March 20, 2021
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Postgame Media Conference
USC - 72, Drake - 56
THE MODERATOR: We'll begin with an opening statement from Andy, and then we'll go to questions. Coach Enfield, congratulations on the win. Thanks for your time.
ANDY ENFIELD: Congratulations to Drake, Coach DeVries, Coach Richter, the rest of the staff. They had a tremendous season this year. They gave us everything we could handle tonight. Congratulations to Drake on a great season.
I thought our guys showed a lot of defensive toughness, especially in the second half, to pull this win out. We're happy to go on to the next round.
Q. Andy, you mentioned just locking down in the second half on defense. What did you tell the team in the locker room at halftime, and what would you say was the biggest difference in that effort after halftime?
ANDY ENFIELD: The biggest thing was to take away Yesufu. He was on fire in the first half. He's a great player, great offensive player. Our goal was to take their best player out of the game in the second half and make everything tough, and I thought we did a good job of switching man and zone, and we made him work. I think he got tired.
But he's just a tremendous offensive player. He made his first four threes from deep, and I thought to hold them to 18 percent shooting in the second half, credit to our guys that they really defended and played very hard.
Q. How much of a difference did Evan make in this game? Obviously, he had that huge size advantage. It seemed like, especially in that second half, he was really keeping them out of the paint?
ANDY ENFIELD: He was in the middle of our zone the last ten minutes we played zone and man to man. He had three blocks tonight, but he challenged a lot of shots, made those floaters go a little higher than normal.
I thought our length, getting after their shooters bothered them a little bit, especially in the second half. It was a big team effort, but Evan is obviously a big part of our team defense.
Q. Given how little NCAA Tournament experience your team had coming into this game, how did you feel like they handled their first taste of the tournament?
ANDY ENFIELD: I thought our guys really kept their composure the entire game. We limited our turnovers. We had a lot of assists. I think we had 20 assists tonight, three turnovers at halftime. So we shared the basketball on offense. We made some big shots, and I think we defended at a very high level.
We've played in a lot of big games this year. We've played in a lot of close games. We've played a lot of road games. So to us, this was -- sure, it's March Madness, but I think, once you get into the flow of the game, you realize that we've been here before a lot even though we haven't played in the tournament.
Chevez Goodwin is the only player on our roster who's played in March Madness, and no one else has. So I was very proud of them, how they kept their composure the entire game.
Q. What impact did it have seeing Isaiah Mobley and Drew Peterson score some points early and kind of just diversify the offense?
ANDY ENFIELD: We posted him up in the first half, and he was able to use his length and shoot over some people. Isaiah got some good post touches. He was in foul trouble, had his third foul early in the second half, and only played eight minutes in the first. I thought, once he came back in for the last 12, 13 minutes of the game, he was sensational in posting up, getting position, and finishing with his jump hooks.
Q. What did this game on a national stage say about your defense?
ANDY ENFIELD: Well, we've been good all season for the most part. I know we've lost a few games where our defense wasn't where it needed to be, but tonight it was. That's what it takes in this tournament.
So we're a good defensive team. We played very hard, and we have size and length in most positions. I'm really -- our coaching staff is really happy with how we defended. Drake is really hard to guard because they spread you out, guard the ball, and kick it out. They have an elite scorer in Yesufu. It was a very good team effort.
Q. Why did you guys decide to switch to zone in the final ten minutes? You've been locking down man to man the first ten minutes. What went into that decision?
ANDY ENFIELD: Well, we wanted to mix our defense. That was our game plan, mix our defenses up. I thought, if we could keep two guards on Yesufu up top, that would wear him out a little more. He had to work for everything he got. Then we have length on our wings. So I thought we did a great job of challenging the threes.
Really it was just a way to mix up the defenses, give them a different look, and use some of our strengths. Then it was very successful, so we stayed in it.
Q. Andy, congratulations. Tahj did not have a big scoring game but had a ton of assists. That's probably the most assists I think he's had in any game, maybe any two games. What did you think of his play?
ANDY ENFIELD: Ten assists and no turnovers before he threw it away against the press late. That wasn't really his fault. Ten assists, one turnover is a great game for an elite guard no matter how many points you score. He played very good defense. I think he made a couple big shots. He made the mid-range jump shot, and then he made a big three with about six, seven minutes left.
He played a complete game today. He missed a couple in the first half, but ten assists and one turnover is a tremendous game for any elite guard.
Q. Andy, how much progress has Evan made on the details of post defense this year? You see him staying down, not going for fakes, staying out -- today particularly, staying out of foul trouble and making the angles more complicated. How much progress have you seen in that over the course of the season?
ANDY ENFIELD: Mobley is a freshman and has improved every week and every month of the season. He's learned how to guard physical bigs. He's learned how to guard athletic bigs and also guys that have a lot of skill at shot fake. So he has to guard a lot of different people.
We switch him out on guards. We switch him out on other bigs. So he's really improved defensively and offensively, and what you're seeing now is a complete player. He did a great job on both ends of the floor tonight.
Q. Also, it seems like the defense at the rim is pretty contagious. You saw Max contesting lobs and being real active. How much do you think that radiates through the whole team?
ANDY ENFIELD: Max, I thought, was terrific in our zone. He went for that lob. I thought he blocked it. They called a foul. So whether it was a foul or not, he still made a good play on the ball. He also blocked a shot on the weak side, on the left side of the basket late in the game.
He was active. That's what we need from him. He's 6'8", long arms, he's very quick. His first step is extremely quick, and he can close out on shooters very quickly. When we went zone, we had him in there for a reason, and I thought he did a really nice job.
Q. Hey, Andy, how important is it that this team perform well on this national stage to increase your presence in Southern California?
ANDY ENFIELD: Well, Bill, we have 45 wins the last two years, which is third in the country behind Baylor and Kansas, and we play Kansas in the next round. So we're 45-16 the last two years, and our guys, unfortunately, didn't have the chance to compete last year in the tournament. We probably would have been a pretty good seed.
So it is important to get back here and win a game because our players didn't have the opportunity to do it last year, and we were really good last year, playing great basketball. We're really physical and a great defensive team last year.
So, yeah, after a two-year break, this meant a lot to our program and to our team and to our players and coaching staff because no one got to participate last year in this tournament.
So it's extra special right now to be here, and it's also extra special to win a game. It's hard to get to the NCAA Tournament, and it's very difficult to win a game in the tournament. We'll try our best to win two against a very good team.
Q. Could this be your best team that you've had at USC?
ANDY ENFIELD: One of them. We were really good a few years ago with McLaughlin and Melton and Chimezie and Boatwright and Stewart and Jonah Mathews and Rakocevic. We were pretty good. We won two games in the tournament that year, won 26 games overall. The next year, we came in second in the league and had 24 wins.
I would say those two teams and this team are top three. Who's best? And then last year's team with Onyeka and some seniors, we were 22-9 last year, and I thought last year's team was different because we're so tough and defensive minded and really good defensively.
If you put a Final Four tournament of those four teams, it would be fun to watch, and I would sit back and not coach and just watch those guys go at it because we've had a lot of good players here the last few years.
Q. I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but the NCAA just announced that VCU is out of the tournament for COVID reasons. How much of a reminder is that of the environment and the reality that everybody is facing there in Indy?
ANDY ENFIELD: Well, I'm not sure. That's really devastating. I didn't hear that to have VCU out of the tournament. That's really heartbreaking. Obviously, when you get to this tournament, it's a dream come true for all these players that work so hard. So I'm very sorry to hear that.
But it is a reminder that we just have to stay safe. Sometimes the COVID takes twists and turns that are unexpected. So I am very sorry to hear that.
Q. On that note, you're catching Kansas at a time they're short-manned. As good as they are, do you see that as maybe a bit of an edge?
ANDY ENFIELD: I don't see that as an edge at all. I think they had most of their team today. Maybe one player was out. But they're just exceptional. They have so much talent. They're so experienced. They have veterans at different positions. So we'll have to play a great game to have a chance to beat them on Saturday -- or on Monday. I'm sorry.
Q. Coach, you finished your career as the best free-throw shooter in NCAA history. My question is how much -- does it drive you nuts when your team shoots 53 percent, and are you worried that it's going to eventually cost you at some point this month?
ANDY ENFIELD: Well, when good free-throw shooters go up there and miss, there's not a whole lot you can do as a head coach except be frustrated they missed. Yeah, we've shot pretty well for most of the season other than two players, and those guys have improved.
Isaiah Mobley went up there tonight and made two free throws, and he made a big three for us. He's really shot the three ball well lately. Chevez Goodwin has struggled a bit, but he's improved from the foul line.
When your guards are shooting 75, 80 percent and they go up and miss, there's not much you can do. Tahj missed the front end of a one and one. I'm sure he wished he made both. It's not from lack of technique or lack of confidence. He just missed a shot. We struggled from the foul line at times this year. It's been mainly two guys. I'm happy and our staff is happy that those two guys have improved a little bit. Isaiah is shooting the ball much better right now.
We know that free throws are important, just like everything else, but Evan went 2 for 4 tonight. When he misses two free throws, I'm not going to take him out of the game because he does so many other things. Sometimes it does affect our game, but hopefully, on Monday, we'll shoot the ball well.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports