Three days removed from arguably Arizona’s most disappointing performance of the past few seasons, many of the questions tossed at Tommy Lloyd in his weekly press conference on Wednesday were about that 18-point loss at Stanford. But Lloyd was clearly more interested in looking ahead than revisiting the recent past.
“You guys are like picking at the scab a little bit,” Lloyd said. “We’ve moved on. We’re 100 percent focused on Colorado. I have not said one thing about Stanford in 48 hours. I have to move on, our team has to move on. If we would have won by 20 or lost by 20, tomorrow’s game is going to be hard.”
He’s not lying. Colorado (11-2, 2-0 Pac-12) is off to its best start in four years and opened league play with two wins for the first time in nine. At No. 25 on Kenpom.com the Buffaloes are the second-best team in the Pac-12.
“They’re really good all around,” Lloyd said of the Buffs. “They have a really good group of experienced players and they’ve been together for a long time. This is looking like it could be one of those teams where they can have a real special season.
“They’re just an impressive outfit. To me, they look like one of the stronger teams in the country, and and I felt like going in the offseason, too.”
The first home weekend of the final Pac-12 slate, at least on paper, may be the toughest of the lot. Saturday’s opponent, Utah, is also 2-0 and ranked 26th by KenPom.
As painful as it was for UA fans to watch their team get thoroughly crushed by a Stanford team that sported a losing record—and had blown a double-digit lead at home to ASU in the previous game—it was just as rough for the players and coaches to experience it. Lloyd said the tape was reviewed, and the “whys” gleaned from those film sessions have been addressed in practice, but nothing about the week was different than if they had completed a road sweep in the Bay Area.
“I don’t have any magic potion,” he said. “I just know we didn’t play well last weekend against a team that did play really well. And we’ve moved on. We had normal week of preparation. We’ve lost games before and I’m sure we’ll lose them again.”
Guard Jaden Bradley, who had seven points in 14 minutes off the bench at Stanford, said the key for the team is to learn from the setback but not think about it too much.
“We all want that game back, but if we let that linger it could cost us down the road,” Bradley said. “So we gotta put that behind us and take that one on the chin and be ready for tomorrow.”
Thursday night will end a 25-day stretch in which Arizona hadn’t played at McKale Center, the longest in-season run without a home game since December 2001 when the UA played five straight away from home and went 3-2. That instance also included the Wildcats opening conference play on the road, winning the first and then losing by 30 at Oregon.
“It’s gonna be good to be back home, I think we need a little home cookin’,” Lloyd said. “The scheduling kind of broke how it broke, and you never want to be away from home that long. I have no regrets from the schedule we played, it’s just kind of a tough hop when you play a tough December schedule and you end up your first two conference games on the road. But that’s also a great opportunity to go win them. You go win two road games right away and kind of put yourself in a good position. You don’t, you’re probably right where you should be. I’m comfortable with where we’re at, we just got to have a great effort tomorrow.”
About the Buffs
Colorado returned more than 55 percent of its minutes from the team that went 18-17 last season, including all-conference selections Tristan da Silva and KJ Simpson. Their two biggest additions were freshman wing Cody Williams, the No. 4 overall prospect in the 2023 recruiting class, and former TCU big man Eddie Lampkin Jr.
Simpson is making a strong case for Pac-12 Player of the Year, averaging 21.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists while shooting 56.1 percent overall and 47.1 percent from 3. The 6-foot-2 junior guard had signed with Arizona prior to Sean Miller’s firing in 2021 but ended up choosing Colorado shortly after Lloyd was hired.
“He just continues to get better,” Lloyd said of Simpson, who has averaged 12.3 points and 4.5 assits in four games against Arizona. “He’s a dynamic guard. He can run their offense, he can play with great pace, he can score, he can pass. You can just see he has a supreme confidence about him. He obviously made a great choice for himself and I’m really happy for him. I’m really happy for Colorado. It was never anything where I didn’t think KJ Simpson was a really good player. He picked the perfect place for him.”
Lampkin, a 6-11, 300-pound senior, went for 20 points and 14 rebounds (10 offensive) against the UA while with TCU in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats won that game in overtime, but Lloyd said his team “saw the best of Eddie Lampkin.”
Colorado may be without da Silva and Williams, both of whom missed last weekend due to injury.
Numbers to know
- Colorado is seeking its first win at McKale Center, having dropped all 12 games there including 11 since joining the Pac-12. The Buffs’ last win in Tucson was in 1960.
- Arizona has won its six home games this season by an average of 38.3 points, the closest being the 98-73 win over Wisconsin in its last McKale outing on Dec. 9. The Wildcats have also won every in-season game after a loss under Lloyd, nearly all by double digits.
- Oumar Ballo is 21 points from 1,000 for his career, while Pelle Larsson needs 25. Caleb Love recently passed 1,700 points, one of 35 active Division I players to reach that milestone.