March 22, 2009




LARRY WAHL:  We're going to start with the student athletes.  We will open it up for questions for Arizona's student athletes.

    Q.  I think I'll send this to Chase:  With their having closed to four points late in the game, can you talk about how you handled that pressure as a team?  And also personally you and Jackson exchanged some words there at the end.  What was that all about?
    CHASE BUDINGER:  First of all, we knew that they were going to make a run back at us.  That's the game of basketball.  It's a game of runs.  We knew that they were just going to have one, and they did.  And I thought we did a good job at keeping our composure and not getting too frantic.  Nic stepped up, and I think he got to the free throw line after that.
    And with the altercation between me and the other player, you know, just competitive rivalry.  We just got into it a little bit, but after the game we were fine.  We were cool.  I told him that he's a great player, and he said the same thing back.

    Q.  Chase and Nic, is this vindication for you guys considering a week ago you thought the season might not be ending this way obviously?
    NIC WISE:  We knew we could be here all along.  Coach Pennell, Coach Dewey, they were talking in their coaching staff meeting, and he told them that we would be in the Sweet 16, and that was five weeks ago.  The locker room out there in the ASU game after our loss, I told my team I wanted to be in the National Championship game.  That's the way we're playing.  We know we can be here and we have the talent to do it.  We're proving it now, and we're peaking at the right time.

    Q.  Chase and Jamelle, how fast is Nic?
    CHASE BUDINGER:  Too fast.  I hate guarding him in practice because he just goes right by you, and he's so low to the ground with the ball, you can't even get in front of him.  He's the best with the pick and roll, and he's been showing it all this season.  He's really showing it in the postseason right now, and he's stepping up for us big time and being one of our huge players.
    JAMELLE HORNE:  The thing about Wise is he's not only quick with the ball, he makes great decisions while he's moving at the type of speed he's moving at.  I think that's one of the things that makes him so special.

    Q.  This is for Chase:  When you signed with Arizona I imagine you expected to play in Sweet 16s.  Probably didn't expect to play for three different coaches to get there.  Talk about the unusual path and there must be some gratification reaching this point.
    CHASE BUDINGER:  I don't think anybody signed up for what has happened, especially me, Nic and Jordan coming here three years ago.  We thought we would be playing for one coach our whole college career.  You know, things change on you.  You just have to go with it and stay positive, and I think that's what we've done.
    You know, making it to the Sweet 16, it feels great for us.  We have the team to do it, and we're showing that we're a lot better than what people thought of us.
    LARRY WAHL:  We'll let the student athletes get back to their locker room now.  We'll turn it over to Coach Pennell for some remarks and then open it up to questions for him.
    COACH RUSS PENNELL:  First of all, I'm extremely proud of the guys and happy that the outcome of the game was in our favor.  Making the Sweet 16, that's kind of a benchmark for teams, and you know, the thing I liked about our guys in the locker room, it was the same thing against Utah, they were happy.  But I think they really enjoy playing together, and I was sitting up there thinking, just listening to them, the only thing that's negative about today is we're one day closer to the end of the season; that's it.  Because this has been a tight knit bench.  They've been a lot of fun to coach.  They're fun to be around, and they genuinely have had a good time.  And so for us to get another week of basketball, guaranteed at least one more game, that's a real blessing and we're looking forward to that.  I think that's not why it's not an elaborate celebration on their part.  I think they're grateful that we get a chance to practice and be around each other and play next weekend.
    But the game in and of itself, Cleveland State is a very athletic team.  We knew that coming in, and I think you saw in the second half we were in foul trouble and they tried to drive the ball down our throat.  Fortunately we did enough on the offensive end and shot enough free throws down the stretch that we were able to hold on.

    Q.  You guys were grinding so hard the last few weeks just to make the tournament.  Once you made it, did that maybe lift a burden off the guys and allow you to play freer and looser in the tournament itself?
    COACH RUSS PENNELL:  Possibly.  You know, it's interesting when you look at the NCAA Tournament, a lot of times the teams that get hot at the right time are teams that had to struggle to get in and maybe got beat early in their conference tournament.  I don't know if it makes you refocus.  I'm not sure what it all is, but I know with us, we felt like even when we lost some of those games down the stretch, we played well.  We played one of our better games at Washington and got beat, played one of our better second halves at Arizona State and got beat.  So I didn't feel like we were limping into the tournament.  A lot of people wrote that and said that, but I never felt that way.  It's just we didn't finish the deal a couple times.
    What's happening now doesn't surprise me with this team.  We've seen it before at points in the season.

    Q.  You guys were up seven pretty late on and coming out of the time out you did a little sideline trap and forced a turnover and got a dunk at the other end.  Was that called during the time out?
    COACH RUSS PENNELL:  Yeah, we have different looks out of our zone defense, and that particular time we just got a sideline trap and just took away vision and the ball was floated across the paint, and we've played well this year, that's the way we've played.  And our wins against teams like Kansas and Gonzaga and even UCLA.
    We really were aggressive.  The thing that was concerning to us about Cleveland State was their quickness.  They were hard to trap.  You had to get them in certain spots, and that particular time was just a real benefit that we had the sideline as a third defender.

    Q.  I know I asked you about Lute Olsen yesterday.  Do you expect to be hearing from him soon after this one?
    COACH RUSS PENNELL:  I don't have my phone with me, but he made a phone call I know in our locker room a minute ago, because right in the middle of one of our coach's speeches I heard it go off and it was him.  So we'll forgive whoever's phone that was.  But I anticipate I will.  Coach has been real good about calling and staying in touch with us all year.

    Q.  Just wondering, you're the lowest seeded team to make it to the Sweet 16 this year.  Is that a factor at all?
    COACH RUSS PENNELL:  I didn't even know that until you told me.  You know, I think the thing is in the NCAA Tournament, seedings are    I think they get them right probably 99 percent of the time, and in our case with our record coming in, it's probably correct.  But once you start playing the games, seeding, I think you can throw it out a lot of times, because it really comes down to one game seasons, who's playing well on that particular night.  And for the two nights that we've played here, you know, we've played pretty well.

    Q.  Nic was referencing a coach's meeting about five weeks ago.  Can you take us back?  What were the circumstances and what did you tell the team?
    COACH RUSS PENNELL:  It was actually my dad, and it was a time when we were struggling a little bit, and he said, "You know, I just feel like this team has got another run in it," like we had this seven game winning streak earlier in the year, and he said, "I think this team is good enough to get to the Sweet 16.  I think that's going to happen."  I looked at him and thought, "Man, are you going crazy or what?"
    It wasn't a bold prediction, he really meant it.  It wasn't a flippant deal.  He's been around basketball a long, long time, and he just saw the potential and what this team is capable of, and I think he knew that we had straightened some things out and would get back on track.

    Q.  Did you roll the dice a little bit to see with the zone if Cleveland State could hit their outside shots, especially at the start?
    COACH RUSS PENNELL:  Yeah, we knew that they had a couple guys that shot it pretty well, but we were more concerned about their dribble drive attack, and second half they definitely showed how good their guard play really is.  But we tried to get out on the shooters.  I think it's Montgomery, No. 5, got away from us a little bit.  He shoots the ball well from the corners.  But for the most part I thought we defended the three pretty well, and we probably didn't defend the dribble drive quite as well.  But nonetheless, we got it done on the offensive end.

    Q.  Wise had 21 points, only took eight shots.  Can you talk about his efficiency.
    COACH RUSS PENNELL:  Well, Nic is very good with the ball in his hands, and when we play teams that play predominantly man to man defense, which Cleveland State did, Nic is very effective in the pick and roll game.  He's just outstanding in that, and he makes great decisions, as Jamelle said a minute ago.  When the ball is in his hands like that, you're going to either have to foul him or he's going to find something for us, and I thought he not only had 21 points, he has eight assists.  And I thought he can really control the offensive end of the floor, and he was very efficient.

    Q.  Just how do you feel yourself?  Is this a little vindication for you do you think?
    COACH RUSS PENNELL:  I'm real tired right now, honestly.  You know what, again, it's interesting, and people all the time, they mean well when they say this to coaches, but they'll tell you as you go into games, have fun.  There's nothing fun about what we just did, okay?  That is work.  It's enjoyable when it's over, and it's enjoyable when you can reflect back on it, but it always takes me a while to kind of process it.
    Where I get the great joy is watching these three guys interact, and that's always been the way I've felt about coaching.  I love    and the four years I was away, I missed that camaraderie with the players.  That's to me the most enjoyable part of coaching.  So to see them happy, looking forward to playing again next weekend, that's where I'm getting my joy right now, and I'm sure as I reflect on the flight home, it may kind of sink in that I'm going to be coaching next weekend in the Sweet 16.
    LARRY WAHL:  Thank you, Coach Pennell.
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    LARRY WAHL:  We have Cedric Jackson and Norris Cole along with Coach Waters.  We'll open up with a statement from Coach Waters and then questions for the student athletes.  We'll let them go back to their locker room and then questions for Coach Waters.  Coach?
    COACH GARY WATERS:  Let me first start, like I always do, give honor to God.
    Secondly, let me just say I think I'm proud of these young men.  They have fought extremely hard throughout an entire year.  The game today really didn't epitomize anything about them, because sometimes these things happen in life.  What epitomizes how hard they've worked and extremely pleased that they have continued to work to be who they are.
    Arizona's, I thought, zone was really tough today.  That's been our nemesis all year, the zone, because when people play us man to man, we really execute well.  But the zone, you've got to hit shots, and if you don't hit shots, sometimes it's difficult to handle.  We went 3 for 23, and it's hard to beat a team going 3 for 23 from the three point line.
    But I give them credit because our guys fought back.  We had it within four and had the ball.  If we would have executed on those plays, I think it may have been a different case.  But my hat's off to Arizona because they're going to be pretty good in this tournament, if that zone stands still and Wise keeps playing the way he's playing and leading that team, they're going to be pretty good throughout this tournament.  I think they'll even go to the next round.

    Q.  Cedric, Norris, at the start were you looking for that outside shot, because that's what worked against Wake, to jump on them early?
    NORRIS COLE:  Actually our plan was to get the ball to the paint, get the ball to the middle and then penetrate and kick out and if a shot was there, take it.

    Q.  This is for either of you guys:  You've obviously come a long way, but I'm sure you're disappointed now.  Can you talk about your feelings about what you've achieved here and maybe falling short?
    CEDRIC JACKSON:  We've come a long way from the start of the summertime, from our conference championship last year, we fell short.  So our journey started then last year.  You know, from that point until this point now, you know, we're not really sad that the game is over.  You know, we're just really sad that our year is coming to an end as a family, you know what I'm saying?  Just everything we do together every day, we won't really be doing that much anymore.
    But we had a great year.  We had ups and downs, losing on buzzer beaters to Butler, but us still coming back to regroup.  You know, it was just us against the world, and we prevailed all the way to this end.  We're just proud that we could make it this far.

    Q.  Cedric and Norris, can you talk about how good Nic Wise is.  And is he sort of an underrated point guard coming into this tournament a little bit?
    NORRIS COLE:  He's a very quick point guard, very shifty with the ball.  It was difficult keeping him out of the paint.  That was our plan, try to make him go east and west and not north and south, and he's a very quick point guard.  I don't know how people rate him or anything, but from all the guards that I've checked this year, he's definitely one of the more difficult guards.

    Q.  Cedric, how difficult was that stretch when you were out with an injury at the end of the first half?
    CEDRIC JACKSON:  It was pretty difficult because I got scratched pretty bad in my eye and I couldn't see, but I tried to fight through it.  I did the best I could, but I just tried to fight through it.
    LARRY WAHL:  We'll entertain questions for Coach Waters.

    Q.  Coach, coming from behind, you almost did it there in the second half.  Talk about your team's resiliency cutting the lead until basically the last couple minutes?
    COACH GARY WATERS:  Yeah, that's what we've been doing basically all year.  If you think about it in the tournament game, in our Horizon League tournament, we were behind in the second half every single game, and we came back and fought back.  Eventually when you do that an awful lot, one time it's going to get you, and it caught up with us today.
    But you know what, I can't just say the coming back caught up with us.  I have to give credit to Arizona.  Their zone was hard for us to crack.  If you've watched our team all year, any games that we have struggled it's been a zone.  What occurs is we're pretty good man to man.  We can move the ball, we can execute, we can get the shots we want.  But when the zone comes, it's only a particular shot.  We still work it and try to get it inside and drive it, but it's not at the same pace we do against a man to man.

    Q.  Was there a point that you at any time decided to do something out of the ordinary with maybe even McCoy just to try to break it up when the shots weren't falling?
    COACH GARY WATERS:  Well, that wouldn't have helped because that's when we put Jeremy in, and he hit a three.  It was just one of those days that we just weren't hitting our outside shot.  If I would have exchanged that for the game before when we did hit a few outside shots.
    But I've got to give them credit because we even had a hard time stopping the low point guard and stopping Budinger.  He was doing some things there, but I thought in the second half Cedric did an outstanding job of keeping him away from the basket.
    They were just the better team today.  We can try all kinds of things.  I have to admit, they were the better team today.
    LARRY WAHL:  Thank you very much.
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