The best thing happened to Tommy Lloyd & Co., on Tuesday night. Oh yes, there was a 99-61 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in McKale Center, but there was a blowout helped by the bench.
The team’s youth got their much-needed experience and the starters still got theirs, save for an ill Kerr Kriisa who got to see the locker room for most the game after not feeling well in the game’s first five minutes.
Rest will do a body good.
It was the bench that needed – and got – the work.
“Mission accomplished,” Lloyd said.
“It’s always good to give the guys an extended run,” Lloyd said.
Cendric Henderson had 11 points. Kylan Boswell had eight points. Adama Bal had six points. Henri Veesaar had 16 points. In total, Arizona’s had 51 bench points.
“It really helps a lot,” said Azuolas Tubelis, who helped the team by scoring a game-high 20 points. “To have those guys play well, it’s huge.”
And it proves Lloyd’s point of his meeting last week with his bench: If you give many times you will get.
“We were kind of struggling as a bench unit, but Tommy brought us all together,” Veesaar said. “It just kind of helped us to know we’re all in the same situation and we can push through it. He said that everybody goes through it, it’s not (just us). It was in our head. He talked to us like he would do with his family.”
Calm, cool and collected.
And it worked. He had seen some things in practice and had seen enough so he brought them together.
“They were struggling, and I thought they were all struggling individually,” he said. “I think they needed to learn how to struggle collectively within each other and support each other and go through a shared experience together. It’s way easier to get through when you have people going through with you. So, I really challenged them to give to each other. There is this crazy thing in life, sometimes when you give sometimes you get.”
And they got plenty. They may have been sparked by Lloyd telling them they’d get meaningful minutes going in. Now, in mid-December it looked like it was perfect timing, especially with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in town.
“The cool thing is a month ago they weren’t ready,” Lloyd said. “I knew it but (they) didn’t know it. But (they) are ready now and I know (they’re) ready.”
He told them not to be nervous and play like they “belong … and I thought they did that.”
The two biggest bright spots – on the bench – may have come from Veesaar and Boswell, two keys if depth will mean anything in the coming months.
Both finished with career highs.
“The shots started falling in,” Veesaar said. “It felt great, and I kept shooting. It took me a little bit of an adjustment to get used to U.S. style of basketball.”
As for Boswell, his extended minute (26) in replacing Kerr saw him nearly get a triple-double, getting eight assists to go with his seven rebounds and already-mentioned eight points.
“He plays really well,” Tubelis said. “He fits in this system really well. He knows when to pass and when to shoot a 3. I’m happy for him, he’s made a huge step forward.”
Said Lloyd: “I thought Kylan looked really good. I think really good, and I think there’s some easy fixes for him, as he gets more comfortable being a point guard in our system. Kylan is going to be a really good player. For him to get comfortable running the offense, connecting on a few passes, make a few 3s, it’s a huge boost for his confidence and it’s a huge boost for our team’s confidence in him. We know he’s a really good player, but to see him do it, it’s really meaningful.”
In a game that will help everything much better as the season heads into the Christmas break and beyond.