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After feast in Vegas, Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd hoping Wildcats not too stuffed
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ARIZONA MEN’S BASKETBALL

After feast in Vegas, Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd hoping Wildcats not too stuffed

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The Arizona Wildcats are 5-0, beat two teams by more than 50 points, dumbfounded then-No. 4 Michigan on ESPN, hopped into the national rankings and now might have the best résumé so far of any Pac-12 team.

Is there anything for the Wildcats to worry about?

Coach Tommy Lloyd can think of a few things.

For one thing, human nature.

After their Main Event win last weekend in Las Vegas became something of a national coming-out party, the 17th-ranked Wildcats will face Sacramento State on Saturday. It might be hard to look away from all the hype, all the people telling you how good you are, and to not relax a bit.

For some people, anyway.

“it’s not challenging for me, because I don’t pay attention to any of it,” Lloyd said Wednesday. “I’ve been locked in and hanging out at my house, watching games on TV, watching us on film, getting ready to move forward.

“We’ll definitely talk about it as a team, and I already have, but just it’s a dangerous path to go down where you start reading your own press clippings.”

After their midnight return on Saturday after beating Michigan 80-62 in Las Vegas, Lloyd gave the Wildcats Monday and Tuesday off. He said he’d find out in practice on Wednesday if his guys have softened at all.

“I’ll see who comes ready to practice, and we’re gonna get after it,” Lloyd said. “We’re not on Easy Street. There’s a lot of things we’ve got to get better at, and those things are going to be addressed and emphasized.”

The stats suggest there’s not a whole lot of things for the Wildcats to really worry about other than their 3-point shooting, which — at 31.5% — is decidedly below average. Lloyd said he was concerned with problems in fundamentals and decision-making that led to skid — like when Wichita State forced overtime after trailing the Wildcats by 16 points in the second half.

“We made a few mistakes, missed a few shots and had a couple breakdowns,” Lloyd said. “And when you do those types of things in a short amount of time, teams can come back and that’s what happened.”

While Lloyd said the Wildcats were defensively “pretty good for the most part,” with Wichita State shooting 33.8% and Michigan 43.4%, he still found some need for improvement.

“Like all teams, you’ve got to have that sense of urgency to finish possessions,” Lloyd said. “We can’t have guys leaking out in transition. We want to run, but we don’t have to cheat to run. I think we can rebound five guys, then run. We’ve run hard enough and are committed enough to it that opportunities will still be there.”

Lloyd was less concerned with the Wildcats’ 3-point shooting.

“To be honest with you, I haven’t even looked at the stats,” Lloyd said. “I know that might sound crazy, but I’m going off feel. Maybe I look a little bit sometimes to check in on the overall percentages here and there. I think I’ve got a pretty good understanding for how good a shooter guys are by watching and being with them every day. I thought we had some good looks that maybe didn’t go down.

“I’m most worried about efficiency and things of that nature.”

UA shot just 18.5% from 3-point range against Wichita State and just 19% against Michigan. But Lloyd said Arizona’s style of play can put pressure on a defense, no matter how it shoots from long range.

“It’s pretty hard not to guard somebody when they’re coming right down your throat,” Lloyd said. “That’s the way I look at it, and I think the 3-point numbers always worked themselves out over the course of a season.”

The first Thanksgiving

Thursday marked the first true Thanksgiving for many players on the Wildcats’ roster.

French freshman Adama Bal is spending his first year stateside. The Wildcats’ four sophomores from Europe experienced nothing more than a glorified COVID-style meal as freshmen last season.

“We were kind of isolated,” said sophomore guard Pelle Larsson, who was with Utah last season. “So we just had some catered food and then unfortunately you had to go to your room and eat.”

Lloyd invited all the Wildcats without nearby family over for dinner after practice Thursday.

Part of the holiday tradition for Lloyd, as it was with Gonzaga’s many international players, was explaining to them exactly what Thanksgiving is. Canada, home of UA sophomore Benn Mathurin, has an earlier, more low-key Thanksgiving. Kerr Kriisa (Estonia), Tautvilas and Azuolas Tubelis (Lithuania), Oumar Ballo (Mali) and Bal come from countries without such a holiday.

“You explain to them all the holidays and ask them about their holidays,” Lloyd said. “Every country’s got their own little traditions and I think it’s cool for them to learn about them — and for our guys on the team to learn about theirs.”

Hornets next

Sacramento State arrives in McKale Center at 3-2 after beating regional rival UC Davis on Tuesday in the Golden 1 Center, home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

Veteran coach Brian Katz stepped down for undisclosed health reasons earlier this month, but interim coach Brandon Laird said the Hornets have responded well and are looking forward to the trip to McKale Center.

“We’ve got a ton of respect for the University of Arizona and what Coach Lloyd is doing, and the tradition and history of the program,” Laird said. “But we’ve got a competitive group in this locker room. We’re going to be fearless and aggressive and we’re gonna prepare the same way.”


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