TEMPE – It’s about results. In the end, that is what it is all about.
For Arizona, it wasn’t pretty … but it sure was beautiful in that it got the win here in Tempe, 69-60.
Wins aren’t always easy here. Saturday afternoon wasn’t. Well for 20 minutes it was … then wasn’t for the next 20.
Still, as Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said it’s about “the results” and right now Arizona is 13-1 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-12 Conference, and will likely move up in the polls this week when the new year starts thanks to Sean Miller’s Xavier team beating up on No. 2 Connecticut. It was Arizona’s fifth consecutive victory over ASU.
“I thought we lacked composure for a certain stretch, and I wanted our guys to figure it out,” Lloyd said after the game. “There’s a reason you try to build a lead in the first half, especially on the road, and when you get the opportunity, you got to try to stretch it out because you know they’re going to make that run.”
Arizona held a 45-28 lead. Then, … Arizona State, pesky, handy and more, found a way to make it interesting. ASU did what Arizona usually does to opponents: make a run. ASU went on a 19-4 stretch.
Lloyd didn’t expect that big of a run after Arizona took a comfortable lead into the half. Comfortable lasted just a few minutes into the second half.
By the 14-minute mark Arizona State was back in the game – 49-46 – after UA was fast and loose with the ball and ASU was better with it on its end.
Tale of two halves… indeed.
Still, Arizona didn’t relinquish the lead.
“I’m proud of our guys, how they responded,” Lloyd said. “I think they (Sun Devils) kind of controlled the game that last six, eight minutes (of the next few minutes).
The Sun Devils closed to within two – and it all started with that 8-0 run to start the second half. In that time, ASU had closed it to 49-46 and Lloyd decided to call a timeout. He had seen enough.
Why did it take so long?
“I trust my team, and I got veteran guys,” he said. “They put themselves in that position, sometimes they gotta figure it out on their own. And you only have so many timeouts. I’m trying to win the game. I’m not trying to win the first few minutes of the second half.”
He then admitted had he known it would have been that big of a run, well, maybe then he would have called a timeout.
“(But) I know Kerr (Kriisa) had a good look at (a) 3 (pointer) on one of those,” Lloyd said. “I’m like, ‘oh, he makes that, it’s probably better than me calling a timeout. Coaching is far from a perfect science, and I’ll just say this: people that say I should call timeout or shouldn’t call timeout — a lot of people have answers to tests they’ve never passed. So I’m pretty comfortable (with) what I’m doing.”
He’s comfortable in seeing Azuolas Tubelis get 21 points. He’s comfortable in seeing Kriisa getting 12 points. And Oumar Ballo getting 12 points and 12 points, even though he looked a bit out of sorts in spots. He fumbled away the ball a few too many times, yet he ended up with a double-double.
“I thought Oumar was good. They probably dedicated a little more attention to him than he’s seen,” Lloyd said. “They had guys in his lap all game, and it’s something he’s got to learn how to deal with. I thought he did a good job handling it, getting us some open shots that hopefully we’ll knock down next time, and then I thought he was really big in the stretch at the end of the game defensively and on the glass.”
So even a mediocre Ballo was pretty good for Arizona.
What it all did – not calling a timeout and all that was make Arizona realize it can figure things out.
“I think Tommy is one of the coaches (who) gives us the most confidence,” said Courtney Ramey. “I know he trusts us, so when we looked at him … he just told us to play and he knew we going to be fine. They did a really good job early just been aggressive, really just trapping us and forcing turnovers. I don’t think we ever got like rattled during that time. We just knew we had to settle down and just be us.”
And, that’s all Arizona can be as 2022 turns to 2023 with lots of potential left.