One clipboard gone, a big win in hand.
Tommy Lloyd & Co., will take the trade-off. What is that a $10 hit to the budget?
No problem, although Southern Cal was a problem from start to finish in Arizona’s 72-63 win at McKale Center.
“I got into him early, I was just a little frustrated,” Lloyd said of a timeout that was called early in the game. “I was trying to lay a little bit of a fire underneath them – we had that blank look. I actually, for the first time ever, I think I broke a clipboard … it was totally unintentional. Steve Kerr told me you get three breaks a year. So that’s number one.”
Perhaps it helped Arizona get motivated. Call it an opportunistic break (of a clipboard).
Arizona needed it given the style of play USC was working. It’s the second straight game the opponent made every possession matter.
On Thursday, Arizona hit the first pitch out of the park against UCLA. It was a non-fastball that Arizona was able to handle. Saturday, it was an even slower change up for Arizona that the Wildcats were able to deal with in USC.
ASU will likely do the same on Monday in Tempe.
One strike for UCLA
Two, strike for USC
Third strike on Monday will be determined (more later).
What’s clear – and although the sample sizes haven’t been huge – Arizona was able to handle a game that was high (in emotion) and tight (in score). And a slower, methodical type game.
But it handled it. These are the types of games Arizona will face more and more as the Madness of March creeps closer. Teams – especially good ones – play more in the halfcourt than not. This is the territory Arizona will now live in.
Arizona went two and Oh (my) this weekend, getting its first home sweep of the LA schools since 2016.
“No matter how they looked or felt it was quite an accomplishment,” UA coach Tommy Lloyd said.
Indeed, even for the No. 7 Wildcats, now 19-2 overall and 9-1 in the Pac-12 Conference.
It wasn’t pretty but it wasn’t expected to be. USC, because of its stout defense, mucks things up for opponents. It did for Arizona, making every possession and every minute of the game count. Arizona couldn’t shake USC all afternoon and in fact was six points down midway through the second half.
“I think we can win a lot of ways,” Lloyd said. “I mean, we’re a great defensive team. So, at the end of the day that’s probably going to be your calling card, playing great defense, and then, you know, certain nights you’re explosive on offense. Obviously, that’s going to be tough to do that every single day, but, you know, we’re more than comfortable being in games like that. We will run opportunistically and we’re gonna keep pushing the pace.
“SC is a really good defensive team. They had a good scheme tonight and really made us work.”
It wasn’t exactly 40 minutes of hell for Arizona but maybe 40 minutes of, ‘oh hell, this isn’t going to be easy.’ … and it wasn’t.
USC’s methodical offense and defense was calculating. Arizona eventually solved it – late.
It took another time out near the end of the game, where UA eventually went on 10-0 run that went to an 18-3 run.
In it, USC missed its last nine field goals and was one for 15 from the floor. It had no field goals in the final 3:58. Of course, Arizona surged after that media timeout.
And some more words from Lloyd. He told them not to panic.
“I just think there (has to be an) understanding you just got to hang with it,” Lloyd said of the game’s final minutes. “There’s just a lot of possessions. Just a lot of possessions left in those games. I’m proud that our guys are showing that grit.”
And a lot of it was being patient with USC’s style.
“You just gotta fight to get better possessions and better shots,” said Kerr Kriisa about dealing with the slower pace. “Earlier in the season it was easier, I’m not going to lie, but people do scouting. So, you just got to keep the flow going. You got to keep passing, gotta keep moving. It’s hard to do, but if you do it, you’re gonna be one of the best in the nation.”
Time will tell.
Until then, UA faces ASU for another methodical game.
“Hey, we know it’s gonna be tough,” he said. “These guys see we’re in a dogfight. That’s what we expect it’s gonna go it’s gonna be bare knuckle boxing. It’s gonna be a knockdown drag out and we’re built for it
Azuolas Tubelis finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds and looked like he did before he suffered a sprained ankle two weeks ago at Stanford. He thanked UA’s staff for getting him back so quickly. Kriisa had 13 points, hitting four of seven 3-pointers.