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March 12, 2015

Steve Alford

Isaac Hamilton

Norman Powell


UCLA ¬Ė 96
USC - 70

THE MODERATOR:  We'll go ahead and let Coach Alford make a statement about the game and then open it up for questions.
COACH ALFORD:  We're just really pleased with our team.  I thought we played really good basketball for having eight days between games.
The guys seemed rested.  They were really focused offensively and defensively very well tonight.  We had some adversity hitting us, from Kevon getting injured and not coming back int the game, and you got Norm who gets three fouls in the first half.
That's not easy.  And for our guys to build a good first half lead and then to sustain that lead on a team that has been making a lot of comebacks throughout the season, we're really, really pleased with.  And couldn't be happier for Isaac.
Sometimes we kind of forget and we go through things day to day, week‑to‑week, month‑to‑month, playing games, and you kind of forget that these guys are student‑athletes.
And so not only academically, but you get things dealt with you in life, too.  He had the passing of his grandmother this week, lived a wonderful life and they're such a wonderful family.  And for him to have a game like this, you know, on the heels of her passing, that's a pretty special situation to be in.
And coaches and teammates are very, very pleased for him.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions?

Q.  Could you talk about Looney and what's the situation there?
COACH ALFORD:  I really don't know.  I just kept looking around hoping that he was going to be coming back, but the only word that we've got is he's gone with the doctors to check things out.  It's some kind of facial injury.  To what extent we don't know yet.  So we're just waiting to hear back word from our UCLA doctors what the prognosis is going to be.

Q.  What was it offensively that let you guys get into such a good rhythm?  First five minutes you were stagnant, and then all of a sudden the game felt like it was starting to open up for you guys.  What started happening?
COACH ALFORD:  One, these guys did a good job of getting us going.  I thought Isaac and Bryce did a good job handling it.  Getting us in things.
We took good shots.  But our three games this year against SC, we've done a good job of scoring.  We've been able to score on them.  Our focus coming into this last night, once we found it was SC that we were going to play, it was really about our defense.
And we had some lapses.  But for the most part, without watching the tape, I was very pleased at every run they tried to make we had an answer offensively for, and then we settled in defensively and got the stops we had to have.
But offensively through three games we've been able to score the basketball.  So it was good to show that consistency again, driving it.  And I thought we really attacked the paint.  We got the ball inside.  And it's a team that's matured over the year.
We're taking better shots.  We're valuing the ball.  We're valuing the possession better.  And that's shown.  Young guys are maturing and getting better.

Q.  Norman, normally you get Arizona later in the tournament, what is it going to be like to see them in your next game?
NORMAN POWELL:  It's going to be a lot of fun.  I think the guys are really excited and motivated to go out here and play against Arizona.  Feel like we let one slip away and in Tucson came down to two possessions that didn't go our way.
We're really focused on what we need to do and ready to play UCLA basketball against them.  It's going to be exciting.

Q.  Coach, you held Arizona 57 points and a low shooting percentage.  What were the keys defensively in that only game?
COACH ALFORD:  The only problem is they held us to 47.  Just, one, they're extremely well coached and they've got tremendous players, tremendous talent.  I love their bench.  They can come at you in waves.
Thought we did a good job with the starting unit to start with.  And they came in with a lot of scoring and hurt us.  But it was an odd game of runs in that game.
But we're going to have to find ways to score the ball.  They're very good defensively.  I thought we tried to match their physical play.  They're a physical, athletic team.  You've got to be able to rebound the basketball with them because they're a great rebounding team.
And you can't take bad shots and turn it over, and really we didn't do that.  We didn't score like I think we're capable of scoring.  But we didn't turn the ball over and we didn't take bad shots.  If you turn the ball over against that defense and take bad shots and don't rebound, you're looking at disaster.
So I think when we first start preparing for them, it's value the ball, value the shots we get, and then make sure that we're ready to battle on the glass, because if you don't do those three things, it can be a long night for you.

Q.¬† I wondered where you think you stand with respect to the NCAA Tournament at this point and do you think that Arizona game is a potential play‑in game for you guys?
COACH ALFORD:  Our guys have done a lot of good things.  If you look at our last 10, 15 games, we had a tough December.  But that December was Gonzaga at home.  Top 10 team.  And Kentucky, who's the best team in college basketball in Chicago on neutral floor, then we have to go to Alabama, which is not an easy place to get to from LA, let alone play.
And the conference starts.  We're at Colorado at Utah with a young basketball team going through things for the first time.
You get past that and get to the second week of our league play, this team's done a lot of good things.¬† They've won a lot of games and we've scheduled people.¬† Our non‑conference schedule speaks for itself.¬† We schedule everybody.¬† We're like everybody else, we would like more wins at this point but it's the 20th win playing a difficult schedule, in the Pac‑12 Conference where we finished fourth outright in the league, and now we're guaranteed to be top four in the conference tournament.
So it's not like we finished sixth or seventh in the league and it's not like we had an early exit in the conference tournament.  This team's done what they're supposed to do.
Now, obviously each game you try to build that resum√©.¬† I don't know if it's necessarily a have‑to‑play‑in game.¬† You approach it that way.¬† But our resum√© looks pretty good.¬† And I like what we've been able to do in a league that's like the Pac‑12, we've been very consistent in it the last two months, and we're playing our best basketball.
So with that said, we know the meaning of this game.¬† We're not here‑‑ season three isn't about the NCAA Tournament for us.¬† Season three is about the Pac‑12 Championship.¬† And we're defending champs.¬† And this is four in a row for us.¬† And now we've got a chance to play easily one of the better teams in the country.¬† And we've got to get through them if we're going to have a chance to defend the title.

Q.¬† Since that Arizona game, how much progress have you seen from the guys coming off the bench and obviously in a tournament like this they're going to be‑‑
COACH ALFORD:¬† That hasn't been mentioned yet.¬† Very good question.¬† We mentioned this to the team in the locker room and these guys would second‑‑ it's the best our bench has played.¬† And you've seen it coming.¬† It's not so much the points.¬† The points end up being‑‑ because we got bench points today, we're in the 90s.¬† If we don't get that bench production, we're upper 70s.
That's okay, as long as we get the effort, the defensive positioning, the rebounding, the value of the ball, but I just thought Noah and G.G. and Tom gave us tremendous minutes off the bench, in a game where, like I said, a couple of things happened to us.  Kevon's injury and Norman getting three fouls.
There were some situations that were a little bit different, and they handled it great.¬† So you're seeing‑‑ those are sophomore and two freshmen growing up a little bit, and that really helps us.¬† Makes us a completely different team when we get that kind of production from our bench.

Q.  For Isaac, 36 points is an awful lot of points in a college basketball game.  Tell us how you were able to have this kind of a day like you did today.
ISAAC HAMILTON:  I just credit my teammates, just finding me.  The ball was moving.  I took good shots.  And that's the whole point of the offense.  Coach really emphasized taking good shots, and that's what I tried to do.  And they were falling for me.

Q.  Norman, I guess it's a big accomplishment to beat SC in your final year three times in a row?
NORMAN POWELL:¬† Definitely.¬† I've had a great showing against them.¬† And I think the last time we did that was my freshman year.¬† So it's always great to beat your in‑city rival three times in one year.¬† And I think the guys are excited about it, and it's a great feeling to know you actually run LA and they're 0‑3 against you, and I'm coming out against them with a 9‑1 resum√© against them.¬† So it's really great.

Q.  A lot of us weren't sure where this was going with you guys after the Oregon weekend.  But you've been a different team the last like six weeks.  What internally happened between the Oregon and Utah games, because things really seemed to perk up after that?
NORMAN POWELL:  I think our defense really picked up.  And that's what is fueling our offense.  Against Oregon we didn't show up on the defensive end and we allowed easy shots.  And credit them.  They were shooting lights out from the floor.
But our defense really picked up, and that's when we started to see our offense start to work.  And the flow of the game really changed for us and just how gritty we got defensively after that game.  You could see that, the lapses we were having were happening, contesting shots and making opponents take tough ones and that was fueling our transition and being able to get us into offense.

Q.  Isaac, given your performance tonight, it's going to give you more confidence to come out aggressive right away against Arizona, or is it going to be one of those situations where you just feel the game out, see how it's going?
ISAAC HAMILTON: ¬†Definitely the game gives you confidence.¬† But like you said, feel myself‑‑ but like Coach said, we have to drive first.¬† I have to be on attack mode.
That's what I'm going to do tomorrow and continue to do so.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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