TEMPE – Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd had to sit down for his postgame press conference after Arizona beat up on host Arizona State.
Arizona ran and ran and ran … and he got tired. It’s likely he’ll take the cause and effect when it comes to his Arizona Wildcats, a 91-79 winner here. Arizona completed the regular season sweep of ASU in grand fashion.
If Arizona fans were expecting a slug-it-out game they got that and more – the more being the Wildcats showed glimpses of what has made them great to those who have fallen for them: speed and unselfish play (more on that later).
Still, Lloyd said “it felt like a rock fight to me” in his first evaluation of the game that moved UA to 20-2 overall and 10-1 in the Pac-12 Conference.
“They were riding a high in their win over UCLA and hey, they punched us,” Lloyd said. “Our guys weren’t ready to go.”
And, then, well, they were – after trailing 14-1 to start the game. Lloyd lit into them during the timeout and in fact left the huddle with plenty of time left in it to make his point.
Get your stuff straight or it’ll be a long bus ride home.
“I’m really proud of them,” Lloyd said. “That was a gut-check win … at one point I told them we were going to win this thing by 20.”
Nice prediction, given UA had a 26-something point lead midway through the second half before it settled for a 12-point win.
Outside of the first five minutes, Arizona dominated its basketball little brother.
It was so bad Azuolas Tubelis, mild-mannered throughout the year, hit a basket to make it 84-58 then leaned down and gave the expression that ASU “was too short” for him and his Cats.
ASU was too short and too slow for the newly minted No. 4 team in the country. The 14-1 lead might have given the Sun Devils some thought to it playing fast, but instead it was Arizona that flourished.
No sooner had UA adjusted that it had a 23-21 lead and never really looked back.
Arizona must love teams trying to go fast with it?
“I love it but we gotta make that happen,” Lloyd said. “I told the guys you can’t run at 70 percent and you’re going to get it into an up-and-down game. You have to run at 100 percent.”
And they did.
It took some prodding by Lloyd.
But once they got the message after not “being ready,” according to Benn Mathurin it turned into a “pretty fun” situation.
Arizona was back to running and stunning its way to another clear-cut win.
“It looked like that team in early December,” Lloyd said. “That was special.”
In Monday’s special, Arizona was back to scoring in bunches and from everyone. Arizona had five players in double figures with Tubelis finishing with a team-high 19. Mathurin had 18 points. Oumar Ballo had 13 points and 10 rebounds. Dalen Terry had 12 points and Christian Koloko added 10.
Lloyd said he wanted to create “a little adversity” given ASU had just come off a triple over time win over UCLA. He wanted them to earn everything. He urged his players to make that happen.
“We wanted to test it,” he said.
Arizona has now won three straight games – in the heart of the toughest part of the schedule – but Lloyd said he wasn’t going to talk about the last two or three.
“I’ve already forgotten about those other two already,” Lloyd said. “I was a battle tonight. I’m going to get on the bus and maybe watch a little of this one and plug in Washington State and get ready for that.”