UCLA vs. GonzagaMarch 23, 2006

UCLA - 73
Gonzaga - 71

An interview with:

UCLA BRUINS

THE MODERATOR: As far as press conference times for tomorrow, UCLA 1:30, Memphis 2:35. Saturday's game will be at 4:05 p.m.
We have head coach Ben Howland, student athletes Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo.
COACH BEN HOWLAND: Obviously, we're real pleased to get the win. That was a great finish for us. It's really just a testament to the character, the toughness, the heart of our players to have the never-quit attitude. I'm really, really proud of them.
I would be remiss if I didn't immediately point out that we beat a great team today. As I said going into the game, that was the best team we've played all year with the possible exception of who happens to be our next opponent, Memphis. Gonzaga is terrific. Adam Morrison is special. We feel very fortunate to have pulled out this victory.
You have to credit our players and give them a lot of credit today for the way they hung in there and gutted it up. Just looking at the stat sheet, we held them to 36% in the second half after a terrible first half. I thought we came out much more aggressively at both ends of the floor. They ended up having 15 turnovers to our 10. I guess when you look at the statistic sheet, I guess that's probably the difference in the game, the five-turnover differential.
As happy as I am for our players and our program, I genuinely do feel for Mark Few and his Gonzaga team and staff because I really have great respect for their program, what they've accomplished, having been there 25 years ago way back when. We're very, very excited about this opportunity to play on Saturday against a great Memphis team.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Jordan, could you describe the last sequence.
JORDAN FARMAR: Just trying to apply extreme pressure. We've been in the situation before. What I can really think of is last year when we were down at home to, I mean, Pepperdine, but the situation was the same. We were down one, we needed to force a steal. We were going to foul if they got past halfcourt. We trapped Adam in the corner. When he passed the ball to Batista. It was myself and Ced. We were both swiping at the ball. We didn't want to foul that early. We wanted to create pressure and get a steal. I think Ced knocked it loose and I picked it up, saw Luc was coming under the basket. Raivio was waiting up there so I had to put it up a little higher. Thank God Luc is 6'7" with a seven foot wingspan, so I just put it up there and Luc went to go get it and made a great play.

Q. Can you just talk about the last three minutes, what you did defensively that made the difference.
ARRON AFFLALO: You know, it was nothing particular. We just played with a lot of energy. Obviously, it was desperation time, being down 9 with three minutes to go. You have to bring it all out, start trapping a little bit here and there.
Three minutes is a long game -- a long time with only a 9-point lead, which is three or four possessions. We were very fortunate tonight.

Q. I noticed after the game you went over to Adam. What did you say to him at that point?
ARRON AFFLALO: You know, I was running around celebrating with the rest of my team. But, you know, I saw him laying there in tears a little bit. I just felt for him a little bit. He's a great player. There's really no reason for him -- outside of the fact he's a competitor and wanted to win, he has no reason to cry. He's a great player. He's going to have a great career.
He should definitely keep his head up. I mean, that's hard to say, you know, when you won the game and your opponent lost. But I just really wanted to see him still in a good mood.

Q. Has it sunk in? Can you believe what's happened? Are you still kind of in shock?
JORDAN FARMAR: I guess we are. I mean, it won't really sink in for a while. We seen it time and time again, you know, going back to all the classic tapes, just to be part of it is something special.
Halftime, we just told each other, we've been here before, and it's a long way from finished. It seemed like the whole game, every time we would make a run, they'd come right back. We couldn't get the necessary stops until the last three minutes. I don't know where we got it from. But we dug deep, found a way to get it done.
It's amazing. It's unexplainable right now.
ARRON AFFLALO: Same point here. I mean, just three weeks ago we were down double-digits up here against Cal. We just had to play with a lot of energy and make plays. Jordan said it, Luc, those guys, they really made the big plays down the stretch.

Q. Jordan, could you talk about the steal at the end.
JORDAN FARMAR: Just trapped a couple times. Trapped Adam Morrison in the corner, he passed it to Batista. Ced and I were trying to create a lot of pressure. Ced knocked the ball loose, I picked it up, got it to Luc, who finished it.

Q. I think you guys had cut it to six in the second half when Morrison made that four-point play. How much wind did that take out of your sails?
ARRON AFFLALO: It took a lot out of me personally. I had been on the bench with three fouls. The team, they did a great job of getting us back into the game. The first play, as soon as I get back in there to help, I foul and give up a three. Arron went three at that. On top of that, pick up my fourth foul.
I was deflated personally. But I know the team still had high spirits. They never gave up. It was just frustrating to come in there. I felt like I had to put a burden on them in a sense by coming in there and making that bone-head play. They kept fighting. They kept fighting.

Q. Jordan, the fact that you were out of timeouts with so much time remaining, do you think that worked to your advantage?
JORDAN FARMAR: It seems that way now. At the time -- we've been in the situation before. Coach likes to call timeouts and use all the ones we have. We've been in situation where we've been down with no timeouts.
It worked in our favor this time. It was a little helter-skelter. We got a turnover out of it.

Q. Was this game exemplary of the brand of basketball that's being played on the West Coast now?
ARRON AFFLALO: You know, ourselves and Gonzaga, we have contrasting styles a little bit. We are leaning towards or pushing towards trying to become a running team right now. But we're still a great halfcourt team, a great halfcourt defensive team as well as offensive team. That's why you see a lot of teams playing the zone right now because we execute very well.
But, you know, their style of play, you know, is great as well. I think that's the first team in a while that scored over 60 points on us. As you could see, it came down to a game that had to be decided in the last seconds.

Q. Did the thought cross your mind at any point you were in serious trouble and you were going to lose the game?
ARRON AFFLALO: Well, yeah, definitely. You know, you can't look past that. That's the reason why those three guys in particular stepped up and made plays. I'm speaking of Jordan, Ced, Ryan and Luc, Darren as well. You're down 17 in the second half, time is not on your side. That's great incentive for great players to start making plays.
JORDAN FARMAR: I felt a little different. I was so caught up in trying to lead and trying to get my guys to play, play, to not worry about the score, to not think about going home. I would just keep saying, "It's not over, we're going to win, don't worry about it." I was saying it so much that, you know, I was believing it.
We've been down before. We're a team with a lot of character and a lot of heart. We've had so much adversity throughout the year with injuries and foul trouble and all types of things that we battled through. It was just one more case of that. We did a phenomenal job today.

Q. Can you even think about Memphis right now, the pace they play? What do you remember from that game in November?
JORDAN FARMAR: In November we were a completely different team, as I'm sure they were. They are, too. We've grown so much. All of our freshmen are no longer freshmen, or at least not playing like it. We've grown, as well, especially as a collective unit. We're much more of a family and we really feel like that. It's going to be a completely different game. I'm sure they're much different from when we played them last November.

Q. As the comeback is happening at the end of the game, your confidence is growing, can you describe what you saw in the guys you're playing against? Anxiety, nervousness, panic?
JORDAN FARMAR: I didn't see too much of that from them. I think they did a good job until the last couple possessions. They were doing a good job. We were just getting stops. We were making them take tough shots. The biggest thing for us was to get rebounds. (Indiscernible).
Down the stretch, we were just doing a great job getting rebounds and trying to push and get something easy on the other end.
I think we were so focused on, you know, trying to take it one possession at a time and get stops after every score, it didn't really register in my mind we were even making the comeback.
THE MODERATOR: Student-athletes, thank you very much.
Questions for the head coach.

Q. You managed not to foul in those last three and a half minutes. Was that a conscious effort that you wanted to get across or did it just pan out that way?
COACH BEN HOWLAND: We came out in that second half, really got aggressive pressuring the ball. I don't know turnovers they had at halftime. Anybody know what the halftime stat was? Turnovers for Gonzaga?
Anyway, I thought we really did a better job of picking them up full court, really getting into the ball. They had a lead. We were the tentative ones in the first half. I thought we did a better job of playing way more aggressively at both ends of the floor in the second half.
You've got to, again, tip your hat to Gonzaga. They're an outstanding team. We were very fortunate. I was just thinking right now as I was sitting here about that last shot by Batista. Believe me, I thought we were a very -- we were very fortunate to get this one. I'm very proud of the comeback. It's just a testament to our kids, our players' mental toughness, battle through adversity, staying with it. It doesn't end till it's zero, zero, zero.
There's traps. They were good traps down late. We had good traps against them where we had them pinned right in the corner. I can't even remember, was that Morrison that threw it away the last play? I don't know if they had any timeouts or not. I don't know. I don't think they did.
So, you know, it came down -- people often criticize my timeouts and use of timeouts. We were using the substitutions on made-foul shots down the stretch there to get a guy in to have them have to set up their press offense, and that really helped us get set and get on the ball.
We were in this situation before where we actually didn't win the game at home. I can't remember who that was. We lost three home games. It was either -- I think it was the Cal game. This really goes back. Today goes back to at halftime talking about being down at Cal by 11. I think it was three weeks ago today. That was for the PAC-10 championship, a share of. This team has really taken it to another level from that game on. I think it's exciting for us. We've got to enjoy this run again till about midnight, then midnight the bell rings and it's all Memphis.
What time is it? Just kidding (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Any more questions for coach.
COACH BEN HOWLAND: I'm happy to answer questions. Thank you.

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An interview with: GONZAGA BULLDOGS

THE MODERATOR: On the stage we have head coach Mark Few, Adam Morrison and JP Batista. We'll start with a statement from Coach Few.
COACH MARK FEW: Well, just didn't quite finish that one off. I mean, I'm really proud of how our guys came out. I thought we had a great approach and were the aggressive team for almost that entire game.
I think going into it, people had questioned our toughness and maybe how physical we could be. I really thought my guys responded and responded well. They executed the game plan. You know, UCLA made a couple big plays down the stretch and deserve a lot of credit for just hanging in there, hanging in there.
This team has been so incredible this entire year of winning games like that and digging 'em out, making big shots, getting that last big stop. Just finally caught up to us at the end.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Adam, could you comment on the final sequence.
ADAM MORRISON: I thought they were -- I was on the other side and I heard "foul." I assumed they were trying to foul JP. They didn't call it. That's the way the NCAA tournament goes. They got the ball and scored.
THE MODERATOR: Further questions for the student-athletes?

Q. JP, could you go over that same sequence. Did you feel you were fouled?
JP BATISTA: I'm not going to sit down here and complain about fouls because in the NCAA tournament, that's all about it. Referees, they make bad calls. I don't know.
We had a play set up and I was supposed to pass the ball. Everything worked out. I thought he fouled me. But, hey, they didn't call it, so you just got to keep going.
Unfortunately, we lost the game. That's how basketball game goes. Somebody has to lose; somebody has to win.

Q. Adam, I think you missed something like your last three or four shots. Did they do anything differently defensively on you?
ADAM MORRISON: No. I missed the shot.
THE MODERATOR: Further questions for the student-athletes?

Q. Adam, obviously you were very emotional at the end. Stunning way to lose a basketball game. Could you talk about that experience. It seemed like you were as surprised as anything.
ADAM MORRISON: Yeah, you know, we had -- like coach said earlier, we had control of that game for most of the game. It just happened in a blur. That's the way the game works. If you don't execute down the stretch, you pay for it.
We just had a few missteps. Got to take your hat off to UCLA. You know, it was -- I hate losing, period. I mean, anything, especially basketball. You know, obviously I'm going to let it hang out, and that's what I did.

Q. A couple of the UCLA players came over to kind of pick you off the ground. Did you realize it was someone from the other team? What's your reaction to that?
ADAM MORRISON: At first, I didn't. That's just a sign of obviously a great program, you know, great people as far as they're concerned. They had enough guts as a man to come over in their moment of victory, pick somebody up off the floor. If I could thank them, I would. That's just a sign of, you know, great people and great players. That's more than basketball.

Q. When the last ball was inbound, what did you say? Did you call for the ball on the last possession?
ADAM MORRISON: Yeah, you know, obviously I was calling for the ball. But we got a great shot with JP down way farther than I was. I mean, I wouldn't have it any other way. JP had a really good shot at it to tie it.
THE MODERATOR: Student-athletes, thank you very much.
We'll take questions for Coach Few.

Q. You and the whole team congregated at center court after the game. Could you share the essence of what was said in there.
COACH MARK FEW: Well, a lot of things we say, you know, we keep to ourselves. But, you know, basically I just wanted to kind of protect them a little bit. It was a vulnerable moment there where they were obviously, you know, devastated when it hits that your season's over. For some, their college career's over. I think it's important to get with your family, get in tight.
I just told them, you know, make sure you enjoy all the good times, because we had a lot of them this year. Don't focus on that last, you know, 20 seconds.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about what Adam has meant to the program, not only in the tournament but for you guys all season.
COACH MARK FEW: Yeah, I don't know if I could put a word to describe it. I mean, he's one of a kind. I'll never coach another kid like that. I mean, he's a warrior. He is such an incredible competitor that it can't help but be contagious. He's literally willed us all year to wins and end-of-game wins like that.
You know, this last one, it just didn't happen. You know, I told the whole team, just when you thought I think people were putting a ceiling on Gonzaga basketball, this group came in, tore it down, raised the ceiling up even higher, when you thought it might be impossible to do. But they did just with the wins and the national accolades, everything that they've done.

Q. Have you ever been part of a game like this where I believe you led the entire way till the very end like that? Such an unusual game at finish.
COACH MARK FEW: Yeah, no, I don't know. I don't think I have. I'm sure at some point in racking up the games here as we go along, these seasons go by.
Not quite like that one. No game is over with a three-point shot, the ability to lengthen the game, foul, make plays down the stretch. I think that's the big thing. UCLA hung in there, made some plays. We actually had the ball in the people's hands that we wanted to have the ball in. We just had -- gosh, there was a couple shots that just rimmed out.
Adam had one where he drove right down the lane, he makes that thing 95 out of a hundred times. He made it all year. That's why we're here. He shot a step-back there at the end. They got a foul I think about 19 seconds left. He makes that step-back, I've seen him make a thousand of those. We had Derek with a wide-open three in the corner. I think either of those shots would have probably effectively ended the game. They didn't go. We've been making them all year.
That's why we're here, because those guys make those shots.

Q. In the last 40, 50 seconds or so, were you maybe trying to get your guys in position to get fouled with them needing to get the ball back?
COACH MARK FEW: Well, I think they were pressuring. They were really, really pressuring, really climbing up into us. We wanted to spread it out, bounce it at them a little bit, and also use a little bit of clock, which we did. I think our guys executed it perfectly.
Like I said, we had three good looks that we usually make. Then at the other end, we defended well all game. I thought we defended them very well all game. If you look at their field goal percentage, they got a couple put-backs, unscramble plays that hurt us a little bit. They stepped up and made -- Farmar had a big runner, then obviously the steal at the end, whatever that was, it was a big play.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.

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