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March 9, 2023

Andy Enfield

Boogie Ellis

Kobe Johnson

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

USC Trojans

Postgame Press Conference

Arizona State - 77, USC - 72

THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with an opening statement from coach and then take questions.

ANDY ENFIELD: Got off to a slow start, tough week of practice, a lot of guys injured and sick this week. So we looked like a team that didn't practice for four days, which we didn't.

We played hard in the second half, came back, made it a game, and fell short. Our guys have had a great season so far. Obviously it's disappointing losing your conference tournament, but to be 22-9 and tied for second in the league, coming in here very proud of our players and what they have accomplished.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take some questions.

Q. This is the third time you've played the Sun Devils this year, winning the first two. How hard is it to beat the same team three times?

ANDY ENFIELD: When you play like we did in the first half, very difficult. They're a very good basketball team and we had two good games against them in the regular season down in Tempe and home on Saturday night. It's just a little ironic that you play a team, we had Arizona, Arizona State the last week of the season, and then we have them on our side of the bracket here to play them again and if we would have won this game, we would have played Arizona again.

But that doesn't determine whether you win or lose a game. You just have to go out and play. And they made some really tough shots tonight, a lot of threes, some end-of-shot-clock shots, which were very difficult. So give them credit, they made shots tonight.

Q. It felt like every loose ball in the first half Arizona State was first on the floor. What do you feel like you guys could have done differently there in the first half to keep you guys in it?

BOOGIE ELLIS: Honestly, in the first half, they wanted it more than us. We came out flat. They got a lot of offensive rebounds. They just wanted it more than us tonight. That's my job as a leader to get the guys going and I didn't do a great job of that. So it's just effort. But, I mean, we fought better in the second half, but the first half we can't play like that and expect to win this basketball game.

KOBE JOHNSON: Yeah, we came out soft and this time of year you can't come out soft. You got to come ready to play the whole game, the whole 40 minutes, and we just didn't come out ready to play in the first half. They just wanted it more, like Boogie said, but we were able to fight back, but we dug ourselves too deep of a hole in the first half.

Q. I know you've talked about being comfortable saying this is a tournament team. What about your résumé this season has assured you that this is a tournament team?

ANDY ENFIELD: Well, I don't want to get into that, honestly. Just we were tied for second and we're 22-9 in the regular season, 14-6 in the league, and had some really good wins. We've had a lot of injuries this year, and I thought our players battled through that with Vince out half the season and again with his back issue. Reese and Josh getting injured for three weeks at the same time. Drew's back has been bothering him for the last two weeks. We've had a lot of adversity this year with our roster.

But that's why I'm so proud. This has been the most improved team we've had in a long time, maybe ever in the 10 years I've been here as a head coach, to see where they have come from the beginning of the year to the end and it's really impressive. We've had great leadership from our upperclassmen with Boogie and Drew as the upperclassmen that have been relied upon, and they were our leaders to start, and then guys like Kobe and Reese and Tre and Josh, they have really improved this year and our bench has improved.

Boogie's one of the most improved guys in our league, if not in the country, even though he's an upperclassman. So to see them battle the adversity with the injuries and the sicknesses we've had and some of the tough outcomes early in the season, to see where they were, be 22-9 tied for second, is a credit to them. They're dedicated, they came together as a team, they played very, very hard.

Defensively we're the best defensive team in our league and field goal percent defense. I think we still are top 3 in the country in two-point percent defense and top 10 in field goal percent defense. So that's what we hang our hat on. We start at the defensive end and Kobe Johnson is the best defensive player in our league, and we had Josh is First Team All Defense as well.

We had six guys recognized, with Boogie and Drew as First Team All League, Reese is the Sixth Man of the Year, and Tre White was First Team All Freshmen Team. So to have six players recognized in all-conference voting it's a credit to them because they deserve it. They went out and earned it and improved as a team.

So where that puts us on Sunday, that's not my decision, but I'm very, very proud as a head coach of what these guys have accomplished.

Q. How much do you think that this loss was self inflicted?

ANDY ENFIELD: Well, second chance points were 21-13. We cut it to five and they rebounded a free throw miss with a minute left or 45 seconds left. That just kind of summed the whole game up. You can't give extra possessions especially when they were shooting like that. They were making some tough shots at the end of the shot clock. I think they made probably four or five threes and we fouled them with one second on the shot clock. So I think what these guys said in the first half a lot of it was on us in the first half. But I thought the second half we cut it to seven and Reese missed two free throws that could have cut it to five. Then we turn the ball over and threw it cross court and could have cut it to four. And then we had a chance to cut it to three down the stretch with that, if we would have rebounded that free throw block out. So we had our chances, but unfortunately, yeah, as these guys said, the hole was a little too big to dig out of from the first half.

Q. Late in the first half there was a series where you guys had I believe five turnovers on six possessions. What sort of went wrong during that stretch?

BOOGIE ELLIS: We just didn't take of the ball. Got to do a better job of taking care of the ball as a team. Those are big possessions and in March every possession counts. We're trying to chop that tree down and we just kept turning over the ball. But, yeah.

KOBE JOHNSON: Yeah, pretty much we just got sped up. We tried to force a lot of stuff. Weren't moving the ball like we're used to. It cost us a lot of possessions in the first half and which led to them coming down and hitting shots and we just got stuck in a hole.

Q. You only had one assist in the first half and as the players said the team looked flat. And late in the first half the body language of the team looked really bad. How did you turn it around so that in the second half you played so much better?

ANDY ENFIELD: Well, the players they got together at halftime and made their mind up to go compete at a higher level. And they did. To have one assist, that's embarrassing. We're a good offensive team. We actually led the league in least amount of turnovers in conference games. I think 10.8 in conference games. So turning it over is not something we do. I think we led the league in least amount of turnovers. So to have one assist and seven turnovers at halftime, that was just a shock to me and everybody, I think, because we weren't passing the ball at the right time and sharing the ball like we need to and then we weren't making shots. If we did make a nice play then we missed a wide-open shot. So they determined in the second half to play harder on defense and to share the ball. And I thought to score, we scored 47 in the second half, which is pretty good. The assist total went way up.

Q. When you got back to the bench after fouling out late in the fourth you looked very frustrated. What were kind of some of the thoughts going through your head?

BOOGIE ELLIS: I mean, it's my last PAC-12 tournament, so I'm a senior, so I was very upset. Felt like I kind of let my team down and I didn't play to my capabilities. So as a leader on the team I just got to be better.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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