Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said he was “happy” with the result of Thursday night’s win over Washington State.
He also said, “It wasn’t pretty.”
Both can be true at the same time. Arizona survived the first of two big games in the big Northwest when it defeated the Cougars 63-58 to avenge its loss to WSU earlier this month. UA has now won 11 straight games against WSU in Pullman, Washington.
Defense was key, as was Kerr Kriisa’s three-pointer and the play of newcomers Kylan Boswell and Pelle Larsson. The first was key as UA have kept opponents below 40 percent shooting in four of their last five games. As for Kriisa, he hit five 3s, hit three early and came back later in the second half to hit two to stave off any WSU rally.
“The boys were somber,” Lloyd said on his post-game radio show. “We felt the defense coming at us. And I thought they did a great job today, defending and really sticking to a game plan and just showing improvements over the last two weeks, which is encouraging.”
And the offense was just good enough. Arizona shot 44 percent from the ground compared to WSU’s 32 percent. WSU hit only three 3-pointers as opposed to 12 in the first meeting, a WSU victory.
“It wasn’t pretty offensively, but our percentages weren’t terrible,” said Lloyd. “It’s a kind of lower possession game, and then too many turnovers in transition just have to be a little more solid.
“But overall happy and content with the boys and can’t wait to get on that plane to reach Seattle and start game planning for the next one.”
Lloyd made the post-game radio appearance brief as UA would receive the charter shortly after the game. UA meets Washington on Saturday afternoon.
The win helped UA 18-3 overall and 7-3 in the Pac-12 conference. More importantly, it helped keep up with the top half of the conference while closing in on No. 1 UCLA, which lost to USC on Thursday.
Arizona was led by Azuolas Tubelis, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds. Kriisa finished with 15 points. The bench – Pelle Larsson and Kylan Boswell – combined for 19 points. Larsson had 10; Boswell had nine, including a key basket late in the second half that gave UA distance at the end.
“Pelle played his butt off,” Lloyd said. “He was great on both ends of the floor. He’s had some really tough rides in there. We had to play a little small just because of our rotation (but it) was fine… (it) kind of opens the floor for him. I love, I love the way he plays.”
As for Boswell, he continued to help on the sidelines and did so on Thursday as Courtney Ramey went cold again. Ramey had just five points and hit two of nine shots.
“He’s special and we all know that,” Lloyd said of Boswell. “He’s really progressing…just to see how he has that level of poise and in a street environment in a game like that – getting him in there and making him a couple of the games that he’s made during a difficult period has been really great. “