Arizona Basketball

Ballo: ‘At this point in the season you have to adjust’ as Arizona faces tough Clemson

LOS ANGELES — Two coaches with like minds felt the same thing a couple of months ago: they knew their teams had more to give.

Of course, they did. They had to, if they were to get to the Sweet 16 and beyond. And they did, Clemson, after going 10-1 to start the season, lost three straight, and had to look to within.

Arizona lost two in January, um, to Washington State and to Oregon State? Head scratchers indeed.

What had they done in November and December? Was it all a mirage? Heck, Arizona was 8-1 with wins over Duke and Wisconsin.

Then. Came. Reality. Losses to Purdue, Florida Atlantic and Stanford. Stanford?

So, was there a time, Tommy Lloyd went to his team to say: “we can do better?”

Tommy LLoyd observing his team at Arena. (Photo courtesy of

“Sure, there was a point yesterday in practice when I felt that way,” he said, smiling. “I also know these seasons are long, and it’s really hard to be trending in a positive way the entire time.

“Part of growing over the course of a season is struggling and in dealing with adversity and staring it straight down and acknowledging, hey, we might have some weaknesses. We’ve got to get better. Or we’re not doing a good enough job, whether it’s as a coaching staff or as players.”

So Arizona got better after what Lloyd called was “a tough stretch.”

“I think that adversity made us a better team today,” he added.

Clemson went through some of the same things, only worse. After beating Alabama, South Carolina, Texas Christian and more, it fell to Miami, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said he had “a hard meeting” with his players feeling they “were teetering a little bit.”

They were 4-6 in the ACC after going 10-1.

He told them, “I think some of you guys think we’re the 10-1 team. Right now, we’re the 4-6 team. If we go 4-6 again, we won’t be playing in the NCAA Tournament. I said, ‘That would be a shame because of what you did the first two months of the year, but also because I think we’re good enough to go to the Final Four.’”

That will be determined for each team tomorrow here at Arena.

Junior forward Ian Schieffelin said the talking to “needed to be said” if Clemson was to get better.

“Our defense wasn’t very good, and teams could do whatever they wanted,” he said. “It was a reality check … it woke us up.”

And now Clemson is here – like Arizona – trying to take another step. It could very well come down to the bigs – Clemson’s PJ Hall (18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds) and Schieffelin (9.8, 9.5).

They are the big pieces of a physical middle that can also pull opponents away from the basket.  It’s a challenge, indeed. It’s one Oumar Ballo is ready for. He had that same task against Dayton’s DaRon Holmes II last week, having to go away from the basket to defend. He was good and not so good with that task.

“At this point in the season you have to adjust,” Ballo said. “You’re going to face a team that’s going to make you feel uncomfortable for sure. You just have to find a way to adjust.”

Clemson feels the same when it comes to defending Ballo, Motiejus Krivas and Keshad Johnson.  

“They are tremendous,” Brownell said. “… as you would expect (of a team) who’s had as much success as they have, top 10 team throughout the year, they’ve got a lot of really good players. They’ve got experience both on the perimeter and in the post.”

Added Schieffelin: “They can be very physical with those big guys. Their four man (Johnson) is versatile like myself. And (Ballo) is a big, big dude.”

And like Arizona, Clemson can play slow (that’s its reputation) but can go fast. They prove that against New Mexico in the first round, and again against Baylor in the second round — teams that can play fast and can be physical. They are now home.

“Whatever their pace, their tempo (is)… when I see Clemson, I see an incredibly physical team that has a conviction to assert their physical will on you,” Lloyd said.

“When I sit there, when I watch them on film, and think, wow, these guys are playing extraordinarily slow. I see they have a couple of elite perimeter players. I see they have two really good big guys. I see they have good size at the other positions. And they play with effort and toughness possession by possession.”

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