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Sport: What Tommy Lloyd, Christian Koloko and Bennedict Mathurin said after Arizona’s win over Cal Baptist

The Bear’s Den, December 4, 2021

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The Arizona Wildcats’ final home game until mid-January saw them start off slow for the third game in a row but then flip the switch and roll, beating Cal Baptist 84-60 to improve to 11-0.

  What Tommy Lloyd, Christian Koloko and Bennedict Mathurin said after Arizona’s win over Cal Baptist © Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

Our full recap can be found here. Below is what Coach Tommy Lloyd, junior center Christian Koloko and sophomore wing Bennedict Mathurin had to say afterward:

Lloyd on falling behind 18-7 and Cal Baptist making its first 5 3-pointers: “We were pressing a little bit early. I think we had one possession when we had two traps right in front of our bench and then the ball got out and the guy was in the corner and we didn’t have a defender. I don’t know … if there was no rotation there or just nobody there. And then they made it. Then I think we had another one at the end of the press. Those are half on me and half on the guys, because I want to be aggressive. If those threes miss early ... if you miss a corner three, there’s probably a good chance we’re running it down at the other end. So it’s just trying to set tempo and pace in the game and then sometimes it works and you look great, sometimes it doesn’t work and you don’t look so great. But I thought our guys did a really good job settling in after that first in 10-12 minutes and asserting our will and kind of executing our game plan.”

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Lloyd on starting slow: “We’ve had a couple of slow starts in a row. We got to start up better, we got to execute the plan better, and I think we’ve kind of to let our guard down a little bit with that, so hopefully we can tighten that up, because that’s you can’t be doing that on the road.”

Koloko on the slow start: “We’ve just got to keep playing. I think we started the game doing a bad job. We’ve just gotta start the game the right way, the way Coach wants.”

Lloyd on having four different guys take turns leading the team in scoring: “I love having a well-balanced team. Listen, I don’t mind having a go-to leading scorer, but sometimes the way we play the ball finds different guys on different nights. I don’t think Cal Baptist was doing anything crazy defensively, they were kind of switching between a man and a zone a little bit. I think our guys started out kind of geared down a little bit, and we kind of got the ball back in there and sort of running our break the right way.”

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Koloko on the balanced scoring: “Yeah, that’s why basketball is called a team game.”

Lloyd on Azuolas Tubelis scoring 10 of his 17 points in the first 4 minutes after halftime: “Azuolas really kind of asserted his dominance early in that second half, which allowed us to break the game open.”

Mathurin on Arizona starting 11-0: “I imagined we would be 11-0 because of the way we practice and just the way we’re team bonding. There’s not one superstar on the team, the whole team is superstars. I’m just happy we were able to bond quickly and stay together as a team.”

Lloyd on playing Koloko and Oumar Ballo together: “It’s something we talked about doing. I gotta probably do a better job developing that lineup offensively. I think defensively we have a plan for that lineup. As luck would have it ... the other team always has a pretty good coach too, right? The moment we went with two bigs they went zone, and we honestly haven’t spent one second on zone offense with with two bigs on the floor, with Oumar and C-Lo on the floor together. I liked it. I mean, I’m not uncomfortable doing it. I still think having Azuolas out there is a little more mobile, can play inside and outside a little bit, a little more comfortable with that. We’ll see how that super lineup or the giant lineup, whatever you want to call it, we’ll see how that develops.”

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Koloko on playing with Ballo: “Oh yeah, it’s really cool. Really cool. Having us two together at the same time, I think is a real disadvantage for the other team because we have two 7-footers at the same time. So we can just take advantage of them.”

Lloyd on Ballo and Koloko combining for nine of Arizona’s 12 blocks: “That was just Oumar and C-Lo, even if they were in the game by themselves. They were doing a great job patrolling the paint. We were trying to funnel things to them, and then our guys did a better job of activating them on the perimeter and not going under stuff. And the way we play defense sometimes, it’s not easy. It’s really challenging on the guys, mentally and physically. And I thought we did a much better job the last 25 minutes of the game, given the effort it needs to play defense the way we want.”

Koloko on the blocks: “Our gameplan was pressure, and just let them come to us, and that’s what we did.”

Lloyd on how blocked shots helps the offense: “You hope it ignites a fast break. The main thing that I see is, it’s an 0 for 1, they missed the shot. Now do we get the rebound? And if we get the rebound, you guys know what we always want to do, we want to run. So I just look at it (with) that aspect. It’s great having rim protection down there, and then it’s in the back of their minds. They go down there and they got to deal with the legitimate size and rim protection.”

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Mathurin on the frontcourt defense: “I think we need our bigs to play at good level for us to be a successful team. If you get beat on the back door, you don’t really have to worry about your player making a layup because we’ve got great shot blockers.”

Lloyd on what goes into giving Ballo more minutes: “It’s dictated by a lot of things. It could be foul trouble, it could be fatigue. It could be how much we practice, it could be matchups. And today, we just kind of felt like hey, we can give this a go. It wasn’t at the top of the priority list to start the game. It just kind of came to fruition, and then we saw it and they’re sitting there. It looked like Zu needed a little bit of a rest. We played the small, small lineup before and it didn’t look great offensively for whatever reason. So we decided to go big, big. There’s no doubt, if Oumar starts playing like that, it opens up a lot of doors. But I told Oumar, and it’s not always easy for a guy to hear, if you want more, you have to do more. And while you want more, you need to be working really hard, and he has been working hard, you guys can see how his body’s changing. His conditioning is getting better. But but just because you want something more doesn’t mean it’s going to happen every day. And when it doesn’t happen, you got to handle it with maturity and be a professional, and I thought he did that.”

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Lloyd on what’s changed since Kim Aiken Jr. stepped away for personal reasons: “We’re playing the same way. We’re playing the way we play, and hopefully it’ll continue to be successful. We got to we got to tighten up some execution things, we’re getting a lot of things thrown at us. Which, like I told you guys before, that’s a sign of respect for your team if they’re throwing the kitchen sink at you, and I’m gonna do my best job I can keeping these guys prepared.”

Mathurin on how opponents are playing him different lately: “I noticed it a little bit coming into the game (against) Northern Colorado. I just came back from a big game against Illinois, so they knew I was a hot player. So I think they just changed the way they would play me, and it got my teammates open. It’s what was best for the team.”

Lloyd on Tennessee, which is No. 1 in defensive efficiency: “You watch Baylor play defense? And Texas Tech? Pretty much copy and paste that. They’re getting after you. Tons of ball pressure. There’s a lot of switching. They’re doing a really good job keeping the ball out of the middle of the floor and kind of disrupting the normal flow of your movement in your offense. So it’s going to be a great challenge. But, it’s a challenge we need.”

Lloyd on playing at Tennessee: “We got an awesome opportunity on Wednesday. Obviously we’ve had a really strong start. And I’ve played at Tennessee, and it’s a monster. And it’s a great opportunity for us to go in there and test ourselves.”

Lloyd on how the Tennessee game came about: “TJ (Benson) did a good job. Coach (Mark) Few and Coach (Rick) Barnes are really good, really close friends, so I know Coach Barnes a little bit. We scrimmage them, played them numerous times when he was at Texas and Tennessee. TJ had a conversation with their scheduling guy and the opportunity came up. We just we didn’t overthink it. We’re like, yeah, let’s do it. And I’m glad we did. Because it’s gonna be an awesome, awesome experience.”

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Lloyd on not having another home game for 24 days: “Thanks for reminding me. I didn’t even know that, to be honest with you, because hey, I always tell you guys, Tennessee on Wednesday, and then Christmas, so I’m looking ahead to Christmas, but it’s not a game.”

Lloyd on what the upcoming 4-game road trip can do for the team: “Regardless of what’s going to happen, our mindset has to be we’re going to be better for it. We’re not trying to go undefeated. Obviously you want to win every game but we know that that’s not realistic, it hasn’t been done since 1976. We just want to make sure that we’re staying locked in, and we have a growth mindset. I really want to just challenge the guys.

Mathurin on the road trip: “I think it’ll show who’s ready for adversity, who’s willing to give themselves and sacrifice just for the best of the team.”

Lloyd on sending players home for the holidays with COVID cases on the rise: “We’re gonna let the guys go home for Christmas. I mean, obviously COVID’s gone crazy. And we’re seeing it, and we’re doing the best job we can be mindful of that within our group, and trying to really kind of become our own little cohort a little bit. But I think, to my knowledge, I think everybody’s been double vaxxed, a lot of guys have been boosted. And just a little bit of common sense and hopefully it will be okay, but as you guys are seeing in all of society, it’s not avoidable. I mean, it’s happening, so we’re gonna do the best job we can.”

Lloyd on if he has encouraged his players to get booster shots: “I recommend it, but again, guys are gonna make their own choices. We do the best job we can educating them. Obviously I’ve done it, and I feel okay, so hopefully everybody takes advantage of it. I mean, I think you got to give yourself every opportunity to stay healthy and have a season.”

Mathurin on avoiding a COVID outbreak: “The main thing is just being careful. We just talked about it in the locker room. We have a big season and we have plans. Our plan is to win the national championship, so if you see a guy go on the wrong road we just need to bring them back.”

Lloyd on taking advantage of the NCAA rule that allows teams to pay for their players to fly home if the last game before Christmas is on the road: “I’m a fan of anytime our guys get to see their families, I’m a fan of that. It’s really important. These guys have been working hard, as we all do. But these are young adults that are working hard, away from their families. They don’t get to go home for any of the holidays. Think about that. They don’t get Thanksgiving, they don’t get Christmas. So anytime you can get them on for a few days, I mean, I think you got to take advantage of it, even if there is a risk of a COVID situation.”

Lloyd on his holiday plans: “Us college coaches live crazy lives, right? You don’t get Thanksgiving. We don’t even know what to do with a normal Thanksgiving. We like being in Maui, or the Bahamas, and eating at a restaurant. Christmas is nice because I’ve never traveled on Christmas. I always stay home. My family will be there and we’ll just hang out. I think we have family leading up to Christmas, extended family in town, and after Christmas. But I think those Christmas days is just going to be us, and if we have any guys in town we’ll hang out with them, but it’s pretty laid back. I got three teenagers, so there’s a lot of sleeping in. My family will have a great time, and they’ll be coming down a ton (in) January, February.”

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