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March 7, 2012

Devon Collier

Craig Robinson

Ahmad Starks


Oregon State – 69
Washington State – 64

THE MODERATOR:  Coach, an opening statement, please?
COACH ROBINSON:  First and foremost, just happy to be able to come back tomorrow, and I couldn't be any prouder of this group.  For about all but about eight minutes the game plan was followed almost to the letter, and to be able to weather that storm, and I don't know what it ended up being, but it felt like it was a 30‑6 run, and then grinding these guys back out and winning the game the way we did.  It's a win that we wouldn't have been able to do earlier in the season, let alone in the past.
It all came down to real team work on defense.  And to be able to play that kind of game with Jared Cunningham not having one of his greatest games, that bodes well for us later on in the tournament.
So with that, I'll open it up for questions.

Q.  Coach, score is tied 60‑60 with three minutes.  Can you talk about your defense at that point until the end of the game?
COACH ROBINSON:  Well, we started switching from zone to man, and then they brought in‑‑ when Motum was out, we wanted to go zone.  When Motum was in, we wanted to go man.  I haven't gotten a chance to see.  So we wanted to hold Motum to under his average against us which seems like it's 30 points, so it looks like we did that.  But it was really just team defense.  We were able to put some good pressure on the ball, have good weak side help, and limit them to one shot as opposed to making a miss and letting them get an offensive rebound.

Q.  Can you talk about your team not falling apart after they made their run?
COACH ROBINSON:  Yeah, yeah.  That's a sign of maturity.  Again, we couldn't do this earlier in the season because we weren't mature enough.  We're starting a freshman, two sophomores and two juniors, and one of the juniors didn't play his freshman year.  So that's a young team.
But to see them be able to sort of man it up at the end of a game that was rugged against some really good players and a team that had beaten us twice was, it was outstanding.  It should be a confidence builder for these guys.  These guys should feel like they can beat anybody at any time, no matter what.

Q.  Did you believe that the team would be able to rally back and come forward?
COACH ROBINSON:  You know, the one thing when you're turning a culture around like we've had to do, the one thing you're very confident about is coming from behind.  We've spent a lot of time doing that with these guys the first couple of years plus the first three years I was here.  So once they made their run and got a little bit of a lead, we didn't think it was that big deal.  I don't know what the lead ended up being, if it was a 6 or an 8‑point lead.
But we knew if we stuck to our game plan, we'd be able to chip away at it.

Q.  Ahmad, with the environment out there and not much of a crowd, it was quiet, a lot of the players seemed to have trouble getting going.  You came out on fire and then cooled off.  Can you take us through the start of the game for you?  And what are some of the things that contributed to you slowing down later?
AHMAD STARKS:  Coach always talks about us coming to a fast start, and that helps us be successful.  So it was on me today to kind of get it going.  I was there to make some shots which got us an early lead.
But not much of a crowd, that shouldn't matter.  It's the Pac‑12 tournament.  It's high stakes right now.  We're going after something right now, so that should be the incentive to get going, and my teammates picked it up as well after I started.

Q.  Could you please talk about Cunningham?  You said he struggled a little bit.  Can you talk a little about that, please?
COACH ROBINSON:  I can.  Here it says 1 for 8, 0 for 4, and he scores three points and he's averaging whatever he's averaging.  I mean, if you told me before the game started that that would be his line and we'd still win, I would wonder what you had to drink before we got started.
But again, Jared does a lot of things for us other than scoring.  He was a nuisance on D.  I'm looking.  Jared was guarding Reggie Moore.  Reggie Moore was 3 for 16 today.  So what he didn't do on offense, he picked up on defense, and that was really important.
But again, for us to win a game with Jared having only a so‑so offensive day shows the growth in the rest of the team, and it also shows the growth in Jared in trusting his teammates, which I thought he did a very good job of today.

Q.  Craig, I think Eric had a key block there at the end where Brock had kind of a clean look at the lay‑up and a double‑double.  What did he mean for you today?
COACH ROBINSON:  You're talking about the block that wasn't a foul on a three‑pointer at a critical point of the game, right?
No, Eric wanted the challenge of guarding Motum, and we wanted to put somebody longer on him, and he did a terrific job.  Guarding a guy like that is hard to do.  As I said, he's been averaging 25 or 26 against us in the first two games to hold him to 18 was pretty good.  Three of those were at the end there where the game was in hand.
But Eric has shown a lot of growth and maturity as well.  He has a wonderful knack of being able to stay in front of his man at 6'10".  Not too many 6'10" guys you can put on a guard as well as a center.  He plays above the rim along with Devon, and it helps us from a defensive standpoint having guys back there who are threats to block shots.  Then finally he's just a rebounding machine.  If you look at his rebounds per minutes played, it's got to be one of the tops in the country.

Q.  Going after your game plan today, how do you think you match up with Washington tomorrow?
COACH ROBINSON:  I'd like to think we match up well against them; but once again, that is a team that's had our number twice this year, so I can't say that fully.  But I think this year our athleticism is much better.  So I think we can give them a better run from an athleticism standpoint.  We just have to be as good at staying with our game plan as we were today.
They've got a fantastic team.  Arguably three pros, maybe even four pros on that team, so we're going to have to really execute our defensive plan as much as our offensive plan.

Q.  If the players could talk about the challenge of playing Washington, and what do you have to do different this time than the first two games?
DEVON COLLIER:  We've just got to come out strong like we did for today's game and just play together and keep playing on defense, and our offense will come.  We had each teammate help on defense, either it was a block or a steal or a rebound, and we just executed.  I feel for tomorrow's game, if we come out strong like we did today, that will put us in a good situation.

Q.  Is Burton, was he banged up there a little bit at the end?  I know he came back in, but he seemed to be playing.
COACH ROBINSON:  I saw him.  He said he twisted his ankle.  I didn't see it happen, but I know the play when it happened.  I wasn't going to take him out, and he wasn't going to come out.  The ref said, because they stopped it for the injury, he had to come out.  Then he told me he was okay.
But Joe's been banged up all season long, and it's been‑‑ he hasn't complained not one bit this season.  You guys all can imagine when you're 280‑plus and as athletic as he is, there is a lot of wear and tear that your body takes all season long.

Q.  There was that play right before where he had stripped the ball from behind and then saved it from out of bounds or something like that.  Is that an athleticism that he shows day‑in and day‑out?
COACH ROBINSON:  Day‑in and day‑out.  I've actually been trying to get him to stop strafing the people for the ball like that, because it seems like it's an easy way to get a foul, but he's so good at it‑‑ and he doesn't listen to what I say‑‑ that he gets one every now and then.
That was a big play for us.  I think the biggest play though was when Roberto Nelson drove in there and it looked like he was going to shoot and somehow squeezed it between two guys to Joe at a really bad angle, and Joe laid it up.  That was an important turning point in the game.

Q.  You guys built a 16‑point lead in the first half and then at the end of the half saw you were down by 1.  How did you respond mentally in the second half to insure victory today?
AHMAD STARKS:  That was kind of tough to see them make that run and then go up one and a half.  We had some conversations in the locker room before Coach got in there just to figure out what we were doing wrong.  There was a look of not defeat but we were down about it, and we knew we had to come out and be aggressive, and we were able to come back and get the lead again.
COACH ROBINSON:  I like how he put that‑‑ conversations in the locker room.

Q.  In years past and earlier this season, your team might not have been able to come back from that with Jared not playing great offensively.  What's that say to how this team has grown in the past couple weeks?
COACH ROBINSON:  Yeah, I think the maturity level of this team has been growing all season long.  The last‑‑ these last four games‑‑ it started against the U of O, in spite of the fact that we didn't win that game.  Then Utah, Colorado, and this game, we have been acting like we're the next year.
So you know how coaches always use that cliche, this time of the year you're not a freshman anymore, you're a sophomore?  Well, it's true.  These guys have been through an entire season now, and it's what we expect.
If you look at us historically, which I know you have, we have always gotten better every single year.  We've gotten better by the end of the year.  This year is no different.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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