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March 18, 2017

Sean Miller

Lauri Markkanen

Kadeem Allen

Salt Lake City, Utah

Arizona - 69 Saint Mary's - 60

COACH SEAN MILLER: Well, first I just want to congratulate Saint Mary's on an incredible season. We have a history with them, and I think there was a number of stories written about it, in that we had scrimmaged them in three of the last four years. So these guys really knew how Saint Mary's was. I feel like in a small way that helped us tonight. Not until you're actually playing against them do you realize how physical they are, how good they are, both on offense and defense. And Randy Bennett, he does as good of a job with his team and program as any coach.

I look at this as one of the great wins we've had in the tournament because of the team that we beat. And we respect them a great deal.

In terms of us tonight, we hung in there. It was a really -- like a microcosm of our entire season. Rawle Alkins dislocated his finger on the shooting hand. Kadeem dislocated his finger and it popped out a couple of weeks back. When you do that as a freshman and you're in the NCAA tournament, and you leave the game, No. 1, it's not easy to come back into the game, but to come back in the game and play well, says a lot about Rawle.

And ditto for these two guys that are up here. Lauri's post defense was terrific down the home stretch. And the identity and the characteristics of our team, of this guy right here, to my right. He's as hard a playing guy as I've seen. And he won't let his team lose to some degree. And I thought his mentality defensively finally caught on. And he got some stops.

Thrilled to be playing. And we beat a really good team tonight, nobody knows that more than the three of us.

Q. Kadeem, what changed in that second half? What adjustments did you make, No. 1? And No. 2, what was the feel around the team and in the locker room at halftime after they had got off to that hot start and led by ten points at one point?
KADEEM ALLEN: We know coming into this game we had to be the most physical, grinding, and get the most rebounds. So going into halftime we know we weren't playing our best basketball in the first half. Coming in the second half we kept confidence and kept playing the game, and just kept battling it out.

Q. Lauri, can you just talk about the progress you made playing against Jock as the game unfolded. Seemed like you got more comfortable dealing with him both on offense and defense.
LAURI MARKKANEN: Got a little bit more comfortable as the game went on. I just tried to be as physical as I can and don't let him get the ball. But of course, he can get it sometimes. He's a good player.

Q. Saint Mary's had coming into the tournament the second-best scoring defense in the nation. What were you able to get going in the second half, getting to the free throw line, what changed? What did you guys find that started working?
KADEEM ALLEN: We just came out and did what we did. We believe in the system that we have and we believe in each other as players and we believe in our coach. We kept battling it out the whole game and we came out on top.

COACH SEAN MILLER: Our advantage was driving. Our advantage, I think eventually was to be able to get the ball inside. And I think getting the ball to the basket, whether it be on drive or post catch, we delivered. We scored. We got fouled. And I think that was the big difference. In the first half we weren't nearly as good in getting the ball on drives and into the post. In the second half we were. These guys were both a big part of that.

Q. All the players on the team have been praising you this whole week with the leadership you provided. Can you talk about your impression of the freshmen and what you've seen over the course of the year?
KADEEM ALLEN: They're phenomenal. Throughout the whole season we faced adversity and they've been the rock of the team all year. With me being the senior leader, and the confidence that my teammates gave me and my coaches gave me, I just try to carry it on to the court and just try to bring it every day for these guys. But the freshmen, like I said before, they're just like the rock of the team. And they just do a great job.

Q. Going against Jock, how do you evaluate your performance and what adjustments did you have to make especially defensively against him?
LAURI MARKKANEN: Like I said, don't let him get the ball (laughter).

That's the best way to keep him away from scoring the ball so that's what I tried to do.

Q. In the second half Allonzo just took over the game offensively. At halftime he hadn't score any points. Second half he had 14 points, several critical baskets and free throws. What kind of changed for him after the halftime that he was really able to assert himself on offense?
COACH SEAN MILLER: Yeah, you know, I think Allonzo, he wants to play well so bad that today, and this really isn't his makeup, but today he didn't have the confidence that he usually has. And a couple of things went bad. For example, I think on the first play of the game for him he was running down the sideline and he caught the ball out-of-bounds. It's that old line, the line doesn't move, it's there. Come on now.

But I think it kind of set the tone where it wasn't anything other than I think he's been thinking about this moment for a long time, wants it very badly. And once in a while it can work against you. And it did for a period of time. But, again, like a lot of things on our team, he put that behind him at halftime. And your point is well taken. He had zero points in the first half. He had 14 points in the second half. And he really got going.

I almost feel like the difference in the game was his offensive outburst maybe midway through the second half. He regained his confidence. And when he's confident offensively our team is a lot better.

I give him a lot of credit. Like Rawle and really our team, things weren't bright in the first half for many of the moments of the game. But I think it's our depth of experience of all that we've been through this year, the fight that we've had from start to finish has really prepared us well for a game like today in this tournament. Because nothing is easy in this tournament. The unexpected happens and you have to be able to fight through it to get there.

And tonight was as big of a fight as we've had all season long. Again, we beat an excellent team.

Q. Did you change something schematically that allowed you to drive better the second half and get to the post better the second half? Also, what did you see from the guys in the first? Were their spirits still up? Were you ever worried that their mental state wasn't where it needed to be?
COACH SEAN MILLER: I think midway through the first half, especially when Rawle got injured, we lost our confidence for a little bit, we really did. You had Allonzo who wasn't himself, Rawle out of the game. Landale, he's one heck of a post player. He got off to a great start. If I'm not mistaken, he had eight field goals. I'm going to say he had maybe five of his eight field goals in the first 8 minutes of the game. If you look at the rest of the game we did a much better job against him.

And Lauri, he said he tried not to let him get the ball. Lauri's quickness in addition to his size forced him away from the basket more and at least gave us a better opportunity to defend him, because he's a terrific low post player.

But on offense, we really tried to run our drive plays, our post-up plays and our players did a really good job. Whether it be Rawle, Kadeem, Allonzo, and then inside Dusan, LaChance, Lauri, I think those guys really got fouled and delivered on those drives and post-ups.

Q. Did Rawle have to lobby to get back in the game once he was wrapped up? Did he say anything to you and what effect do you think it had on the team with his returning?
COACH SEAN MILLER: It had a great effect because of how well he's playing. He played well again tonight. If he didn't return to the game I don't know if we would have had enough to win. But we believe in Rawle. Justin Kokoskie, our trainer, and Rawle both felt he could come in the game and play, and he did.

It would be one tough kid to pop your finger back midway through the first half, come out on your shooting hand and play the rest of the game. As great as he played two nights ago, that says a lot more about Rawle than what he was able to do tonight. Anybody that's played the game and has suffered a hand injury like that knows how difficult it is to do what he did.

Q. You said in Las Vegas that the three is death in tournament play. And you held them 5-21 tonight. How hard is it to do that against them?
COACH SEAN MILLER: North Dakota really prepared us for tonight. They made ten 3's, they were a very difficult team to defend. They have a number of players like Saint Mary's that can shoot the three. I think our players learned a team like that who moves the ball and has such great movement, your margin for error is razor thin.

But we really took the last couple of days and talked about that, worked on it, really tried to show a lot of film, make that an emphasis. Minus a couple -- I'm sure Saint Mary's maybe missed a couple they had, but we defended the three-point shot really well tonight, for sure, big reason that we won.

Q. What were some of the things tonight you really liked that you felt like this will get us more games to play in this tournament? And then some things that if we keep playing like that it's not going to be a few more games for us?
COACH SEAN MILLER: I'll just answer the first one, resiliency. It never goes as expected. Teams make runs. We have a very good record. Saint Mary's is 29-4. So they're a great team. They know how to win, as well. The ups and downs of the 40 minutes, there's times when a team is going to go on a run. There are times when we're not going to play well. And it's so much about the next play, and being able to just continue to stay focused on what makes us a good team.

Tonight was a real test of that, that we could kind of get back to doing things better, that maybe we weren't doing well. Getting the ball inside, drives. Really quietly we've done a great job of taking care of the ball. We played with single-digit turnovers in both of these games. And that's big, as well.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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