PHOENIX—Arizona plays annually in the Valley when it visits ASU, and that will continue with both teams headed to the Big 12 Conference next season. Tommy Lloyd wouldn’t mind playing more often up north, especially if the atmosphere is like it was Wednesday night at Footprint Center.
“It was great coming up here to Phoenix,” Lloyd said after the UA’s 87-74 win over Alabama as part of the Jerry Colangelo Hall of Fame Series. “This is kind of a vision of mine. This is something I would like to do, and I would really like to grow. My dream is, if the Arizona Wildcats are playing in Phoenix that this arena is sold out. I don’t think we’re far off from that. And maybe we can make it an annual deal. I mean, no guarantees, but if we could make a little bit of a tradition of it I think it’d be pretty special. Arizona basketball is something that we should celebrate, and the state of Arizona should celebrate. To be able to share that with our biggest alumni base was pretty cool.”
Our game recap can be found here. Below is what Lloyd, Oumar Ballo and Pelle Larsson said about the victory.
Lloyd on Arizona turning defense into offense: “I felt like all game we were right there with some defense to offense stuff. Maybe we were a little sloppy in transition early. I don’t know, sometimes you play these arenas, and you’re playing with a new basketball, it doesn’t have great feel, and maybe it takes a little time for the guys to get comfortable. But we definitely got our transition game going in that second half.”
On winning the rebounding battle after giving up a bunch of offensive boards early: “Alabama tries to rebound five guys, which makes it incredibly challenging. They literally the start of each half just pounded us on the glass. I mean, like, embarrassing. And fortunately, our guys stepped up and responded. If they’re going to hit the glass with five guys and we’re getting rebounds—I mean, they’re shooting 40 threes, some of them are going to be long rebounds, hopefully it’ll lead to some transition. And luckily we got to get going a little bit and that kind of helped us make a nice run in the second half.”
On Pelle Larsson’s floor dive for a steal and then ending the play with the go-ahead basket: “It was awesome, because I mean we kind of just called a late call from the bench to pick up (on defense) and we saw No. 2, (Grant) Nelson. He’s a good player but he’s generally not a guy that brings the ball up the court, so we pressured the ball. Pelle went up there, got after him a bit, he mishandled it and then Pelle made an incredible hustle play. Pelle plays so hard, it’s really inspiring. I’m not surprised one bit that he’s on both ends, to dive on the floor and tip in on the same play.”
On the contributions of backup guards Jaden Bradley and KJ Lewis: “They were awesome. I wish I would have played them more. The setting was a little bit weird. It was a game of runs, and I know that’s a cliche, but it really was today. So we ended up on a couple of runs so I didn’t want to sub ourselves out of it. Jaden and KJ were there for a great run. Jaden was awesome. I mean, he was really spectacular today. He’s getting healthier, day by day. He’s a tough kid but he’s been trying to play through. He’s had to miss some practice time and we did a bunch of rehab stuff. He’s a warrior and he always says he’s not hurting but, sometimes I look out at practice and it doesn’t look like he’s moving great. He’s hung with with it, and he’s a high-character winner. I don’t think there’s any bad blood between him and Alabama, or nothing at all, but I’m really glad he’s on our side.
“And KJ, he did it again. He just impacts games. I don’t know the exact time and score, but we have a freshman who’s going down the lane and making tough, tough contested layups in traffic. It’s really special. And his shot’s been right on, all those looks have been good, his last three or four threes the last couple of games. I’m super proud of him and super proud of JB. They’re winners, and we’re lucky to have them.”
On fouling out Alabama’s two bigs and Ballo drawing 11 fouls: “We obviously wanted to pound it inside and take advantage of O. O’s coming on. I’ve been around O a long time. And I think we’re about on of the precipice here—precipice, which means it’s about to happen—of Maui O. He’s right there. He’s a physical force. And he demands a lot of attention. He was physically able to battle Zach Edey for most of that game. He’s definitely an incredible force out there. I think that he impacts the game at both ends on the floor, and I think he rebounded really well today, changed a bunch of shots around the rim and he’s just this physical force of putting his body on guys in the paint and that just wears them. And that free throw is looking pretty tight to me.”
On shaking off slow starts to each half: “I’m really proud of the response. In any season, any game, it’s not just a constant uptick. I mean, there’s ups and downs and you got to be able to weather those, you got to be able to ride them out, you got to be able to change the course. Our guys did an incredible job. The style we play, I mean, it can be a little crazy at times, but I think that’s good. I think that allows us in these games to stay comfortable over the course of the game. It’s hard to maybe take us out of what we want to do because, if you take that away, well we’ll just flow into the next thing pretty easily. That’s the way. We work at it every day, and for the guys to come out and answer the bell numerous times is pretty impressive.”
On getting this win after losing to Purdue: “I think it’s really important. We’ve obviously gotten off to a good start and we have a good team but you have to keep producing results. In losing, there’s no shame in losing the Purdue. I mean, obviously you wish there’s one or two things that we could have did better or different, but that’s how it goes. Impressed to bounce back today. It was great, and we have a great opportunity against a really good FAU team on the weekend to kind of wrap up our nonconference.”
On the reason he was given for getting his first career technical: “I didn’t say anything, but he said I looked and maybe (said something) at our head of officials. That’s fine. I mean, it was gonna happen. Rob’s a really good official. Getting a technical is not something I ever aspire to do, but it happened and I’m not going to dwell on it.”
Ballo on Alabama sending in a bench player to foul him late in the first half: “I’ve been really working on my free throws lately. I saw they put in the guy to purposely try to foul me. My mindset was, okay, you want to foul me, I’m going to make you pay for it.”
On the atmosphere at the game: “This was a home game-type atmopshere. Wherever we play, Arizona fans show up.”
Larsson on dealing with Alabama’s potent offense: “We have a really good defense and we got guys that can guard one on one. So we just have to trust that and not over help, and then we got some good stops and some good steals.”
On the flow of the game: “It was a little bit choppy, but we got up and down a lot too. So you just got to stick to what we do. We started off slow with the rebounds, but we won, won the rebounds by 10.”
On his diving steal and subsequent go-ahead score: “Plays like that are just gonna come every game, and you just gotta be the most aggressive guy and dive for the ball first. And I think we did that multiple times. And I think that’s why we won, we just wanted it a little bit more on those plays.”
On facing Wisconsin, Purdue, Alabama and Florida Atlantic: “I just think it’s more fun. We want to seek out the challenge, test yourself and just get better, because you’re gonna play a lot of good teams in the Pac-12 and beyond that. It’s just fun.”