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March 28, 2017

Josh Pastner

Quinton Stephens

Josh Okogie

New York, New York

GEORGIA TECH 76, CSU Bakersfield 61

COASH PASTNER: That's a good team, to only have seven turnovers against that type of hard-nosed tough defense that they play, and they are one of the best defensive teams in the country. That's a great credit to our young men, to these two men to my left, and so it's a great win for us, an opportunity to play for a championship on Thursday.

From where we started and to where we are now, it's been a remarkable year, and for these young men, these two, and the rest of the guys in the locker room, just deserve all the credit. My assistant coaches, as always, have done such a good job with game planning and development, and so here we are and have an opportunity to play for a championship on Thursday.

Q. Coach mentioned the lack of turnovers. What do you think the key to hanging on to the ball tonight was?
JOSH OKOGIE: We definitely had great preparation prior to this game. We had a couple great practices and a great shootaround on being ball tough and just passing drills and making the right passes, sharpen our passes, and I think we did a good job of transitioning that into the game. We had crisp passes.

Coach told us before the game we had to be comfortable being uncomfortable, and I think we did that early. We knew the press were coming and we just stuck to what we knew with our fast breaks and we just trust each other with the ball.

Q. Quinton, not a lot of people know Cal State Bakersfield. What did you think when you were drawn against them, and how do you prevent yourself from maybe taking them lightly considering they are kind of a mid-major?
QUINTON STEPHENS: I think our coaches really prepared us to let us know they are really going to come at us. First day of preparation, started off went from stretching to breaking the press break, and we don't usually do that. But I thought that was a pretty cool way of preparing for them because we know they are just coming right at you and we just attacked first.

Q. How would you evaluate how you guys played?
QUINTON STEPHENS: I think that we really started the game off with our hands. We got a lot of deflections, whether we got steals off them or the ball went out-of-bounds, it gave us a lot of energy. And we kind --- of our hands started going down a little bit later in the half. We picked it up and our talk was really good, too. Really just staying out on their shooters. We lost them a couple times, but we tightened up in specific areas and I think we did a good job.

Q. Josh, you had a help block that kind of came out of nowhere. Do you remember how that play unfold?
JOSH OKOGIE: You talking about the block? Actually I was supposed to be there a little earlier. I kind of got caught sleeping, but I ran as fast as I could and he ended up shooting, so I tried to contest the shot to make up for me not being there on time. Fortunately it was a block.

Q. You're a game away now from finishing your season. You must be excited. Can you describe what you're feeling to be close?
QUINTON STEPHENS: I would say I'm happy with us winning but like I said earlier, we're not really satisfied. I feel like I could have played better. I feel like our team could have played better today.

I think we got a little rust off, so we'll be ready for Thursday. I think we're ready to attack them, whoever we play. But to be able to play Madison Square Garden, my last game, will be awesome, especially with the team that we have. Win or lose or draw, I've had a good time.

Q. What is it like playing here at Madison Square Garden?
QUINTON STEPHENS: Beautiful place. High-class arena. Everyone welcomes you. They wish you good luck. You don't see that in many arenas.

Great to get a win here. Great to play here. Just the air; you can't help but love playing here. It's a basketball player's dream.

Q. For both you guys, I know you talked about this the past few days, but sort of reiterate trying to finish the season strong.
JOSH OKOGIE: You know, beginning of the suspect, we all had -- we all wanted to make it to the NCAA Tournament, and you know, after losing to Pitt, we kind of lost our hopes of getting there. We realized we still had a lot of stuff to play for: To reach 20 wins, which we weren't there yet, and we had a chance to play for another championship, which I don't think this school has won an NIT Championship.

Us winning on Thursday, says a big thing on this team about where we came from this summer. We worked our butts off day-in, day-out, and you know, just being here is a blessing, and being able to win a championship just shows how great, how hard work pays off in the end.

Q. Can you talk about Josh's performance, not only tonight but throughout this tournament as a freshman, playing on the road?
COACH PASTNER: Yeah, Josh-O has just been terrific all year. His continuation of his development has been just terrific. He's such a high-character young man. His work ethic is just awesome, and he's just gotten better and better and better, and he's playing the best basketball of his freshman year right now at this stretch of games, and we're very fortunate for that. He's going to be a really, really good basketball player as he continues to move forward in his career.

Q. I was wondering if you could sort of pick up what Josh was just talking about. Did you wonder going into the NIT where the players' heads were at?
COACH PASTNER: I tell you, our guys, to be sitting here at 21 wins and playing, there's four college basketball games after tonight remaining, three in the NCAA Tournament and one Thursday.

So for us to be playing one of those games on Thursday night on national television, it's a credit to the young men, to the players. Because from where we started to where we are now, to see how a team unfolds in front of your own eyes, the character of these guys. And so even with us playing in the NIT, we were excited. We wanted to keep playing.

This is important for our program. This is a major rebuild job. We took over a situation where it's a major rebuild. We couldn't give any opportunity to continue to get better and work and improve. The players and the assistant coaches, my staff, has done just such a great job of developing these guys. The continuation of their development is a big plus for us.

Q. They had 39 rebounds in the games but it seems like it was actually more of how they got them, and they had more control of the rebounding stops and their rebounding --
COACH PASTNER: They are an aggressive team. They are above the rim. They are tough. They are hard-nosed. They play hard. Their well coached and they hurt us on the glass. I mean, even they had 13 offensive rebounds, which is too many. We're fortunate that it didn't end up biting us in the rear.

But that's just too many, and they got some on some key times. Part of our thing defensively, we are an elite defense team if you look at our numbers. I mean, on Ken Pom, we're Top-10 in the country. I think we're coming into this game six in the country in defensive efficiency.

So we're fortunate. We always talk about, we've got to finish the possession, and a few times today we didn't finish the possession. But that's a good team we played, and we prepared for that for last three or four days of practice with that type of intensity, and the guys did a nice job of only having seven turnovers.

In the NIT, we have 101 made field goals; 77 of them are assisted. And that's why I was upset towards the end of the game. We had a couple of plays where we played out of sync where because we were -- I'm a big believer: The open man is the go-to man, and we played a little bit where it was my shot, not our shot, and that drives me up a wall. That's been a staple of ours. To have 101 made field goals, 77 of them were assisted; we're one of the best in the country at made field goals assisted, and part of that's our ball movement.

So you know, that's just a great stat for us, as well, too, and there's a reason we're able to continue to play and have a championship on Thursday.

Q. To touch on the rebuilding job and the journey, could you have predicted such a big jump your first year with this team?
COACH PASTNER: I've said it many times: It's a modern miracle. I can remember like yesterday watching our first work outs. If you told me we're playing on Thursday for the NIT Championship, I would say you're crazy. I remember at spring meetings and I had multiple coaches from the league just said, you're going to have to get -- I remember it like yesterday: "It's going to be a hard year for you. You're never going to experience the amount of losing that you're going to go through this year."

So it's been a heck of a season, and as I said, it's a great lesson for me that these guys, to see it all unfold, the power of team. That gets thrown in words a lot, team and chemistry. But to really see it and how we have been able to beat teams that are more talented than we are, because that night we were the better team on different games throughout the season.

Yes, of course, you've got to have good players. I mean, that's easy in sports. But then they have got to be as a team, and when we're in areas we're playing teams that have better talent than we do, some of our wins have come because that night we were the better team. It's been a remarkable journey and a great lesson for me to see it all unfold.

Q. This is a very physical game. The score was very lopsided in the end. But what do you attribute to the fact that your team had about one-third fewer personal fouls in this game?
COACH PASTNER: Well, if you look at our numbers, we really do a good job defending without fouling. We came in the game six in the country in defensive efficiency. We led the ACC during ACC play in field goal percentage defense. We chart deflections, and we have all these different charts that we chart and coach up, and we really do a good job of defending without fouling.

Q. You talked earlier about how good Bakersfield is, especially defensively. As a coach, is that something you're aware of with a team like this that plays in the WAC; that maybe isn't on ESPN as much, before you even start preparing for this team?
COACH PASTNER: If we take anyone -- we are not good enough to take anyone for granted. We'll get our butts beat. We're not talented to show up. We're not a juggernaut. We don't have any -- our margin for error is zero. So if we end up thinking we can just show up or take anyone for granted or lightly, it's an automatic loss for us. We're just not good enough.

Our guys know that and we just don't take people for granted and if we do, we're not winning the game. And we didn't have any opportunity to take Bakersfield for granted. We know they are really well coached, they are good players and they are a really good basketball team.

Q. How much emphasis did you put on pushing tempo a little bit? It seemed like both teams played more possessions -- make or miss, you were pushing up the floor, especially the first half.
COACH PASTNER: No, we always want to play with good pace. I always use the word "pace" in our offensive system. We talk about pace, pace, pace, pace. So we want to attack and we were better in fastbreak literally, even though we weren't as good today, we missed some opportunities on some fast break points.

But we've been much better during NIT on transition offense. However, we've missed so many layups this season, and today we missed a lot. It's just we missed enough to last, you know, not only my lifetime but plus ten, you know. It's an Achilles' heel of hours, but hopefully we can make enough on Thursday to have a chance to win the game.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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