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Arizona men’s basketball welcomes Los Angeles schools to McKale

arizona-mens-basketball-usc-tommy-lloyd-keshad-johnson-ucla-mckale-wsu-stanford-pac12-2024 James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Tommy Lloyd isn’t too concerned about Arizona losing its last two road conference games, particularly Saturday’s 3-point loss at Washington State.

“We lost at Pullman and life goes on,” Lloyd said Tuesday. “Our season is not going to be defined by this, we don’t want it to turn a molehill into a mountain”

Immediately after the WSU loss, Lloyd called his team “average,” noting that it can have really high moments and then relax. Senior forward Keshad Johnson understood exactly what his head coach meant.

“I agree with the message that he was giving to us,” Johnson said. “He’s like, our potential is out the roof, we’re the best team in the country. But we don’t need to get big-headed, we need to play like we’re still trying to prove something. As an average team, you don’t want to hear this and you want to prove that so that’s just coach telling us like we got to get better and we have played average throughout some of the season.”

Last year Arizona was in the same spot, also losing two of its first five conference games, but turned it around and ended up second in the conference and went onto win the Pac-12 Tournament.

The 12th-ranked Wildcats (12-4, 3-2) were the preseason pick to win the Pac-12 this year, with USC (8-9, 2-4) picked second. Those favorites face off at McKale Center on Wednesday night in a must-win scenario for both.

Johnson said there was a different feeling at practice leading up to the two LA schools coming into town—UCLA visits on Saturday—and something UA needs to keep going for the rest of the season to be successful leaving McKale.

“I noticed our energy has been picked up,” Johnson said. “Our energy, we are all uphill from here. Headed into the LA games, we know USC is very talented UCLA is talented as well. So, we know energy is probably something that we may have lacked on the road and we just try to build that energy backup and keep keep sustaining.”

The last time Arizona returned home following a road loss, after the 18-point defeat at Stanford, it beat Colorado and Utah by a combined 66 points. The Wildcats are 8-0 at McKale this season with every game decided by double-digits.