LAS VEGAS— The Arizona Wildcats avenged their Senior Day loss to ASU Friday night, topping the Sun Devils 78-59 to advance to the Pac-12 Tournament title game where they’ll face UCLA Saturday. Our recap of the game can be found here. After the game, Tommy Lloyd, Azuolas Tubelis and Cedric Henderson spoke to the media. Here’s what they said:
Lloyd on his takeaways from the game: “Great effort by our guys. It was going to be a gritty game and we knew that. You play Arizona State you know what you’re in for. It’s going to be a scrappy game. They’re a really talented players, and I thought our guys did a really good job stepping up to the challenge and delivering.
It wasn’t a crazy high-emotion game for us. We were kind of even-keeled. Sometimes we can ride the ebbs and flows of emotions, but today I thought we were even-keeled and I thought it really worked out well for us.”
Lloyd on Henderson’s play in the Pac-12 Tournament: “Vegas Ced. He’s been awesome. He’s been great. Coach Rob and I have been talking just how much fun it is coaching him. He’s one of those guys you wish you had for a couple years. But just for him to, just he’s kept climbing and he’s earned everything he’s gotten in our program. He just keeps getting better and better and better. I know this, I’m super comfortable and confident when he’s on the court.”
Lloyd on Oumar Ballo’s confidence of late: “Yeah, it’s Maui-O. When Oumar plays with force and plays on balance he’s really good. You can just see him slowing down, gathering, catching in there but
still being explosive up to the rim on those finishes. I thought he did an amazing job today defensively protecting the rim. We had some vertical contests, which we love, which were great, and then he just got some huge rebounds. So he is playing great, as is Zu. Zu had some big-time baskets for today and really delivered in there in huge critical moments when we were waning a little bit, and then he kind of snapped off one of those jump hooks or came up with a lose ball and got a put back.
So our bigs are really good and when they play like that, I think we’re pretty hard to beat.”
Lloyd on the crowd getting the team going: “It’s great. I think, what do they call it, McKale North and the T-Locs, they show up and the U of A people, they love this tournament and they love our program and it makes it a special atmosphere and we love being a part of it.”
Tubelis on Arizona’s effectiveness scoring in the paint: “I think it’s pretty good. I know we work on it every day. So it’s not really that surprising for us because we work on that in every practice. But we made those paint points and then that just opened up for our guards, so that’s why we made the run in both games and, yeah.”
Lloyd on Arizona’s play in the paint: “Obviously it’s how we like to play and when you got two bigs like we have, I think the smart thing is to feed ‘em. And they did a great job, and they’re doing a great job, they’re seeing tons of different coverages and double packages and stuff like that, and then they’re creating shots for our guys and playing out of it, and it’s great to see.
It’s just a great layer to have in your offense where if things get bogged down a little bit, you can just pitch it in the post and play through those guys, and those guys are delivering.”
Lloyd on how the loss to ASU in Tucson affected its game plan: “Well, I honestly don’t think it had as much affect as you guys probably think. We didn’t play well defensively, so we were kind of able to get a little more comfortable today in some of our coverages. And we didn’t make a ton of changes, but I just think we had a little bit more of a conviction to play to our strengths and get the ball inside and stay stickier on shooters.
They’re hard because they are really handsy and they’re quick and they have a knack for turning you over. They got us a few times today. But I thought overall our guys did a better job handling that pressure.”
Lloyd on Kerr Kriisa playing through his shoulder injury: “Yeah, I mean, Kerr’s a winner. I just asked him, Are you good? And he’s like, Yeah, no, I’m going to make a three. And so I think it’s something that will get better day by day. I watched him make threes at shoot-around today, so I don’t know if it’s a, how much of a physical thing it is, how much of a mental thing it is. I know this, when it’s on the line if he has an open look I usually feel pretty good.”
Lloyd on ASU’s NCAA Tournament chances: “I think they’re right there. They’re a difficult team to play against. I know whatever these experts and all this stuff had ‘em right there and I feel like they’re a tournament-worthy team. I know this, I mean, if you match up with them in the NCAA tournament, you’re not going to sleep good. They are a difficult team to play against, and I think that’s a team that can win NCAA tournament games without a doubt in my mind.”
Lloyd on Arizona going on game-changing runs this tournament: “Well, how we play, I mean, I think a lot of times our momentum accumulates a little bit. There’s a cumulative effect, the pace we play at, the movement we want to get at, the way we want to offensive rebound, the way we want to pressure on defense. I think it leads to these moments in games where we can get out to these little spurts. It’s nothing we, we don’t sit there and coach for 10-0 runs. I wish I could. I don’t know how to do that. But we play consistent with high effort and these guys have a knack for understanding moments. And I think, like Pelle’s three in transition, it’s a great shot. Even Courtney took one. We were on a little run, we hit a couple threes in the first half, he took one maybe a little bit questionable but also we had a little momentum and if he hit that you probably blow the roof off the place. You just have to have a little bit of feel for those moments and our guys do a great job of creating that. You guys got some questions for these guys? Ced’s got a lot of stuff to say.”
Henderson on what’s led the offense to be so efficient: “I think the biggest thing was — me and Tommy actually talked about — it was pressuring the ball. Being aggressive defensively and crashing the board hard allowed me to be more aggressively. Kind of puts you in a mindset to play as hard as possible. And it just works out. I’m trusting guys like Zu and Oumar, Kerr and Courtney to pass the ball off screens and stuff like that to give me open shots.”
Tubelis on how this year’s Pac-12 Tournament title match against UCLA compares to a year ago: “Yeah, they kind of have the same team maybe a few players left. But the main thing is just to try to stop those two main guys, Jaime and Tyger and all guys around them so we need to pressure the ball again and just play the same.”
Lloyd on the matchup: “Yeah, I mean it’s awesome. Arizona, UCLA. I mean, it’s really cool. Obviously there’s an amazing rivalry there. I think there’s a mutual respect between both programs. Mick’s a great coach. Somebody told me some deal he’s been to like, I don’t know, 12 or 13 NCAA tournaments in a row. I’m only at this in my second year and that’s hard for me to fathom. So, no, it’s going to be great. It’s going to be great I’m sure it’s going to be two teams that are probably a little bit worn down, probably both facing some injuries, but that’s kind of how tournament basketball is in the post-season. So we’re coming out and we know it’s going to be a great challenge and we look forward to the opportunity to play on the big stage.”
Lloyd on whether Arizona will take extra reps on its free throw shooting: “You hope so. I think we’re a good free throw shooting team. For the most part we have been all year. Listen, it’s how it goes sometimes. You can’t like sit there and over react. It happens. So hopefully tomorrow — there’s a law of averages, right. Hopefully tomorrow we shoot over our average and kind of to balance out today.”