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March 30, 2021

Andy Enfield

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Lucas Oil Stadium - Equality Court (North)

USC Trojans

Elite 8 Postgame Media Conference

Gonzaga - 85, USC - 66

THE MODERATOR: Coach, please give us a brief opening statement, and we'll go to questions.

ANDY ENFIELD: We're very concerned. Our thoughts are with Bert Smith, the official who collapsed early in the game. We're all thinking about him.

As far as the game goes, Gonzaga plays well in the first half. Offensively, we turned the ball over a little bit to start the game. They got out in transition. Second half, we played much better, but it was too late. Congratulations to Gonzaga. They played very well tonight.

Q. Andy, you mentioned Gonzaga's quick start. Against a team like that, what made it so difficult to recover from that?

ANDY ENFIELD: We turned the ball over a few times early in the game, and they had a lot of points in the paint early, off of our turnovers. Then we missed a lot of easy shots. I think there was one stretch we were trying to cut into the lead, and our post players missed three straight jump hooks or layups, and that was six points, and they went down and scored. That extended the lead from six or seven up to about 13 or 14 at the time. It's tough to come back on this team because they're so good in transition, and they were certainly making shots.

We didn't do our part offensively it was not -- it was a little unusual because we were playing so well offensively. We haven't been turning the ball over. We've been making shots and playing together as a team. I thought we got sped up a little bit at times in the first half because we were trying too hard after a slow start. Once again, there was a little surprise because we've been playing great basketball.

Q. Obviously not the result you wanted tonight, but how do you put into context this season getting back to the Elite Eight for the first time in 20 years for this program?

ANDY ENFIELD: We're so proud of our players. We had a brand new team, and they didn't even get to know each other until school started. There was no summer. We didn't meet our players in person until September 1st. In my coaching career, I've never seen a team develop a chemistry and a culture on and off the court like this team has. They improved dramatically from the start of training camp throughout the season, keep getting better and better.

I think you saw that in the NCAA Tournament. We became a very good basketball team. Off the court, they have a very strong bond, and they're just a lot of fun to be around.

This is one of the most -- this is a very special team in USC basketball history to be 25-8, make the Elite Eight. I just can't say enough about these guys. I know tonight was not the result we all wanted, but these guys are winners in here. We were picked sixth in the preseason in our own league and came in the top eight in this country. To do that, this is a really special basketball team, and we're very, very proud of them.

Q. Andy, obviously, it's no secret with Gonzaga and what they do this transition. Did Gonzaga add any wrinkle you weren't prepared for, or did you feel your players weren't in the right head space in those early minutes?

ANDY ENFIELD: I don't know about head space. I think our players made some mistakes. They're college basketball players, and that's what happens sometimes. They got sped up a little bit, and we made some uncharacteristic turnovers early. We've been starting games pretty well, not turning it over. They were prepared to play. They were excited to be here, and they were very prepared to play. They knew Gonzaga, what they were trying to do, and they came out. We dribbled the ball. We lost the ball dribbling. I think we traveled. They had deflections, and we got out in transition. It wasn't a lack of mental preparation on our players' part. They just didn't play well the beginning part of the game.

Q. Andy, you did call an early time-out during that stretch when it ran out. What was kind of your message to the guys to try to settle them down or correct the turnovers? What were you trying to accomplish at that point?

ANDY ENFIELD: Gonzaga was trying to deny, and they did some switching. We just played three teams that were very physical. The three teams we played in the NCAA Tournament, they denied, they switched. It wasn't something we haven't seen, especially the last two weeks. It wasn't some new defense we haven't seen. We just didn't play well. We were trying to get our guys to settle down and move the ball and make the right play and play off of two feet when you drive and just be strong with the ball.

We did settle down. Last 30 minutes of the game was pretty even. It was just the first 10 or 12 minutes we got in a deep hole.

Q. Coach, congratulations on a great season. Kind of piggy-backing off an earlier one, do you feel this season has revitalized USC basketball for the future?

ANDY ENFIELD: I think this season was very important for our program to make the Elite Eight for the second time in 67 years is a credit to our players and what they accomplished this season. We're 25-8. We've won 47 games the last two years, which is another accomplishment. I think that's third in the nation in power conferences.

So, yeah, this was important for us to win some games in the March Madness because, if you remember last year, the March Madness was cancelled, and our team last year thought they could win some games like this year's team. So this was even more special because a few of the guys who were on last year's team didn't get a chance to participate in the NCAA Tournament.

So, yeah, I think this was a very important tournament for us. I think it shows that the Pac-12 and USC can compete at the national level, and we've been doing that the last five or six years. I'm very happy that not only our program, USC, but also some of the other conference Pac-12 colleagues, they advanced as well. So we're very, very happy for them.

Q. Isaiah Mobley was just named to the All-Region team. What did he mean to the team during this NCAA Tournament run?

ANDY ENFIELD: Isaiah Mobley has improved. His inside-outside game has improved, his shooting, his ball handling, and he's getting better as a player. That's what college basketball is all about, player development, guys getting better. We're a much better team now than we were earlier in the year and even mid-season. Our players kept getting better and better, and with that, our team got better.

I think Isaiah was a big part of that. He had a great NCAA Tournament.

Q. Andy, what do you think it will take, whether it's Michigan or UCLA, and then maybe Gonzaga -- I mean Baylor to beat Gonzaga? I mean, how do you beat that team?

ANDY ENFIELD: Well, we didn't do a very good job, so I'm probably the wrong person to ask. I'm just joking. Gonzaga is an exceptional basketball team. Offensively, they're very fast. They have terrific athletes. And they have skill at every position. They're hard to guard because a lot of teams, you can sag off of one or two players at particular times, but Gonzaga is very skilled and very fast. When Timme is playing as well as he did tonight in the lane, and their shooters and their ball handling, their speed is very hard.

We did a pretty good job some parts of the game, but to answer your question, I think that whoever makes the Final Four, I think there are three teams in it now, will be a terrific Final Four.

I think all the teams right now are playing at a high level. Of course, Baylor and Houston and Gonzaga have proven they deserve to be there. So we wish them the best, and we'll see what happens. It's going to be decided on the court.

Q. Andy, I know you operated under the idea that this would be Evan's only year at USC. Just reflecting back on what he's meant to this program -- obviously, he had a good game tonight -- but what's he meant just in general?

ANDY ENFIELD: Evan is the most unselfish superstar we've ever coached. He's a team player. He is unassuming. He's humble, and he just works every day to get better. He's meant a lot to our team because he leads by example. He's not the most vocal young man, but he's getting more vocal as he has more game experience.

But his improvement was just incredible this season. He came in -- he only averaging about 18 points a game in high school, when he averaged almost out here in college. For him to be the focal point of defenses and learn how to play through physicality. He only weighs 210 pounds right now, and he's playing against guys that are bigger and stronger, and then they double-team him a lot.

So his development from -- as I said, the last two games before this, Evan had 11 assists. He was our fifth leading scorer against Kansas. We scored 85 points. We scored 82 against Oregon, and he had five assists in that game. He was our fourth leading scorer.

So for him in the NCAA Tournament to be our fourth and fifth leading scorer but beat teams like we did, it just shows his unselfishness. It shows his skill level and his mentality of being a winner. He's going to have a bright, bright future in the NBA because one thing about Evan Mobley is he's a flat-out winner. We're exceptionally proud of him and really happy to coach him. He's going to be a Trojan forever.

We'll wish him the best when that time comes, but we're very, very proud of Evan.

Q. So much was made about the matchup between Isaiah -- sorry, Evan and Drew Timme. What did Timme do in particular to be so effective tonight?

ANDY ENFIELD: He's very crafty in the lane using his body, his fakes, side fake, shot fake, up-fake, and he has that little flip shot he throws in there. He played a great game tonight. I thought he finished a lot of shots in the lane. Some of them were contested, and they still went in. So I thought that was a big difference in the first half.

We missed probably six or seven either layups or jump hooks early, and it really hurt us because we were missing some of the shots we normally make, and they were making everything. And some of the guards were driving and shooting it over our bigs. Those shots were going in. We don't see that. Usually teams miss a lot of those shots against us, and tonight they made those.

At the same time, we were missing ours. That was a huge turning point for a five- or six-minute stretch, where we couldn't buy a basket in the lane and they kept making shots at the rim.

Q. Outside of the fast break points, how did you feel about the defensive performance?

ANDY ENFIELD: I think the transition defense got us in the hole because of our turnovers, some of our missed shots. But I thought the second half, our zone was very effective and played pretty well. They made a couple shots late.

It wasn't one of our better defensive efforts. Gonzaga had a lot to do with that. As I said, they made a lot of tough shots early, and we missed it. So I think we were in scramble mode offensively for a few minutes.

Defensively, it was -- they shot a pretty good percentage. Give them credit. I think it was more about them playing well than it was -- because we played very hard. We just had trouble getting a couple stops in a row.

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