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March 13, 2013

Jahii Carson

Carrick Felix

Herb Sendek


Arizona State – 89
Stanford – 88

THE MODERATOR:  Coach, an opening statement, please?
COACH SENDEK:  In a lot of ways this game almost typified our season.  First, it was close.  Second, it went to overtime.  And third, I thought our guys once again just played with a lot of heart.  The two men to my left just give everything they have every single day, and I couldn't be prouder of them for the consistent effort that they give.  Both these guys were sensational today.
Really proud of our guys, the way they bounced back in overtime after Bright had hit the three, three‑point shots to tie the game, especially given the fact we actually fell behind in overtime.  But this team has had that kind of resiliency all season long.
At the same time, this is the Pac‑12 this year, hard‑fought, high‑level, close game.  I think Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis are really tough match‑ups.  Obviously, Aaron Bright was spectacular.
Dwight Powell reminds me a lot of Derrick Williams, because who do you guard him with?  Derrick played center for the U of A.  He plays inside.  He plays outside.  Our guys battled.  Carrick did a good job, but he really changes the game because of his match‑up challenge.

Q.  Jahii, could you just talk about your match‑up with Aaron Bright and what you tried to do today?
JAHII CARSON:  I just tried to keep him in front.  He's a quick guy.  With Stanford having great shooters, it's tough for my teammates to help me out and they've got to stay home.  So I just try to keep him in front and get over the screens as best as I can.  He had a great night as far as shooting the ball coming off screens.
But I think I did a pretty good job with not letting him get his teammates involved because that's what he likes to do.

Q.  Your offensive game?
JAHII CARSON:  Oh, sorry.
COACH SENDEK:  Jahii's always thinking about defense (laughing).
JAHII CARSON:  I just try to come up big on big stages.  I know my teammates look a lot for me to create for them and create for myself, and I try to go out there and make big plays.  It's good that Coach lets me get the ball and push the basketball, that keeps the defense occupied.  And my teammates had open shots today, and that allowed me to create for myself as well.

Q.  Jahii, where does that come from, wanting to produce like this on the big stage?  How far back does that go?  Was there ever a time when you were nervous in these situations?
JAHII CARSON:  I've always had a chip on my shoulder growing up.  People called me disabled because of my size on the basketball court, and I use that to my advantage.  I try to attack the paint, fearless, and just try to go up and score and make big plays.  If the defense collapsed, I just try to find open guy.  I try to play basketball the right way.  I never try to be selfish.  I try to take what the defense gives me, and that's the way I've played my whole life.

Q.  They call you disabled?
JAHII CARSON:  Yeah, they say I'm height disabled.  So that's the way I feel.

Q.  Carrick, you guys went small a lot today, and you had Dwight Powell quite a bit.  Talk about how you defend that match‑up, and what that does at the other end also?
CARRICK FELIX:  Man, Dwight Powell is a great player.  I really had to play him straight up.  I knew he was going to get his buckets and get his baskets, but the key to that was just make tough ones.  Then I have my teammates as well with me to help on the double teams and things like that.  But he's a great player.

Q.  Can you talk about just the sense of urgency that a team like you guys played with e especially early in the game?  In past games maybe you haven't been that intense on the defensive end until the second half, but today it seemed like from the outset you guys had that?
CARRICK FELIX:  We definitely knew what was at stake in the locker room.  We definitely had a lot of talks with ourselves and our coaches, and we knew what we had to do when we come out.  We knew we had to win the first eight minutes and starting from the beginning.  We had to get back to what we were doing at the beginning of the season.  That's something we did tonight.  Each and every one brought their own individual energy, and we played with heart.  It took the people that were on the floor as well as the people on the bench.  I think we had a good bench, and that was good for us.

Q.  In high school they had 58, was it the State Semifinals?

Q.  Similar type of zone and the way you get yourself into when you have these big scoring pushes like today?
JAHII CARSON:  Yeah, definitely.  I woke up today just with positive energy.  My family, other ASU alumni text me and sent me positive energy.  So when I get positive energy from other people, I get in a good mental state, and today I was in the zone.  When I'm in the zone, I keep attacking and trying to put pressure on the defense.  Good things happen when you're in a good mental state and you attack the defense.

Q.  After you were up 8 with a minute to go, they came back and brought you to the three and you got the four‑point play.  What was it like going back to the huddle after giving up that lead going into overtime with all the momentum on the other side?
CARRICK FELIX:  We definitely need to just stay composed.  It did hurt that he did hit that shot.  I mean, it took a lot out of us, but we knew at the end of the day we just need to stay together and just go out in overtime and do the same thing we did in the first half and second half, and just play and compete.  I think we did that well.
In overtime, we played a hard game, a tough game, and it was physical down to the wire.  I think Evan Gordon stepped up for us big time; and Chris Colvin battled with Huestis in the second half, boxing him out, making sure he didn't get on the boards in overtime.  Overall, we were just composed.  We believe in ourselves and I think that was the key.

Q.  I know you guys are facing UCLA tomorrow.  Just your thoughts on that?  I know it was a pretty close game last time you played in Los Angeles?
JAHII CARSON:  Oh, yeah.  They're a tough team.  They're a good team.  They have a lot of the strong weapons that they have on their team.  But I think we come out with the same mentality we came out with today, the same energy, the same toughness, I think we can control that game and control the tempo.  And I think it's going to be a pretty good game.  We come out with a victory if we come out with the same mentality we had today.
CARRICK FELIX:  Piggyback on what Jahii said, that is the key, for us to come out with great energy and play with toughness.  UCLA's going to come out with the same exact energy and they're going to want to play.  That's one thing we've got to be ready for, for their three big freshmen to really look to score.
So we've got to make sure we D‑up and rebound.  I think rebounding 50‑50 plays tomorrow is definitely going to be key for us.

Q.  You guys lost your last three Pac‑12 games.  Huge tonight.  How big is this?  Like a whole new season for you guys how big is this going into tomorrow against UCLA, the No. 1 seed in the tournament?
CARRICK FELIX:  You definitely said it.  It's a whole new season.  It's definitely great momentum for us to have going into tomorrow, and we just need to capitalize on it.  Just ride it out.  I mean, right now I think all the guys are feeling good.
Like Jahii said, there is a lot of positive energy going on right now, and we just know what's at stake, and we're going to go out there and leave it on the floor every single time.  It's going to be a battle.

Q.  This is like a home game for you guys.  You guys had a whole student section come out and show up.  How huge was that to have them be on your back for this game in a neutral site?
JAHII CARSON:  I think it's great as far as somebody cheering for you.  You always want to do good for somebody that is cheering for you.  We come out there and don't want to let our fans down.  They traveled way out here to Vegas.  Some didn't have the expenses to come out and fly and some drove.  So we'd like to give them a show and support them as well as they support us.

Q.  You've had pretty good success against Shabazz Muhammad.  What has been the key for to you shutting him down?
CARRICK FELIX:  Just got to play him straight up just like I did everybody else.  He's going to look to score it every time.  He's definitely‑‑ he runs the floor, and he's a tough player.  I've just got to make sure I stay composed, be smart on defense, and just play him straight up.  I've got my teammates, and I know if I get into any trouble, I'll have a little bit of help.  But me and him are going to battle tomorrow.

Q.  You went early fairly often.  You went small fairly early and stayed that way.  What do you like about that match‑up?
COACH SENDEK:  Well, when we played at home we probably didn't do it soon enough, so with that experience in the back of our mind, we still tried to start conventionally, but quickly decided it would be in our best interest to try some other match‑ups, not that that was perfect.  We still had a difficult time matching up and defending them.  But we thought it gave us the best chance to ultimately win the game.
Like I said earlier in the week even, I think Huestis and Powell are two of the toughest match‑ups in college basketball because on the defensive end, they can literally guard five positions, so they don't get hurt at all with match‑ups on that end of the floor.
Yet, offensively, though they're their front court players, for all intents and purpose, they're both small forwards.  They just do a great job of taking advantage of whatever match‑up favor they have.  If the smaller guy is guarding them, they slide into the post.  If the bigger guy is guarding them, they shoot the ball with range and they put it on the floor.
Those two match‑ups are magnified by the fact that they have such good shooters around them, so you can't easily shrink the floor for help.  Any time you do dig or trap the post or stunt on a drive, they have guys like Bright and Randle, Gage, who, the number one, and number two, three‑point shooters in our league, 49% and 47% around them.  That is a tough match‑up.  That is a tough defensive call.  So that's what I was referring to.

Q.  You ever played a game before where the other team shot one free throw?  I'm curious‑‑
COACH SENDEK:  You know, I'm so old.  A, I can't remember, and B, probably everything has happened once.

Q.  What did it say about the way the game was going that at least until they got into the foul game with you with a minute and a half left?  I think you guys had tried four or something like that?  It seemed like nobody was going?
COACH SENDEK:  Yeah, and it wasn't like, you know, the game wasn't combative.  I mean, both teams were driving the ball.  They were posting up more than we were.  Both teams were flying around, going for offense or rebounds and making hustle plays.  So it wasn't one of those situations where both teams were playing a hand's up, hairy zone, and both teams were just settling for threes.  It was a highly competitive, high‑octane game.

Q.  Stanford had obviously just one free throw, and it came on that four‑point play which you probably didn't care for the call on, just as a guess.  But I'm curious if you thought the refs were letting stuff go, or was it just great defense on your part?  How do you explain they only had one free throw in 45 minutes?
COACH SENDEK:  Obviously, I don't think either team‑‑ I don't have a stat sheet in front.  What was the total here?  Let's look.  We talked about the fact going into the game that it was really important to keep them off the foul line, because not only do they shoot 41% from three, but they shoot as a team, 75% from the line.
So that was the second bullet point on our board after defending the three.  We had to keep them off the line, and I thought our guys did a really good job of that.
Then for us, a team that has struggled mightily at the free‑throw line, we made our free throws today.
Certainly Evan Gordon was sensational.  Jahii was perfect.  Jonathan made his two.  We got the right guys to the line and they made them.  That's been as much as our undoing in close games as any other factor.
If you look at our close losses of which we've had, I think, seven in conference play, it came down to the last possession or the next‑to‑last possession.  Our team is like roughly 50% at the foul line in those games.  So, a difference tonight in allowing us to win one of those was we made our free throws, as simple as that sounds.

Q.  I was going to ask you about Evan.  He's been struggling a little bit.  How big was it or what does it say about him that he's able to step to the line in that situation?
COACH SENDEK:  It's really important.  It's hard to win consistently when you only have a couple of guys putting points on the board.  So when Evan plays like he did this afternoon and most notably made clutch free throws for us, it's a big difference.  I mean, it's a huge difference.
Even John going 4 for 7 from three, that is significant.  I've come to believe when Evan and John are playing well, we're a much different team.  Today we've got good offensive production from both of those young men.

Q.  I had to step out and ask Jahii one more thing, but how rare is it for a freshman to come into this environment on a stage this big and perform the way he did?
COACH SENDEK:  It's extremely rare,  not only for a freshman, but for anybody.  There is a different feel when you come to a conference tournament.  I always feel it, as many years as I've been doing this now.  When I walk into rooms like this with you guys, when we took the practice court yesterday, I mean, this is March Madness.  This is the conference tournament.  It has a special feel to it.
But we said all along with Jahii, maybe no game was harder than the first game he played at Arizona State going back to November 9th, with all the expectations, with all the waiting.  For him to go out and play with the poise that he did even in that first game, to me, was a real reflection of the kind of self confidence he has.  The kind of composure he has in situations that would cause a lot of people to have sweaty palms.

Q.  Can you talk about just having Eric Musselman as an assistant?  How do you think he's done his first year at the college level?
COACH SENDEK:  Like a proud parent, it's difficult for me to ever single out any one player or any one coach.  I think we're blessed with the best coaching staff that any head coach could have.  Dedrique Taylor has been with us all seven years, and he does a great job in every facet of our program.  Certainly Larry Greer, who joined our staff this year, has made a fantastic contribution.
Now getting to Coach Musselman, he's the one guy on our staff that's been a head coach, and I rely on him tremendously for insights, ideas, thoughts.  So I think we have a tremendous coaching staff that I personally can't put a value on their help.
I think all three of those guys, to a man, when the right situation presents itself, will have great success as college head coaches.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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