March 20, 2009
COACH RUSS PENNELL,
CHASE BUDINGER &
LARRY WAHL: We'll open up here with an opening statement from Coach Pennell, then we'll have questions for the student athletes. Coach, if you want to get us started off.
COACH RUSS PENNELL: Sure. Obviously we're real happy with the win tonight, and I thought that we came out and set the tone early. We were very aggressive, especially on the defensive end, and that really has been an issue for us the last few weeks, and I think it's one of the reasons that we have not been as successful. We kind of went back to some things fundamentally that we needed to do, and I thought the guys were just outstanding tonight with their effort and their energy.
We knew how good Utah was, and they're an outstanding basketball team that's had an outstanding year. I know a lot of people were talking about us being the favorite, all that stuff is just rhetoric to us. It comes down to playing basketball and playing basketball for 40 minutes at a high level. And I thought tonight we did that, and we're just excited about moving on.
Q. You were picked by an awful lot of people obviously to win this game coming in. Everyone talked about that. You guys were aware of it. But for those out there who said that 19 13 didn't deserve an at large bid into the tournament, tonight would say, "what?"
NIC WISE: We overcame adversity again. Everything that's happened to us these past couple years, Coach Olsen having to leave from us twice, and we've had three different coaches in the last three years. Lost three or four games by one point, and the schedule we played was pretty tough. So I just felt that we overcame adversity again and proved that we really should be in the tournament.
Q. Chase, I remember the locker room last year after you guys lost to West Virginia, and your performance against Perdue two years ago was pretty bad, and West Virginia beat you guys pretty bad last year. It was a pretty divided locker room with Coach O'Neill. Talk about you guys showing up and playing well in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a while.
CHASE BUDINGER: This team came focused and ready to play. We've had hardships throughout the whole season, but we stuck together as a team. We united and came closer with those hardships. That's what made us at this point that we're at now. We're just trying to play our best basketball right now, and we just played well tonight. We came after it on the defensive end, and our defense really led to our offense tonight.
Q. Nic, how tiring was that? Was it tough to get your breath at times?
NIC WISE: It is, but our conditioning is second to none. We pressed, as you can tell, all game. Us three pretty much played 40 minutes a game. You know, we're used to it by now. Whatever gave us an advantage, you'll be tired after the game, before the game, you put all your heart into it.
Q. Jordan, can you talk a little bit about the start those first six, eight minutes or so and going up 16 6 and 23 10 and just what that did in terms of settling down and finding a groove out there?
JORDAN HILL: Last interview, like I said, we've just got to be the aggressor, get out there and attack our opponent first. You know, we did that in the first half very well. We've just got to keep pushing, keep going. We all helped each other out. That was a real big thing that we need to do more, just help each other out on defense, offense, just go out there and attack.
Q. This is for any of the guys to take: There were people who said you didn't belong, you didn't deserve a bid into this tournament. Did you feel disrespected? Was that a motivating thing for you? Did that help bring you guys together?
CHASE BUDINGER: We felt that we belonged. We felt that we had some key wins throughout the season that we had a good enough season to get in the tournament. You know, all the people that were saying that we weren't going to make it, we just tried ignoring that. Once our name went up on the board, that was pretty much it. You know, I think we did a good job at keeping outside influences not within the team, and really just stuck together.
COACH RUSS PENNELL: Let me answer that question, too. We deserve to be here, and the reason we deserve to be here is because we're here. The victories that we had this year were quality wins, and we weren't the only team in America that lost a few games down the stretch. But the thing is the opponents that we lost to, four of those teams are in the NCAA Tournament, and so we felt like that we deserved to be here. Would we have been surprised if we had not been selected? No, that's a different question. But as far as us belonging here, we definitely belong here, and today was not about proving that. That was not our motivation. Our motivation was to win the game and move on in this national tournament.
Q. This is for any of you guys: The tournament kind of has two different phases where you have the early rounds where the people want to see the double digit underdogs come out and win, and toward the end they want the more recognizable names and the big time talent to see what they have. You guys sort of have the best of both worlds in that you're the low seed and you have the talent. Which one do you feel more like, like the underdog because of the seeding or just given the talent at that table right there that you should be one of the more recognizable teams that can advance pretty far?
NIC WISE: We feel talent wise we are one of the better teams in the tournament. But we like being underdogs. We felt all year long in the PAC 10 we were the underdogs. So we thrive on that, and we don't try to play mind games about being underdogs. We take it one game at a time. We'll watch this next game, watch film on them, practice tomorrow, and come out and give it our all again.
Q. Russ, you still have the "interim" tag, and the implication is still you're not going to be with this team at the end of the season. I know you're not dwelling on it, but is there still kind of a surreal aspect about all of this right now?
COACH RUSS PENNELL: You know, not really. The thing is I'm the coach of the 2008 2009 Arizona Wildcats and we're still playing, and that's all my focus has been all year and that's all it'll continue to be. I really don't worry about that. I've asked these guys next to me way back in October to not worry about their future. Everyone wonders are they going pro, are they do this. They've never talked about that. They've never even hinted that. I think that's one of the reasons that this has been such a successful year. We're enjoying this, we're having fun, and this has been an incredible ride. When it gets over, we'll all have decisions to make, but it's not over, and we're living to fight another day, and that's why we're looking forward to not only tomorrow's practice but the game on Sunday.
Q. Russ, can you talk about how Kyle handled the grand stage that he did tonight?
COACH RUSS PENNELL: I thought Kyle handled it the way he's handled most things this year. I don't know if he's calm, cool and collected, or if he's just naïve enough not to know that he's supposed to be nervous. But I thought he played extremely well. When Kyle is flying around, not only him, I thought Jamelle the second half did the same thing. When those guys are flying around on defense, it helps these three out but it makes us a better team and a different team, and I thought they really set the tone, Kyle and Jamelle, about the defensive intensity.
Q. I came in a little bit late, but did you address the matter of your pressure early? And did you see something in Utah in scouting them and looking at the films that made you realize extending pressure on them the whole game would be a great help?
COACH RUSS PENNELL: I don't know if it's something we saw. It's the way we play. But one of the things we were concerned about is Luke Nevill is so big and he's such a presence down low, and sometimes the best way to play against that is to pressure the basketball a long way from the goal. Some teams like to double team, but Luke is a good passer and we knew Utah ran their offense through him a lot.
Basically we tried to pressure off the floor and take time off that shot clock and not give them as much time to go through the pivot.
Q. Did that take a long time in your study for the game? Did you right away say, that's what we're going to do?
COACH RUSS PENNELL: Yeah, we actually did. We knew that he was such a good player, and we had quite a bit of game footage on them. We know the Mountain West is a good league, there's a lot of man to man played in that league, not a lot of zone. We felt like that was to our advantage, also. But we knew that if we were going to have success, we were going to have to do a good job on Luke Nevill, and it did help that he got in foul trouble tonight. But he's a very outstanding player, and we knew that he was the focal point of what they wanted to do.
Q. You were up fairly comfortably most of the way, up 13 a couple of times, and all of a sudden it gets to two. Just talk about what's going through your mind at that point. And it didn't seem like you guys really changed a lot schematically, just shots started going down. What started working there?
COACH RUSS PENNELL: I thought the big thing is we got fatigued, we got tired. We tried to use our time outs the best we can. We're not a real deep team, and the guys we bring off the bench don't play heavy minutes. Obviously the longer time outs here help us, but I think the adrenaline, the travel, everything else I thought caught up with us at times, and we kind of got through that and reestablished ourselves. I know Jordan hit a big jump shot in the middle of the paint that kind of let everyone take a big deep breath, and then I thought our defense picked back up.
LARRY WAHL: Thank you very much. We'll see you tomorrow.
COACH JIM BOYLEN: I'm proud of my team, and thankful for the year we had. I'm thankful to be the coach at Utah. It wasn't one of our better nights, but you know, that happens. We're going to build on it and grow from it, learn from it, and I love my seniors, and I'm going to miss them. And I wish them the best.
Q. Tyler, you guys were playing catch up most of the night it seemed. And you hit that three from the right that made it 64 62. At that point were you guys thinking you had them?
TYLER KEPKAY: Yeah, we thought that we were going to come back and tie the game until the last minute basically when you knew it was kind of over.
You know, we knew we were going to keep fighting and pushing, and regardless of that three, we thought we were going to come back no matter what.
Q. Tyler, could you talk about what was so challenging about the press that they put on you and the damage they did early? It seemed like they really got you out of sorts.
TYLER KEPKAY: Early they came out aggressive as can be, and they're long and athletic. They just made it tough in the very beginning, and I think that kind of hurt us for the rest of the game because I think if you take away that first, I don't know, six, seven minutes of the game, it's a different game. But that's the way it goes.
Q. Luke, obviously one of the worst things that can happen for you guys is to get in early foul trouble. Can you talk about what happened those first couple minutes when you got those two quick fouls.
LUKE NEVILL: I thought I was playing good D. I had my hands up in the air. They just happened. Sometimes you play in games, and you just get calls that you might not agree with, but that's the way it goes. But I thought our team kind of held in there and they shot the ball well when I was out, and even though we were down, we were sticking around when I wasn't on the court.
Q. Luke, you had obviously the four fouls when you came back in, and they went at you a couple times in that last run, Hill scoring in the lane and I think Budinger had the lay up. How would you characterize how you play with four fouls? Did you just sort of feel like you couldn't do much other than just stand there with your arms up or not really contest the way you would like?
LUKE NEVILL: Yeah, it's tricky, when I get in foul trouble to stay on the court, I have to just, like you said, play with my arms straight up, not jump at all and just hope that my body in front of him is going to deter the shot. Sometimes I can't even step up in front of him because I don't want to get a 50/50 call.
So it's hard to just kind of watch the ball get laid up and knowing that I could do something about it but not wanting to risk getting my fifth foul and sitting on the bench.
Q. You guys started out early, I think it was 2 for 11 shooting, and then you had nine or ten turnovers there in the first ten minutes. Which is the easier one to resolve and which is the more important one to deal with, because it's kind of a two headed monster, both of those?
LUKE NEVILL: Definitely I think the turnovers were our downfall. We're going to shoot the ball bad sometimes and we're going to shoot the ball great sometimes. We were getting the shots that we wanted. We were shooting the ball great the day before. It just wasn't our night. The balls were good shots, they were bouncing in and out. If you take them again, they might go in. So it definitely was the turnovers was our downfall.
LARRY WAHL: We'll release the student athletes and now entertain questions for Coach Boylen.
Q. What was the first six, seven minutes kind of your worst case scenario as far as the way they would come out?
COACH JIM BOYLEN: I talked to my staff and you're watching all these games the last two days and you've got to be careful to get down early and then you're in an uphill grind the whole day. We were ready for the press. We expected the press. We practiced the press. Didn't do a good job of handling the pressure. We were right there, down five at halftime. I think we're 7 7 this year down at halftime. We've been right there before.
We were thought we were right there and played poorly. The second half we were grinding uphill and grinding uphill, and got it to two and just didn't make enough plays. I thought we had some good looks. I thought we had the right guys shooting the ball, and they didn't go down. We won the rebound game, we lost the turnover game and we were 8 for 32 from the three. Tough to win that way, tough to win.
Q. Did you think your guys were skittish at all on this stage?
COACH JIM BOYLEN: I didn't think they were skittish, I just didn't think we held the pressure very well. We fought back. We didn't quit and we hung in there. If Borha makes two of those four threes he takes in the first four minutes. And Kim Tillie misses a lay up, we're right there. That happens, that's basketball.
You know, you've got to give them credit, too. They played well. You know, that's not the team tonight I saw on tape for 10, 12 games, and you've got to give them credit for that. They played well.
Q. Just your thoughts on Nic Wise and what he did to you guys in the second half. He was able to get in the lane.
COACH JIM BOYLEN: Yeah, when Nic is playing with four fouls that's easy to do. I thought his quickness hurt us. I thought we had two switches we handled poorly that he scored on. He scored a three and he scored a lay up on two poor switches, and he got it going, and you've got to give him credit for that. He's a good player.
I think the difference for him was he took off his tights. I don't know if you noticed that, he took off his tights. So maybe that's the key for him, taking off your tights.
Q. Is that the kind of situation, that start that you had, probably what makes you toss and turn, sometimes you don't sleep before the games? It's got to be maybe your worst nightmare, playing out that way?
COACH JIM BOYLEN: Yeah, you don't script it to start that way. You don't talk to your team about starting that way. But we've had bad starts before and won. We got it to two. We turned the ball over when we got it to two and then the game kind of separated again.
My guys battled. I thought "Utah" across their chest meant something today, and I'm proud of what we did. We didn't win, and that's the tough thing about this business. Somebody wins, somebody loses. But we're going to keep building this program. We're going to keep getting tougher. We're lifting Monday morning at 6:00 o'clock. The beat goes on.
Q. You play hard all year, you get a 5 seed and then you go up against Arizona, who's obviously a very talented team, but the way they played, they end up with a 12 seed. So talk about that, playing a team that to a lot of people could have been a top 20 team, but for whatever reason they're a 12.
COACH JIM BOYLEN: I don't know. Not to be disrespectful to your question, I never got into all that. You step over the line, you've got to slap it on and play. Whether you're a 12 seed, a 5 seed, a 1 seed, a 2 seed, you've got to play. They played better than we did today, and they won. That's the way it is.
Q. How are you going to remember the seniors that got this thing rolling for you again in this program?
COACH JIM BOYLEN: I'm going to remember the tough days, the days when they didn't like me very much, and then I'm going to remember the days that we improved, when we grew together and we trusted each other. You know, there's things that cannot be taken away from these guys now. You know, they won the league championship, won the conference tournament, won the Wilkes championship. These guys won three championships this year. These guys have never won anything in their lives. Lawrence Borha said, "I've never won anything in my life." That's what I remember.
These guys are leaving winners. They're leaving Utes, and they'll be Utes forever and they'll be my guys forever.
Q. Was it strictly kind of a feel thing as far as how long you could keep Luke out when he got the fourth?
COACH JIM BOYLEN: I've never played him in the first half with two fouls all year. I've never done that, and I had to do it today, and I thought he hung in there pretty well, hung in there pretty well. You know, I thought towards the end he had a couple 50/50 plays that went our way. He probably could have got his third foul three or four times there at the end and didn't get it, which is a credit to who he is as a player. I think they know who he is.
But I thought his first two calls were a little soft. We don't like a game called tightly, and I don't think the referees did a poor job, but you have to adjust to that, and I want a free flowing game where we can hit people and play, and I thought they called it pretty tight from the start, and that's not the best thing for us. That's the way it is. You've got to adjust.
Q. I think 32 is your highest number of three pointers on the year and you had a lot of open ones today. It seemed like there were two or three times where you'd have an advantage on the break and they pulled up and shot it. I wonder what you thought about that.
COACH JIM BOYLEN: Yeah, if they go in nobody says a word, right, and if they don't go in people say, well, you should have passed it. We were going to play our basketball here, whether we were playing the Celtics, the Lakers, whatever. We were going to play our basketball. We were going to play the way we play. We were going to run it up and down, we've ran it all year, we shoot the ball, shoot threes, we punch it inside, we play the game.
I didn't think we took a whole lot of bad shots. Did they take some quick shots? Yeah. We've taken quick shots all year. We had it to two, didn't finish it off. That's the story.
Q. Do you feel like some of those three pointers, it seemed like some of them rolled around and in and out.
COACH JIM BOYLEN: It's the humidity, we're not used to it. Plus we play with adidas balls no, I'm just kidding you. They just didn't go in, man.
Q. The press initially, was it the speed at all that you couldn't practiced for? Was there a faster team you had faced all year?
COACH JIM BOYLEN: Yeah, their athleticism and length bothered us to start the game. You talk about those things, but it's like getting married your older brother talks to you about it, are you sure you want to do this? Yeah, yeah, yeah, and then you go do it and you realize it's a little different than maybe what you thought. So my wife is sitting right over there, that's why I said that.
But it's hard to simulate it. I thought they played with a lot of energy. Again, I don't think that's the team we saw on tape, but we knew we were going to get a good shot from them. I thought they played with a sense of urgency. You've got to give them credit for that, and they beat us today.
Thanks a lot.
LARRY WAHL: Thank you very much, Coach.