Dalen Terry wanted to answer the question and almost did. He thought for a second then smiled his wide small and went safe.
What does Thursday night’s 76-66 win over No. 3 UCLA prove in the grand scheme of things as Arizona moved to 18-2 overall and 8-1 in the Pac-12 Conference?
“It proves one more W,” he said, smiling and likely itching to say more. “We gotta play them again so I’m not going to say too much, obviously. The next time we probably play then there will be a lot bigger stakes, so we have to prepare for that.”
Until that possibly happens – maybe under the bright lights of T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas – Arizona will move into first place of the Pac-12, just nine days after getting thumped by the same Bruins in Los Angeles.
This time Arizona brought energy (from the crowd), effort (from themselves) and efficiency (offensively). The three Es.
Arizona needed every one of those Es to break UCLA’s six-game win streak against the Cats. Clearly it was a different a game compared to last week’s given UCLA won by 16 points and in this one Arizona won by 10. Talk about turn the tables in just over a week.
“I thought we didn’t need to play frantic,” Lloyd said in the difference in games. “I told our guys, hey, let’s value possession, because they’re a good defensive team, so you’re going to be deeper in possession so get comfortable being deeper possessions. We ran maybe more sets than we’ve run all year. You have to be able to win games multiple ways. I told you before, I don’t care about runs, it’s not an aesthetic for me. It’s about a result (but) I love playing fast because I think it makes the game easy, but if playing fast, at Mach speed is not the right plan to win the game, well, then slow down.”
Arizona was impressive at times and lax at times. It played fast at times, then was able to handle the slower halfcourt look. Maybe Lloyd would take on the question of proving something.
“I’m not trying to prove anything,” Lloyd said. “I’m just trying to coach basketball and help these guys be the best team they can be and I’m trying to build this program to be the best program it can be, so I wasn’t out to prove anything today.
“…I think everybody knows we’re good team. If you ask all the coaches that played against us, I would assume there’s consensus that we’re pretty good so I’m proud of that fact.”
Arizona did it in multiple fashion. It jumped out early held on in the middle and then held on late. It played in the halfcourt (a good sign) and got help from the second tier of players that made things work really well.
And, oh yes, it got a noble performance from Azuolas Tubelis, who had 14 points and five rebounds, helping Arizona get that early lead.
Maligned Kerr Kriisa (16 points to lead the team) did just enough to keep the fans roaring on his four made shots and then UA received complimentary efforts for Terry, Pele Larsson and Oumar Bello.
The bench played like starters.
“I’ve said for a long time we have seven starters,” Lloyd said. “I think Oumar is making a push for eight. I’m really proud of these guys.”
As he should be, so he did.
He waxed poetic on all three.
He said he met with Larsson to let him know of his importance.
“He’s really good, he’s so unselfish,” Lloyd said. “He really wants to be an elite passer so sometimes I think he places so much value on that that that he takes away focus on the great all-around player he could be.”
He defends, he shoots, he scores, and he can pass.
“That’s my challenge to help him identify the direction he needs to take his development,” Lloyd said. “It seemed like he listened tonight.”
Terry was dominant in a way he can be: 10 rebounds, nine rebounds and five assists. He shot an efficient 4 for 6 and at times looked like he was the best player the court.
“That’s what I do you know that’s my role is on this team to do that,” Terry said. “I hold myself to a high standard so today was a game I needed to do that, and I tried to do it.”
Lloyd went as far as calling Terry “a glue guy.” But it’s appropriate in as much as he does everything. Thursday it was on display.
“I had visions all day, and I was trying to will it, that he was going to go 2 for 2 from the (3-point line) today,” Lloyd said. “He was 2 for 4, that’s huge. Dalen’s worked on his shot. I mean, it might not be a Reggie Miller (type night) or anything like that, but he’s worked on a shot. When he’s open for 3, he needs to shoot a couple of them a game. I believe in that kid. But then he’s also, he’s kind of settling back down like he was early in the year where he’s playing with force but he’s playing with his feet on the ground. And then he’s making effort plays. Offensive rebound putback, a defensive rebound. He’s going up and getting it above the rim. So, Dalen’s a special kid and a special player and he deserves all the accolades that are coming his way.”
Maybe Arizona does, too, proving it can be one of the best teams in the country – when it plays with the three Es: energy, efficiency and effort.