Arizona Basketball

Ballo on win over California: ‘Feels great … like team basketball’

It was just like old times for the Arizona men’s basketball team on Thursday night.

Like November and parts of December to be exact. Seems so long ago, doesn’t it?

Well, that’s how it felt. Passing, shooting (and making), rebounding, aggressiveness and so much more.

Oh, the good ol’ daze.

Arizona had it all in its 91-65 rout of California in McKale Center. Arizona is 16-5 overall and 7-3 in the Pac-12.

“It feels great,” said Oumar Ballo. “Feels like team basketball. That’s what our coaches were telling us. We’re a good team. We’re just gonna come out (and play like it). We’re a good team.”

It played like a No. 11 ranked team. Maybe even higher.

The turn of the calendar sounded an alarm of some sort. Maybe?

“I’m not worried about November, December,” said UA coach Tommy Lloyd said. “This is February, it’s time to start playing consistently really good basketball. I told our guys, that’s what you do in February – you’re building and you’re building for March and hopefully building for April.

“That has to be the mindset. I think our guys are starting to settle in and kind of recalibrate a little bit. I thought they had a really mature approach tonight.”

Mature equaled a nice start-to-finish performance my most everyone.

Keshad Johnson, who had 15 points, hit mid-range numbers and a couple of 3s, and played sound defense.

KJ Lewis came off the bench and was an efficient 4 for 6 from the floor with 14 points and three assists and three rebounds.

Caleb Love, not the center of attention on Thursday, finished with 12 points in a game where Arizona didn’t have to rely on him to score.

And Ballo continued his streak of good play, by going 8 for 8 from the floor for 22 points, a career high in McKale Center. He was huge, literally and figuratively. He added 13 rebounds to make it eight double-doubles this season.

“When Oumar plays with effort and energy, we’re a different team,” Lloyd said.

Arizona had 40 points in the paint and 21 assists. Temper all the numbers knowing it was California, but UA did look much better for the second consecutive game.

“I feel we are getting that rhythm back that we had in the beginning,” said Lewis. “We’re getting that joy back, that competitive nature back again. It’s February, it’s time to kick things up a little a notch.”

Lewis said it was a very good week of practice that may have kickstarted the play.

“It’s knowing about the challenge what’s ahead of us,” Lewis said.

That would be the rest of the Pac-12 regular season, one where Arizona is the clearcut favorite. It’ll get there on nights like Thursday, where most everything looked like early in the season.

“Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and what they can bring to the table and ultimately, we want to put people in the position they’re playing in,” Lloyd said. “I thought they did that. For us, ball movement and player movement that help us negotiate that (helps them) find other team’s weaknesses. I thought we had a few really good possessions where it felt like a broken play, but it ended up with a really solid decision.”

It also didn’t hurt that Love didn’t have to be the focal point as he’s been most of the season. Last week, he had 36 points, hitting 12 of 18 shots.

“For me, that’s really cool,” Lloyd said. “I don’t mind Caleb having good games. I thought his 36 points at Oregon was tremendous because I thought it all came within the flow of the game. He’s played with tremendous efficiency and tremendous confidence.”

Arizona did that on Thursday, too.

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