For the third or fourth time this young season, Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd sat at the postgame microphone and said: “I didn’t expect that.”
And that from a guy who knows his team better than anyone. Maybe he IS surprised, but it seems the first time Arizona beats up on a team is one thing but the second and third time?
So, I asked, does he think he’ll stop saying he can’t believe it?
“I don’t know,” he said. “Let’s find out Saturday.”
He’s referring to Arizona’s date with Illinois on the road where he’s surely expecting – well, everyone is – to see Arizona’s toughest opponent to date. Until then, Arizona can bask in beating Wyoming – a team thought to be one of the toughest tests so far – 94-65 in McKale Center.
“I respect (Wyoming coach, Jeff) Linder a bunch,” Lloyd said. “He’s a good friend of mine. He told me before the game we’re never doing this again. He’s got a great basketball mind. I knew he’d have some tricks up his sleeve, but it’s that old adage: everyone’s got a plan until you get punched in the nose. When your eyes are watering you see if you can execute your plan.”
Wyoming didn’t. Arizona punched early and often, leading wire to wire in a game of the rare unbeatens. Wyoming was 8-0 going in. Arizona was 7-0.
Only Arizona left unscathed.
Azuolas Tubelis said Arizona will celebrate until midnight then get to work in preparation for Illinois.
Well, until midnight struck Arizona enjoyed another team-themed victory, where four players scored in double figures with sophomore Benedict Mathurin leading the charge with 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Azuolas Tubelis and Kerr Kriisa each had 17 points. Justin Kier added 13 points off the bench.
“I’m getting used to the style of play,” Mathurin said. “Getting more comfortable and giving max effort.”
It’s called progress Lloyd said he pulled Mathurin aside – maybe three weeks ago – and told him everything would be ok and just relax and let the game come to him.
“I was being too hard on myself,” Mathurin said of the conversation a few weeks back. “He told me to let loose and be simple.”
Simple never looked so good. Mathurin has turned into a high-flying machine, looking like an alley-oop machine. And although it may be an exaggeration – but likely not – he has seeming had more dunks in the first eight games than he had all last year.
“He’s awesome,” Lloyd said. “He’s playing really good.”
What Mathurin does know is that when he does dunk the crowd does give me a boost” when he’s dunking.
Not that Arizona’s crowd needed to provide the boost given Arizona is now 8-0 and beating up on opponents like it’s the Lute Olson era.
Pace – fast and frenetic – has been killing opponents. For Arizona, it’s a controlled chaos.
“I love this pace,” said Azuolas Tubelis. “How we move the ball is at a high level. We need to continue to play at that pace.”
Rebounding was key. Arizona hammered Wyoming 42-27 on the boards.
“To play fast you have to rebound,” Lloyd said. “You can’t run if you don’t have the ball.”
And so, they did.
Arizona dominated again.
“Really proud of the guys, (they) had great effort,” Lloyd said.
And that, everyone can agree on, is something he likely can believe.
Be sure to catch Steve and Jay on their Show Eye on the Ball on Fox Sports 1450 weekdays from 3-5 pm.