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March 21, 2013

Justin Cobbs

Allen Crabbe

Mike Montgomery

Robert Thurman


California – 64
UNLV - 61

THE MODERATOR:  We're joined now by California head coach Mike Montgomery, and student‑athletes Justin Cobbs, a junior guard, Allen Crabbe, a junior guard, and Robert Thurman, a senior forward.
COACH MONTGOMERY:  Well, we're thrilled, obviously.  I think that the kids really had a proper attitude coming into this.  I think that probably playing in the first time did help us mentally, based on the fact that we did compete with them and had a chance to win, so I don't think there was a fear factor there really.  I think we felt like we could win.
We played really hard, which was something that we have done off and on, not all the time, but we played really hard.  I thought we pursued balls, I thought we contested three‑point shots like we asked them to.
It wasn't always smooth.  We missed free throws down the stretch, which is a little bit unusual for us, and we had a couple of mental errors where we didn't think about what we were doing.  But other than that we played a pretty good game.
I think the zone bothered them.  We'd started off going to play made‑missed, with the idea that we could maybe break their tempo, break their rhythm a little bit.  And had some pretty good success.
They hit some threes early, and if they continued to hit them deep, but they cooled off and big guys did a good job on the boards.  I thought everybody contributed.
So it feels pretty good.  It really does.  12‑5, I don't ‑‑ that's great and that will make for good conversation, but really, it's two basketball teams in a game we had to play well to win and we knew we had to, and I thought we did.

Q.  Allen, what was the key to your team's play at the start of the second half when you had a little surge and were able to get up by a few points which seemed to be important to the outcome of the game?
ALLEN CRABBE:  We taught ourselves before we went out, the first five minutes were going to be the most important starting off the half.  I felt like we really took them out of their rhythm in our zone.  We scrambled when we weren't in the right place at the right time, and we helped each other out big on the defensive side.

Q.  Justin, can you talk about what was said during the huddles when you guys were up three and twice you fouled after the Utah game, where you guys didn't?
JUSTIN COBBS:  We were very conscious of the last time against Utah they were able to get a 3‑point shot off which sent the game into overtime.  Coach taught us to foul and don't let the guy get in his shooting motion before, just in case, we wanted to put it in the refs' hands.  The coach decided to foul, and let them shoot two free throws and see what happens.

Q.  I guess for Justin or any of you guys, second straight PAC 12 team to win here today and both of you guys were 12 seeds.  Did you catch any of the Oregon game and what both of these games say about your conference?
JUSTIN COBBS:  Shows you that our conference is tough.  It's tough from top to bottom.  Teams are playing well right now.  So all the bad press we were getting before maybe wasn't true.  Guys are playing well.  And I just wish the best of luck to all of the rest of the PAC 12 schools.

Q.  Robert, you talked earlier in the year about sometimes the legs aren't there, 275 pounds, whatever it is.  Is it safe to say the thrust, you had that tonight and that was the key?
ROBERT THURMAN:  You know, for me ‑‑ for most guys that are 6‑8, it's not very hard to dunk.  I just got really lucky because Justin and Allen really penetrated well.  And they're a big threat when they get there and I was wide open underneath the rim, did what most big guys are supposed to do.

Q.  Were all six of your buckets dunks?

Q.  No. 2, with the zone inside, with Bennett, did you sense him getting frustrated because he was not nearly as effective this game as he was in the first?
ROBERT THURMAN:  Yeah, you know what, I think the zone kind of threw them off, they have an ISO type defense.  When you use the zone it's hard to get guys on one‑on‑one situation for long periods of time.  We did a good job containing them.

Q.  Justin, when Bennett was set up on your side of the zone you were really almost fronting him a lot of the time.  Was that part of your game plan where you were going to shade him?
JUSTIN COBBS:  Not really shade, just bracket him.  Make sure Robert, Dave, Richard, they knew they had another guy help.  I told just send them to your helper.  I'm right there on your side.  Like Rob said, their offense is really ISO oriented, we were conscious we were helping guys and rebounding the ball.

Q.  Robert, did you have any specific marching orders in the second half that Coach Montgomery gave you, what was your understanding about how you needed to play in the second half?
ROBERT THURMAN:  I just needed to play how I'm supposed to play all the time, that's set screens, take charges and finish when I'm open.  That's just been my job all along.  So I just did my job.

Q.  Robert, you tweeted out before the game that this could be your last shot, could be your last time playing.  Did you go in with a little more energy because you had that kind of thought running through your mind?
ROBERT THURMAN:  Yeah, every senior doesn't want the season to end.  I don't think a lot of the guys want our season to end.  We played like it and we got our win.

Q.  Just was curious your thoughts on the PAC 12 going 3‑0 today with Arizona also winning in addition with Oregon.  Is that something the league could use given the reputation over the last couple of years?
COACH MONTGOMERY:  Sure.  I mean, the only thing you can do to try to convince people of otherwise, I don't think it's ever going to really change, as long as I've been in the league, 20‑some years, is to go out and win.  That's the only thing you can do to prove that you're a good conference.
I can't imagine there being a better conference than the PAC 12, across the board, all sports, the whole way we approach the thing.  For me to say that means nothing, you've got to go out and win games.
I don't think anybody in our league came in with a chip on our shoulder, like we weren't good.  I think Oregon thought we were supposed to win.  I think we thought we were supposed to win and that's the way we approach these games.  It's an opportunity and I think we so far have done a good job.  As I think Justin said, I hope the rest of the league continues to play well.  It was a good conference this year.

Q.  Was there any second thoughts at all about fouling in those situations where you were up three, especially given what happened a week ago?
COACH MONTGOMERY:  Well, we talked about it.  We burned some timeouts that we maybe necessarily wouldn't have liked to have used.  I like to have timeouts in my back pocket going into the last couple of minutes to cover every eventuality, in case you have to take one in an emergency, can't get it inbounds.  I think we actually used them wisely.
So there could have been a way to explain what we were trying to do a little bit better than trying to yell out on the court to them.
The problem was is there was ‑‑ if you're up four you don't need to foul.  If you're up three, you don't want them to hit a three, so you want to foul.  If you're up two you can't tie because that ties the game.  There are three different scenarios you're trying to communicate.  A lot of that could have been solved with free throws and forced them to have to make it.
I've never been a big proponent of giving points up.  I don't know what the average of how many times I've gotten burned by not fouling versus how many times we've won a game because we've given up a poor shot.  We talked about it during practice, that the problem was we didn't use much time.  You'd have liked to have used more time off the clock rather than fouling right away.
But the fact that we really are not really well oiled in that particular strategy, I just wanted to get it done.  I mean, sometimes they rolled it up and we got fouled right away, knowing they were going to get two foul shots not three.  So we were going to have a lead.  If you miss a foul shot, pretty soon it can go three, then two, then one.  So it worked and so we're pleased with it.
If they'd have rebounded and missed and tipped it back out and hit a three and beat us, you'd all be chewing my fanny, but it didn't work that way.

Q.  In the first half they made five threes, second half they were 1 for 9.  Any adjustment in the second half with the zone?
COACH MONTGOMERY:  Yeah, I don't know that it specifically kept them from making some of the second shots they didn't make.
One shot Jones shot was way deep in the first half and then Reinhardt the same thing.  They were dragging our ‑‑ too technical, but they were dragging our post guy up.  And originally what we told the wings when they drug the post guy up the wing was supposed to take, and the post was supposed to drop back.  The problem with that was it left the wing down low on the other side and he couldn't get up to the 3‑point shooter.  What they were trying to do actually worked for them.
We told them that the post had to stay with the guy all the way up so the wing could take the next guy, they were ball screening, and the point could step off and the post could stay away and they wouldn't get that three.
We contested them.  I don't think ‑‑ if they'd continued to shoot the ball that way from that deep, been tough to beat them, regardless.  But they'd have been 10 for 18, that would have been pretty good percentages.  But they didn't, they started to miss shots a little bit and that's what a zone is going to do.
So many times you've seen coaches, and me included, play a zone, guy gets a three, get out of that zone, but eventually you hope it comes back to you.

Q.  What did you tell the team how you wanted them to play at the start of the second half?  What was the key to that, to playing so well at the start of the second half really to win the game?
COACH MONTGOMERY:  I think you probably give a little more credit for what is said than what the kids are going to do.  If I said, Look, I want you to jump over the backboard, that doesn't mean they're going to do it.
We said the first five minutes of the second half is critical.  I think they understood that.  We had an even game.  We got off to a great start.  They came back, surged back, and then it became cat and mouse back and forth, back and forth.  It got even, and we felt good about that.
Our first thing has been first three to five minutes of the second half is important.  We started the second half a little bit like we started the game, we went bang, bang, bang, made some shots and all of a sudden we were up.  It's a lot easier to play from ahead than behind.  You start to second‑guess and have doubts.  But we never really got in that situation.

Q.  Can you tell us the last time you played 40 minutes of zone and the last time you played as much three up, two down, as you did in the second half?
COACH MONTGOMERY:  Boy, I don't think ‑‑ I can't remember.  Montana we played zone all the time, we were a zone team, we played 2‑3 zone.  And I came across the Bay, tried to get kids to zone, they couldn't do it.  They were much better at man, because responsibility, they took responsibility.  We've always used a zone.
We've had a miserable time guarding in‑line out‑of‑bounds, we've gotten burned in‑line out‑of‑bounds.  We've had people lighten us up on in‑line out‑of‑bounds.  So we said let's play zone on in‑line out‑of‑bounds specifically.  And if that possession, they don't play very well against them, well, let's go again.  If they don't do it again, let's stay with it.
But we wanted to start the game made‑missed, as I said.  And then late ‑‑ let's face it, they're going to isolate you with really good athletes.  We started getting in foul trouble a little bit.  One of the things we had a hard time doing is recovering back in man after a miss.  We were having a hard time finding our man.  Because they felt like they would rebound the balls defensively with their bigs, they're good that way.  They ran our guards out.  We had a hard time finding them.  We said go to your spots, find your guy, and we ended up playing a lot.
The zones helped us this year, we've had two or three big games where we've played mostly man in the first half and then second half gone to a zone.  Arizona, down there, for example, we did that, it paid dividends for us.  I don't think people probably expect us to do that necessarily, your preparation.  But there are times when it can work for you.

Q.  You answered a little there, but obviously you've employed the zone with quite a bit of success here in the second half of the season, I'm not sure you would characterize teams as ill prepared for it, but does it surprise you that it continues to confound them with the frequency it does?
COACH MONTGOMERY:  I don't think I would use the word "confound," I think probably what you're really saying is there is a rhythm of the game of basketball.  And certain teams like to play a certain way.  They like to play off pick and rolls.  They like to take you, they like to roll.  Some teams are more comfortable in man.  Most teams are.  You spend a whole majority of your time doing that.
They isolate really good athletes in man and it's hard to get help.  So we were aware of that.  That's where Bennett hurt us so much last time.  We couldn't get help and even when we did he hurt us.
I don't think it confounded them.  They got good shots.  They got the ball inside in the paint some.  I just don't think they probably liked it that much.
We've played teams before where ‑‑ and I'm not saying this is that situation ‑‑ where they've just ripped us in man and then we've gone zone and all of a sudden they just stood.  They weren't comfortable at point of attack.  You've always got help in zone, theoretically, every time there's a help guy there.  It changes the mentality some.  If it hadn't worked we'd have played man, we were prepared to do that.

Q.  All year you said that two big keys are just playing strong defense, locked in for 40 minutes, and getting a secondary scoring.  How were you able to get this in this big game and can you take us through the last 30 seconds, what's that like from a coach's perspective?
COACH MONTGOMERY:  Well, I think the kids were excited.  I think, kind of a logical, kind of common sense kind of guy and I just explained what this was.  That this is the last chance you have.  You're not going to play on Saturday because you have another game.  This is it.  This is what you've got left.
Why would you not play hard?  Why would you not play with every ounce of energy that you have?  It doesn't make any sense to me.  And I thought we had a good week.
Now everybody wants to make this out a home court.  I don't buy the home court theory because there's a lot of people there that didn't buy tickets to watch us, they bought tickets to watch basketball.
But I will buy the theory that it was really great to be close to home because we had preparation time Monday, didn't have to be specific Monday.  Tuesday we had a good practice.  Wednesday we stayed at home, had a good practice, although abbreviated.  Were able to come down, get rested.  And it didn't involve a frenzy.
So I think they were more like a normal situation as far as a game.  And I'm not sure it was appreciably different from UNLV, an hour plane ride away.  So I like that part of it.
I just think that when things started to go a little bit positive, I thought that really picked us up.  We never got to where we were down and out and whatever we were trying to do didn't work and whatever they did, did work.  And it was like oh, my goodness, that really helped us.  Getting off that 7‑0 start, that helped us.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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