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March 14, 2014

Aaron Gordon

T.J. McConnell

Sean Miller


Arizona – 63
Colorado – 43

THE MODERATOR:  Coach, an opening summary and then questions.
COACH MILLER:  Well, first of all, I want to congratulate Colorado on an outstanding season.  People who aren't coaches or part of a college basketball team cannot comprehend how difficult it is to move forward when someone like Spencer Dinwiddie has a season‑ending injury in a Washington game.  I mean, it knocks you back.  You can't call timeout, have a month to prepare and think about things.  You have to get it right away.
What Tad and his staff have done and what those players have done has been really nothing short of remarkable.  The fact they're sitting in the NCAA Tournament, our hat's off to them, and we wish them nothing but the best.  It makes us feel good because the quality of our conference, every team you're playing, every team you're watching right now has a bigger prize next week in the fact that we were able to beat Colorado today I think is a testament that we're playing well.
Tale of two halves for us, I thought the first half, our defense was good, and our offense was really very, very average.  We struggled.  Our defense became great in the second half, but our offense found its flow.  We shared the ball.  We were more ourselves.  It was that combination that really broke the game open.
Obviously, Aaron and T.J. had a lot to do with what happened in the second half, but we haven't played better basketball at any time this year than we did in the final 20 minutes today.

Q.  Two straight games now you've held your opponent under 30% shooting.  How weird a number is that?  Is that unusual?  Tough for this time of year to do that on a regular basis in an environment like this?
COACH MILLER:  You know, it is.  The environment, let me just speak on that for a second, and these two guys know it, it's like we're playing in McKale right now, our fans are so amazing.  They've traveled everywhere in this country to watch us this year.  We felt them in New York City.  We felt them in Michigan.  We felt them in San Diego really early on, and many of our Pac‑12 stops they've been there.  Right now in Vegas they're in full force.  I believe we feed off of them.
When you think about tomorrow's game, it's even more exciting because I feel like there will be more of them tomorrow.  When you're us, it's almost like an obligation to play well when you have that many people travel to watch us.

Q.  Regarding those last 20 minutes, can you talk about the intangibles?  One example would be the off‑ball screening, it just seemed to be a lot crisper and sharper and harder for you guys.
COACH MILLER:  On offense?

Q.  Yes.
COACH MILLER:  Yeah, the thing we talked a lot about, and I'm sure these guys will speak to it, is Colorado is an outstanding defensive team in their own right.  You're not going to get things early in the offense.  Many times you got to work to get a great shot.  There were times we weren't working to get the shot, and that's why you saw us take the shots we did near the end of the clock.
In the second half, we were sharper.  We moved the ball easier.  We screened more.  Then any time we can get that many stops, it fuels our transition, in which case, especially these two guys, it's where they thrive.
So defense to offence, and when we were in the half court, no question, we were better.  We shared the ball more.  We screened.  One of the things we have to do tomorrow is do that from start to finish offensively.

Q.  What are the core tenets to your defensive philosophy and, how have we seen that the last couple games?
COACH MILLER:  The core tenets, there are no tricks to this.  It's get back in transition.  It's defend the ball.  It's having a system to defend screens, same thing with the low post.  Today, for example, we trapped the low post really well.  Then when a shot goes up, to not give them a second shot.
Where it's hard is you've got to do it again, and you've just got to do it again.  It takes high‑character players, it takes a lot of talent, experience.
Right now, I've been at Arizona for five years, so the language, the terminology, how we practice is instinctive.  But guys like T.J. and Aaron, this is their first year.  They have a lot to do with our defense.  We have talent defensively.  We have talent offensively, but if you just think about Aaron's blocked shot, T.J. came to us one of the great steal guys in college basketball.
So the talent that we have plus the willingness and probably the fact that we were solid in what we do.  You know, people in the past would criticize a coach like me for not playing zone.  Well, if you put all the eggs in one basket, you have a chance to be great.  Sometimes when you try to play that secondary defense, you can never quite reach greatness with one thing.  You just kind of bounce back and forth.  That's why we play man‑to‑man.  That's our philosophy, and we have these guys doing it right now for sure.

Q.  Could the players speak to the confidence of the team right now?  T.J.?
T.J. McCONNELL:  I think we're playing really well right now.  We did just beat a good Colorado team.  They're well‑coached, and they play well together.  I thought we stood in the first half a lot, and in the second half our offense was a lot better.  We were moving, screening, cutting.  We were making open shots, and we were executing the offense.  So I think if we do that on a nightly basis, it's going to be pretty tough for us to lose.
AARON GORDON:  Yeah, we have very good basketball players on this team.  So if we're not making shots on offense, what brings me confidence and what brings my teammates confidence is being able to stop other teams on the defensive end.  When we do that, we know our shots will fall and we'll get it rolling.

Q.  How much do you want to race back to the hotel and get in front of a TV and see that block that you made and how much that really helped turn this game?
AARON GORDON:  I want to race back to the hotel and watch this game.  I want to see who we're playing next.

Q.  How much of this is a culmination of the last five years of work, and could you point to some pivotal moments along the way?
COACH MILLER:  Well, first of all every coaching staff needs fantastic support from within, and we have that with a great athletic director, and he's supported with an outstanding group of people that give us everything we need.  You asked me one of the key things for us is, number one, how we travel as a team, that our program invests so first class.  We've had some people build us a weight room that I think is one of the best in the country.  That Richard Jefferson gave money towards a practice facility that called the Richard Jefferson Gym that our players can be in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We have everything we need to be successful.
When we play a home game in front of McKale in McKale Center, there are 14,500.  It's those types of things that give you the best chance as a coach.  When you're trying for the big prize and trying to compete for championships, it's nice to be able to just coach.  These guys just work hard because they have everything that they need to be successful.  I would say when you talk about that, that's one thing.
The second thing is Derrick Williams and that group of guys that came at a time of a lot of uncertainty, they put at least one foot on the ground.  That allowed us to gain some momentum towards where we are here today.
I told the guys at the end of the game, we've won 30 games.  It's not easy to win 30 games.  Right now our record is 30‑3.  What these guys have done, how much they've invested, it's hard to put in words how hard we've worked and how hard we've been at it.  But I think our goal tomorrow is to win our 31st game, and that's where we're hopefully headed.

Q.  Coach, these guys did great tonight, but you got some great minutes in the second half from Hollis‑Jefferson, I thought.  Could you talk about his progress and contributions as the season has progressed?
COACH MILLER:  Well, Aaron and Rondae are two big reasons why our team is where we're at right now.  Rondae's extremely unselfish, as is Aaron.  He comes off the bench, and he sometimes doesn't like to come out of the game, but he's okay with not starting.  But it's his unselfishness that I think you love.  He gives his heart and soul on defense.  On offense it's not about scoring for him.  It's about passing, and he's one of our best offensive rebounders.  So he gives you like talent, but talent in an unselfish way which is a good characteristic for somebody who doesn't start.

Q.  Sean, I wanted to ask you a follow‑up on Aaron who doesn't seem to like to talk about himself no matter how many questions I asked him last night in the locker room.  In what ways has he met the lofty expectations, and have there been ways he's exceeded those in your mind?
COACH MILLER:  Yes, I would say, and T.J. could probably speak on this as well, I sound like a broken record, but when you have somebody as highly touted as Aaron before he ever shows up at Arizona, no matter how good of a kid, there's always going to be ups and downs, no matter how talented of a player.
But I could never have predicted how well he's handled just being part of the team, being part of the university, being unselfish.  He's the same every day.  I think T.J. would agree with that.  You don't know if he played well or not well.  He wants to play well, but it's always been about the win.  When you have someone with that mindset who is also really talented, it's hard to be selfish if you're his teammate.  Here's somebody who has every reason to sometimes be selfish, and I don't know if he's ever been that.
It fuels, as I described, Rondae.  You look at T.J., somebody who cares only about making his teammates better, you can see that we have an unselfish group of players and it's been a real key to our success.

Q.  T.J., could you talk about right before Aaron's block there was a really good dunk by Nick, then also one by Rondae.  Could you talk about what that does for you momentum‑wise and confidence‑wise having a run like that with those kind of athletic plays?
T.J. McCONNELL:  When you have guys like Nick and Rondae who jump out of the gym and can make plays like that it energizes us on the defensive end and gets the crowd involved.  When our crowd is involved in getting loud, we buckle down a little bit more and turn it up on defense.
So all credit to Nick and Rondae for making those plays because it sparked a little run for us.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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