Arizona Basketball

Bradley & Co., show poise under pressure to escape Dayton, now move on to the Sweet 16

New Arizona athletic director Desireé Reed-Francois celebrates Arizona’s win with coach Tommy Lloyd (Steve Rivera/

SALT LAKE CITY – It wasn’t until the final 10 seconds – maybe – when Arizona could feel comfortable. Can you ever get comfortable in March?

“Key (Keshad Johnson) got a rebound and that’s when” said Arizona senior Pelle Larsson, referring to when UA could feel good. “When there was 50 seconds and we said, ‘It’s March be ready. It’s March. You can’t relax … until …”

It’s over. Finally. Arizona prevailed 78-68 here at the Delta Center in the second round of the NCAA tournament. It’s now 27-8 overall.

Tommy Lloyd pumped his fists, looked to Arizona’s crowd, and pointed … Arizona survived and now advances.

Tommy Lloyd (photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics)

It may have looked good – real good, in fact – in the first 17 minutes, but … Dayton went on a 10-0 run to make it an uncomfortable game. UA led just 40-33, after holding a 14-point lead.

“You kind of know it’s going to come so you kind of pre-plan for it,” Lloyd said of the Dayton run. “When we scouted them, one of the things we picked up on is they were a team of runs both ways. They had a number of significant 8-0, 10-0 runs, and then they’d also given up a number of those as well.”

Dayton took No. 2 seed Arizona to the brink, but Arizona fought back. It had no other choice.

“I was hoping that we could really come out and get after them defensively and really just play with a bunch of active energy and kind of get them on their heels, and we did,” Lloyd said.

“Unfortunately, they responded. But that’s how these games go. We’ve been really talking about just being steady, staying locked in. Obviously, not getting too high, not getting too low. As a staff, we have a pretty active, emotional staff so we talked about us kind of taking a breath and just helping our guys stay in that zone.”

Wasn’t it poetic justice that Saturday’s game had all the elements of the season?

  • Get an early lead.
  • Avoid a late-game meltdown, but teasing that it might.
  • Have a good game, then not-so-good game from Caleb Love.
  • Up-and-down play from Kylan Boswell.
  • Huge shots from Pelle Larsson.
  • Big moments from Keshad Johnson.

That’s just a few of the highlights, and lowlights.

After all of that, four UA players finished in double figures with 19 points. Johnson added 13 as did Larsson. Bradley added 12.

“JB played amazing today and did a great job controlling the game,” Lloyd said.

The bench outscored Dayton’s 23-2, behind KJ Lewis’ seven, Motiejus Krivas’ four and Bradley’s.

Every point mattered … even if it was a 10-point win. It clearly didn’t feel like one.

Dayton threw everything it had at Arizona and Arizona gave it all back.

Then there was the heroics of sophomore guard Bradley, who saved the day when Dayton pressed and when Arizona needed a basket.

On Friday, Bradley said his season had been up and down, but that he was prepared for what his team needed.

He remained patient. Saturday, he shined.

“(You can) maybe say he’s biding his time, but when you’re on an elite team, guys have to make sacrifices,” Lloyd said. “That’s the only way it works.”

And it worked Saturday afternoon. He filled in for the inconsistent Boswell and played admirably. His player went beyond his numbers.

He was Arizona’s stable force with the ball – something it needed against the athletic Flyers.

“J.B.’s character is so high. He’s an absolute winner,” Lloyd said. “I mean, I told him after the game, I appreciate him hanging with it, and I appreciate him hanging with me. He’s going to be an elite player. He’s going to end up being one of the Arizona greats at the end of the day.”

If so, here was a heck of a preview of what’s to come, and still to come. Arizona advances to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years.

The guy who pushes the ball and presses the pace made things happen for UA and not happen for Dayton.

“Everybody’s gotta stay ready, you never know when it’s going to be your day,” Bradley said. “KB (Boswell) played a great game (on Thursday) and today we just happen to be C Love’s (Love), my day and everybody else’s. You have to wait for your moment.”

Sometimes they come, sometimes they don’t.

But Dayton forced the moment, given it was proving to be too pesky for Arizona in some moments. Out went Boswell, in came Bradley.

Out went Oumar Ballo, in came KJ Lewis.

Tommy Ball went small and matched Dayton with its smaller size and athleticism. He did the same last week against Oregon (in a stretch) and it looked good, giving UA a chance to win (although it didn’t).

It worked Saturday.

“I thought we got pretty comfortable against the looks they were giving us,” Lloyd said. “Obviously, we knew it was going to be an interesting dynamic when you have a mobile, pick-and-pop kind of athletic big like (DaRon) Holmes and a big hoss like Big O (Oumar Ballo), there’s going to be give and take.

“Our plan with Big O got us off to a good start early. They got comfortable and started attacking a little bit. I wanted to give them a different look … I wanted to get a look at it, and then it worked. We got a turnover the first time we did it.

“I said, ‘hey, let’s ride this out and see if we can change the course of the game. They had to start attacking us differently and get them out of their rhythm.”

Eventually, Arizona got back to being composed.

“They’ve got a really talented team,” said Dayton coach Anthony Grant. “Like I said, they were on the 1 line for a while. They were No. 1 in the country for a while. They’ve got depth, they’ve got size, they’ve got skill.”

And they’ve got travel plans to Los Angeles next week.

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