Gonzaga-Western Kentucky Quotes
March 21, 2009
COACH MCDONALD: Just an incredible basketball game. Two big-time programs going at it. I can't say enough about the heart that our team showed, the leadership, the ability to step up and make big plays. We got down nine at one point and our guys didn't react poorly at all. We just wanted to keep playing. I think it got down to a game where the Zags got one more shot than we did, really, at the basket and that ended up ending the game.
Just a great ride. A great ride this season. I told the team I wasn't for a minute going to talk about anything but that. It's been an incredible, incredible year, a lot because of the guys that are up here right now in the leadership and the upper classmen stepping up.
Q. Can you talk about that last sequence, you get the rebound, what happens defensively that allowed them to get into the lane like they did?
STEFFPHON PETTIGREW: They just got the ball in and ran as hard as they can down the court and got a good shot. There's nothing else we could do about that.
Q. Orlando, could you just talk about the emotions now, the feelings? You guys played your hearts out and to see that last shot go in and have it end just like that?
ORLANDO MENDEZ-VALDEZ: It was devastating. Just for the fact that it came down to the last possession. If we were down by 10 or 12 it wouldn't be as bad. But the heat of the moment got really emotional. I didn't really get too emotional until I got to the locker room and coach was talking about the year and how guys stepped up. I'm really just going to miss a lot of these guys and the program, itself. That's where I really got emotional about the game.
Q. A.J., I know you've been pretty hot for an while now, but can you talk about how -- talk about the confidence you guys really had in shooting and just all night.
A.J. SLAUGHTER: I just wanted to come out and be aggressive and put our team and be in the game at the end with a chance to win it. I think we was in a position tonight to win it, but they got a good look at the basket and had to scramble and made a buzzer beater. We played our hearts out, so that's all I could ask for.
ORLANDO MENDEZ-VALDEZ: I wanted to come out aggressive, I knew if I came out aggressive it would open up a lot of things for the other guys, and not just aggressive scoring, but getting into the paint and looking for open guys.
Q. There was a point there where it looked like it could get out of control, you were down eight or nine points, but you guys did rally. You hit a couple of three's from way out and turned it really quick. Can you talk about that moment and when you really -- you guys got yourselves back in it with a chance to win.
ORLANDO MENDEZ-VALDEZ: There was something about a team that a lot of us just believed. I saw a lot of the crowd just leaving and just got quiet. Our guys just kept their head up and still believed. At this time of the season, NCAA tournament, anything can happen. You see that happen many years. And I knew it was going to come down to the last possession, that's why I just kept my composure.
Q. Could each of you three talk about what your plans are for the summer?
A.J. SLAUGHTER: Get back in the gym and work on things I need to individually to make my team better.
STEFFPHON PETTIGREW: Just get back in the gym and work on things we need to work on and hopefully get back in an NCAA tournament again.
ORLANDO MENDEZ-VALDEZ: I don't know. Just be with the family and stay in shape.
Q. Steffphon, did you feel like you had a tip-in that was going to be one of the great moments in Western Kentucky basketball history?
STEFFPHON PETTIGREW: I didn't really think about that at the time. I tipped it in and just tried to get back and stop them from scoring. We played hard and that's all we can ask for.
Q. Does it hurt anymore to be able to have that great moment and then you turn around and a guy's running down and hits the buzzer beater?
STEFFPHON PETTIGREW: It hurts that we lost, but we left everything out there on the court and we can't ask anything more.
Q. I know it's not the way you wanted to end your career, but now that you've played your last game, how do you feel about where you've taken this program and where you set it up to go farther after -- I guess next year and years coming?
ORLANDO MENDEZ-VALDEZ: Just like in the huddle, I told the guys they've got a good squad coming in next year. They got a taste of what it feels like and I strongly believe they can be here next year and be in the same situation. No doubt with the guys coming in and the guys they have already, and especially with Coach Mac leading the way.
Q. Coach, what happened with you guys on the free throw line tonight?
COACH MCDONALD: We missed some free throws, obviously. We've been up and down at times. The heat of the moment, different back drops, who knows. The other day we didn't shoot great from the free throw line, in the Sun Belt championship we were 14 for 14. Maybe a little anxious, maybe a little excited with the chance to go to the Sweet 16, I'm not sure. But it hurt us at times.
We had our chances on the defensive end, also. And you can point at a lot of different plays that led to the loss, but the bottom line is it was a one possession game. It was a one possession game, which we wanted to be right there at the end, we were.
Q. Coach, it happened really quick after halftime, but how much did it take you guys out of your rhythm when he picked up that big foul, I think, it was 10 seconds into the second half? How much did the foul trouble kind of hurt you, as far as what you wanted to do?
COACH MCDONALD: It affected us in a couple of ways. Sally came in and did a good job, Anthony came in and did a good job being aggressive and defending. We weren't as good a defensive unit. When he went back in the game I had to go some zone so he didn't pick up another foul. I thought Coach Few did a good job of going after him right after the half. We should have been more prepared for that. It affects you, not only on the offensive end but defensively, because he is locked into the game plan.
Q. I believe the tip in that tied it for you with about seven seconds to go, and you realized afterwards how difficult it was to defend running backwards full speed and trying not to foul. Did you try to get a timeout at that time and set something up?
COACH MCDONALD: No. With seven seconds? After the bucket?
Q. After the bucket.
COACH MCDONALD: No, after the bucket we defended. We wanted to defend. Obviously it's one of those situations, and I think this happens all the time, that guys are a little bit too afraid to not foul. And we were in that mode where we wanted to stay in front, you know, maybe we could have came over and blocked a shot or helped better. But I think guys are tentative, it's their nature. At the end of the game you don't want to foul. I wanted a timeout after they scored, which we didn't get. That was the situation the last seven seconds.
Q. Coach, a lot has been made, Coach Few talked about their size, was that any kind of factor for you and was that any kind of big factor in defending them, is their length, I guess?
COACH MCDONALD: Yeah, their length bothered us at a lot of different positions. Bouldin posted up a couple of times and hurt us. Heytvelt, obviously. They got some easy baskets on some lobs. They did a good job on the defensive end. They had some blocked shots. I don't know if they really hurt us on the glass like you would think, if you were looking at the numbers in terms of height.
But it took a lot out of Pettigrew to defend the whole time. There were some times we thought we had easy baskets they came over and blocked. We didn't get as many offensive rebounds in the first half that we usually get. And we thought we really needed to do that in order to have a chance and extend the lead. Those are the types of things that length really helps the Zags.
Q. Coach, like I asked Orlando, how do you think building off of this win as far as down the road and as far as as much as you guys have been able to accomplish this year, having the doubts before the season, how does it set you up for the next couple of years?
COACH MCDONALD: Well, the great thing is we have a lot of guys coming back from this team. You look at just the experience standpoint and you look at a guy like Orlando and A.J. and Pett who have been here, and there's no question they were the most poised guys out there in game one and game two. And you can't replace that leadership and experience. So you're excited about what's coming back from the locker room. And then you throw in, to me, a very exciting recruiting class with a lot of talent.
So the focal point now becomes returners, improve, work on your game, but also be great mentors to the young group coming in, because we have a very young group coming in, a big group. And that's important. So we're very excited about where we are right now. We're going to be back and we're going to try to keep dancing a little bit more next time.
I think it's an exciting future. And I think what the tone that was set with this coaching staff and the players this year and how much we improved, it's great the success you have, because when you have success I think everybody understands you're doing the right thing. So it's an exciting time.
Q. Coach, I'll ask you real quick about Sergio. What did you see in him that made you want to go after him and how bright is his future in this league?
COACH MCDONALD: I'm sorry, was the question tonight, like what I saw in him tonight?
Q. To recruit him, what did you see in him?
COACH MCDONALD: He's got incredible energy. He's a guy that -- he's always got a smile on his face. He's always happy. He's always excited about improving, no matter what he does, and he makes mistakes, and sometimes he plays well. He always has that same attitude and approach. And you love that about him, because he wears on you at times with it, but you love it, because it's infectious. It's one of the things that the guys just feed off of him some. He's an incredible athlete that is still learning the game. And he's made huge strides this year.
The biggest thing I can say about him, too, is he really wants to do well. If you want him to defend better, he really wants to do it, he'll listen to you. If you want him to get better with his ball handling, he'll stand there all night and work on his ball handling. He's got an incredible attitude and outlook on life.
Q. Demetri, tell us a little bit about what was going through your mind as you got the ball there and made that drive down there?
DEMETRI GOODSON: I just looked up on the clock and saw seven seconds, Pargo was calling for it, but I just kept going down and saw the lane, drove, took the shot and made it. It just feels good.
Q. Can you talk about what was going through your mind after Pettigrew had the putback, before you went down and got the shot at the end?
JEREMY PARGO: What was going through my mind was to get a good look, no matter who it was. If it was Josh -- I can't even remember if he was in or not. He was in the right place at the right time and he made a big shot for us.
Q. Matt, Gonzaga has always been sort of the underdog in this tournament or seemingly for so long. What did it feel like to play a game where the underdog was kind of on the other side and it was you guys that were trying to keep your poise and advance?
MATT BOULDIN: I'm not too sure. I didn't feel like the underdog, I didn't feel like they were the underdogs by any means. We thought they were better than their seed, that's for sure. But we just went into this game like any other game, really. We had a game plan. We knew they were capable. Really we just wanted to go into it like any other game, really.
Q. Demetri, has there been another time where you had a final play to win a game like that?
DEMETRI GOODSON: Back in like 5th grade (laughter.) Yeah, it's been a long time.
Q. Jeremy and Matt, I wonder if you could talk about how difficult it was to contain the Western Kentucky guards.
JEREMY PARGO: Like we talked about yesterday, day in and day out, watching film on these guys, they have some great guards that can do a lot of different things. Mendez-Valdez is very crafty. You saw in the first half he lit us up pretty good. And A.J. Slaughter, you have to do your best to stay in front of those guys, and I think they finished with some big points for them, but I guess you can say we pulled it out in the end and got the guy the ball that needed it.
Q. Can you talk about what happened, you guys were up nine with a little over two minutes to go. What happened as far as defensively, was it a breakdown at all as far as them getting some good looks and getting back in the game there?
MATT BOULDIN: They were hitting a lot of three's. Whenever a team is hitting a lot of three's and we're not converting on the offensive end, they're going to fight their way back. I turned the ball over at the end there, gave them an easy lay-in. But they were just burying three's, a lot of tough shots and we weren't converting on the offensive end?
Q. Demetri, were you surprised to get that close to the basket, almost looked like they expected you to pass the ball at the end rather than take the last shot?
DEMETRI GOODSON: Yeah, I drove left and it was two guys there and the big kind of went with, I think, Matt. So it opened up the lane, so I just took it. I was really surprised to get that look.
Q. How does it feel to have a finish like that? Where do you think it will end up in the media guide or the annals of Gonzaga basketball?
JEREMY PARGO: That's exactly what is going in the media guide. This program has played some unbelievable games. I think this program had a shot like that years back.
COACH FEW: Casey Calvary tipped one in, so it's 1, and 1A. The other was Sweet 16.
JEREMY PARGO: Blake had the chance to have the same kind of shot.
COACH FEW: Great call, Pargo.
Q. Jeremy, can you just talk about the getting over the hump, getting into the Sweet 16 after a couple of years of first round losses and what it means to you as a senior to be advancing?
JEREMY PARGO: It means a lot for these guys that have years left under their belts to play. For them to come out and play just as hard as us seniors, they really want this bad. You can see it in their eyes how much they want to win and advance and get a program an opportunity to do something it's never done before. It's a tremendous thing to see in everyone's eyes. And it's just an accomplishment for us to do this and especially the way we won the game.
Q. Demetri, I'm told this is a shot you practice quite a bit, drive to win. Is that something you've practiced quite a bit?
DEMETRI GOODSON: Yeah, like floaters and stuff like that, but never game-winning floaters. But, yeah, I do -- me and Pargo practice those type of shots in practice.
Q. Coach, Demetri --
COACH FEW: Let's go with Meech, nobody knows what you're talking about when you say Demetri.
Q. Was he only in the game at that point because you had put him in for defensive reasons?
COACH FEW: For defensive reasons, yeah. I thought he was doing the best job of guarding the perimeters. We debated as a staff whether to have Josh in there for the rebound or to have Meech in there, because he was doing -- I thought he did the best job out of all of them on Mendez-Valdez. It allowed us to switch every ball screen and -- but sure enough we gave up an offensive rebound, though it wasn't the position Josh would have been playing.
But he has a knack. He's probably our best -- our staff will tell you and our players will tell you, he is easily our best finisher around the rim as a guard. And we have some great finishers, Pargo and Bouldin and Steven Gray is a finisher. This kid has a knack for making shots over bigger guys. From day one in our program it's something we've noticed.
So I was comfortable, actually, with he and Matt and Jeremy out there. There was just no need to call a timeout. I knew we'd get something going to the rim and probably a good look for somebody.
Q. Can you just talk about your defense has been so good all year, and these guys got so many open looks, can you talk about the challenges they brought up for you on defense?
COACH FEW: I'm not so sure they got that many open looks. They hit a lot of shots and they hit a lot of contested shots. And they hit some 30-foot shots. I would disagree with you on the open part of it. I mean they were -- they were amazing, the two guards are just -- Mendez-Valdez, with just how smart and crafty he is, and how he's able to hesitate and create just a little bit of space and how confident he is at any time to just let that thing go.
And then Slaughter is a really hard guard, because he can pull from three, and yet he's just lightning quick. And he can get in the lane and make you pay there. So with those two playing like that, we saw that on film and knew it was going to be a handful for our defense. And we were switching our ball screens. They were trying to cut our bigs out of the herd a little bit. And they did a decent job with that in the first half, but I thought we did a nice job in the second half of shoring that up.
Q. Does that mean you don't have anything to work on for the next game? You did --
COACH FEW: We've got tons of things to work on, no. I didn't mean in any way, shape or form to imply that. We've got tons of things to work on. Obviously we're just happy to survive and advance. We're going to celebrate this thing tonight and then we'll start picking things apart and worrying about what we need to work on tomorrow and get after it next week.
But we survived a red-hot basketball team that was just on fire. And they played with great confidence and they played with -- they've got a lot of weapons. We out-rebounded them, which I thought was going to be a big key going into it. And again I thought we kept our poise for the most part on offense. We had two kind of bonehead turnovers at the end that were very uncharacteristic.
Q. How much of a challenge was it to try to take advantage of your size inside against those guys?
COACH FEW: You know, it's just -- we laugh at that as a staff, because I think people look at the heights on our roster and it's just not what we've done all year. I mean we've been so much better with our skill package and our pick and pops and our ball screen. We just don't have a great post-up player.
It doesn't play to Josh's strengths. Josh is far better when he's on the move. Austin, obviously, with his body size is far better catching and facing from midrange and things like that. We tried to explore it a little bit and again we kind of got away from what we're best at which is setting the floor, and setting ball screens and moving things around.
We were incredibly efficient on offense. We shoot 50 percent and 43 from three and 73 from the line. It's tough to get any better than that unless you shoot 51 and 48 from three like they did.
Q. Can you just go through that last sequence at the end of the game when Demetri took the ball the length of the court, how did you see it? And also after the game you jumped really high and pumped your fist -- what was going through your mind at the end there?
COACH FEW: The first thing was we talked in the timeout, we need one stop and we've got -- we have a small lineup, we have to dig in, carve out your space and get the rebound. We got the stop, we didn't get the rebound. I said, if they score now let's get it out and go, unless we don't have anything, I'll call timeout, but let's get it out, we've got your guards out there and let's push it up and see if we can't get something going to the rim. We practiced that a lot. And I was very comfortable with Meech having the ball in his hands. He's a terrific finisher, and he has a real knack for splitting gaps and getting to the rim.
And obviously when it went in and they were shocked, which I figured Mendez-Valdez would make that thing from three-quarter court (laughter), I had to check the trajectory on it. It's just a great feeling. I so much wanted to reward Jeremy and Josh and Matt, some of our upper classmen who have never experienced, really -- a Sweet 16 where they were a real part of it. Jeremy went to Sweet 16 Adam's year. But to experience why they're really a part of it is something I really wanted for those guys.
Q. Just to follow that up, these guys have fallen short in the last couple of tournaments from what they wanted to do. Is there something -- every tournament game I imagine there's an urgency to win, but was there something extra with these guys to get over the hump this year?
COACH FEW: You know what I would say with these guys is there's been a quiet confidence and assurance and a pretty good amount of poise and not panicking down the stretch and not panicking even in the middle of these games. We got down I think five or seven there and they stayed with it. So I think they've had a real mature kind of just possession by possession approach that has allowed them to -- nobody's ever really created huge space on us over the weekend. I think that more than anything, and I'm sure that's a product of urgency a little bit.