We’ve come to the point in the season where victory without a rout puts things in doubt. That’s what it seems like for Tommy Lloyd & Co., Victory is one thing, but not winning going away or winning by a big margin brings doubts on the quality of the team. Not with him but apparently others.
Case in point – valid or not – is Sunday’s 81-68 win over visiting California at McKale Center. California went in 0-8 and Arizona ranked (for the moment) No. 4.
It wasn’t exactly easy on a Sunday afternoon like many thought it would be. Fair or unfair, that’s what Arizona basketball has come to and, well, has been for years. Lloyd is seeing that now – given the success of the program just a season-plus as the coach.
Going in, Lloyd thought it would be a tougher-than-usual game. “Grindy” he called it.
“I know fans and people are gonna see the (Cal) record, and maybe our players too, and think it’s gonna come easy,” Lloyd said after the win. “It’s not how it goes and it’s not how you want it to go. I knew it was gonna be a grindy game, and I was on the guys pretty hard the last couple days, and anytime a coach kinda turns the heat up, you get some response, but you also get some guys that are a little bit tentative. They’ve got to work themselves through it, and we did today. All in all, I’m happy with the way it turned out.”
Afterall, Arizona moved to 7-1 overall and 1-1 in the Pac-12 Conference.
But, do people read too much into things/problems – even when there are issues that need to be improved? Lloyd said he did think so, but there’s a simple formula to fix things.
He waxed eloquent by saying there is a 1A and 1B to doing that. And then there’s a 2A and 2B. Paint by numbers? Well, whatever gets those numbers going, like points on the scoreboard to get wins in the scorebook.
He called it a simple formula … “effort (1A) and toughness (1B) and then you have execution (2A) and intelligence (2B) and 2A and 2B don’t matter if you’re not mastering 1A and 1B so just every time you take the court, you got to play with great effort (and) you got to play with great toughness. The better you execute your stuff and the smarter you do it, the better chance you have to win.”
Lloyd said his team is learning “that formula.” As coaches they are still learning it and trying to apply it to Arizona.
“I’m sure almost every other team in the country is dealing with the same exact things,” he said.
Still, this is the one Arizona fans are most concerned with.
Is this the same team that ran through Maui? If not, what happened to it? Whether they are 1A, 1B, 2A or 2B, they concerns are real.
Free throws by Oumar Ballo, who went 3 for 10 from the free-throw line.
“Oumar’s probably never going to be Larry Bird from the free-throw line,” Lloyd said. “But I know he’s better than he was today. He just needs to stay on it in practice. But listen, there’s still value. There’s still value when you’re go 3 of 10 from the line. I know we can be greedy and want a little bit more, but he puts tons of foul pressure on the other team. Those are body blows, and he does a great job of wearing other teams out, and he’s been really, really consistent so far this year, which is awesome to see.”
Pelle Larrson’s inconsistency since the season started. Sunday, he want 1 for 5 from the floor, including 0 for 3 from beyond the 3-point line.
“Pelle is a great player,” Lloyd said. “Obviously, his numbers maybe aren’t where he would like them to be, or where we kind of expected them to be, but that happens sometimes. If Pelle is my problem, then I probably don’t have very many problems. He’s gonna figure it out. And he’s gonna have a great season. He’s just got to hang in there. Sometimes you’ll hang in there … he’s really going to help us. He’s a guy that I love having on our team and I completely trust him.”
Shooting from the perimeter, more specifically from beyond the 3-point line. They’ve shot 8 for 48 the last two games from that distance.
“At the end of the day offense is about taking great shots. In Maui and some of those early games, I didn’t tell them, hey, really try to make your threes today,” Lloyd said, half-jokingly. “It just happens, sometimes you make them, sometimes you don’t. I haven’t even looked at the shooting numbers, what they were today … we shot 49 percent (overall). I bet most teams in the country would be pretty excited shooting 49 percent and making 19 of 26 from the free-throw line. The 3s didn’t go today, but we have good shooters shooting those 3-point shots. All in all, the law of averages will play out in good favor for Arizona.”
And the defense.
“Our defense has to get better,” Lloyd said. “I got to build a better defense for this team. We can do some of the things we did last year and maybe some things we have to do different. Those are the things you learned over the course of the year that you honestly couldn’t predict going into the season. You have to let it play out right in front of you, and then you got to have enough guts to make some tough decisions and change some coverages and make some plans. I love that part of coaching, I look forward to it.”
He has until Saturday afternoon before Arizona faces Indiana. Until then, Monday is a day off then back to it.
“I think the guys need a day away from me,” he said. “A day to stay out of the gym and then gear it up to play a great Indiana team on Saturday.”