Arizona Basketball

Johnson’s ‘effort and energy’ lead UA to a sound win over Southern

It’s no surprise what Keshad Johnson does game to game. He goes after it.

And hard. And aggressive. And so much more. It was on display again on Monday night, three days after doing the same thing in a big win over Duke on Friday night. He had 17 points – going 6 for 8 from the floor – in Arizona’s 97-59 win over Southern as the nation’s third-ranked team.

Easy dunks. Easy putbacks. He makes it so effortless all the while playing tough.

“He scores the ball pretty easy,” UA coach Tommy Lloyd said. “A lot of it is based on effort and energy, which is an incredible skill to have as a basketball player. He’s got great effort and energy. It’s a joy to coach him every day.”

In part because he sees the benefits of it. Residuals, in fact. Johnson’s teammates feed off of it. Again, they did on Monday.

Lloyd then said maybe – in part – it was Johnson’s effort that helped Caleb Love “play with the highest effort he’s ever played with in a college game. He was incredible.”

He then said the shooting numbers don’t show it – Love went 2 for 6, including 1 for 5 from beyond the 3-point line – finishing with nine points.

“But I thought he played pretty hard and pretty unselfish on the offensive end,” Lloyd said. “(So) I think it is rubbing off.”

Lloyd then said Pelle Larsson always plays hard. Kyland Boswell has the potential to play hard and is learning how to play harder. Jaden Bradley plays hard. KJ Lewis plays hard.

“That core group of guys is a high, high effort group,” Lloyd said. “I definitely think it’s infectious. But what it does is establish a standard, a standard of which we play. Other guys have to get themselves to that standard.”

Well, it’s not like they didn’t have their chance to get there. Twelve players played at least one minute, with 11 players playing at least 14 minutes. Unlike the Duke game, Lloyd went to his bench early and often and late.

“I honestly believe we’re only going to be as good as our eight, ninth, … 10th, 11th players are going to make us,” Lloyd said. “They are good players and deserve an opportunity. Our top eight guys are willing to sacrifice a few of their minutes and stats to get experience.”

But, it was the top eight that proved to be the heavy hitters. Six players were in double figures with Motiejus Krivas and KJ Lewis each getting 12. Larsson had 11. Oumar Ballo and Kylan Boswell each had 10. And Johnson had a team-high 17 points.

He was everywhere, but mostly around the basket where dunks and layups became his routine.

“Key has been really consistent for me,” Lloyd said. “I don’t he’s thinks we’ve arrived. I think he’s mature enough and understands there is a bigger picture that we’re playing for and preparing for.”

Johnson wasn’t made available after the game on Monday but on Friday he said he doesn’t “think about the toughness, but I just know that I’m well rounded.”

That he is. His teammates see him every day in practice. He’s tough in practice, just as he is in games. And yes, his energy is contagious.

“Everyone has a lot of respect for him,” Larsson said. “He plays really hard. It’s going to affect everyone on the team, so they’ll do the same.”

Monday was that example, particularly in the second half when Arizona outscored Southern 62-36 to pull away.

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