Gotta have Love?
Of course, Arizona does, but it also has to have – H-A-S to have – Kaylen Boswell and others doing what they do to get Arizona going again.
Saturday afternoon in Eugene – where opponents go to fail this season given UO hadn’t lost there yet – Arizona returned to its running and stunning ways, beating Oregon 87-78 .
Arizona moved to 16-5 overall and 6-3 in the Pac-12.
It was the first time in five games UA had defeated Oregon in Eugene and it comes after a dismal performance against Oregon State on Thursday night.
But true to form, Arizona still hasn’t lost in back-to-back games under coach Tommy Lloyd.
“It may be the best all-around game we’ve played all year,” Lloyd said.
Maybe, but it probably felt that way given Arizona’s performances the last few weeks as it’s gone 6-4 and had lost three consecutive games on the road.
“We needed it,” Lloyd said on this postgame radio show. “We’ve been fighting, we’ve been scratching and clawing and it just hasn’t been coming easy. I’m really proud of our guys for hanging with it. Our staff did a great job. (Assistant coach) Ricky (Fois) did a great job with the scout (of the game). We had attention to detail and our effort and energy was high level today.”
Shouldn’t it always?
It was all sparked by Caleb Love, who had a career-high day, scoring 36 points on an efficient shooting. He willed Arizona to a much-needed victory, moving the Wildcats in a three-way tie at the top of the Pac-12.
“Man, he was good … I didn’t think he was going to miss,” Lloyd told reporters in Eugene. “I was beautiful. His points were spread out. There was no two-minute explosion. He was very consistent.”
Lloyd didn’t talk about Love in the postgame in part because he wasn’t asked.
Still, Love was spectacular from all over the court. He was 12 for 18 from the floor, including five 3-pointers. He was spectacular from the start, hitting a 3 to start the game and never letting up. On the UO student section as well. You could see him jawing with the students and a time or two pointing to the scoreboard when they continued to needle him. “
“I tried to play within the offense and let my teammates create for me,” Love said. “I give my credit to them for this performance.”
It was all in a day’s work for Love and the No. 9 Cats, who looked the part of a top 10 team, although it’ll likely fall out this week given the big upset on Thursday.
On Thursday night, like in many of UA’s losses, Boswell wasn’t a factor. Saturday afternoon, he was a big factor, scoring 14 points, dishing out three assists and getting two steals.
“Kylan is a really good player,” Lloyd said. “He’s got to go through this stuff; he’s a better player now, believe it or not, than at the start of the year. It just doesn’t always feel like it because he’s getting real (game) experiences. He’s shooting live bullets … he’s a high character, amazing kid and for him to play the way he did was that pace, and that force is really special.”
Said Love: “He (Boswell) runs the show and when he’s playing good we all play good.”
It was game that needed to be special for Arizona. And typically, historically the game against Oregon usually is, especially after a struggling game against OSU. It’s happened numerous times before. Give Arizona a big – BIG – reason to play and with a purpose, it shows up. And not that OSU wasn’t but it seemingly has rarely motivated the Cats (historically). That proved to be the case again on this road trip.
“We wanted to put our hard hats on and put that game behind us,” Love told reporters in Eugene. “We came here and handled business.”
They knew the importance in terms of the race and perception Arizona isn’t playing well as the calendar turns to February this week. Lloyd went as far as tinkering with some of the lineups to shake it up. He went small for some of the game, going with Pelle Larsson near the basket as well as Keshad Johnson. It was a mostly guar-oriented look.
“We weren’t afraid to try things,” Lloyd said. “You tinker, you tinker, you tinker but it’s another thing to put it out there. It’s a little crazy to think you’re going to play five guards.”
But he did, “but it made a difference.”
Now, can this be the spark Arizona needs to continue to play well. But again, every game is a season, but Arizona is headed to McKale Center this week to face California and Stanford.
“Let’s go,” Lloyd said. “We’re in an elite race. We’re right back where we want to be. We don’t expect it to come easy. We gotta go take care of business game by game and let’s see what happens.”