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December 17, 2016

Steve Alford

Lonzo Ball

Aaron Holiday

Las Vegas, Nevada

UCLA - 86, Ohio State - 73

STEVE ALFORD: Very proud of our guys. I mean, what they have a real knack of is figuring things out, and this is another different style. This was very similar to A&M as far as size. Just guys that were able to play the three and the four spot that had different size and bodies and strength that we haven't seen, and I thought they figured it out in the second half.

We were uncharacteristic, more turnovers than assists in the first half, and we end up with nearly 20 assists again, and got our turnovers down in the second half. I think that was the key. I think anytime you can get a double digit win against a Big Ten team, I mean, this team's really good. They're well-coached. They've got some vets on this team, and an awful lot of respect for them.

So we had rebounding issues in the Santa Barbara game, and now we come in and play a better rebounding team here and outrebound them by 10, and I think that was a key. So seems like the things we emphasize as coaches with this team, and there is just a great trust factor. We obviously have the utmost trust in them, and I think they've got trust in us, and they've got trust in each other, and I think that shows throughout their play. So very excited to have us at 12-0.

Q. You guys went to the four guard lineup. I think there was like a little over 8 left, and Ike picked up his fourth foul, and then you seemed a step quicker the rest of the way, got a couple steals and got out in transition. For both of you guys, how important was that to play that way to finish off the game?
AARON HOLIDAY: I think we did that all year. We finished with four guards. So it's obviously better to get the ball moving and just be quicker out there, so most guys like them, big guards can't really guard us.

LONZO BALL: Just a different look. That's the beauty of this team. We've got a lot of different things we can go with, and it's just another way we can get five on the court and play together.

Q. Aaron, what's it been like to sit there and watch things starting out the game to figure out what you need to do to go in and how much have you enjoyed that role? Because today it was pretty crucial the way the game came out?
AARON HOLIDAY: Yeah, I just tried to get my mind right on the bench until my name was called, pretty much. Obviously, I could see different things that the defense aren't doing and are doing so I can go out there and help that way. But I'm always just trying to help my team any way I can. Tonight it was scoring and trying to play defense the best way I can. So that's what I try to do every night.

Q. This is for both of you. Coach mentioned the turnovers in the first half. What do you think was the key to cleaning that up in the second half?
AARON HOLIDAY: Just moving without the ball pretty much. We get into the paint very easily, so it's just kickouts and making sure guys are in the right spots at the right time.

LONZO BALL: Just to piggyback on that, in the first half we were standing too much coach told us at halftime. Came back out got some movement, picked up the pace, and things fell into place.

Q. You guys have responded to every challenge be it Texas A&M, Nebraska, Kentucky, Michigan and now Ohio State. What's it been about this team at any time a game gets close, you're able to find that extra gear to pull out a win?
AARON HOLIDAY: I think we just really trust each other no matter what. No matter how far down we are or how far up, we're going to trust each other to get the job done.

LONZO BALL: It's just the will to win. Every night, having a different task, have a different opponent, to stay together and go in there ready for battle and come out on top.

Q. Aaron, did you go through your head at all about the last time you were in Las Vegas, the season ending it the way it did and just how things have been able to turn around in this club this year? Did that go through your head at all this week?
AARON HOLIDAY: To be honest, no, it hasn't. I didn't even think anything at all about last year.

Q. For both of you guys, I just wonder, when you looked at Ohio State on tape, and what you saw on the court today, did it look different than what you saw? Did it give you the challenge you expected? What did you think of how they played?
AARON HOLIDAY: Coach gave us a great game plan to come out and execute, so we did that. And they looked pretty similar as they did on tape.

LONZO BALL: Yeah, it's the same. Coaches do a great job having the game plan ready. They were physical as we saw tonight, and we got the job done.

Q. Was that physicality the thing you were most concerned about with them, or what did you identify that you were concerned about?
LONZO BALL: We shot with no concerns. We let other people be concerned about us. They're big, but, like I said, we got the job done.

Q. Aaron, do you think you guys after Ben had mentioned all the different types of teams you've played and the high caliber teams, do you think you've seen just about every style now as you head into the conference season or a couple games from now?
AARON HOLIDAY: Yeah, I feel like we've seen a lot. Not all, because everybody plays different. It just really depends on how hard you come out and play. So anybody can be beaten on any given night. So I think we've seen most of the scout already though.

Q. With the early turnovers, did you feel like their size was causing some problems in shutting down passing lanes? Kind of on the counter of that, how were you so successful on the glass with such a long team?
AARON HOLIDAY: I don't think their size really made us change our game plan. Obviously in the second half we got back to what we wanted to do and we succeeded at that. We just fought hard on the glass. Everybody came. All five guys came to the glass and rebounded every time.

LONZO BALL: Like I said before, first half we were standing and playing uncharacteristic. Second half we got right, got focused and came back out strong and got the win.

Q. A lot of people say they can't enjoy something until it's over and they'll say they enjoyed it afterwards. Are you guys having fun right now out there in this whole streak to start the season?
AARON HOLIDAY: Yes, we are having fun, but we can't get complacent. We've got to still fight and just come out every night and play how we play.

LONZO BALL: Yeah, we're all having fun. We're all so close on the team, and then again we're playing the game we love all together, and it helps that you're winning. So everybody's smiling and having fun right now.

Q. Steve, off Mark's question, do you think with all the different styles and stuff you've seen as you get a couple games closer to conference, with all these new faces you've seen, is it everything you need to know what you have?
STEVE ALFORD: Well, I know what I have. I've got a really good group of guys to coach, but they're a pretty good basketball team right now. We're trying to become a great basketball team, and that's a process. That's a journey.

We've seen a lot of different styles and a lot of teams have done different things to us. I don't know if it's all of them. But I think we've gone against enough that as we've got one more 40-minute task before we get into league play, I think we're best prepared.

The nice thing about this, we started the season without Ike, so G.G. and Tom, and T.J. got a lot of experience. Then we lost G.G. for a game, and now we've lost Tom for the last three or four games, and that's just giving these guys, these inside guys a lot of experience so that the hope is we eventually get, Alex Olesinksi has missed every game so far.

So our hope is we get guys back healthy. The biggest thing is trying to get to the conference season, and trying to get as many of these guys healthy as possible because I think that's just going to make us deeper. I think it will really help our defense, because right now we're playing seven guys, and I think we made strides defensively.

I think this was a much different team to try to defend than our last game. We gave up five threes, so the three defense has been a lot better in the last two games and we really came into this game worried about the backboard, because I think this is a big, physical, rebounding team, and we just got kind of hammered by Santa Barbara on the glass. Gave up 24 offensive rebounds and we win this game by ten on the glass.

So whatever we end up reemphasizing or focusing on, this team just, there's just a trust factor there it's a surreal group. The IQ they have to play the game is at a high level, and that's fun to coach.

Q. How did Aaron change this game, and how has he changed games in different ways coming off the bench and coming into this?
STEVE ALFORD: Well, one, having someone like he and Ike, and again, we hope our bench can get deeper, but thus far through 12 games our bench probably has done more in 12 games than 32 games last year, and that's huge. When you can go to your bench and your starters and whoever is out on the floor can play as hard as they can, and now they have to ask to be taken out. They're trusting the guy that's coming in for them, and the guy that's coming in for them can raise the level of play when their teammates have gotten tired and we're seeing that. Our bench, there is not a drop off.

What Ike can do off the bench, if G.G. eventually goes back to the bench as Tom gets healthy, he's going to be more experienced now. And what Aaron brings, we have four elite guards and you have to prepare at a high level for all four of those guards. We finish most halves and finish most games with those four on the floor. So if we can get leads, I like our chances at the end, because those are four high-level guards.

Q. When you do have those four on the floor, what do you like about the way they're able to finish things out for you?
STEVE ALFORD: Well, very, very smart. Outstanding ball handlers, outstanding decision makers, all four of them are tough, not afraid to make a play, make a shot, take a shot. All four of them can make shots, all four made free throws.

So when you've got a lead four minutes in, that's what you want. And it's like one play right at the end, for instance, I think it was maybe a minute and a half to go, Zo (Lonzo) gets the outlet, and he immediately fires a cross-court to Brice. He doesn't have to do that, but he knows Brice is a 90% foul shooter, that's just Zo. Zo figures that stuff out.

It's never been about Zo. That's what's special about these guys is they're selfless. They really trust one another, and they know whose role, what role at certain parts of the game has to be. I think that's what's really neat about Lonzo. He knows if we've got to go inside, he finds a way to make it a post feed. If we need a three, he finds somebody.

Then all of a sudden if Isaac, Bryce, Aaron, they're not on, they're not making it, who steps back and takes one? Zo. This was a big game of influence on board play, and he gets nine rebounds at the point position. I just thought that kind of mindset, the mindset of these guys, they find ways of trusting one another even in the ebb and flow of a game, which is pretty special.

Q. Steve, I know you're really familiar with some arenas in Las Vegas, but can you talk about T-Mobile?
STEVE ALFORD: Tremendous. We were in it first time yesterday, and outstanding. As good as an arena as we've been in. I have no idea about the outside, the pavilion and all that kind of stuff. We didn't go up to the club levels or all that stuff. But just from a playing standpoint, love the floor, love the brightness of it. I thought it was a tremendous setting for us, and it really hits us at a good time to be able to play a game in here in December, knowing that we're coming back here for the Pac-12 tournament. It's something our guys will be familiar with.

Because when you come back for the Pac-12 tournament, you've got all the teams here, and you don't get much court time. Our guys will be able to reflect in two months that they were here. They've seen this locker room. They've seen this facility, and the surroundings they'll be comfortable with, so we hope that helps us later in the year.

Q. How do you characterize Hamilton's game on offense? It seems he's got a whole bunch of shots, he improvises. It's very good, the mid-range?
STEVE ALFORD: He's a throwback and I told him that. When I first got him, he had to sit out his first year, so he was a practice guy, and that was a really good team. We were playing about seven, eight guys there, and that was a great rotation. Yet those guys were playing against Isaac every day, and Isaac could score just about on anybody. And he drove people nuts because he'd go off the wrong foot at times and shoot it. He'd have a step back that was awkward.

He just, he's a throwback, and even from year one, he was wearing the short shorts, and I told him, I said, you're bringing back the '80s, and I love it. You just stay with it, because it's going to come back, and now you're seeing it come back. Players are rolling their waistline two and three times. They're wearing the tights underneath, but the shorts are getting shorter, and I give Isaac a lot of credit for that.

Again, Isaac emulates what I'm most pleased with and blessed as a coach, the highest character you could ask of. Just a tremendous individual. I mean, he's the guy that checks into the hotel room and refolds the towels. That's what he does. He's just a special individual and a joy to coach.

Q. Tom Welsh looked like he was moving okay in warm-ups. Was he close to going today?
STEVE ALFORD: Boy I hope so. We obviously want Big T back. But we've got a great medical staff. Shane, our trainer, does a great job. So we're in communication with them. We obviously don't want to rush things back, and they just felt like if we could give him another week, think about Wednesday, but which do have Christmas break coming where the guys will get three days off before we get to Oregon and the crucial part of the season, getting into league play.

So it's not something we just want to hurry back. We're confident with the guys that we have that are filling in for him. But he's progressing very well. He'll be back Wednesday. I'd say he's questionable than doubtful for Wednesday. But highly likely for conference season, and that's really the focus.

Q. To piggyback off something Lonzo said basically, you guys worry about being the best version of yourselves more so than what other teams are doing. Is that something that's unique about a team?
STEVE ALFORD: Well, it's something that I think, one, the veterans from here last year saw. I think we spent too much time on noise and we spent too much time on what everybody else was doing and not enough on us. I think that was a lesson learned. And this group from the summer on, through Australia through practice, I think we're about 47 practices in now plus 12 games in, it's really been -- spent a lot of time on film of them and watching them and getting better. Because you're going to play, even though styles change, you're going to play against side pick-and-roll, middle pick-and-roll. You're going to play against baseline screens and pindowns, and post play, and transition and post play is always going to be a big part of it.

So even though talent shifts, it's going to be a similar thing. So they know if we can improve in all those areas and then offensively they're a really good team about making reads. Depending on how you guard us, they read that very well. I think that's why our motion and what we do offensively is hard to guard. Because we've usually got five guys out there that can pass, shoot it, and dribble it, and that's uncommon. Then you put in the character of these guys, it's got the makings of a special team and we hope we can just keep building.

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