The first thing Tommy Lloyd said he’d go do in the winning Arizona locker room on Thursday night was tell them “I’m really proud of the guys.”
And why not?
Arizona made quick and easy work of host Washington State in Pullman in the 72-60 win. The game was never really in doubt, save for a small WSU rally to begin the second half. But that was a blip on the radar for Arizona, a team that has now won five consecutive games as it prepares to face host Washington on Saturday.
“We’re really growing and it’s fun to watch,” Lloyd said on the FS1 postgame broadcast. “It’s fun as a coach as you’re able to scheme and see these guys grow as players, understanding gameplans. It’s been a ton of fun. I love them and can’t wait to get out there Saturday.”
First the review of win No. 21 on the season of success.
Arizona, behind its defense and WSU’s poor shooting, limited WSU to 20 first-half points. WSU went 0 for 12 from beyond the 3-point line and then took it to the Cougars offensively. UA led 33-20 at the half.
“That was huge,” Lloyd told reporters in Pullman. “I really wanted to guard the 3-point line today.”
WSU had no real chance after that.
“We’re a great defensive team and they’re pretty versatile,” Lloyd said on FS1. “We’re able to pressure the ball and switch some things and then kind of changing coverages with different lineups. And behind it all the foundation of our defense is our rim protection. So (I’m) really proud of the guys.”
He has a reason to be. Passport U continues to roll.
Bennedict Mathurin (Canada) led UA with 20 points.
Azuolas Tubelis (Lithuania) had 15 points.
Oumar Ballo (Mali) had 10 points.
Pelle Larsson (Sweden) had seven points.
There was a good reason why Lloyd was all smiles on the FS1 postgame interview. He laughed. He joked. And, well, he was clearly at ease after the first leg of the two-game trip in the northwest. Defense, again, was the main ingredient on Thursday especially against a team that lives and dies from the 3-point line. WSU shot 34 percent from the floor and just 25 percent from beyond the 3-point line. Some, of course, were open shots the Cougars just missed. Still, Arizona’s defense was the highlight of win No. 11 in the Pac-12.
Arizona made “things tough for them.”
“Well, they’re hungry and these guys really (have) got a little swag about him,” Lloyd said. “And they play with great effort (and) great spirit. If you have the energy and the spirit and if you have some execution and a little bit of a game plan … they’re going a great job.”
He admitted Arizona has a “simple day-to-day approach” that works for them. Play hard, play smart and play defense. And, oh, yes try to run as much as possible. And, definitely, have fewer than the 18 turnovers it had on Thursday.
“We’re all going through this together,” he said.
And having fun. Arizona held a 33-20 halftime lead, then saw WSU close it to three before it hit seven consecutive shots to make the lead 64-42 with seven minutes left. Arizona used a 15-4 run to pull away for good.
“I thought we did a great job,” Lloyd said on his postgame radio show referring to the second half. “They did make a run, but our guys did a great job of just hanging with it. It was kind of fun to watch. We’re just tinkering with a few different lineups. I had a good feeling about that small lineup out on the floor. It really gave them problems. That’s when we were able to take that game from three to 12 to 20. And it’s pretty special.”