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March 12, 2018

Steve Alford

Thomas Welsh

Aaron Holiday

Dayton, Ohio

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by UCLA student-athletes Aaron Holiday and Tom Welsh.

Q. What has it been like the past 24 hours from finding that you're going to be in the tournament until getting here all across the United States to the Midwest?
AARON HOLIDAY: I mean, it's just a blessing to be in the tournament. I don't think it matters that we had a short period of time to get in. But at the end of the day we're here so we have to do what we have to do to win.

THOMAS WELSH: Yeah, just been busy, a lot of stuff going on. But piggybacking on what Aaron said we're excited to be here and just looking forward to this opportunity.

Q. You lost to Kentucky last year in the Sweet 16. How has that served as motivation for your program?
THOMAS WELSH: At this time of year you want to make the best run you can, and to lose in a game like, it's never fun to have a season end. But just Aaron and I both being veteran guys, knowing what to expect now in the NCAA Tournament, we want to be the best leaders we can for the team and do everything we can to win as many games as we can just to finish off the season.

AARON HOLIDAY: Just what Tom said, we're both veteran guys so we know how it's going to be. And all we can do is really just help our young guys get ready for the games that are upcoming and for us, too, to just play our best basketball that we can.

Q. At what point in the season did you guys feel like you were kind of starting to come together as a team and could pull off what you've been able to do?
AARON HOLIDAY: Maybe after our Kentucky win, we played pretty good basketball that game. Obviously moving forward we've gotten better and better, so I guess after that win we saw how good we can be pretty much and we just tried to move on from there.

THOMAS WELSH: Yeah, I think we've shown flashes of it all season long. It's kind of been our thing. I think as of late we've started to play much better together and we're starting to hit a groove, I think, so -- but, yeah, it's been a work in progress all season long, but I think we're starting to play well at the right time.

Q. How different does this feel for you guys being in the First Four as opposed to last year when you just went right into the tournament?
THOMAS WELSH: It's still a tournament game, no matter what the title of it is or of course it is a play-in game considered. But at the end of the day, yeah, it's the NCAA Tournament and every team has an opportunity now to go win some games and win a national championship.

So this is kind of how we're viewing it. We want to go out there give our best effort for the 40 minutes and just take it one game at a time and give it our best shot.

AARON HOLIDAY: I agree. I feel like it's a tournament game. And it doesn't matter if it's the first four in, we're going out to play and win a championship. So the same goal is at mind and we're just going to go out there and do our best to win.

Q. What do you expect from St. Bonaventure tomorrow, taking into consideration that they've played in the UD arena just about every year and they're rather comfortable in this place now?
AARON HOLIDAY: Well, watching film on them, they're a really good team. I think they finished second in their conference. So we obviously know how good they are and how tough of a game tomorrow's going to be. But at the end of the day we've got to go in there and control what we can and just go out there and hoop. That's pretty much it.

THOMAS WELSH: I think it's about going out there and control what we can control, just going out there and giving our best 40 minutes of effort and just playing as hard as we can and playing together to the best of our abilities.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Steve, if you would like to make an opening statement and we'll open the floor for questions.

COACH ALFORD: We're glad we're safely here. It's been a quick journey of finding out our fate and then getting across the country. So glad we're safely here and the guys are pretty healthy. And looking forward to the challenge.

We know we've got a terrific challenge ahead of us with Saint Bonnie and very well coached and very good team. We know we've got to play well, but we're excited about the challenge tomorrow night.

Q. How different of a challenge is that for a coaching staff to find out on a Sunday night you've got to go across the country overnight and get ready for a game?
COACH ALFORD: Yeah, we weren't really expecting that as we're watching the show. We're thinking we have the next three days, at least two days, you're probably going to leave either Tuesday night or Wednesday night. Probably not leaving until Wednesday even if you play on Thursday.

So we're thinking we've got three days at home to practice and look at film and get ready. All of a sudden the Selection Show is over and we're, like, we're probably leaving in the morning. And now you're flying -- you're losing three hours, so you're going to land at 5:00, and then you've got media and practice. And so you just don't have much time meeting with your team.

And that's probably my biggest concern going into this game is that with five guys, playing eight guys, five of those guys, it's their first experience. So we're going to again lean very heavily on G.G., Tom and Aaron for their leadership.

So not where we're going to have to make a lot of changes because we just haven't had any time to make any changes that maybe St. Bonaventure would, after three days of film, we'd want to tweak some things. We don't have that luxury. So it's about just being who we are, doing what we do the best and trying to do that the best we can against a very, very good basketball team.

Q. Couple players said they thought the win over Kentucky was in some ways kind of a turning point for them building some things. I wonder if you could look back at the start of the season you had so many unusual things to deal with China and the wildfires. How many did those early things kind of you think affect them, and was the Kentucky game something kind of a turning point?
COACH ALFORD: Yeah, I think it's probably hard to measure as a coach, though we're with them every day, just what those effects were. But as I told our staff before we got on the plane, I just thank my staff for the work that they've put in, the job that they've done this year. We've really, we've had no lulls in the season, maybe an eight day stretch we haven't placed well and lost two games or something in a stretch, but we've always responded well.

And that's a credit to my assistants who have done a really good job and then the players. The players deserve a lot of that credit. Four months ago we're sitting in China and not knowing what's going on and what's happening. And now we're in the NCAA Tournament. And that's a very good accomplishment.

We've had a game canceled, as you mentioned, due to fires, which was Montana which ended up being an NCAA team and had a great year. So we don't get that game. And yet we've been very consistent. We're 9-3 in non-league play. We were able to win 11 games in our league and do a lot of good things within our league. We were 3-1 against the top of our league.

But I do think I agree with the players that I think there were a lot of question marks. We had just lost to Michigan in overtime where we had them. Most of the game I thought we had them. And we let that one get away.

And beating Kentucky, I think, just kind of validated to our guys that we have a chance to be pretty good. And I think moving forward in that game, though we lost games, we were in all those games. There was really only one game all year, and that was Colorado at home, which I thought we played flat and we weren't in the game.

Other than that, this team's been extremely competitive in every game. So I do think that game gave our guys a lot of confidence moving forward.

Q. How did your team feel when you found out that you were in the March Madness?
COACH ALFORD: Well, obviously like everybody else, you're excited because you don't control that. If you're not an automatic bid, you're sitting there just hoping you get in, because you don't control that. Being an automatic bid, you've controlled that and you know you're in. So anytime things are out of your control there's some anxiousness.

We felt our body of work spoke for itself and I thought we were in the tournament. But you still don't know those things. And you don't know where you're going to go. You don't know where your seed is going to be. Those are things you just don't control.

So, sure, guys were anxious, but once we saw our name pop up that's an exciting time in any student-athlete that gets to play this game, when you see your name pop up you're pretty excited about that.

Q. You played at Indiana and coached at UCLA now, so you've experienced a lot of big atmospheres. How would the First Four in Dayton stack up against other places you've coached and played at?
COACH ALFORD: Well, I haven't experienced this yet, so it would be a new experience. I know my hometown Newcastle being just over an hour from here, I've been over here a lot as a youngster. And when Coach Donoher was here, Coach Donoher was on my Olympic staff. When I was an Olympian in '84 he was on Coach Knight's staff as an assistant.

So I've known about Dayton all my life. I've been here a lot. And the one thing I do know, it's a hotbed for basketball and it's an area that supports basketball and they appreciate good basketball. So our hope is that we can just put on a good show and play good basketball because this is an area of the country that appreciates the game played the right way.

And so that I do know, but being obviously in these games in Dayton, I haven't been a part of that to know exactly what that is.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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