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What Tommy Lloyd, Christian Koloko and Bennedict Mathurin said after Arizona’s win over UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament final

arizona-wildcats-tommy-lloyd-bennedict-mathurin-christian-koloko-pac12-championship-ucla-2022 Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS—The Arizona Wildcats have followed up their Pac-12 regular season title with a conference tournament championship, beating UCLA 84-76 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena. It’s their first tourney crown since 2018 and sets them up great for the NCAA Tournament.

Our full recap can be found here. Below is what coach Tommy Lloyd, center Christian Koloko (who made the All-Tournament Team) and wing Bennedict Mathurin (the tournament MVP) had to say about the victory.

Lloyd on how he’s feeling after winning the title: “Tired. Three games in three days is a tough deal. Just so proud of this group. I mean, honestly, I haven’t even taken a minute, I was just with my staff, haven’t taken a breath to figure out how we did it. UCLA is a really good team, and for us to come in here and beat them straight up, that’s saying enough. And to pull it off with Kerr out and then Justin getting in foul trouble. It was just literally like, find a way, hang in there. It shows the the grit, the integrity, the character of these guys. Obviously I’ll probably get pretty emotional a few times, I feel it coming on, but I love those guys. For them to believe in me and our staff, it’s been a special year. I’ll always remember these guys and I’ll be thankful.”

On his message to the team when it was down double digits in the second half: “Just hang in there. We just have to hang in there, and that was a tough situation. We were down five at half, they hit a double pump 3 to go from two to five, and then come out at the start of the second half. That elbow situation happens with C-Lo, and I know the rules are written like are, but that’s tough. You have an out of bounds play, an inadvertent elbow, that ends up being two free throws and the ball for them. It was tough, we just had to hang in there, and I thought we did a good job of that all day, especially in the first half. With the foul issues we had, to just hang in there and keep it close, so you can hopefully make a run in the second half. It was a great job all day of hanging in there and making a run at the right time.”

On being able to accomplish so much in his first season: “For me, being my first time around as a head coach, and leaving a very comfortable life to take an awesome job at Arizona, and with a group of young guys, we’re a young team, and just have them learn. My only objective this year hasn’t been recruiting. My only objective has been to pour into these guys everything I got. And that’s how I’ve attacked it on a daily basis, and to watch them grow. I mean, like Benn, are you kidding me? I can’t even think how far he’s come from our first workouts in the spring. And C-Lo? And Dalen today, I mean, had to play point guard, hadn’t really practiced point guard all year. There was even a practice this summer where I didn’t let Dalen practice, because he traveled 13 times the day before. I told him, if you travel I can’t play you, so you need to go over to a side basket. You need to go to footwork bootcamp, you need to learn how to not travel. To just see how far they’ve come, it’s been special. Credit goes to the staff and credit goes to those guys. They’re always going to be near and dear to my heart.”

On adjusting to how the game was being called: “I don’t know if it was being called tight. I think that just how those games go, you just have to kind of hang in there sometimes. We had like seven guys plus Adama (Bal). We don’t win the game without Adama’s six points today, are you kidding me? Took a kid that just turned 18 in December, and makes two threes after having hardly played all year, that’s impressive. That’s impressive. You just got to hang in there and sometimes the whistle flips, and today it did. In the second half, I kept looking up there and we were in the bonus early and that’s always a good formula for us.”

On Arizona’s backups: “Pelle is a really good player. He went from basically starting at Utah, transferred to us, broke his foot this summer. He missed out on a bunch of our offseason workouts and then, to be Sixth Man of the Year. He sacrificed coming to us, and it’s what makes us great. Those guys off the bench are unbelievable. You throw Justin into starting now. Pelle. I mean, how about Oumar today? I mean, are you kidding me? I mean, mind boggling. He’s dominating games when he’s in there. To have that many good players is a good thing, but to have that many guys that are willing to sacrifice a little bit of individual accolades for team successes, that’s what makes great teams, and I think we’re on our way to being a great team.”

On Adama Bal taking on a bigger role: “The great thing is he’s ready. I’ve told my staff multiple times, he’s had a head coach that’s maybe held them back a little bit. Even I thought I’d put him in the second half, but I’m like man, this game’s getting pretty tough. He had a great first half. He’s gonna be one of our best players in the near, near future. He’s a special player. He has some magic to him. Even the lob he threw to Oumar, it might not have been perfect, but to have the courage to do that as a young player, Oumar didn’t quite come down with it. I believe in that kid, and I’m thankful that he stuck with the plan. And the plan was not to play this year. Not redshirt, but not play, not many young kids would do that. It’s gonna pay great dividends in the future, for him and for Arizona basketball.”

On Benn Mathurin’s play: “Benn, he was special. It kind of took him a while to work himself into that game. They were denying him and making some of his catches tougher. We tried to find ways to loosen that up. And he made two unbelievable threes off a baseline screen on the right side in that second half. Incredible. And I told our staff I just thought those are great play calls. Which I’m totally joking (about), because those were impossible shots. You have a player that can sprint off a screen like that and rise up and stick a jumper in a sold out, 18,000-seat arena is pretty special. He’s got a great competitive spirit to him, and I’m so happy for how far he’s come, and everything coming his way is well deserving.”

On what he says to Mathurin before games: “I make sure I grab him, prop his chin up a little bit, we make eye contact, and I tell him ‘hey, simple thoughts.’ It always ends with, have fun and smile, because this is special, and I want them to enjoy it.”

On the postgame ice bath: “These guys got me a few times. That one was cold. But truth be known, I do like a good ice bath, I used have one in our house in Spokane. But that was really cold today, it kind of took my breath from me. It’s a good feeling.”

On being part of the Gonzaga coaching tree: “It’s incredible. I think if you knew our relationship, we’re colleagues but we’re genuine friends first. And our families are literally intertwined. Our kids, they’re like cousins and nieces and nephews, that’s what the relationship is amongst those families. And Tuesday night, we all got together, after Gonzaga won. Leon (Rice) was in town and (Dan Monson) was in town and we all got together and just shared a moment, just us four, and it was really special. I’m the youngest one of the group by far, and they took me in as like a little brother. Just how they mentored me, and the belief they have in me, has really helped be a catalyst to my career.”

On the fan support, and his criticisms of the home crowds earlier in the season: “I’m just so appreciative to be in this position. And listen, I know some people ... think I’m questioning the fan base or whatever. Earlier in the year, they made us earn it, which is a good thing. I’m all about earning everything, everything we get I want to earn. I’m not wanting it for me, I want it for the players. Those guys deserve, I mean the work they put in, the loyalty they have to the University of Arizona, they deserve for that arena to be full every night, no matter who we’re playing. It’s a sign of respect for Arizona basketball. And that’s all I want. I want our fans to give our players the best experience imaginable those years they play for us.”

On going from trailing to leading, and then dictating how the game is played: “You just got to hang in there sometimes. These games are long, and you hang in there. We’re a team that makes runs. So I’m always like, hang in there, hang in there. We could be a possession or two away from a run, and we did a good job hanging in there. Playing UCLA, you have to keep the game close. You get down eight or 10 to UCLA, then they can really dictate the tempo. I think we got down that (much) early in the second half and luckily made a run right away. You don’t want to get down more. And in the first half, with all the crazy foul trouble I had, I just wanted to go in close at half, so we were in position if we made that run, we could get some separation. And we made some separation and then it was tough for them to score quick. We were able to sub some offensive and defensive lineups in there. Once we got a little lead in there, we kind of put a few defensive lineups in there and it got really hard to score around the basket, and our guys did a good job protecting the the paint and making sure that the right shooters weren’t shooting threes. Luckily they missed a few here and there, because you need a little bit of that too, and then we got the rebounds.”

Mathurin on taking over the game late in the first half: “The defense was playing me a little bit different the entire game. I was talking to my coaches and they told me some moves I could make in order to get to the paint and get fouls.”

On not getting rattled when down big: “We came from Tucson all the way to Vegas. We called it McKale North, but in reality, on the court it’s just us. So even if we’re down 10 or up 20, it’s the same mentality of playing hard until ... there’s no more time on the clock.”

On why Lloyd was able to get them to win this quickly: “The most important thing he did for us was trust in us. He’s the head coach, but we’re the players on the floor. We’re able to talk to him, he’s a player’s coach, we’re able to talk to him just about the issues we have on the court.”

On being motivated to play this tourney after winning the regular season title: “It was my first time playing in the Pac-12 Tournament with all my teammates. I’m really happy we have a great team, shout out to all my teammates. It was pretty fun to come out here, in Vegas, and play three games back to back. It was a challenge, but at the end of the day, I’m pretty happy with the results we got.”

On Dalen Terry: “He stepped up big. He was able to make a lot of plays, and make the simple plays.”

On Terry’s energy: “It motivates all of us, like when we’re down. One time we were down 11 or 14, I just needed motivation. Up 20 or down 20 he’s always the same guy, waving to the crowd. Just a source of motivation.”

On preparing for the NCAA Tournament: “Everybody is ready to sacrifice himself for the team. We’re going to go back to Tucson, practice on things we could have done better at the games. It’s all about winning. We won the Pac-12 regular season, the Pac-12 (Tournament) championship, now we’re going for the big win. We’re grateful but we’re not satisfied.”

On Terry’s energy: It motivates all of us, like when we’re down. One time we were down 11 or 14, I just needed motivation. Up 20 or down 20 he’s always the same guy, waving to the crowd. Just a source of motivation.

Koloko on using the Pac-12 Tournament to prepare for the NCAA tourney: “I think it’s really going to help us. So I think it’s going to get us ready for next week.”

On what adjustments were made with all the foul trouble: “We didn’t change anything, we just played our game. Pressure the ball, do everything Coach wanted us to do, just follow the game plan and we did it. Sometimes the calls weren’t going our way, but we stayed together.”

On exceeding preseason expectations: “We just believed in ourselves. Nobody really believed in us. We believe in ourself. Coming in every game, just have that chip on our shoulder, just play hard every game.”

On dealing with foul trouble: “When Justin got in foul trouble, next man up. We love each other, we trust each other. Whoever is on the court, we’re going to play hard, we’re going to fight together and we’re gonna try to get a win.”

On which net was more satisfying to cut down, the one in Vegas or at McKale: “We cut both nets, that’s the most important thing.”

On what the realistic goals were for the season: “It was to win. We believed in ourselves. We knew we had a good team. We had a good couple of players coming back from last year, basically getting all our starters back. And we were hungry. Last year we didn’t have a chance to go to any tournaments. So coming out this season, we want to win everything. And we work hard, we work really hard, we sacrifice a lot of things, and I think we’re on a good path to try to accomplish that goal.”

On having guards who love to pass: “It’s amazing, like every time you’re setting a screen or you’re rolling, you got expect the ball. It’s not something that happens everywhere. We have the kind of guards that want to pass the ball. They’re going to tell you, be ready.”

On being down by double digits: “We’re used to it. I think we’ve had a lot of games this year where we’re down by 10, by 12, but we came back. Even the Tennessee game, even though we lost our game we came back and we fought hard. We believe in each other. Every time we’re down we don’t panic.”