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March 18, 2017

Mick Cronin

Gary Clark

Kevin Johnson

Troy Caupain

Sacramento, California

THE MODERATOR: Our friends from Cincinnati have joined us, Kevin Johnson, Troy Caupain and Gary Clark. UCLA will meet Cincinnati tomorrow at approximately 6:40 p.m. Kevin, how much have you had a chance to look at anything regarding UCLA?

KEVIN JOHNSON: All season I've watched UCLA, but now we're starting to get into our scouting report. We learned a lot about them yesterday watching that game and today we're going over some things and tomorrow we will be going over some things. We know it a solid team with a lot of weapons and we're coming out with our defensive schemes to figure out ways how to control the game and make it a tough game for 'em.

Q. Troy, how about you?
TROY CAUPAIN: Same thing Kev said. I caught a couple games being up late and watching on ESPN, but I'm leaving it up to the coaches, follow the scouting report, follow the little things in what we need to do best to make it a great game. They got a lot of weapons and how to keep the game from getting out of hand.

Q. Have you guys played anybody that has kind of the up-tempo offense to the extent that UCLA has? When you are playing a team like that how, do you impose your slower, grind-it-out style. I think you guys extend possessions 4 seconds longer than UCLA likes to play. How do you do that?
TROY CAUPAIN: No live ball turnovers, make the game get up and down and get back in transition.

Q. Gary, you guys are in this game. A lot of people will be talking about UCLA and their potent offense. You're viewed as the underdog I think by most. How do you guys look at that? A challenge? How do you overcome that?
GARY CLARK: It's another game. It's another game. Since I've been here most of the games where the other team is pretty good we've always been labeled the underdog. As a Bearcat you go in prepared, following the scout report as you've done all week and get prepared to get a "W."

Everyone has their own opinion about who's supposed to win throughout the tournament, but it's all about who comes prepared to play that night.

Q. Troy, how well do you know Lonzo Ball, if at all?
TROY CAUPAIN: I don't know him. I've seen him. I watched his highlight tapes on YouTube, watched him play, hear the videos about him. He's a great player.

Q. Do you follow his dad's exploits at all?
TROY CAUPAIN: No, I seen him on SportsCenter all the time, but I don't really watch TV.

Q. We all know what a big fan your mom is and the lengths she goes to watch you play. What would your reaction be if your mom said you were a better player than Steph Curry?
TROY CAUPAIN: That's my mom being my mom, but I wouldn't think my mom would say that about Steph Curry. We all know what Steph Curry does. He's in the League. I'm still in college.

Q. Lonzo's father said Lonzo was better than Steph Curry.
TROY CAUPAIN: I don't know what you want me to say about that.

Q. You guys are 13-0 shooting 50% or better. The other day overall you shot 62%, 67% in the first half. How do you guys continue to play at that level?
TROY CAUPAIN: Confidence, and then establishing your big man early. It's best to always play inside out. If you get shots around the basket consistently those are a higher percentage shot than shooting the threes or a long two, so getting the ball in the paint around the basket and establishing your presence early. Once you get the baskets inside early your confidence grows and grows and the game takes over for itself.

Q. Looking at your offensive and defensive efficiency you guys are one of the most balanced teams statistically in the country. How much practice time do you devote to offense versus defense and what do you attribute to being good on both sides of the ball?
TROY CAUPAIN: That goes to Coach. Coach doesn't care about offense. We do offense for ourselves because we are tired of our other teammates at practice locking us up, tired of the person that's guarding you locking you, and Coach gassing him up like, yeah, shut him down, shut him down. Then offense comes once you have somebody continuously heating you up every day and that's for all five positions.

Q. I know you mentioned live ball turnovers, but what else will be key for you guys tomorrow against UCLA?
TROY CAUPAIN: I can't tell you as a player. I don't know what to tell you. I will wait for our meeting tonight between our coaches and they will give us the best remedy to come out victorious.

Q. Troy, you talked about looking at the YouTube video of Lonzo. Obviously he has a lot of publicity behind him. When you get to this point in the tournament how difficult is it to prepare for someone that you've never seen before and do you go back to YouTube, or do you use what the coaching staff says?
TROY CAUPAIN: More what the coaches would say, what the coaches think, how to guard. That's how we say. The coaches do a great job. They have been studying film, which coach has this scout for plus days. The have been in and out, not even going to sleep. So whatever they would tell is the best way and then you go back and remember what the games you watched or the games or the highlights that you seen. Okay, he does this or does this and this player does this and you try to put it in a game-like situation. But you don't ever really know. Depends on how the game is being played.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, fellas.

Coach Mick Cronin is with us. How much since last night have you had an opportunity to look at your opponent tomorrow?

MICK CRONIN: A little bit. Sleep is overrated this time of year. Sleep is overrated this time of year and this is what you work so hard for. So to get to this point, college coaches, we're all -- we were all the kind of guys that probably had to cram anyway back in our college days. We probably weren't the best, most prepared students. So cramming is something I think we probably practice.

Obviously watching a lot of, for myself, watching a lot of UCLA in the last whatever, 24 hours, not even that. Of course I have my staff working on it all week. They're obviously an impressive, impressive team, tremendous talent, extremely well-coached. I think what happens sometimes when a team has the talent that they have, the coaching aspect isn't maybe talked about quite as much.

The things that they do are very hard to deal with, so Steve makes it really, really hard on you in the half court. He knows what each guy is capable of, so if you take away one thing you've giving them something else that they're good at. I think defensively they're better than people think. They just have to play a lot of defense because they score so much, so they play more defense than the average team. The more they play defense it means the more they're scoring and there are more possessions in the game which gives them a better chance to win because of their skill level and their talent level. I think he's playing exactly the way I would play if I was the coach of that team, and Steve has done an unbelievable job coaching them. They have a tremendous team.

Q. Looking at some statistics, I think your defensive possessions average 18 seconds. Their offensive possessions average 14 seconds. How do you go imposing your style on a team that likes to play fast in a game like this?
MICK CRONIN: You just confused me with the 18 seconds and the 14. You need more sleep! Did you really figure all that out? Where did you get all that?

Q. KenPom.
MICK CRONIN: I do subscribe to KenPom, as well. I would simplify that. They're faster than us. I think Kentucky found out, they're faster than everybody. So obviously they can convert to offense faster than other people, so what I would tell you is our offense is going to be imperative in this game, that we're successful offensively in getting second shots, in scoring the basketball or getting fouled. Because if you do not, they give them more opportunities to run downhill on you as quick as they can.

Their conversion is excellent. It's because they have probably the best passer since Jason Kidd or Magic Johnson playing with the ball in his hands. They throw 40-foot outlet passes. So it starts with your offense. This isn't new for us. We talk about it all the time. The reason we are as good as we've been all year on defense and historically is when you score and you get fouled you're forcing teams to play 5-on-5 against and you that's the key to all defense in basketball. If you're constantly playing transition defense you're not going to be very good and if you're playing transition defense against this UCLA team you're going to lose. You're not going to win.

That's why offense is so important. You sit there and say our defense -- well, our defense is just as bad as everybody else's if we're on the run. We're on the run defensively and our scouting report is out the window. They're going to kill us. I thought Kent State did a great job and they probably offensively rebounded a little too much and they exposed themselves on the back end.

But that's kind of what Kent State does. They're a great top-10 offensive rebounding team. They probably just didn't want to get away from it. Hopefully we can execute and score to where we don't have to sell out and send everybody to the glass because if you do they're going to go on you. I don't know how many seconds it will take, though! (Chuckles.)

Q. Somebody called you Kent State on steroids. Is that a fair label to put on you guys?
MICK CRONIN: Well, I think Rob Senderoff is a little bit bigger than me. I don't think that's fair. He's a good friend of mine and to be honest with you, I don't know much about Kent State. I've watched so many UCLA films. I've watched one of those, and since then I've watched three Arizonas, two USCs, a Washington State and two Oregons. So I don't remember much about Kent State.

Q. TJ Leaf --
MICK CRONIN: He should have came to Cincinnati.

Q. He is an all-around skillful freshman. What is your thought about him? Since you didn't get him in the recruiting process?
MICK CRONIN: I remember him one time I was with Coach Huggins we were at the NBA draft combine with Lamar Johnson and Kenyon Martin. There was a few drinks that night I gotta be honest can you tell Kevin McHale was talking basketball and people asked him what he thought made him so effective, and he said it was because he could make the shot. When you have that height and people have to come at you and when people have to come at you and it brings everything else into play. So he's so skilled and he can make a shot that you have to come up and guard him, which now brings his up and under or his step through or his ability to go by you or what have you. So he can score in different ways, but it all starts with the fact that you have to guard him and he gets people coming at him.

Also, the rest of them are so good that sometimes you help off him now you have to go at him in recovery. When you have to go at a guy that's as good as that they're usually going to pick you apart. If you don't go at 'em, they're going to shoot it in. If you do, they got enough talent to put a hurt on you one way or another to score or get fouled.

So somehow against all their guys you want to stay out of that rotation where you're coming toward them to guard 'em. You need to be there to have a chance and be set. He can still break it down. He's good enough. He can still score on you, but, again, it's about getting our defense set and set on Leaf because he's so good and throw in his offensive rebounding which he's excellent at.

Q. Bryce Alford hasn't shot the ball all that well lately, but obviously he's dangerous when he does get it going. How much does that play into the way you guys will approach the game?
MICK CRONIN: First of all, I'm nervous about that because I'm a big believer in the law of averages. So if a guy is a great shooter and he's been struggling it's going to go the other way. Nobody makes every shot. We will play him just like everybody else plays him.

Obviously, if you let him get his feet set he can carve you up, change the game. The three is such a game changer, a guy like that hits five, six or seven on you it's going to be hard to win the game if you give him that kind of night.

You've got to do everything you can. Again, if you're playing defense on the run it's hard to find him. If you're sprinting back to the paint to stop a team in transition it's going to be hard to find him at the three-point line. So against great shooters you've got to try to do everything you can to make their life hard, because if you make it easy on 'em, the bucket tends to get bigger for those type of guys and now they start making really hard ones.

So I'm a big believer in you've got to do everything you can not to let them get started, so maybe it puts a little press in their mind instead of let 'em get-goin' and now all of the sudden the basket gets bigger and it goes the other way. You've just got to do your best because he's capable. Everyone that covers him has seen, what I've been watching on film we've been watching for four years. The kid has had an unbelievable career. My respect level for him and what you have to go through playing for your father at the highest level is something I can't imagine. So I root for him, and I have always rooted for him because I know what he's dealt with, but not tomorrow.

Q. After watching the tape that you've seen so far in UCLA are they easily the best offensive team you have seen all year?
MICK CRONIN: I would say they're the most explosive. I know SMU had a rough day yesterday and they blew a late lead which happened to Villanova. That's why this tournament is called March Madness. But SMU's efficiency is very similar, highly-efficient team. Obviously, UCLA does it in a much different way. They're much faster, much more explosive, probably more NBA players. They got a guy that's going to be an NBA All-Star on their team. They're the most talented team without question and definitely the most explosive. I would say anybody that plays them would say the same thing.

Q. Mick, the three has become so much more prevalent. I don't know if you saw the Oklahoma State/Michigan game?
MICK CRONIN: I heard Michigan made a bunch of 'em.

Q. Completely influenced by the three. How have you had to change, adapt, whatever your coaching styles, philosophies to the notion that you can't defend the three and shoot three these days you're going to have a difficult time winning a lot of games?
MICK CRONIN: I would add to that the shorter shot clock. I think it is another way the game is going. I think -- here is where the threes -- with the shorter clock you don't have as much time -- say you have one shooter you got more time to get him open. Now you see teams with the soft press to burn a little clock, then you can find that one guy that can shoot in your scouting report because college basketball is so much different than the pros. Coaches can control so much with the press, the zones, the changing defenses that if you don't have multiple shooters, you're easily defended with the shorter shot clock.

I think what's going out of the game is some of what you've seen some guys did that played at Cincinnati may be in the last few years, a real athletic guy that plays hard, but he can't shoot at all. I think that guy is getting phased out because there is no way to hide him on the offensive end and there is not enough time in the shot clock to get the other guy open. They have enough time -- if you soft press and you find one guy and you make somebody's life really, really hard -- the shorter clock I think exacerbates the fact that you need shooting.

Obviously, defending it is -- puts a premium on where you see the game going smaller because like for us, Gary Clark we have worked really hard with him to be able to guard perimeter players because so many people play four guards nowadays that he's got to go out and defend on the three-point line and the perimeter, and he obviously understands it's good for his pro aspirations to be able to do that, wherever his pro career may be he's going he will have to defend the three-point line. So for players no matter how tall they are to be able to guard the three-point line.

THE MODERATOR: Mick, thank you.

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