title since 2017-18 by rallying from down 12 in the first half and then taking the lead for good with 1:26 left.

Our full recap can be found here. Below is what coach Tommy Lloyd, guard Bennedict Mathurin and center Christian Koloko had to say about the game.

Lloyd’s opening statement: “Great result. And Oregon, I thought played a really good game, and obviously they’re a formidable opponent. They’ve been a little bit up and down this year, but we know their ceiling is really high and they played that way for long stretches today. And I’m going to give him a ton of credit. Once they got off to a good start, they were able to kind of get the game that they were comfortable getting into, and it’s tough to play against that. I’m proud of our guys for hanging in there and finding a way to win a game, we haven’t had a lot of those.”

On how much he told his players to get tougher: “Probably a lot. And a lot at the start of the second half. Their big guys, they were great and so physical. And they might be a little bit raw, skillwise, and as I say that (N’Faly Dante) made a 17-footer, one of his first perimeter shots of the year at a clutch time. But just to me, it was just the rebounding deal. I just felt like we had like 1 1/2, two guys down there and they had one and somehow they kept getting the ball. At some point, you just got to kind of toughen up. That’s been a little bit of a battle for Christian at times this year, because he’s trying to protect the rim. He’s long, he’s thin, and sometimes it’s hard for him to kind of wedge those guys out, and our guys have to help him out. We have these big, athletic wings, they got to be in there swooping in, getting those rebounds over the top. And that was the message.”

On Oregon getting 9 steals and turning 13 Arizona turnovers into 18 points: “That’s Oregon, they’re good at that, they’re really handsy. I told our guys, hey, you’re gonna think you have an advantage, and anytime you have an advantage they’re gonna attack it by being scrappy, handsy. Christian had a high low, I think it was at the first half, and they just took the ball right from him. You just got to have a little bit more awareness to that. We knew they were handsy coming in, and in good at that. A couple of our turnovers, I think in the first half, were kind of loose ball scramble rebound type deals. I feel like once we got in the offensive have we were pretty good. And Oregon, they change up some defenses, they’re comfortable switching a lot of things. They make you dig deep. I think they tested our patience and I don’t think we always passed the test.

“I think our base offense can play against their base defense, whether they’re more man-oriented or they go to kind of their switching matchup stuff. I want us to be comfortable offensively, and in a lot of positions we were, I just think we probably didn’t hit the patience button quite enough. We need to be a little more patient.”

On Kerr Kriisa: “He’s got belief, he’s got confidence. He’s not perfect. And he’d be the first to tell you that. As that possession played out, I just I just felt like, the way they were switching things defensively, a lot of our sets might not have gotten us many advantages. So I kind of just wanted to play. And I haven’t really looked at the stats. We shot 53 percent for the game, so just playing wasn’t a bad idea. And they went under (the screen) and he ended up deep, the shot clock was down. I told him a couple games ago, we had an end-of-half scenario, I was like Kerr ... if you got a 28-footer, I mean, let it rip. And shoot it to make it, and so he did that. And that was obviously a huge shot.

On Benn Mathurin having 4 straight 20-point games: “I just ask Benn to play within the framework of the team. He played a really good game. I think that there’s also some great clips I think we’re gonna have to help him learn on some of those penetration things where he got a little bit deeper and kind of pushed off the angle, that we can learn from. But Benn’s a really good player, and when he’s locked in like he has been in the last X amount of games he’s special. He’s a joy to coach and I’m happy that he’s having the success that he is.

“I told him, right after the National Anthem, I said ‘Benn, smile. Smile. Have fun, enjoy this moment. There’s no pressure on you. I think he’s just kind of found the joy in the game. There’s nothing great in life that can be accomplished without enthusiasm and joy. And so that’s been my message to him.”

On taking bad shots too close to the basket: “You gotta be careful about over penetrating. I think we over penetrated and shot a lot of off balance shots. I would tell guys, going away from the basket, those are hard shots to make and probably shots there were willing to live with.”

On if free throw shooting is a concern: “I trust the guys to make their free throws. We just got to step up and make those. Our percentage overall is pretty good.”

On if Arizona planned to foul up 3 on the final possession: “I think the plan was to foul. I mean, I don’t think, I know. Like I said, we haven’t been in that situation a lot but, as it played out, I was really comfortable once C-Lo got switched on to (Will Richardson) out up top. He was dancing with the ball, I’m like, he’s gonna have to hit an incredible shot to tie this game. And actually, Christian chased him off the 3-point line, which was great. So I’m happy with how it played out. We’ve been working on situations a lot in practice, because we haven’t been in a lot of close games, and our guys came through and executed a lot of our press breaks and stuff like that.”

On Koloko being able to guard Oregon’s best scorer on the perimeter: “It says that he’s a really good player. It makes us great defensively.”

On why Oregon has struggled this season: “Coach Altman is a great coach. He’s won a ton of games at a lot of different places. I don’t know, sometimes you just have teams like that, that are a little bit inconsistent effort-wise or shooting-wise and performance-wise, and I don’t know his team well enough to delve into it. I just I had a sneaky feeling, when I saw that Arizona State result, that we were going to get a great effort from Oregon with a College GameDay-type atmosphere.”

On what Arizona can improve on from this game: “We’re gonna go through and watch it. I’ll watch it tomorrow and dissect it a little bit and we’ll kind of go through some of these scenarios, things we didn’t well and things we need to get better at. You get live bullets, and live bullets are great teaching tools.”

On his postgame message: “Great job. Proud of you guys. And then, you guys have answered almost every call. They’ve withstood some tough runs in these games, and they’ve always bounced back, and obviously we withstood a tough run at the start of the game. AndI think they made a little run at the start of the (second) half and by the first media timeout I think we were back up. They’ve done a great job just hanging in there and taking punches and then deliver.”

On playing in close games: “I’m trying not to be in close games. So when you end up in them you welcome it. I tell them guys, guys, we just got to make one more play than they do, we just got to win by one point. So there’s no panic. As you get deeper into a season there’s going to be more close games because you’re going to play higher-level competition, so we’re gonna welcome and embrace it and if we win, great. If we lose, oh well. We’ll hopefully get better and learn from it and move on.”

On if this kind of game makes him nervous: “I don’t think I’m nervous in a bad way, but I’m excited. I’m anxious to see what happens. I love competing and I love games. And to be honest with you, guys, I don’t mind the losing. It’s part of the deal. I don’t want to lose a lot, but it comes with the territory. Why should you shy away from it? But I know this: I enjoy winning, and I’m happy for the guys that they’re getting to enjoy winning.”

Mathurin on the atmosphere: “It was really fun. The crowd was going crazy. It was a really good experience. I had a lot of fun.”

On what enabled him to have another 20-point game: “I felt like the defense started playing me a little bit differently, so I knew what to do. The coaches had been telling me some things that I could do in order for me to score the ball.”

On if it was a long day, starting with College GameDay in the morning: “Yeah, but it’s completed.”

On resting up before the next 3-game, 6-day road trip: “Your body is really important. So, just drink a lot of water, no coffee, get massages.”

Koloko on Oregon’s defense and physicality: “Their defense is very different, they do a lot of switches. We had a game plan. They have two bigs that play really hard, so we knew they were going to come out and be physical.”

On the final defensive possession: “I mean, to be honest, I didn’t even know if I had to foul or no. I think we were up by three, right? I knew he wanted to shoot a 3 so I just tried to make him drive it.”

On beating Oregon after being 0-4 against the Ducks: “It feels good. It’s my first time beating them, same with UCLA. They’re a really good team, we’re probably going to play them again in the Pac-12 Tournament.”