Arizona shook off some early cobwebs, as well as shaky defense and inconsistent offense, to run past Stanford 81-69 on Thursday night at McKale Center.
The second-ranked Wildcats (27-3, 17-2) tied the record for most Pac-12 wins in a season and can break that mark on Saturday against Cal.
Our full recap can be found here. Here’s what coach Tommy Lloyd, center Christian Koloko and wing Pelle Larsson said afterward.
Lloyd on Stanford playing well after scoring 39 points in its last game: “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Stanford played well tonight, and it seems like we’re kinda running into a lot of these scenarios where the team that is next on our schedule has a tough game before us. Their coaches are good coaches, and they kinda get their guys to respond and you see them coming out playing spirited. So, credit to Stanford, but that also I’m happy with our guys responded and played well in the second half.”
On moving past the emotions of the USC game: “USC seems like a month ago to me, but really was less than 48 hours ago. We had travel issues getting back that were probably worse than the Illinois debacle we had, when we had to Uber. We got back really, really, really late, and so weren’t able to do anything yesterday.”
On adjusting the practice schedule: “So we got back late, and then guys have school the next day. You get a few hours’ sleep, you gotta go to class, and they got a coach that makes them practice. They don’t just get to go home and take naps, so we did basically a walkthrough and then another little walkthrough today, and that was it. Stanford obviously had time to make some adjustments and put in a few new sets and they looked good.”
On avoiding a hangover or letdown after clinching the Pac-12 title: “It’s always possible. These guys are getting patted on the back a lot, and I’m hoping we’re strengthening and gaining your immunity to the rat poison, hopefully, because there’s a lot of that out there. I’m proud of the guys, how they played in the second half. I mean, I’m not down on them at all, and look forward to cleaning some things up.”
On if he talks to the players about the outside noise: “I’m honest with them. I coach them and I show them areas they need to get better. Benn, his defense wasn’t good enough. I don’t know if it was the lack of focus, effort, energy, whatever, but it wasn’t very good, and for as good a season as he’s had, he has to play good on that end of the floor, because we’re gonna have him on the floor a lot. When you’re getting ready to start staring down elimination games, everybody’s got to bring their best . One of the concepts we’ve been talking about is 5 of 5, we need five of five guys on the court playing with effort, energy, spirited, executing, all that thing. We don’t need three out of five guys. We need five out of five guys, and I just didn’t think we had that at all times.”
On the late Lute Olson, who was honored at halftime: “I think it’s bigger than just the foundation of our program. I think it’s the entire community. I mean, you’re obviously talking about an individual who was revered, and for good reason. I’m fortunate to follow in his footsteps, and the same with Sean (Miller), it’s obviously a program that’s got amazing tradition. But more than anything, I think it’s just the community. I just think back to all the things people have told me about their experiences with coach, and very little of it’s basketball. A lot of it’s just being just a normal human being in the community. To me, it’s that when I think of him, I just think the impact he had on Tucson it was tremendous, and obviously he should be remembered and cherished.”
On forcing Stanford into 17 turnovers: “They’re a team team that’s all year, they’ve struggled kind of with turnovers against some pressure defense. We were able to luckily knock a few balls and make some plays, because our offense wasn’t great the first half.”
On the first half: “That was one of those first halves where you’re thankful you’re good on offense, because your defense wasn’t great, but you’re good enough on offense to score 37, so it wasn’t like we had a bad offensive half and you score 20, and now you’re down 14. I thought our offense just kind of kept us in there when our defense was trying to figure things out, and then our offense and defense both got a little bit better, especially towards the end of the second half.”
On if he expects teams at the Pac-12 Tournament to play Arizona differently a second of third time around: “They already are. I mean, teams are making adjustments, and so we’re allowed to make adjustments, too. We are tinkering with some things that maybe they’re just not quite game-ready yet. It’s frustrating me a little bit, because I got to do a better job and get some of these adjustments game ready, so when we’re under the lights or guys can do it instinctively.”
On Christian Koloko: “Christian’s a special player. I didn’t even realize he had 21 and 10, but they were switching one through five, and Christian’s a big guy. So he should be able to dominate, when they switch guards on him, he should be able to dominate inside, whether it’s catching balls over the top, whether it’s posting a guard up, whether it’s catching a lob or offensive rebounds. That’s what he has to do for us. I’m happy he played well, but by no means am I surprised. Seeing him make some free throws today was good. For us to be really good, C-Lo has to be great.”
On if Arizona will cut down the nets after the Cal game: “If we win. You got to earn that. I’m just not a big celebration guy. And that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy winning, or appreciate it. I just think there’s a time and place, you win the conference championship, I just don’t know if it was respectful to do that on SC’s court. They’re a good team and I and have a ton of respect for him, and the last thing I wanted to do was do it on their home court. I think the right time to do it as at the end of the year, when you finish your season. Everybody’s get ready for the conference (tournament) thing, and it’s something for your fans and the players to celebrate. I think after, hopefully a win on Saturday, hopefully that’ll be part of the festivities. “
On Justin Kier: He was awesome today. He had eight points, but those two threes felt like 12. Those were really cool, back to back, and he had a great moment, kind of gave us a little bit of separation.”
On Dalen Terry: “I think he’s fine. Fine other than the missed layups his coach wasn’t happy about. Dalen’s played so well this year, and I thought he had two shots there where he had a little extra mustard on them.”
On Kerr Kriisa playing with his left shoulder taped: “He’s fine. Bumps and bruises.”
On freshman Shane Nowell’s recent absence: “Shane had some things that we wanted to address behind the scenes. He’ll be back playing next game.”
Larsson on Stanford making its first 6 3-pointers: “I don’t know if they were doing anything special. We were just maybe a step slow in the beginning on closeouts. I would say they made some lucky ones but we were a step short.”
On how this season has gone: “It’s been a really fun year. We’ve been hot since the beginning of the year, and maybe surprisef a lot of people. And now it’s March, this is what we’ve been playing for the whole time. Now it’s here.”
Koloko on avoiding a hangover after the USC game: “I think Coach said after the game, after the last game, he said he loves coaching. So we have another two games, let’s finish strong. We all know what we have to do, we just have to stay focused and play our game.”
On getting back late from USC: “We got back at like 4 and then we had class and then had practice. The coaches did the right thing, we didn’t have a hard practice, we kind of had a walkthrough.”