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March 19, 2016
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with questions for the student-athletes.
Q. After the win the other night, what have you seen from St. Joe's. Obviously, they have got a lineup that matches yours a little bit better than Holy Cross. But so far, what for both you guys, what have you seen on film that either concerns you or feels like you can have an advantage?
DWAYNE BENJAMIN: We know they're a very versatile team. They got a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things. And it's kind of like us, but a good three-point shooting team and it's something that we have to worry about and just worry about the versatility with those guys.
ELGIN COOK: They're a very versatile team, and they play really hard and execute their plays and they can shoot the three well. So we need to do a better job of closing down on their shooters and just run them off the line.
Q. What did you guys learn from being in this spot last year and being in the second round against Wisconsin? And what stands out about that game to you?
ELGIN COOK: I think at the end of the day, we got to come out and execute and just play our basketball game and know who we are as a team. Don't try to get outside ourself and try to do things that we aren't accustomed to doing, just play Oregon basketball.
Q. For both of you, Coach Altman is heralded in coaching circles everywhere, he is universally considered a great coach. What was it about him that made you guys say, all right, I want to play at Oregon, I want to play for this guy?
DWAYNE BENJAMIN: He's a teacher. He just explains everything. He's great at what he does. He's consistent in everything he does. Every day is the same. He's a great person and a great coach and that's the reasons why. He just always let's you know what he expects of you, and he does a good job of explaining exactly that.
ELGIN COOK: I would have to say the same. He pushes me hard on and off the court. He's not a big yeller. He will tell you something once or twice and by the second time, if you don't get it right, he gets on you. But he's a great teacher.
Q. What is sort of the vibe of the team right now? I know Coach Altman said you guys were a little tight going into the game against Holy Cross. And Dillon, yesterday, said he was even scared, didn't want to be the first 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed. Are you more comfortable now that you got a win under your belt or are you guys still a little tight going into tomorrow's game?
DWAYNE BENJAMIN: Never comfortable. We're not comfortable at all. But we just got a better feel for the court. That's maybe one of the reasons why. A better feel for the court, different atmosphere, more people every game means more.
But I wouldn't say that we're comfortable, but a little more confident just coming in, playing well yesterday. But we just -- I say it's just a little more confident with the way we played yesterday.
ELGIN COOK: We're not satisfied. And it feels good to string some wins together and that was a big win for us yesterday. But at the same time, we got a game plan, and we got to execute it. And we just got to get comfortable with the arena and it's a different crowd for us as well.
Q. St. Joe's does a good job of not turning the ball over very often. How do you make them uncomfortable and force some turnovers?
DWAYNE BENJAMIN: Play the way we play. Speed the game up, run our zone, and run put pressure on same way. I don't think we'll switch up the way we play. We'll try to be real active with our hands and just being in all the right spots to try to make a couple plays and, hopefully, that leads to some turnovers.
ELGIN COOK: I think if we bring the energy on the defensive end and just be intense, set our zone up, be active in it, we'll get our hands on some balls, and I think we'll be fine.
Q. Oregon isn't typically associated with being a No. 1 seed. Not like an Arizona is, these teams that are used to doing it year in and year out. Can you feel the target on your back in any way? Is there any more responsibility or pressure knowing that everyone's looking at you as a No. 1?
DWAYNE BENJAMIN: The vibe I get from everybody, we're pretty much over that, we don't look at ourself as a No. 1 seed. We just look at who we got to play and that's St. Joe's.
And we know they're a good team. We think we're a pretty good team. And we're just focusing on that game. We're not focusing on any number next to our name or anything like that. We're just trying to play basketball for as long as we can.
ELGIN COOK: The same. I think we don't pay attention to that as much to the seeding, period. No matter whether we were going to be a 1 or 10, or wherever we're playing at. We just want to continue to play.
Q. St. Joe's might not have a 6' 10" guy like Chris, who can go out and shoot threes, but in what ways do you see similarities between you guys and St. Joe's?
DWAYNE BENJAMIN: I would say maybe the biggest thing is they got a couple guys like me and Elgin, a couple guys who can do a lot of things, will cover guys, can do a lot of things, pass the ball well, shoot it, can defend a lot of positions. Just that versatility, the wings and the four men can do a lot of things, just like us. But besides the fact maybe not a Chris, or maybe not a Jordan, but they got a lot of guys who can do a lot of things.
ELGIN COOK: I think they can mix it up pretty well. They got a lot of versatile guys and they play extremely hard.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you. We'll have coach up in a moment.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with questions for coach.
Q. When you look at this team, do you kind of see almost a similar version of you guys? There's a lot of 6'6", 6'7" guys that can play around different positions and such.
COACH ALTMAN: It's going to be a tough matchup for us, I agree with you. I think that they're athletic, they play really hard, they won their conference tournament here and are playing very well.
So I think we are similar basketball teams. And Phil does a good job. He gets them to play and they're playing with tremendous confidence. And watching them play yesterday, they were loose and confident and aggressive. So, we're going to have to play awfully well.
Q. Loose and confident are also two words that your players have used to describe themselves and how they're feeling, especially after getting that first round win out of the way. How have you seen them respond? Any differently than a regular season game?
COACH ALTMAN: We're trying to get them to play that way. I thought we did a great job in the conference tournament of being aggressive, which helps you be confident. So, we have got to continue that. We're not going to play any bad teams, so we have got to be the aggressor. We want our guys to be confident and relaxed and play as hard as they can. So, it's something that we have stressed. I thought we did a good job in the conference tournament and now, we just got to try to continue that.
Q. I'm curious about Phil Richmond. He goes from being a manager to a walk-on on your team, and he approached you and said he wanted to play. Why did you say yes? And, obviously, you know his family really well.
COACH ALTMAN: Well, yeah, his dad and I go back to 1984. So, I've known his father for a long time. But Phil came to Oregon a year ago and was our manager and came to me this summer and said he wanted to try to walk-on and help the team. And so he just changed his role a little bit and has helped us out in practice, and he's done a great job. He's all about the team, very unselfish young man, and has done a great job for us.
Q. Do you wonder now if the rest of your managers are going to walk-on? Have any of them approached you?
COACH ALTMAN: Well, the door's always open. We're going to keep a few managers to work out in practice. But no, I think that the rest of them probably feel pretty comfortable in their role. But Phil has done a good job, and I'm glad that he's helped the team in this regard. Our managers are so important, they do a great job. It's just a little different role for him.
Q. What do you see in Roman this year? You've seen more of him in practice. Where has he gained through the year and when you mentioned him getting an off season of lifting, has he seemed bigger, stronger, or more confident?
COACH ALTMAN: He really has. It's been a matter of -- I just got comfortable with the seven-man rotation and it's hard to explain that to Kendall and Roman at times, because they have done enough in practice to get some time.
But we have kind of stuck with that seven-man rotation. But when we have needed them, they have stepped up and done a great job. Roman at Utah, at Arizona, gave us big lifts in both those games.
And Kendall has stepped in in a number of ball games and helped us out. So, it's a tough role to be in, you're a competitor, you want to play more, but I have to admire the way both those guys have handled it and put the team in front of themselves. They have been very mature about it, very professional, and that's unusual. It's hard. I think they have done a great job of that.
Q. What's the difference with Roman this year?
COACH ALTMAN: Well, he's much more physical offensively. He's improved his skills, he loves working, he's in the gym shooting the ball all the time. If he can find somebody to rebound, he'll be in there shooting it.
So he's improved his skill level. He has gotten stronger. He needs to continue to work on his defense. He's not confident in a lot of his defensive things that he needs to continue to work on. But other than that, he's done a great job making progress in almost every area.
Q. In your last eight games, of course in the PAC-12, you had that two road games that you lost. What was the difference ins those two losses and in how, obviously, you said your team's playing well, obviously, they won the PAC-12 tournament. What was the difference between those two losses on the road and how you finished?
COACH ALTMAN: Well, we have played well the last nine games. But before that, we did have the Bay Area trip that we were not very good, we didn't play well at all.
California jumped on us and popped us pretty good, and then we lost to Stanford two days later. And I'm not sure what the problem was. But we didn't have much energy, our ball movement was bad, we just were not very good.
Fortunately, our seniors and Elgin Cook really had a sense of urgency after that road trip, and we finished and won the last five regular season games and were able to win the conference, and then played well in the conference tournament and yesterday.
So, the one thing in all nine games, except with the exception of the Arizona game, eight of the nine games is, we rebounded the ball much better. In my eyes, that's a sign of playing hard and being aggressive, and we want to try to continue to do that.
Q. Last night in the broadcast they said that DeAndre' Bembry was the best player that nobody knows in the tournament. Afterwards, coach made a joke about Mark Few not knowing his name. Can you talk about him a little bit, what kind of player you think he is and how you're going to try to slow him down?
COACH ALTMAN: Well, he's talented and he's versatile. He scores in a lot of different ways. I'm not sure exactly what his numbers are, but I think he's got about 150 assists, which is phenomenal for anybody.
He's a very good passer, makes plays, averages 17 points a game. We don't get a lot of A-10 games, but the games I was able to watch during the season, really impressed with the way he handled the ball and the way he made plays for his teammates. So he cannot only score himself and get 17 a game, but he does a great job of making plays.
Q. Apologies if this is a bit of a broad question. When you first arrived at Oregon, what did you think of that initial hand that you were dealt and what did you visualize for the future?
COACH ALTMAN: Well, any time you go into a job -- a number of players were leaving, and so we didn't have a lot to start with. But the guys Joevan Catron in particular really worked hard, and we got better as the season went on, and I thought they did a great job. Really owe a lot to that first group for just putting up with me and trying to get some things going the way we wanted to.
And then after that, we have gotten good players. Guys that were easy to work with and E.J. and Garrett were holdovers that did a great job of trying to work with me and trying to get things going the direction that we wanted them to go. And we have always had good guys to work with. Been very pleased with that.
And the guys that have stayed with us have wanted to be there and wanted to work and get better and compete. And so I envisioned coming here and working and getting a staff that would believe in what we were trying to do and stay with it. And we have been fortunate enough. I have a great staff that has been with me, and we have got really good players to work with.
Q. There are, obviously, a lot of elements that go into coaching. The guys up here, when I asked them what made them want to come to Oregon, they said, well, Dana is a teacher. On your list of priorities, how high is teaching, versus some of the other stuff that goes into the job?
COACH ALTMAN: Well, that's a big part of it, because you want guys, 30 years from now, to -- I should say 20, I'm not sure 30 years, that's a long time out -- but 20 years from now, they feel good about playing for you. And hope some of the things that you talked about during that time stay with them. And I know they get tired of hearing the same things over and over again. There are certain things that we think are important and whether it's basketball or not basketball, that we think are important, and we just keep going over and over again.
But I hope guys leave and feel like they had fun. We want them to enjoy it. We know it's a lot of work, but we want them to leave thinking, man, that was a great two, three, four years, whatever they have an opportunity to spend with us.
Q. Is it true that Mitch was your first recruit as a coach?
COACH ALTMAN: No. I was a junior college coach. I had coached a year at Southeast -- Fairbury Junior College, in Nebraska, and then I was at Moberly Junior College, and I had been there a year.
And then Mitch came in my second and third year, and we went 35-5 and 34-4 the two years. Mitch won 69 games and I found a way to lose nine. So, we had a pretty good junior college team.
Q. When you have a team that's made up of a lot of "wing" players, a lot of 6'-5", 6'-6", 6'-7" guys that you have, do you look at whether they can play on the inside, whether offensively or defensively first? Or is it kind of the outside game and they learn the inside game as they mature and progress in their career?
COACH ALTMAN: All of them come at different levels of where they feel most comfortable playing. We just kind of go from there. We love versatile players.
In our recruiting we talk about it, can they play more than one spot. We don't have a traditional offense guys inside. You know, we try to get up-and-down the floor.
So versatility is a big thing that we talk about in recruiting. And we take players from where they feel most comfortable, and we always talk about playing to their strengths and working on their weaknesses. Fortunately, we have had a group that's really bought into that.
And everybody wants to shoot threes and handle the ball and bring it up, because that's where all the girls watch them bring it up, you know. So everybody's got to kind of start at where they feel most comfortable and try to build from there and how much time they spend in the gym determines most of that.
We try to put them in a good position, but how much time they spend in the gym is really where we can build from that and guys like Dillon, Elgin, all of our guys, we have had a pretty good group that have been in the gym quite a bit.
Q. You mentioned E.J., Garrett, Joevan. I'm curious, since you guys got a 1 seed, have you heard from them?
COACH ALTMAN: Oh, yeah. Yeah. No, Joevan was one of the first texts we got and Garrett, E.J., all of them have -- Devoe Joseph, Olu.
As I look back, we have heard from -- they all feel like they got a part of this. It doesn't happen overnight. So, as I'm thinking back, there's maybe a handful that we haven't heard from. But most of the guys I've received a text or a phone call, because they feel a part of it. This has been six years trying to build and trying to get better and each year's different, but I've heard from almost everybody whose been a part of it the previous five years.
Q. Any really memorable messages, text, pep talks that they gave you?
COACH ALTMAN: No. Most of them just congrats, and I think they know that they're part of it, but I made shooter that I mentioned all of them, how much a part of it they are. Johnny Lloyd and all the guys, we don't get to this point without all their contributions over the years. So, hopefully we can keep it going, but to get to this point, those guys have been really important to us.
Q. You talked about shooting threes and Elgin's first year I don't think you wanted him shooting anywhere outside of the paint. Now it's a threat for him to score from three if teams leave him open. What's the process of stretching that jump per out farther and farther to where it is now?
COACH ALTMAN: A lot of work in the gym. Elgin's put in a lot of time and you're right, the first year, I don't think he took a shot out side the lane. And last year he built upon that a little bit and this year he's built it -- and it doesn't happen overnight. Shooting takes years. I'm really kind of impressed with how far he's come in such a short period of time, because usually it takes a long time. Shooting is one of those skills it just, you got to be in the gym all the time and usually it takes more than a couple years. But he has made a lot of progress.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports