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March 16, 2017

Bruce Weber

Wesley Iwundu

D.J. Johnson

Sacramento, California

THE MODERATOR: Welcome, gentlemen. We have D.J. Johnson and Wesley Iwundu. Talk about your road to get here?

WESLEY IWUNDU: It was a long road, but we're here now.

D.J. JOHNSON: Ups and downs in the season, but we're here now.

Q. How much are you guys riding the underdog theme, getting into the tournament late, first four, something to motivate you along the way?
WESLEY IWUNDU: I feel like it's been a mentality all year, but we're finally here with the rest of the teams, got an opportunity like everybody else. So any team in this tournament I feel like should be respected, no matter what. If you're in this tournament you did something good to get here. We're still considered the underdog. That's what it is, but you just got to go out there and play every time.

D.J. JOHNSON: I second that.

Q. Has anybody on this team been with -- back in 2012, like a fifth year senior now? You were with the team? Are you kind of like the wise old man in the locker room telling your team about what it's like to be in the pressure of being in the tournament? Tell me about bridging that five-year gap.
D.J. JOHNSON: I wouldn't say I had to bridge it too much because Wes is a lot of help and Carlbe and Austin and the other guys on the team. We know what it takes to win. Maybe a constant reminder of, hey, we need to be doing this right. We need to be doing that. This is how you be successful, but it's echoed in the locker room with the seniors, by the seniors.

Q. Wesley, when you look at the south region here you've got Creighton, Kentucky, UCLA, what do you make of that? I know you have to take it one game at a time, but what's it going to take to come out of this region?
WESLEY IWUNDU: Your best basketball, each possession, any chance you get each game you've got to play your best basketball and do what you do best. I feel like each guy on the team, keep doing what we've been doing these past games, bring what they bring to the table best. We should be in the game with one of these teams. We played pretty good teams all year. So you've got to stay consistent and keep things up and I feel like the challenge should be there for us to take. It's just how bad you want it.

Q. D.J., I know it's been quick looking at Cincinnati, but your impression of their team and what do you see as a key?
D.J. JOHNSON: I think they're a hard-nosed team. They're physical. They like to pound the ball inside, so it's going to be big on my part to play good post, me, Dean, Isaiah and Stokes. And as far the guards getting up their hands and deflecting passes making it harder on the guards and slowing them down a little bit.

Q. D.J., you're the big guy down low. You're supposed to be getting all the rebounds, but then you got a guy? Carlbe playing hard and getting rebounds, what type of spark has he provided for you recently?
D.J. JOHNSON: He's great. Kam needs a quick breather and Carlbe comes in, and if he doesn't get the lead he extends it. Rebounding the ball is one of them. Hustling and diving on the floor. He just wants to win and that's something we all appreciate in Carlbe. He just comes out and gives it all he's got.

THE MODERATOR: Any other questions? Okay, gentlemen, thank you. We are joined by Kansas State head coach, Bruce Weber. Coach, can you talk about your season?

BRUCE WEBER: We had a good season. We hit adversity in the middle of the season. You're playing the Big 12. You're playing -- what do we have, five top-seed teams in the tournament. Lost some close games, some heartbreakers and had a couple of injuries in the middle. But our guys fought through it, survived and really got everyone healthy in the last three weeks. I think we've really played good basketball and we were excited to get the -- see our name come up on the TV screen. Didn't matter if it was the playing game or the first four, whatever it was, they just wanted to be part of it. They played at a high level on Tuesday night and beat a good Wake team and hectic day Wednesday, long day, and hopefully it will be good that we got out here early and get situated and get ready for Cincinnati.

Q. Coach, where is this game going to be won and lost? What is your biggest point you're trying to hammer home with your team right now?
BRUCE WEBER: They're a good defensive team. Their numbers are amazing, whether it's points allowed, field goal percentage, defense, steals, blocked shots, you know, some of the best in the country. I think my big thing is we have to be a good defensive team on the court, and we've got to limit their easy look and make them earn things and maybe we get some transition off of some good defensive possessions and steal some baskets.

The other thing, I think we've got to be very determined, get all the loose balls, somebody tips a rebound and we grab it and get a basket and an and-one, all those big-heart plays, those determined plays I think could make a difference in the game.

Q. You mentioned those hard plays, a guy, Carlbe Ervin has been doing that a lot for you recently. How big of a spark is he off of the bench and how nice is it to get like rebounds where a lot of people wouldn't expect that out of him?
BRUCE WEBER: He makes all those plays. He's played with a great deal of confidence and played aggressive in the last four weeks, five weeks. I've told you guys he's been such a positive force. He wants us to win.

He kept continually texting me, we're going to get in the NCAA, Coach. I promise we're going to find a way. We did get in and he was big-time the other night. Again, with those little plays, those offensive rebounds, loose balls, whatever it might be. It was great for him to be part of it. Then to make some key plays in the game that helped us win.

Q. Coach, you took Illinois to the Final Four in 2005. Toward the end you had a bumpy stretch there with player issues, John Groce takes over the program. He's fired a few days ago. Do you look back on that program and say, hey, you guys could have still had me, but I'm doing better at Kansas State and you're still making it to the tournament?
BRUCE WEBER: Well, we loved our time at Illinois. We had a really good run. I think if you really study it, it's probably the best nine-year run in the history of the program.

We got to the -- did some things no one else has ever done in Illinois basketball history. You never want to leave a place! You see all the things happening in our business today, coaches losing their jobs. It's a tough business. It's a crazy business. It's gotten tougher. I'm just very fortunate to be at Kansas State. Have a great opportunity, a good group, good fans, good administration and that's all I worry about.

Thirty eight years ago I had a dream of being a college coach, and I never thought it would happen, got on, Coach Keady gave me a break at Western Kentucky. I thought I would be with him forever. I thought I would stay at Purdue forever. Some crazy things happened. Went to Southern Illinois. Had an unbelievable run there. Illinois popped up and I've had a good run and very, very blessed to be part of some special times in college basketball.

Q. Coach, you've seen both sides of the playing game a little bit. Coming in now with momentum is there any advantage to be gained by the momentum of one game under your belt and taking the tournament by storm?
BRUCE WEBER: Watching Mount Saint Mary's today, they are pushing Villanova. I think Villanova stretched it out, but you get that experience. You Budke free and loose. When we played LaSalle I had to get our guys to understand, one, they're good; and, two, they already had a game and they took us by storm at the start of the game, maybe 17, 18, 19-point lead.

We had to fight back and we came back and took the lead. But they ended up beating us, which is to me one of my most disappointing times at Kansas State because I thought we had a good group and we had a chance to make a nice run. That's part of March Madness and being part of that there's no doubt -- I think it can be an advantage.

I've talked to the players about it and emphasized, hey, let's -- we have a game under our belt. We have nothing to lose. No one expects you to win. They didn't expect us to beat Wake, just come and play.

Q. We had a chance earlier today to talk to Marcus Foster and he was contrite and said he made mistakes at his time at Kansas State and how he's learned and grown. What are your thoughts on what he's done with his career and how he's progressed?
BRUCE WEBER: I said during the season it was a national writer or Creighton writer, I'm not sure. I'm about kids and helping kids. That's why I got in the business 38 years ago. I was a fifth grade teacher, high school basketball coach. I still love working camps, and you know Marcus made some bad decisions. If he told you that I'm sure -- it's what happened and we did our best to try to help him. If I did something to help him in life by saying, hey, you're not part of this program anymore and it hit a spot, a nerve, and he's made -- he's had a great year, helped Creighton have a great year, and it helps him for his future. I wish he was at Kansas State. I would sure like to coach him. I know he can make a lot of shots, but if it helps him in the long run it's a positive thing for his future and I'm doing my job as a coach.

Q. Coach, one of your guys, Cuonzo got the Missouri job, nearby. I just wondered how good you think he will be.
BRUCE WEBER: One, he's an outstanding person. Somebody with a heart of a lion. As I recruited him, coached him, watched him evolve as a coach, as a player. You know, when he first got to Purdue as a player, our trainer said his knee is so messed up he will never play over 18-20 minutes a game. As a senior, he probably never went out of the game, 38, 39 minutes he would get mad if we took him out. He overcame pain, went and played professional basketball, had cancer, overcame that, got into the coaching profession and he's done great. Great human being, great family guy, great family, rock solid. I know he will do it right. He will work at it hard. Brings them, you know, that St. Louis connection, midwest connection. I think he will do a great job for them. He was at Missouri State and he's from St. Louis, so a lot of connections there to help their program get going again.

Q. Coach, I understand a couple of your players were taking tests yesterday. Talk about the student-athlete, that perspective and how much you see that making sure they are eligible, but, two, are on schedule to graduate?
BRUCE WEBER: We did have guys that -- they get spring break for two weeks, so I think Carlbe said on Sunday he was excited he could miss class for a whole week. We arrived yesterday and we had three guys that had to take tests. More guys had to take tests today. It's that week before spring break and a lot of professors have, you know, exams mid-way through the semester.

We're proud of what our guys have done. Everyone since I've been here have graduated. Our seniors this year, Wes is going to graduate in the spring. D.J. has graduated and is working on his Master's. Carlbe will graduate. Austin Budke is chemical engineering, and he will be done next fall. Zach Winter will be done next fall with his degree in business.

We take a lot of pride in it. Our academic advisor, Liane Fowler does a great job and Matt McCumber, my assistant, oversees that and couldn't be prouder, and as a coach it's important to see them graduate and make sure they have success in the future and our administration tries to oversee that.

Q. How do they do that?
BRUCE WEBER: Liane Fowler is with us, the academic advisor, so she gets the proctor to test, and I think one of the other guys had a test sent to him and she proctored it and sent the information back to the professors. It's fun to be here, but they also are students and they've got to take care of business.

Q. The way Cincinnati plays is so different from Wake. Is it going from Iowa State to West Virginia?
BRUCE WEBER: It's totally different. I said after it's a totally different animal. Wake was -- obviously they could score the ball, but they -- I don't want to say, "let you score," but they were more up-tempo and wanted that kind of game. We were able to take advantage of some things and get a lot of layups and open shots, 66% for a game is pretty good percentage.

Now we're going to have to fight and claw for every basket and we know that. But we've been through it, whether it's Baylor, West Virginia, those are the kind of teams that are tough-minded, hard-nosed teams. West Virginia is more the pressing, this is more the half court switching, match-up zone, switching man-to-man, protecting the paint, blocking shots, steals, aggressive, gets you kind of screwed up.

It's not going to be as easy as Tuesday night, there is no doubt. But we've got to find ways to score and that's what we have tried to talk about the last two days.

THE MODERATOR: Any other questions? Okay, Coach, thank you very much.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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