Arizona Basketball

LLoyd: ‘I believe in these guys’ after UA’s stunning loss to WSU

Now what for the Arizona men’s basketball team?

Thursday night’s hard-to-believe loss to Washington State put a little wrench in Arizona’s plans of winning the Pac-12 title in a runaway. Upsets tend to do that, especially to Arizona this year, given it was a 13-point favorite in its 77-74 loss to Washington State.

It’s about getting better and staying positive. That was the message from head coach Tommy Lloyd after the loss that put Arizona at 20-6 and 11-4 in the Pac-12.

Then again, does it have any other choice with one month left before the NCAA tournament? By the way, did you really think Arizona would lose four games in the conference this season? Six games, total?

“Our heads are up,” Lloyd said. “Everything we want for this season is still out in front of us. We got to come out and play a really talented team on Saturday, so let’s go. Our guys need to respond. We’re a high-character group so I expect they will.”

Again, does it have any choice against Washington?

From here on out every game matters – it always has but now it’s magnified – if UA hopes to land a No. 1 seed (it’s there now but another slipup and who knows?).

Thursday night’s loss was disturbing in as much as WSU’s style – again – cramped Arizona’s. It’s changing defenses. It’s taller lineup. It’s workman-like attitude. It created problems. It did in the first meeting (a loss). And again Thursday.

First time is a mistake. Second time a habit.

Is it just a bad matchup?

“It was not a bad matchup,” a defiant Oumar Ballo said. “Obviously they’re a great team. They just came out a little bit higher than us today.”

Higher. Better. More consistent. Yada, yada, yada.

I asked the same question of Lloyd, after he spoke of the differences in styles. Arizona plays (or attempts to play) fast, WSU plays more methodical.

“They did a really good job kind of controlling that game,” Lloyd said. “I thought we’re gonna get up to a little run at that start of the second half and they kind of brought it back in and made the run on us. So, then we kind of had to battle our way back in but. But proud of the way our guys responded. We just got to be able to finish the game and make one or two more plays. That’s what it comes down to.”

Then came the matchup question. Is it a bad one?

“I thought the plan was fine. They’re gonna come in here and that’s how they play,” Lloyd said. “They’re a ball control team, and then this defense they are running, it’s hard for your players to get rhythm. They’re changing constantly. You run a play, you have success, then the next time they come out and they’re making adjustments, so constantly your players are having to play and you kind of just bank on their fundamentals and concepts. They do a good job of keeping you off balance.”

Here’s the problem for Arizona: WSU is a lot like a team it will face in the first or second round of next month’s tournament. It’ll face a good team that plays tempo, hits shots, plays defense. And want’s to knock off a No. 1 seed in the worst way.  

It’s what they do. Arizona against those teams hasn’t been good. Heck, UA has lost twice to that team this season. It came in the form of a Cougar.

Washington State’s mixed bag of mayhem proved to be better than Arizona’s wealth of talent. Again, it happened last season, too.

What’s to think of next month? Then again, is one loss too much to read into for a good future? Probably, but doesn’t it give you pause?

“We’re a good team, I believe in these guys,” Lloyd said. “We just lost to another good team that’s on a roll right now. We have an obligation to try to come out and play really well on Saturday. That that’s our job. No one’s gonna feel sorry for us. I certainly don’t.”

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