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March 24, 2014

Steve Fisher

COACH FISHER:テつ If you are in the line of work that we're in and you're still playing, especially if you've been around once or twice, you know how privileged you are and how excited you should be to be playing in the round of 16.テつ We as coaches feel that way, our players feel that way, and hopefully our fans feel that way.テつ We're excited.テつ We're anxious to play.テつ We're glad we're an hour and a half up the road.
With that excitement, we don't want anybody to assume that we don't feel like we belong.テつ We are going up with the expectations that we feel like we're good enough to win.
We're well aware of who we're playing.テつ They were rated number one in the country for a great part of the year.テつ They beat us up pretty good here in the second game of the season.テつ So we know we're playing a really, really good team, but you're supposed to be good if you're in the round of 16.テつ We believe that we're really good.テつ So I think it will be an exciting game.テつ Hopefully it will be one that everybody wants to tune in to if you're not ticket in hand going to the game.テつ It's what we all aspire to do.テつ Get in the tournament is number one, and then make a run when you get there, and then make a deep run.
We're trying to do something we've never done before.テつ Arizona's trying to do old school what they've gotten used to doing.テつ So we'll both have the same goal, win two games in Anaheim.テつ Our players are ready to go.テつ We'll have three days of practice and preparation to get a final game plan in, and should be a wonderful, wonderful week for us.

Q.テつ Did you watch the game or have you watched the game last night from Arizona and Gonzaga?
COACH FISHER:テつ I did.テつ I watched and Arizona was very good.テつ Gonzaga's good, and they made them look not so good, so hopefully we'll learn from that a little bit.テつ But they're a good team.テつ They guard and they guard effectively.テつ They get a little blood in the water when the turnovers occur, and they are off and running.

Q.テつ Would you say that's your team's description too that you guys are similar in a lot of ways?
COACH FISHER:テつ I think we both kind of pride ourselves in saying we're going to guard very effectively.テつ Mark Fisher showed me or told me that in one of these evaluations on per possession efficiency that Arizona's number one in the country for defensive efficiency, and we were seventh.テつ So it's two really good teams defensively going at one another and closure for defense is rebounding the ball.テつ So they rebounded the ball better than we did here, hopefully, we'll be a little better at it on this go‑round.

Q.テつ How much has your team grown and how different is it compared to the team that faced them back in November?
COACH FISHER:テつ If you're playing now, you're better than you were in November, so I'll say first they're a lot better.テつ They're better in every regard.

Q.テつ But you're better?
COACH FISHER:テつ We're better also.テつ We're better also.テつ I think our offensive efficiency is more improved.テつ I think we're doing things more offensively to move you around, and we're going to play a guy that was, because of me, missing in action in the first game.テつ Didn't play in Dwayne.テつ So hopefully that will play a big positive role for us.テつ He's been sensational.テつ He's now our sixth starter, and he's good, and he did not play a second in that game.

Q.テつ What has been the key to his confidence play?
COACH FISHER:テつ Dwayne Polee is what every coach in America should show his team on how to deal with adversity.テつ How to deal with frustration.テつ I said this before, Dwayne was the greatest guy in the locker room when he didn't play and we won.テつ You didn't know he didn't play.テつ It's hard to do.テつ Easy to say, very, very difficult to do.テつ But by doing that, he set himself up for when he got a chance, he wasn't brooding and lackluster with his concentration, and he and we have benefited greatly from his demeanor and how he's approached every situation.

Q.テつ Coach, students woke up this morning at 5 a.m. to buy a limited amount of tickets to travel to Anaheim.テつ What does that support mean to you and how important is that support?
COACH FISHER:テつ We packed this building, 12414 strong for several seasons now in a row.テつ My office overlooks‑‑ I can look out my window and see the ticket window during the season, and I could tell.テつ Sometimes I would ask what concert is there, and they would say, no, that's for us.テつ That's for our game.テつ So that doesn't surprise me.テつ We're right up the road.
Arizona travels well.テつ You've got a lot of Zonies that come here for the racing season and get in the way.テつ Now they're here for‑‑ they came for the tournament here, and a lot of them have stayed.テつ They are a great fan base that travel as well as anybody in the country.テつ So there will be a lot of red in that building, and there will be a lot of Aztec red, there will be a lot of Arizona red, and there will be a pretty good contingency of Wisconsin red.テつ So I'm proud that we're going to have a big crowd.テつ Arizona's going to have a big crowd too.

Q.テつ You talked about your changes.テつ What did you see in Arizona differently than you did in November when you look at the way they are now?
COACH FISHER:テつ Their offensive flow to me looks a lot crisper.テつ They're so much quicker with their cuts and movement.テつ They can hurt you in so many ways.テつ We're a good scout team, so if you run a lot of set plays, we do a good job of saying we're going to not let you run set plays.テつ They run motion better than anybody in the country, and they're good at it.テつ They take you one way, go back the other.テつ They'll give you multiple ball screens.テつ They attack off the dribble when you give them an angle, they know whether to drive it or draw and throw it up to somebody to dunk it in.テつ They're very, very impressive.
Their defense has I'm sure gotten better too.テつ But to me as I watch them, they looked really crisp with their offensive efficiency in the half court.

Q.テつ Why didn't Polee play in the first game?
COACH FISHER:テつ Polee didn't play in the first game because someone didn't put him in the game.テつ Me.テつ And now others are saying why didn't he play in the first game?テつ And I'm saying why didn't he play in the first game?テつ I don't know how he would have played, but I wish I had at least given him a chance to play in the first game.
It was me.テつ It was a coach's decision.テつ You know, through the course of a season you have a rotation, and sometimes it never changes, and sometimes it does change.テつ With us it changed.テつ Dwayne went ninth or tenth man on the pecking order to our sixth starter.

Q.テつ On that subject, your pal Bill Frieder said last night he's concerned that the Aztecs need to find more offense.テつ Do you agree with the cagey old coach?
COACH FISHER:テつ My old mentor Bill Frieder has become‑‑ he's fallen into the trap of being a talking head.テつ He's got all the answers now right after the game.テつ But I listen when he tells me what to do, and he's right.テつ Yeah, we've got to have somebody other than X, Xavier Thames to score the ball.テつ It didn't take Bill Frieder to tell me that.テつ But, yeah, he's right on that one, for sure.

Q.テつ What are you doing to build your offense?
COACH FISHER:テつ I've got one more secret weapon that I'm saving for Thursday that I kind of will not talk about until in now.テつ We played a 1‑3‑1 zone, I didn't know if you were here.テつ Did you know we played a 1‑3‑1 zone?テつ Yeah, we did that.テつ We had that up our sleeve.テつ So we have one more thing that we're keeping in the shadows until we play Arizona that I'll refuse to divulge right now.

Q.テつ Coach, along those lines, what is the message to Winston Shepard as he's struggled recently?テつ He's your second leading scorer.テつ How do you get him back on track?
COACH FISHER:テつ You compete.テつ You move into the next play.テつ You don't live in the past.テつ You think about what you have to do to help the team, and you help the team.テつ That's what we all have to do.テつ We can't be as good as we want to be without everybody, and that includes Winston, playing and playing at peak efficiency.
We're at a stage now where if we're going to win, we've got to have everybody playing at a certain level, and maybe some bodies playing a little better than they have played.

Q.テつ Besides the obvious of staying alive and advancing, what would it mean to the program to get its first Sweet Sixteen win?
COACH FISHER:テつ Too many people and all of us fall into the trap of when March Madness rolls around and the first rounds become the second, and the Sweet Sixteen, we forget about the body of work that teams had during the regular season, and we focus on who is still playing.テつ So we're in the spotlight that's narrowed now to 16 of us, and we're one of those 16.テつ For us, it would be‑‑ if we went on Thursday, it would be doing something that's never been done here.テつ So it's always fun to be a part of the first time.テつ But we're‑‑ even though we haven't, I don't think we're any different than any of the 16, and there are several in the 16 that have won National Championships.
Our goal‑‑ our ultimate goal is to not only go to Dallas, but to win the championship.テつ We're not talking about that right now.テつ We're talking about winning with this next little two‑game set up in Anaheim.
But we think we're good enough.テつ I'm not bragging.テつ I'm just saying that we think we're good enough to play with anybody.テつ Arizona has proven that they're good enough to play and beat anybody.テつ So for us, it would be the next step, which was a huge step to doing things that further enhance the fact that we have a big‑time program just like Arizona.

Q.テつ How much does it matter that Arizona played yesterday, got a 30‑something turboprop to fly home and they're going to fly back to Anaheim.テつ You've been here the whole time with an extra day of rest?
COACH FISHER:テつ I don't think that has any impact at all on anything.テつ You know, if they were flying three time zones away to get ready, they could walk home, really.テつ They're that close.テつ So I don't think that will have any impact.テつ I'm sure they've talked about should we just stay and bring the academic coordinator and stuff with us and stay on the road?テつ Some teams might do that, but you're close enough not to do that, and I'm sure that won't have any bearing at all on what happens.

Q.テつ You guys got yesterday off.テつ You said you have three days.テつ Does it feel like a routine week for you guys maybe in that sense?
COACH FISHER:テつ We had the opportunity to take a deep breath on Sunday, you're right.テつ Normally during the year if we don't have a Tuesday game, we take Sunday off.テつ That is our normal day off.テつ So it was a little more into our routine of Sunday off and nothing basketball related for any of the players.テつ But I'm sure it wasn't a typical Sunday for the players either.テつ They were probably watching every game that was on, including the last one, which was played here.

Q.テつ Coach, you had a unique opportunity to actually, if you wanted to watch the match‑up yesterday live, you decided not to.テつ You wanted to watch it from home.テつ Could you explain your decision, and why you thought it was best to not be in the arena?
COACH FISHER:テつ You'll probably see more if you watch it on TV and have it recorded to run back stuff if you wanted to see it again and replay stuff and make notes as you watch it.テつ But also I think that no one else had an opportunity‑‑ they didn't have the opportunity to watch us play.テつ So probably everything, including to do things that should be in the spirit of what we're doing.テつ If you start trying to sneak a camera in to watch a guy practice or try to get an extra look, it serves no purpose, and it probably shouldn't happen.テつ So we just decided.テつ Mike May and I talked, and that would serve everyone, including ourselves, best.

Q.テつ How about you have good game here, good game in Hawaii last year now this one.テつ Do you feel like this is maybe as big as any rivalry in the west right now?
COACH FISHER:テつ We've had the opportunity, and I'll say this not a lot of schools were willing to play us home at home several years ago.テつ And maybe even fewer now.テつ First Lute Olson, and it was as much because of a relationship that Lute and his former wife Bobby before she passed had with Angie and myself.テつ When we came out here, he was willing to play us home at home.テつ And we played home at home with them.テつ When Sean came out, he said let's keep it going.テつ Let's keep the series going.
It's a nice short trip.テつ It's a good game for them, and it's obviously a good game for us.テつ It gives all the Arizona fans a chance to watch them play in a short trip on the road.テつ So I think it's a win‑win for both schools.テつ But a lot of schools won't do that.
I'm appreciative of the fact that they feel there is value, and it's not a lose‑lose that they come here.テつ They know that they could come in here and we're capable approximate of beating them.テつ But that has not worried either Lute before or Sean now.テつ I think that says a lot about them also.

Q.テつ Right after X transferred from Wazoo, did you think that he could grow into the player that he is now?
COACH FISHER:テつ We recruited Xavier Thames out of high school.テつ He and Chase Tapley, when we went up there, we recruited both of them, and we knew he was good.テつ He's playing right now in games like he had in Spokane at an elite level.テつ You hope you can get someone to do that.テつ But he's played defensively and with his brain all season.テつ It's well‑documented.テつ When he wasn't shooting it really well, he went 170‑some‑odd minutes without a turnover.テつ Guarded the best player on the perimeter on the other team, great help defender, all of that.テつ But now when he's scoring the ball the way he has in some of these games, he's as good as any guard in the country.

Q.テつ How unique is it the way he seems to step up in big moments?
COACH FISHER:テつ That's what you're supposed to do.テつ Everybody aspires to do it, talking about it and doing it are sometimes two different things.テつ Xavier has that quiet confidence, and he's not going to go me, me, me, me, me, and pound his chest.テつ The most outside exemplifications of his energy are he'll occasionally put three fingers up if he makes one.テつ But he's not trying to draw attention to himself with theatrics.
But he's playing, and obviously, when you have success, you play with greater sense of I've been there, done that, and know you can do it.テつ Playing with wonderful confidence.テつ Our players have confidence in him.テつ They know we want him to have the ball in situations, and he's making good decisions.テつ Whether it's shoot it, pass it, how to probe and that kind of stuff.

Q.テつ He seems to have a look that he gets on his face after he makes a big shot.テつ It's almost like a recognition that he's now in one of those spots, one of those zones that you know something good is going to happen.テつ Do you notice that?テつ Is there a certain look or demeanor that he gets that you know X is in that place?
COACH FISHER:テつ I think you see a quiet sort of body language with him that, yes.テつ I would say, yes, yeah.テつ I can tell when he is really, really feeling comfortable in what he's doing.テつ It's not something outward, but you can tell, yeah.テつ You can tell that.

Q.テつ What is the history with Sean Miller?テつ Did you know him when he was younger or do you know his father and the family?
COACH FISHER:テつ I did.テつ We knew his dad from when he was coaching, a high school coach.テつ We recruited kids out of the Pittsburgh area.テつ Sean committed early to University of Pittsburgh, but I knew his dad and several of the people surrounding that AAU team.テつ But I didn't know him really, really well, but I've always liked him.テつ I love the way he played when he was playing.テつ He's a really good basketball coach.
One of his sons came over to team camp a few years ago, and I called Sean and said, well, I offered him a scholarship when he was here.テつ So don't get mad if he becomes an Aztec in a couple years, and he laughed real hard.テつ After we played them the one year when Tim Shelton was a senior, he called me on Thanksgiving Day and said let's talk about our teams.テつ What did you see you liked in my team?テつ What did you see that you think we can do better?テつ So he was comfortable enough to call me and say be honest with me and tell me what we have to do to get better and I'll be the same way with you.テつ Not many coaches would do that.
I like him.テつ Obviously, he's a terrific, terrific coach who has kind of elevated that program to the level they expect it to be.

Q.テつ He said last night, and obviously he's biased, but he thinks his father's one of the best high school coaches ever.テつ You probably had some encounters.テつ Is he that good, that legendary?テつ Can you see the sons taking after the dad?
COACH FISHER:テつ That's spoken like a son who loves his father.テつ But I would say he's probably not too far wrong.テつ His dad was a terrific coach.テつ I think if you're in our business and you go around, there are coaches at every level that could be coaching right here or be coaching at Arizona that for a lot of reasons, some, they never choose to.テつ Maybe like his dad.テつ Others, they never get that opportunity to who are phenomenal coaches.
I would say that's probably a very well‑spoken, accurate point he made about his dad.テつ His dad could probably still come and sit on the bench and help him and be productive.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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