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March 25, 2017

Chris Mack

J.P. Macura

Trevon Bluiett

San Jose, California

Gonzaga - 83, Xavier - 59

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Xavier head coach Chris Mack and student-athletes Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura. Coach, a quick opening statement.

COACH MACK: Well, I give a lot of credit to Gonzaga. They were the better team. They played like it tonight. I don't think we played our best. But you know, I know that had we played our best, it still would have been a tough out. They're really, really good. They're big. They play disciplined on defense.

I thought in the first half them going to zone bothered us, and it was sort of a back-and-forth game until they went to zone. And I didn't do a good enough job in getting the looks that we needed as a team and play with a little bit more collective poise. And they stretched it to about eight.

And in the second half, we couldn't score at all. We scored a little bit more in the first half, obviously, but second half we just couldn't score. And a team that's 290th in the country relying on 3-point shots goes 12-for-24, 50 percent from the 3-point line. You're not going to win against many teams with their size when they're shooting it that well.

Our guys have nothing to hang their head about. They're obviously down. They're competitors. I thank them for their continued belief throughout the year. It's always tough when it ends.


Q. Trevon, what was it about their defense that was so difficult for you guys?
TREVON BLUIETT: They were just you know locked in. They were disciplined defensive type of team. That's why they're No. 1 when it comes to defensive stats. We just didn't execute well enough. I think hand in hand it's just us not executing it well and them being the good defensive team as they are.

And they're big and they're long, so it makes it tough to score on the inside, and when we don't get a lot of shots to fall from the outside that we need.

Q. You guys have done such a good job defending the 3 recently. How did they get so many open looks? What created that for them?
COACH MACK: Their ability to pass the ball is special. That ball just gets pinged around. And so many teams we've played, the majority of the teams we play, you know, hold it a little bit longer. They may have one or two guys that aren't the passers that these kids are in Gonzaga uniforms.

Karnowski, I mean his ability to pass at the 5 position, like I talked about, was a little bit like Stainbrook coming in, but their other guys passed it. Here's the thing: A couple of their guys shot a lot better percentage from 3 than they're accustomed to. I don't think we gave them a ton of open looks, certainly there were a few, but especially early in the second half I thought a couple of those 3s were highly contested ones and really backbreakers. It went from 10 to 15 really quick and we were just fighting uphill ever since.

Q. Coach, to come out of the half down 10 and that two and a half minutes to open, it was two 3s that they hit, Karnowski had a baby hook and I believe there was a putback. And that grew from 10 to 17 and that encapsulated all they were able to do offensively and then even defensively to get the ball back to their way. How important was that swing and did that really show what they were able to do tonight, I guess?
COACH MACK: Well, I mean, they're really good. Sometimes you just you lose to a better team. They've proven it all year long. They lost one game. They play an incredible schedule. And their record's their record for a reason.

And our guys weren't down in the locker room at half. I thought we were ready to go. I thought a couple of those 3s were contested looks. And you get down 17 points, you know, against a really good team that doesn't let up and it continues to play hard on both ends of the floor and has the size they do, it's tough to get back in it.

We shot some 3s at the very end but at one point we hadn't taken that many. And the reason we hadn't taken that many is because when you drive the ball in they just keep their 7-footer in there and they don't help off. Their size stays on the perimeter with their matchups. That's where their discipline comes in.

So we couldn't necessarily generate the type of open 3s that we've had up until this point. And that's why they're really good. That's why they're the No. 1 defensive team in the country and a tough team to beat.

Q. The shot at the end of the half, did you think it got off in time, and was it deflating when it gets off?
J.P. MACURA: I thought it was off in time, but it didn't really bother me. We were still down 10 or seven points regardless and still needed to come off the next half and execute. And the second half they played better than we did. And that's a big reason why we lost.

Q. Tre and J.P., could you speak about the length and their defense on the perimeter, and just the difficulties that presented, for you two specifically, I guess, in trying to get some offense in the second half?
TREVON BLUIETT: Like I said previous, they're long so it makes it tough to score on the inside. And when you have to play from the outside, you know, one of our main focuses is playing inside/out. And so when we can't really get anything on the inside, it kind of makes it tough to create any type of offense. And other than that, it was just more of just execution on our part.

J.P. MACURA: I would say execution on our part as well. When they went to zone we didn't get the ball to the high post that much and that fact it affected us. I would say their big guys down low, it's tough. It's tough to score against 7-footers. But we just needed to execute a little bit better on the offensive end.

Q. Chris, could you specifically address Johnathan Williams and the impact he has on the game?
COACH MACK: Yeah, he did a lot around the rim. His damage today for the most part was three feet in and in, offensive rebounds, post-ups, tip-ins, finishing at the bottom of the zone against our zone. He hit a 3. But for us that was something we wanted to live with.

He goes 2-for-8 from the free-throw line and in general when a guy's not a great free-throw shooter, doesn't make his free throws, he's not a great 3-point shooter and we wanted him to stay away from the basket. But unfortunately for us he did a great job. He goes left and he gets to the rim and he's athletic and he's long. He's a talented player.

It's like these guys, we keep saying, their length, it bothered us a little bit. And when you have a quick turnaround, maybe I didn't get a good enough game plan to our guys. But that's the life of the tournament when you have a day and a half to prepare. He's really good. Their size in total affected us.

Q. You guys have talked a lot about how their defense bothered you. Why were they able to do on offense against your zone what the other guys were not -- Arizona, Florida State, Maryland?
COACH MACK: Gonzaga has a great plan, a great plan. And number one, no team that we've played that we've played our zone has had a passer like Karnowski. A lot of the big guys are guys that drop passes, can't find different options. I said before we played him, he's like Stainbrook. He knows where everybody on his team is. And while he catches the ball in the mid post or high post in the zone, he's such a huge target, so if you front him in the zone they're going to lob it over for a layup.

If you play behind him, then he's going to catch it. And when he catches it, he's just going to turn and survey very patiently because he doesn't have to worry about anybody affecting his ball, he's going to find out who is open. And our backside forward is in a war with Johnathan Williams, some of the other bigs they have in the game. And they're trying. But he can sort of lob it up and if you suck in with an extra defender he sprays it out and they get open 3s. So he's the reason.

Q. Coach, I know it's difficult, especially after a loss, but could you try and reflect on the group of guys you have and the run you've been on?
COACH MACK: I'm proud of them. You know, 2017, social media and everybody having an opinion can really beat guys down. And their refusal to get beat down and continue to believe in me, our coaching staff and, most importantly, one another allowed us to get to this point, which stinks, but as I told those guys only four guys are moving on from this guy, four teams around the country are moving on.

It was three weeks ago that we were at DePaul, 8-9 in the conference. We needed to win that game. The weight of the world on our guys' shoulder. They don't know this but there's a coachers locker room and players locker room at Allstate Arena.

After we won the game, usually the players they go in their room and we go in ours as coaches. And I closed the door, and our coaching staff is in there, and I started jumping up and down and up and down saying, we won, we won, we won.

To think that our team, which everybody had us dead to right, was able to continue to believe, make the tournament and get to the point where we were playing for the Final Four I'm extremely proud of this group.

Q. Chris, I realized you're preoccupied with your team but can you sort of appreciate the significance of this for Mark Few and that program given how good they've been for so long and yet not able to make this last step?
COACH MACK: It's a doozy. Don't act like it -- it comes around all the time. I know I joked about it the other day, but for Coach Few to have to even answer a question about a monkey on his back, I mean, like, he's at a small Jesuit school in a league that gets one or two teams to the NCAA Tournament every year.

That's why I took so long in the hand-shake line to talk to him because he's a friend of mine. And as hard as it is, I was on the other end of it on Thursday when I talked to Sean. I'm happy for him. He's a great person, great dad, great family man. And he's got a hell of a team.


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