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March 13, 2015

Steve Alford

Norman Powell


Arizona – 70
UCLA - 64

THE MODERATOR:  We'll start with an opening comment from Coach.
COACH ALFORD:  Well, really proud of our guys.  This is a top 5 basketball team in my opinion.  We had a chance to play Gonzaga.  We played Kentucky.  We've played a very demanding schedule this year.  Though it was early in the season.
But this team here that we played, in my opinion, is definitely a top 5 basketball team.  And I thought we played really well.  I thought we fought.  We were even, not just on the scoreboard at half, but we were even on the backboard which is not easy.
We just had a tough stretch after getting up about four or five, six points.  We had about a five, six‑minute window there where they really hit us hard on the glass.
And I thought that was the difference.  They beat us nine in the second half on the glass and got, I may be wrong, but they got 11 offensive rebounds in the second half.  I thought our defense was good.  We just couldn't finish a lot of those in that stretch.
And that stretch is what ended up doing us in.  Couple of missed free throw blockouts, those type of things.  But really like the fight that our guys had.
And we've improved.  We've gotten a lot better since November, December, January, and that's what you would want to see as a coach.  I'm very proud of the two to my left, the guys in the locker room.  They've done a lot of work to get to this point.  Our bench has gotten better.  We got beat by a very good basketball team.  But I like the way our guys fought.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions?

Q.  Coach, is this an NCAA Tournament team?
COACH ALFORD:  I don't think there's any question.  I mean, obviously it's March Madness.  So there's a lot that goes into it.  But if my math is right I think there's 31 at‑large teams.  32.  There's no way there's 31 at‑large teams better than we are.
This is a top 5 team that we played.  This team's got a chance, that we just played, to do a lot of damage in the tournament.  We're ahead at the ten‑minute mark.  We had one tough four, five‑minute stretch that did us in and we lose by two possessions.
So we've been playing well.  Kevon, that could have been a tough situation.  He came back.  Now he's got that one game under his belt with the mask.  He's going to be even better next week.  We didn't get a season‑ending injury there.  He'll be fine.
I like our chances.  We're like a lot of people going to sit and wait.  I'll be hard pressed‑I've been doing this a long time watching throughout the country that there's 31 better at‑large teams than what we are.
We're in a great league.  Very competitive league.  We finished fourth in the league outright by two games.  And we got to the semifinals.  We avoided any bad losses.  No upsets along the way on our behalf.  Our guys kept fighting.
So I think we're very deserving.  But we'll have to wait until Sunday to see.

Q.  Could you talk about the way you guys played these last three games in the tournament.  Could you expect anything less than the way the game played out today?
COACH ALFORD:  It's a great rival.  We're constantly building.  We felt like we laid a foundation last year.  Sean and his staff do a tremendous job.  They've got five, six years of doing this and building it and now it's unbelievable.  And they've got an incredible program.
And we're in year two of this thing.  Last year we built a great foundation.  Sometimes you forget.  But we lost two really good seniors in the Wears, and we lost three to hardship.  Five of the eight that were in the rotation last year are gone.
The only team in the country to lose three to hardship.  Yet you see what this team's developed into and built towards.  I couldn't be more proud of what they're doing.
So we're continuing those steps and building and there's a great rivalry with Arizona and UCLA.  And we hope that we can just continue to build this and make it even more‑‑ continue to make it competitive.  I think it's two really good obvious programs of the past and history.  But I think they're obviously two really good programs here in the present.
So anytime we get together, I've been a part of four of them now, and all four of them have been really, really good and really competitive.  Came down to the last minute of play.

Q.  Coach, could you comment looking back at the season where you guys started out, just the evolution of this club.  Maybe from an emotional standpoint for you?
COACH ALFORD:  Well, that's what I'm most proud of.  Because we're very young.  Very inexperienced.  Norman, though, a senior, playing a different role.  He's a go‑to guy.  Norman would tell you, he's been third, maybe fourth option most of his career.
Now he's the No. 1 option.  That's hard.  And now he's in a leadership role of leading a bunch of young guys.  That's hard.
Bryce came off the bench last year as a freshman.  Now he's your starting point guard.  That's a different role.  Tony was a backup center last year.  Now he's a starting senior.  Even the guys here last year those three they're playing different roles.  Everybody else was really new.  And we didn't know, when you schedule about a year and a half out.  So the schedule was very, very demanding for these guys, especially the schedule that hit us in December and early January.  It was very, very demanding.
And we didn't handle it well but you know what these guys kept fighting.  They didn't hang their head.  They didn't make excuses.  They came to practice every day to get better.
And now you look at where we're at today.  You look at where our bench is today.  Our bench, Norman would be able to tell you, too, but where our bench is now, compared to where it was in November, it was scary.  And those three guys would tell you, they weren't ready to play.  They weren't at that point yet.
And now you don't mind putting them in at all.  They're tougher.  They're more confident.  They understand the college game.  So our bench has gotten a lot better.  At halftime tonight, I think we'd outscored their bench 4 to 0.  That hadn't happened back in November or December.  Especially a team like Arizona, with the quality of their bench.
That changed a little bit in the second half.  But they need scoring.  They want scoring for their bench.  Our bench is a little bit different role.  But to see how these guys have developed and the go‑to go this guy's come into, just how we value the ball, how we've improved offensively.  That schedule has helped us.  I hope it helps us when it comes to selection as well.  We haven't played no bad teams.  No 200 RPI losses.  Stayed away from all that.  I guess the teams you're supposed to beat this young team beat.
And we've had some really good wins along the way and we stayed out of especially in league play out of bad losses.  You look at our last three losses, one basket at Cal.  One basket at Arizona State.  Our last four losses, took Arizona at Arizona in the last minute of the game and take Arizona again here on the neutral floor in the last minute of the game.  Those are our last four losses.  The rest have been wins.  I'm just really proud of where they've developed.  Hasn't been easy because they've had a lot of minutes yet they've found a way to do it and get better and we've had great chemistry.
It's been a team that's been a lot of fun to coach.

Q.  Norman, a win today probably would have sealed your fate as a sure‑fire NCAA Tournament team.  With that in mind, your level of disappointment.  To play so well against that team and narrowly get beat at the end.
NORMAN POWELL:  It's really frustrating.  I'm going to go out there leave it on the floor all 40 minutes.  To come up short just a couple of possessions of the game at the end.
I'm proud of the way not only myself but the team fought and kept battling through the adversity that hit us.  Foul trouble with Isaac.  The bench came in and gave us great energy, great effort and great enthusiasm.  That's what we need from that team, from those guys coming off the bench.
And I'm just really proud of the way we were able to fight and hang around with this team.  I feel like we all believe that we can be one of those teams.
And the growth of this team has been amazing.  And I'm proud of how much heart we have.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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