Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said he was “happy” with the result of Thursday night’s win vs. Washington State.
He also said, “It wasn’t pretty.”
Both can be true simultaneously. Arizona survived the first of two big games in the great northwest as it beat the Cougars 63-58 to avenge its loss to WSU earlier this month. UA has now won 11 consecutive games vs. WSU in Pullman, Washington.
Defense was the key as well as Kerr Kriisa’s threes as well as the play of freshman Kylan Boswell and Pelle Larsson. The first one has been a key as UA has held opponents to under 40 percent shooting in four of the last five games. As for Kriisa, he hit five 3s, hitting three early then coming back to hit two later in the second half to stave off any WSU rally.
“The guys were gritty,” Lloyd said on his postgame radio show. “We’ve been feeling that defense coming on. And I thought they did a great job today of defending and really sticking to a game plan and just showing improvement over the last two weeks, which is encouraging.”
And the offense was just good enough. Arizona shot 44 percent from the floor, compared to WSU’s 32 percent. WSU hit just three 3-pointers as opposed to 12 in the first meeting, a WSU victory.
“Offensively, it wasn’t a thing of beauty, but our percentages weren’t horrible,” Lloyd said. “It’s kind of a lower possession game and then too many turnovers have just got to be a little more sound in transition.
“But all in all happy and happy with the guys and I can’t wait to get on that plane (to) get Seattle and start game planning for the next one.”
Lloyd made the postgame radio appearance short, given UA was set to catch the charter soon after the game. UA faces Washington on Saturday afternoon.
The win helped UA 18-3 overall and 7-3 in the Pac-12 Conference. More importantly, it helped keep pace with the upper half of the conference all the while inching closer to No. 1 UCLA, which lost to USC on Thursday.
Arizona was led by Azuolas Tubelis, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds. Kriisa finished with 15 points. The bench – Pelle Larsson and Kylan Boswell – combined for 19 points. Larsson had 10; Boswell had nine, including a key basket late in the second half that gave UA distance at the end.
“Pelle played his butt off,” Lloyd said. “He was great at both ends of the floor. He had some really tough drives in there. We had to play small a little bit just because of our rotation (but it) was fine … (it) kind of opens up the floor for him. I love I love the way he’s playing.”
As for Boswell, he continue to help on the perimeter and did on Thursday given Courtney Ramey went cold again from the floor. Ramey had just five points, hitting two of nine shots.
“He’s special and we all know that,” Lloyd said of Boswell. “He’s really coming on … just to see him have that poise and in a road environment in a game like that – to put him in there and him make a couple of the plays that he did during a tough stretch was really awesome.”