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March 25, 2006
THE MODERATOR: On stage we have head coach Ben Howland and student-athletes. We'll start with a brief statement from head coach Ben Howland.
COACH BEN HOWLAND: What a great feeling, to still be playing, to beat an outstanding team like Memphis State. Really proud of the defense we played today. You look at the stats, the bottom line at the end of the day, we make our foul shots, it's probably not quite as tight as it ends up being. We'll work on our foul shooting, I promise you.
But the defense was just incredible. For Carney to only have the two baskets. It's the team defense. I thought our transition D, they scored 17 baskets, and they averaged 81. Today they had 45. We really did a good job in our transition D. Our transition D was so good. It has to be against Memphis State because they're so great at pushing it.
I'm really proud that our guys seized the opportunity against Gonzaga to give us the chance to come back and play another day, and now we're moving forward.
Really, really proud of our whole team, everybody. There's so many people that worked so hard behind the scenes, my staff, these kids. They all do an incredible job together. It's together that we're doing this. We're just really excited to be going to Indiana.
These two right here, Ryan Hollins played terrific today, he's playing the best basketball of his career right now. Just unbelievable. Jordan is our leader out there. He is the coach on the floor. Arron, he bumped his thumb so we'll x-ray that as soon as we get back, for anybody who wants to know. I anticipate negative results.
But, you know, we're really excited, so I'm going to turn it over to the kids.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Been a while since you've held a team to 45 points.
JORDAN FARMAR: I don't think I could even dream about that. I knew we were going to come out and defend, especially the way we came out early against Gonzaga. It really was our defense that wasn't allowing us to get easy opportunities on the offensive end. They were making tough shots. They were a tough team.
We didn't want to let that happen today. They're a team who makes a lot of runs and really get energized. Our first mission was to take away their transition offense. That's where they get half their points from. If we took that away, we'd be in great shape. That was our main focus.
Q. Do you feel like you guys were actually more the aggressor the first half, then kind of made them play the way you wanted to after that?
JORDAN FARMAR: I think so. Getting off to a slow start against Gonzaga, we learned from that. We didn't want to come out the same way. We looked to be aggressive and really stayed tight on defense every possession, whether it was ball pressure or talking to each other, just communicating so well, on the same page. It definitely paid off.
Q. Was that what Coach Howland told you their transition offense is, where you had to focus, really put the pressure on before the game? Could you talk about what it means to get to the Final Four.
JORDAN FARMAR: Coach did tell us that. We watched a lot of tape and see where they get their things. You know, watching the first game, a lot of their buckets, even though they were three-pointers, it was transition. It was a lack of intensity and togetherness in transition defense. Once you knock down a couple shots, it just makes it tough to guard because you're in a rhythm and a groove.
That was our key, just to keep 'em off balance all game. We did a phenomenal job.
Q. Talk about going to the Final Four.
JORDAN FARMAR: I can't even explain how incredible it feels. Besides the guys who were in the locker room, no one really -- besides our family and our supporters, no one really believed in us. Nobody really believed we could do it. For us to set goals in the pre-season, work our butts off, go through all kinds of adversity all year long, it's just an incredible feeling to have it pay off.
We're not done yet.
RYAN HOLLINS: Just like Jordan said, an incredible feeling. To be counted out, for our team to pretty much come together as we have, you know, against all the adversity, doubters, injuries, we just worked hard every day. It's showing off. I couldn't be happier for my guys. We're a team, we're a family. We're sticking together. I'm just glad for my guys to be able to be in this situation, get the program back to where it should be.
Q. Ryan, what was going through your mind as you were missing free-throws, especially to start the second half? How much of a relief at the end of the game to pull it out?
RYAN HOLLINS: When I first started shooting, it's like, okay, I went one for two. Then I think I missed my (indiscernible) one. I've done this before, I'll start making 'em. They just weren't going in.
Kind of about halftime, it's like, okay, it's behind me. Let's shoot again. The very first possession, I get an offensive rebound, get fouled. I missed those two. It's like, okay, really something is going on here.
I just remember kind of being on the bench. I'll never forgive myself for the rest of my life if we lose this game and I missed nine free-throws, 2 for 11. It's like, we're going to win this game, we're getting it up. I'm not going out like that.
Q. Ryan, could you talk about your development as a player under Coach Howland.
RYAN HOLLINS: Pretty much our team chemistry, just guys having faith in me, me having faith in them. I think Jordan gave me a great pass, they were making a run, I got a dunk off a pass from him, really put him away. Maybe earlier in the season, he wouldn't have found me or might have took a tough shot. But having the faith in me to throw the ball in there, you know, just pretty much trying to make the most of my opportunities. I'm the guy that never gave up on myself.
Being out there, just playing hard, you know, it's paying off finally.
Q. Both teams shot 35% or less. Some people say this was an ugly game. For you guys, was it a thing of beauty?
JORDAN FARMAR: It really was because we're sitting today with these hats on, these beautiful T-shirts, all that stuff. It doesn't matter what goes on in the game. We personally, one for nine, 50% from the free-throw line. I couldn't be happier right now. I wouldn't have it any other way. That's all that matters.
For any guy in our locker room, in our program, in this family, we really know that's all that matters. Nobody cares about individual accolades. That's why we're still playing today.
RYAN HOLLINS: Definitely. If we won 2-0, 111-109, a win is a win. It doesn't matter. That's what is going down in history right now.
Q. You have been told since you were seven defense wins, defense wins. You're both on the all-tournament team. You have the numbers that you just recited. Anything that you realize through this process that you weren't totally sold onto begin with?
JORDAN FARMAR: No, we were sold. That's the only reason we're still alive is because we really believed in it. Coach Howland has been preaching defense from day one. I think after the SC game, the way we came out the next day in practice, it was just a totally different mentality. We haven't looked back from then.
Our level of focus has really risen. We've really come together as a family. We really believe in what our coaching staff is teaching us. That's why we're still playing.
RYAN HOLLINS: Definitely growing up we always understand that defense wins. I think through our team maturity, we really understand how to play defense. You know, the biggest thing with defense is how to adjust from guarding Adam Morrison, a team that (relies?) on execution. A team like Memphis, a team that gets up and down, crashes the board as well as anybody in the nation. That's the biggest thing our team is pretty much understanding.
Defensive chemistry also, knowing guys' weaknesses, strengths, knowing how to help each other out.
Q. Jordan, why don't you hold up that trophy beside you and explain how it feels to keep this stored history going at UCLA.
JORDAN FARMAR: I'm going to leave it down there. At UCLA, no other banner but national championships go up. I'm going to leave it down here till we take care of our business. It's just one game at a time, staying together. We haven't really done anything in the eyes of UCLA and UCLA fans, because they expect bigger and better things.
Q. Ryan, could you talk about the momentum-factor here? You had that big emotional win over Gonzaga. You really shut down a big offensive team. Do you feel like you can take on anybody right now?
RYAN HOLLINS: Pretty much that Gonzaga win is a big win. I think it was a gut check for all our guys. What a better way to get humbled, you know, to pretty much take the lead at the end of the day and have the season pretty much over with, and to come through and win. Definitely our guys didn't take anything for granted and wanted to play hard from the start of this game, play together. That's definitely a key thing right there.
Q. Arron, could you talk about your match-up with Rodney? How much did you study him going in? How much is he a key to their transition offense?
ARRON AFFLALO: I have to credit my coaches for that one. We watched plenty of film on him as a team. Whenever I face a guy who's the other team's top scorer, I'm always well-prepared. I know guys' tendencies. I know the other team's plays beforehand. With the help of my teammates, bumping, I find other guys, Jordan, sometimes Cedric on him. It wasn't just me. A team effort. Multiple things go into that.
He is definitely one of their key guys. Holding him down was definitely to our advantage tonight.
Q. Arron, did you feel you made them play your style of basketball? Obviously, the score reflects that. Was there a point where you felt you were controlling the game?
ARRON AFFLALO: Yeah. Last they scored 88 points on us. We knew if we played at that pace, we weren't going to win. We're a pretty dominant defensive team right now. Transition defense was the key to this victory, stopping the team from pushing the ball that thrives off pushing the ball.
Q. Arron, is it your wrist you injured? How does it feel? How did you do it?
ARRON AFFLALO: It's fine. I'm not sure. Probably just banged it against something. Won't have any effect on anything. I'm just icing it. Be back to practice next Monday or Tuesday.
THE MODERATOR: Student-athletes, thank you very much.
COACH BEN HOWLAND: Good job, guys.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the head coach.
COACH BEN HOWLAND: I want to respond to her question about the style, playing. We were pushing the ball like crazy early in that game in transition, trying to attack their press. Any time a team presses you, you want to hurt them at the other end. Actually took that press off because we were getting some very good looks at the other end.
Just so you know, our goal is to not let you ram it down our throat, like they did the first time they played us. Our guys are playing pretty hard on defense.
Go ahead, questions.
Q. Among all the hard things about your job --
COACH BEN HOWLAND: I have the greatest job in America. I don't have a real job. I'm the coach of UCLA. That is a dream.
Q. Among other great things about your job then.
COACH BEN HOWLAND: Exactly.
Q. But how difficult is it to convince players to play defense the way your team does? Do you spend extra minutes on defense in your practice versus other teams?
COACH BEN HOWLAND: I don't know that that well. I think our guys like to win. Players like to win. Go back and look, who are the best two teams in the NBA? They're Detroit, San Antonio. Who is the best team in the NFL? The Steelers. Who has been the best team in the NFL? New England. You have to be able to score. You have to be able -- I thought we at times executed very well. I mean, we got to the line 39 times. That's got to be the high for the year, not even close. There's no way we've shot that many, that I can remember.
We just didn't make 'em. We only made half of 'em. If we shoot our normal percentage, then this game hopefully would be...
Again, to go through that and not make your foul shots, get beat on the glass, 13 offensive boards. Some of them were like, you know, just tough because, you know, they air-banked one, you're trying to block out, I think Kareem is off differently if it doesn't hit the rim normally in the first half, and they got it back.
Our guys really, really are so bright, they're so intelligent, they're so committed and driven, they're committed to one another, that -- this was a one-day prep for our players. Yesterday was the only day of preparation to get ready for them. Believe me, they knew what they were going to do.
Q. You were looking to hold them to 45?
COACH BEN HOWLAND: I didn't put a number. I thought if we played really hard, did a great job, we'd have a chance to win. We're just trying to give ourselves a chance to win.
You're talking about Gonzaga. I mean, Gonzaga is great. Being able to seize that opportunity, incredible comeback that I can remember being a part of. I mean, there's nothing that significant that I've been even close to, a part of, like that. Then seizing it today. I'm just so happy for our players. It's all about working hard and being rewarded, doing the right things.
Q. I know you weren't going to announce ahead of time what your focus was, but did you feel that stopping their transition offense, was that what you were hammering home to them?
COACH BEN HOWLAND: We hammer that home every game. It just doesn't look like it.
Q. More so with this team?
COACH BEN HOWLAND: It's every team, every team. Nothing changes. The game today, that's such a big part of what they do. I mean, look at all the good teams, Washington, Arizona, Gonzaga, Memphis. You can go back and look at Cal, whoever you want to talk about. All teams that are good teams are trying to push it.
I thought we really got off to an incredible start pushing the ball ourselves. Alfred got so excited, instead of slowing down, he's wide open at the other end, the ball slipped through his hands on that one play. There wasn't a person around him.
I'm really proud of Ryan Hollins. He did a great job again today. 14 and 9. Boy, is he really playing well. Just proud of him. Here is a kid who has worked so hard to get it to where he's at right now. He's a factor. He is a factor. We're going to need him on Saturday because LSU has about eight guys like him that are athletic, long, bouncy, swatting shots. This is like the human fly-swatting machine that we're going into on Saturday.
Q. Knowing the appreciation for the history of the program, can you talk about the significance of getting to the Final Four?
COACH BEN HOWLAND: Well, this program is where it is right now, as the greatest tradition in all of college basketball, the greatest history in all of college basketball. There might be a couple teams that would try to suggest that that is not true. But I'm telling you, 11 national championships. It all starts with Coach Wooden. Coach Wooden is an unbelievable person. I go -- a lot of people have heard this, but having the former players over at my house in the fall with our current team I think really was a great thing because our guys get it. Coach Wooden is there, Jerry Norman, so many greats. It was so fun to see Bill Walton there tonight.
These former players love the program (tearing up). It's special.
Q. You've mentioned Southern Cal, Jordan mentioned it. What did you look like prior to that? What would I have seen a week before than a week later?
COACH BEN HOWLAND: You know, it was just taking it to a new level in terms of our intensity, in terms of our focus. That practice after that loss, the last game that we'll ever play at the sports arena, was really a tough thing for our guys. I thought they came back with renewed focus, renewed concentration, an unbelievable commitment to defending. We got beat off the bounce all the time. SC is very good. They had a great year. Coach Floyd did a great job.
I thought from that point forward, we've taken it up a notch. I thought the Cal win here three weeks ago, this past Thursday, even took it up another notch. After that SC game, we played two home games against Oregon State, Oregon. Oregon was senior day. Then we went up playing for the right to share the PAC-10 championship at Cal against a great team with a tremendous player in Leon Powe. That was so sad to see Washington lose last night because our league is great. The PAC-10 is terrific. I hope that the national media and everybody out there is seeing that. We have a terrific league, unbelievable players, coaches. I really felt for Lorenzo and his players because they had a great shot. What a tough loss. Just proud of how well our league competes and what a great league this is, what a great program we have at UCLA.
Q. You alluded several times about the free-throw struggles. 35% in the first half. The struggles continued in the second half until Arron stepped up and nailed one. Received a disingenuous roar from the crowd.
COACH BEN HOWLAND: That wasn't disingenuous.
Q. What happened? Do you think that was a psychological call? Was that a turning point?
COACH BEN HOWLAND: Ryan Hollins, when he first got up there, he was so amped up, he was like -- he stepped up to the line and he was like going too fast within his routine. That's what I tried to tell him. What happens is you have to get back to what you do every day in Pauley Pavilion when nobody is in the stands. He made 78 out of a hundred. I'm trying to think what day it is. Saturday. We came up on what day? Wednesday?
We beat Alabama on a Saturday, so Sunday we took off. Monday, they came in. He shot a hundred foul shots. So did Luc. So did Alfred. So did Ced. He made 78 that day, great focus and concentration.
We'll get back to doing that, but they won't do anything on the floor the next two days. Most of their time will be spent talking to the media.
Q. 2 of 9 for Arron.
COACH BEN HOWLAND: Arron is a great foul shooter. We talked a little bit the other night, he was three for six. He was lifting his eyes as he was shooting, which I don't like. I like you to have focus. I'm the foul shooting coach, so blame me. We'll get better, I promise.
Q. Having grown up in Southern California, having watched all the great John Wooden teams, how would you compare the style and personality of this team to the ones you used to take to the Final Four?
COACH BEN HOWLAND: Boy, that's tough. I mean, I think our team embodies the spirit of what Coach is all about, which is teamwork, which is unselfish play, which is a commitment at both ends of the floor to play together, team defense, team offense, giving yourself up for your teammates. As we continue to win, they all get recognized.
I mean, Ryan Wright, he's going to be a terrific player. Michael Roll, we have really, really good players. That's the bottom line. I would say that Coach Wooden has told me before that, you know, recruiting is a pretty important part to this whole success formula. That's where it all starts. Getting good players that are good students, that are really good kids, that are obviously very, very talented, have athletic and skill level. All that goes into it.
The formula is not new. It's already been set. Yeah, we may do -- we're not running the high posts. Doesn't mean we wouldn't in the future if we get the right guys. We're really, really committed to one another, to each other. That's what you hear from these kids. That's what is so rewarding as their coach, is to hear them and their commitment to one another.
They really love each other. I said this before, they're playing for each other first and playing for those former players that played for Coach that they got a chance to really got to know in this off-season. That's incredible. That's so fun.
You can't do that anywhere else. I mean, you're meeting Bill Walton, Greg Lee, Mike Warren, Lucius Allen, Jamal Wilkes. Gail Goodrich. Walt Hazzard was in my office week before last. He actually okayed permission for a recruit, his name I can't mention, to wear his number. I have already a commitment from Walt to allow this young man, who wears 42, to wear his number, if hopefully he comes to UCLA.
We have guys that are so proud of this program. It all starts and ends with John R. Wooden.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.
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