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NCAA MEN'S 2ND & 3RD ROUNDS: SAN DIEGO


March 23, 2014


Aaron Gordon

Nick Johnson

T.J. McConnell

Sean Miller


SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

Arizona テや 84
Gonzaga テや 61


THE MODERATOR:テつ From the University of Arizona, head Coach, Sean Miller, Aaron Gordon, Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell.テつ We will begin with an opening statement from Coach Miller.
COACH MILLER:テつ Well, tonight was one of our season's best performances and obviously we all want to play well in the NCAA Tournament, and that's exactly what our team did tonight.テつ We not only beat a really good team in Gonzaga but we beat more importantly a great program.テつ Year in, year out these guys are in the NCAA Tournament and when you see them in your bracket it's not a very good feeling because they have such great tournament experience as a coaching staff and as a program and their players have all been in this setting many times.テつ So we knew we were up against a very, very good opponent and for us to win the way we did probably didn't catch them on their best night but certainly we played very, very well and these guys‑‑ our guys deserve a lot of credit.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Questions for the student athletes.

Q.テつ Nick, you hit T.J. in the corner on that last three and you started running back, was that the "it felt like that tonight" the whole game?
NICK JOHNSON:テつ Yeah, it did.テつ We played hard and hit shots all throughout the game and that's me having confidence in him to hit the shot because we've taken that shot so many times in practice and workout and stuff like that.テつ I knew it was going in.

Q.テつ Nick, just being a three‑year player under Coach Miller, can you talk about the importance of actually understanding the scouting reports?テつ The reason I ask that is your ability to shutdown Gary Bell, under, tonight.
NICK JOHNSON:テつ Yeah, we were all familiar with their team.テつ They're a team that's on TV a lot so we know most of their players.テつ Coach and the staff is so great with diagraming their plays and letting us know what they do underneath, out‑of‑bounds and stuff like that and I knew he was trying to be aggressive, so I just tried to limit his good looks and Aaron helped me out the last one when I got off my feet to keep him scoreless but the coaches do a great job of breaking down film and stuff like that.

Q.テつ Aaron, how important was it to get the game played at your pace early to get them out of just sitting back?
AARON GORDON:テつ Well, the thing that's special about this team is we're capable of run inning a half‑court offense and pushing the tempo.テつ What we did today was just push the tempo.テつ We noticed that they weren't getting back as well as they should have and we kept that going throughout the entire game.

Q.テつ Nick, there was a play in the second half where you had a steal on the wing and got called for a foul and you put up one finger and were talking to coach, what were you talking about?
NICK JOHNSON:テつ He was telling us not to foul and I got out of position and tried to recover and made a dumb foul so I told him I have one foul so that's on me.テつ I was out of position‑‑
COACH MILLER:テつ One too many!
NICK JOHNSON:テつ One too many, I guess!

Q.テつ For Nick, some teams, sometimes people say that you guys are obviously good defensively but you struggle offensively.テつ Do you take offense to that and want to prove that you can be equally effective at the offensive end?
NICK JOHNSON:テつ We don't take offense to that.テつ We know we can shoot the ball and play good offense.テつ I think over the past MILLER weeks we've been playing our best offense as well as defense so just trying to do what we do, you know, stay confident in our guys to hit shots and everything, and I think we've shown over these past MILLER weeks that we can do both.

Q.テつ Aaron you said earlier this week that there is a freedom offensively and defensively in Arizona that's allowed you to‑‑ how would you describe that?テつ What kind of freedom is it?
AARON GORDON:テつ First you have to understand how the system works.テつ It's not run‑and‑gun basketball where you can shoot whatever shot you feel is fit.テつ You have to understand the system, where your spots are and once you understand that, it just comes easy to you, knowing when to go and when to pass and when to score.テつ It's a very free‑flowing game and our passing game is something unscoutable.

Q.テつ Nick, your thoughts on playing San Diego State again and how hard it is to beat a team of Sweet 16 caliber in the same season?
NICK JOHNSON:テつ Definitely they're a great team.テつ We had a battle with them here early on in the season and we came out victorious, but they have grown a lot since then, as have we.テつ We're going to get to the scouting report like he said and scout for them.テつ They're a great defensive team.テつ They've had a number of good wins this year and they're rolling right now so just trying to scout for them a little bit.テつ We're pretty familiar with them but fine tune some details.

Q.テつ T.J., you were a by the hard on yourself following the Weber state game.テつ Can you talk about tonight?テつ Seemed like you played with purposes.
T.J. McCONNELL:テつ Yeah, no one knows more than I do how bad I struggled against Weber state and Coach Miller and I had a talk and my teammates told me to go out there and play like I can and that's what I did.テつ I got to give credit to my teammates, they made me look good.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Thank you, gentlemen.

Q.テつ Coach Miller, can you talk about what it means to your family knowing that you and your brother are coaching teams in the Sweet 16 next week?
COACH MILLER:テつ I was asked that question after the game and it caught me off guard.テつ It's very special.テつ We're both the product of a great familiar but in particular our dad being who he is, not only a great high school coach, maybe one of the best, ever, at least in our opinion but also a great dad.テつ It was that combination of so much time spent that you know he gave us an understanding of the game, a love of the game, and I think we're both probably coaches because of him.
Today is a special day in my mind more for him.テつ We're both so much of a reflection of how we grew up.テつ Growing up in western Pennsylvania, that's Joe Namath, Tony Dorsett and Mike Ditka, and it's football area and it's a great deal of pride being from that area and hopefully tonight is a proud moment for everybody there and good old beaver county, western PA.

Q.テつ Sean, can you comment on the match‑up against San Diego State and maybe what's changed since Novemberfor better or worse?
COACH MILLER:テつ Well, I've really followed them for two reasons.テつ One, nobody respects San Diego State more than myself, Coach Fisher, what he's done here is nothing short of remarkable.テつ It reminds me of Xavier, Dayton, Creighton, some of the schools in the midwest that in my mind maybe get more notoriety, but San Diego State also has my attention and also because we played them early in the year you want them to win every game because that helps you.テつ I know that they're an outstanding defensive team and I know that Dwayne Polee has done nothing but get better, he's given them offensive fire power and they seem to get better as the season goes on.テつ They're fearless, tough‑minded. テつIt's going to be one heck of a battle and I'm glad to have the opportunity.

Q.テつ Sean at one point it was 11 turnovers to zero.テつ How do you put that in context?
COACH MILLER:テつ No question we didn't catch Gonzaga on their best night.テつ If we played this game over again I don't think they would turn the ball over‑‑ some of their turnovers were self‑inflicted and I'm sure Mark MILLER addressed that.テつ But our pressure was good and we had a game plan of trying to trap the post, easier said than done with that group of players.
But for the most part I thought our guys were active and played together very hard on defense.テつ For us, the turnovers ignited our transition and we're always at our best when we can use our defense to our offense and tonight we scored as many points in that area as we have all season long.

Q.テつ Sean, with the success that you've had, you've often been called the best coach who hasn't reached a Final Four.テつ Is that something you take as a complement, is that a list you're eager to get off of?
COACH MILLER:テつ Of course I would like to get off that list, but the way I look at it is, every year you give yourself a chance to compete for a Pac 12 championship, compete for a Pac 12 tournament championship.テつ We've been in the championship game of our own conference tournament three times and lost three heartbreakers, but as much as you focus on the end you have to focus on while we're there and that's more important.テつ For us, this is our third time in the Sweet 16 in the five years I've been at Arizona and what we have to do is be ourselves.テつ It's going to happen.テつ If we continue to do things the right way.テつ You need some good fortunate, Coach Olson talks about that all the time.テつ Some of the greatest teams in our program's history didn't reach the Final Four and perhaps the one that won the national championship you could put in the category that wasn't maybe as expected or as talented but the thing that's captivating about our history is it's not the Final Four's, we probably have competed for a Final Four 12 times and that's what you have to do, put yourself in the race.テつ So we're in the race and we have a tough opponent on Thursday, quick turn‑around for us.テつ I can't really and I don't think we can think about that as much as let's try to be at our best on Thursday.テつ Because if we're not, we all know what will happen.

Q.テつ Everyone knows Aaron with the highlights and everything else but he's you such a good team defensive player.テつ Is that something that surprised you early on when he came in?
COACH MILLER:テつ One of the reasons our team is so good at defense is our freshman are very talented.テつ I could say the same for Jefferson and Pitts who doesn't have as big of a role but all three of those guys were very well coached before they got here and their talent is as good on defense as it is on offense and that's unique because usually freshmen drive you crazy because they're late to where they're supposed to be and they don't understand things all the time.テつ These guys fueled or defense, and you probably saw that with Aaron and Rondae.テつ They were part of numerous plays which ignited our transition.

Q.テつ Sean talk about Korcheck.
COACH MILLER:テつ We practiced 100 times this year, I keep track.テつ Matt is 100 for 100 and he has not missed a day.テつ If you came to watch us practice you would leave saying he's one of the hardest workers.テつ That's a special quality when you don't get a lot of opportunity in games but because he goes about his business that way not only does he make our team better but when this opportunity hits him in MarchI thought he was really ready for it.テつ Every day the shoot‑around is the same forum and he's a special kid from the perspective of his attitude, his character and his 11 minutes, he did a really great job for us tonight.

Q.テつ Usually in the NCAA Tournament you face teams you haven't faced all year and you're going to face San Diego State who you faced this year and last year.テつ How does that change the game having familiarity on both sides?テつ What about San Diego State since you have followed them has changed over the course of the season?
COACH MILLER:テつ Well, you know, they're better on offense, they're better on defense.テつ I know they've shown a 1‑3‑1, mixed in a MILLER different things, to me the emergence of Dwayne Polee and I'm saying this as a spectator, I don't have a stat sheet in front of me but to me he's emerged to give them additional fire power.テつ I don't think there is a better guard in the country than Xavier Thames.テつ I don't.テつ We've played against him three times and three times ago he was really good!テつ You watch the shots that he makes, he's that guard in March everyone loves to have because when the ball is in his hands he seems to make the right decision and the big shot.テつ But that hasn't changed, that was in place when we played him the first time.テつ But we have great respect for San Diego State, Coach Fisher, what he's done here, like I mentioned and his staff is unbelievable.テつ In many ways we have used them as the bar for us to grow, and improve.テつ They have a great toughness about them.テつ It's going to be a war, like I'm sure every Sweet 16 game is going to be.

Q.テつ Sean, if someone had told you walking into the court tonight you were going to win by 23, would you have bought it?
COACH MILLER:テつ No way.テつ I felt like the game was going to be decided in the last possession or in the final minutes, it felt that way.テつ It's a credit to us for playing well and being ready, and Gonzaga wasn't at their best.テつ I've watched them quite a bit and some of their turnovers tonight had nothing to do with us.テつ That happens.テつ You never want it to happen this late in the year but it happens sometimes.

Q.テつ Coach, I think you're 8‑1 now with Gabe York in the starting lineup.テつ I know he's still a role player but talk about the offensive spark he's given you, specifically in the first 5 minutes of the last two games.
COACH MILLER:テつ Gabe York has taught me about chemistry, where one player can bring out the best in others.テつ He's such a good fit to have in there, more, because he gives us a shooter in transition you have to worry about him.テつ I think you know this, Gary, because you follow us.テつ He's a constantly improving defender.テつ He's not anywhere near where he once was.テつ He can defend better now and he's improved but he gives us spacing on offense.テつ I think he's somebody who is very unselfish and his ability to shoot makes the guys who we play with him better.
There is more space on the floor for them.テつ Gabe is an important part‑‑ looking at his stats I thought he had a couple of good looks that he could have had a big night from three, but he's doing a great job for us.

Q.テつ Sean, everyone talks about your defense but when you're rolling offensively how good can you be tonight?テつ Tonight you showed a glimpse of that.
COACH MILLER:テつ Takes a lot of pressure off our ability to win.テつ I mean, you want to be good on both.テつ We don't aspire just to be good on defense.テつ We want to be good on offense and defense and for us to continue to win in this tournament we're going to have to do that.テつ The one thing I will tell you is our offense is deceiving because we've been such a bad free‑throw‑shooting team that sometimes if you look at our statistics and make us an average free‑throw shooting team, like tonight we made 'em better than we normally do, you see more points go on the board.テつ Our game against UCLA in the Pac 12 championship not only were we 6 for 16 from the foul line but two of them were front ends in the 1 and 1.テつ We left in essence 12 to 13 points at the table.テつ And at the end you say we struggled to score, we didn't struggle to score, we just couldn't make a free‑throw.テつ Again moving forward as we climb the ladder in this tournament we want to constantly get to the line and make more.テつ If we can shoot the percentage that we shot tonight I think you're going to see that our offense is going to score more points.

Q.テつ Gotta ask, your brother's team scored 56 on Gonzaga in the second half.テつ Anything that you learned from that?
COACH MILLER:テつ Obviously I talked to him but the game was played so long ago that his team and Gonzaga's team certainly developed over the last four and a half months, but he was trying to get me to give secrets on Stanford and of course you know I'm not going to do that because they're a member of the Pac 12.テつ That was more our conversation.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Any other questions for coach?テつ Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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