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March 19, 2009

Keith Dambrot

Nate Linhart

Chris McKnight

Darryl Roberts


Gonzaga – 77
Akron - 64

COACH DAMBROT: I told our guys after the game that as competitive as I am I was a little bit disappointed that that game didn't go into the last three minutes. We were right there. We played with good passion and desire but we just had a hard time when it really mattered. And you could tell that they'd been there before.
When you have a team like that scrambling and on the ropes a little bit you can't let them off the hook. What happened is they made a few and we missed a few. And it looked like we tired a little bit. I thought it was going to be reverse, to be honest with you, because we played our bench quite a bit. But we just tired, I thought. They made some unbelievable plays.
Like a lot of people have said, I think I'm a pretty good judge, that's the most individually talented 4 seed you'll see. Those guys are pros. I kind of had the tendency to judge people by LeBron. I don't think they're LeBron, but they're pros. And I'm proud of our guys.
We were picked 4th, 5th and 6th in the East, which means WE were 8th through 12th in our league. We were dead in the water about 55 times this year and we came roaring back, and we'll come back again.

Q. Nate, you guys played so efficiently, and you seemed like you were very comfortable and five minutes into the second half you were right there. And then just the roof caved in. It was 27-4 at one point. What were the factors that went into that collapse?
NATE LINHART: Well, I think it started at the defensive end for us. We kind of let them get going a little bit, gave them easy baskets. And to their credit they started hitting tougher shots, some three's. And it was kind of a snowball effect. Once they got going we kind of got down on ourselves a little bit.
It's a credit to them. They've been there before. And they knew what they were doing. They had the confidence to push through our storm. It's unfortunate we weren't able to fight back in that second half.

Q. Can you talk about what the team has done this year and your thoughts on that?
NATE LINHART: On the state of the team? I'm really, really proud of our team. If you had told me a few times this year that we'd ended up in the NCAA tournament right now I wouldn't have believed you, because we've had some ups and downs. It's a real tribute to our guys and the toughness that we have to be able to bounce back from all the hits that we took this year.
This is probably the most fun I've ever had in my four years, this year was. And it didn't start out that way, but being able to push through, it was -- I'll remember this year forever.

Q. Chris, can you talk about how this can be a springboard going into next season?
CHRIS MCKNIGHT: I'd say just being here is a great experience first off. And with the young guys that we have, just going into next year, this right here is just something to build on. I feel as though with me being a senior next year and us having 7 sophomores and juniors, it's just a stepping-stone right here to get back -- get right back to where we were this year. We made a nice run in the MAC tournament and toughed it out and was able to get in the NCAA. Next year I feel like we can do the same thing, you've just got to keep pushing and make sure we're working in the offseason.
DARRYL ROBERTS: Same comment that Chris was saying. As far as this year, we had a lot of experience coming here and going through the MAC tournament being a young team. I feel we can build on that. Like coach tells us in the locker room, we have to work hard, it's not going to be easy. As long as we do that I think we'll be successful next year, also.

Q. Can you talk about what you told the team at halftime knowing that Gonzaga was going to make a run?
COACH DAMBROT: You know, after the game what I told our guys is I think to win a game like that you have to make sure that you play the game to your strengths and not your weaknesses. And I thought to Gonzaga's credit they played to their strengths, which is the three ball. And they crash the boards. Their margin of error is a little bit different than ours.
But our strength, believe it or not, was going inside. We forget where our bread and butter is, which is low block. That's hard to believe when you're throwing it against 6'6" guys against 6'11" guys. But we had success throwing the ball inside.
And I felt defensively we were not aggressive enough to really guard them. Against a team like that, and against great players like that, you have to get them out of their comfort zone and their speed level. If you let great players play at a slow pace you're going to have issues, especially when you're much smaller in all areas. And we never really got them out of their comfort zone in the second half.
Now we tried to be more aggressive but we never quite got there, and I think that's why they shot the ball so well in the second half.

Q. Next year it will probably be a reversal of this year. You won't be picked as low in the conference. How is that a challenge going in to next year?
COACH DAMBROT: That is exactly what we talked about in the locker room is next year everybody is going to think automatically that we're going to be a good team. But we're a good team because we're a meat and potatoes, hard-nosed midwest team. We play with heart and passion, and if we don't do that we're just average to below average. Just because we finished well, doesn't mean we're going to be good next year.
And the one thing I will tell you with our administration, that's the president, the board of trustees, athletic director, they're going to put money into the program, which is going to separate us before it's all over. And you like that pressure I put on you?
And you know, with my passion for Akron, being a hometown guy, like I want beat Gonzaga. And I think USAToday hit it on the head, we're kind of Gonzaga 1999, that's the biggest compliment you can give somebody. That is not a mid-major anymore, my friend, that is one of the best basketball teams in the country.

End of FastScripts

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