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March 23, 2016

Dana Altman

Anaheim, California

THE MODERATOR: Coach, an opening statement.

DANA ALTMAN: This is a great opportunity for our basketball program. Duke is a brand all by itself in college basketball. It's a great opportunity for our young team to play on this stage, and hopefully we'll play well.

Q. Dana, your team's the last team standing from the Pac-12. How fair is it to use the Pac-12 losses as a standard of measuring the power of the league overall?
DANA ALTMAN: I think every year one, two leagues are evaluated by not performing well in the Tournament. I think last year was the Big 12. It's something that every league goes through because there's so much emphasis on the NCAA Tournament. But our league had a great year, and we've got a lot of young talent in our league. The competition throughout the season was outstanding. I've only been in the league six years, but it was our best year top to bottom.

I'm a little disappointed, like everyone in the Pac-12, that we didn't fare a little better here in the Tournament, but it doesn't take anything away from a great year, and I think the future is really good for our league.

But we haven't done well, and that's fair. We'll take criticism for that. But, again, we had a good year. And as long as I follow the Tournament, someone always gets it this time of year. They're always picking at somebody for not doing well in the Tournament.

Q. I wondered if you could take me back six years. I know you had opportunities to leave Creighton before that. What was it about the Oregon job that was such a good fit for you?
DANA ALTMAN: It was a really difficult decision to leave Creighton. I had 16 really great years there, and people were unbelievable to us in Omaha. I'm from Nebraska. My wife's from Nebraska. Our families live there. So it was a real tough decision.

At that time I had been at Creighton 16 years and I needed a little bit of a change. Creighton needed a little bit of a change. So this was an opportunity when they came to talk to me. I listened and I was intrigued. I've joked a number of times over the years and I'm not sure if I was their 38th or 39th choice, but by the time they got to me I was excited. Pat Kilkenny and the people I talked to were excited about what we could do at Oregon. So it just happened to fit.

Q. This team seems to have improved from the beginning to this point, and now it seems to be peaking at this time, your team. What areas would you say have improved the most for your basketball team this year?
DANA ALTMAN: The communication we've had defensively has improved throughout the season, and because of that we're a much better defensive team now than we were earlier. We have a lot of room to grow into because we were not very good early. And Jordan Bell missed our first ten games and Jordan's really helped our depth. He's a good shot blocker, as is Chris, so that has really helped our defense. The last ten games I think we've only been outrebounded twice. St. Joe's beat us by a couple, and Arizona beat us on the boards. But the other eight games, our rebounding has been pretty good.

I think throughout the year we've shared the ball pretty good and made plays for each other. So I would have to say our defense and rebounding has improved a little bit throughout the season. I thought our ball movement, with the exception of St. Joe's, I didn't think we moved the ball well offensively there at all. But with the exception of that game, I thought our guys have done a pretty good job of sharing the basketball.

Q. Does playing Duke, do you see that as an opportunity for Oregon's name on the national stage and maybe boost the profile of Oregon basketball? Second part, you played them in your sixth game, little different circumstances. What's come to your recollection of where the programs were then and the difference now?
DANA ALTMAN: Well, rather forget that game, but that was our first year, and we were not very good. We had guys that really wanted to be there and really wanted to compete. But I think Duke was coming off a National Championship there also and they got us pretty good.

But any time you get an opportunity to play someone that's as well established as Duke, Coach K, it's a great opportunity. Our basketball tradition is not that great. We're working hard to improve that. This is a point in our time that we need to play well. We need to play well on the national stage against someone that is very good and has proven themselves. So it is an opportunity for our program, no doubt.

Q. First, about Chris Boucher, what has most impressed you about him this season either on or off the court? Where do you think he has grown the most since he came to Oregon? And about Duke, what are the biggest challenges either in terms of individual match-ups or tactics that Duke presents?
DANA ALTMAN: First of all, Chris has been outstanding to work with. He's a young man that wants to be a basketball player, wants to improve, and everything he does on campus is to get better, academically, socially, and with our basketball team. He's been a great addition to our program. I really have enjoyed working with him on and off the court. It's been a lot of fun.

The second part of the question, Duke creates a lot of problems because they score. Ingram and Allen, they've got guys that can score. So it really puts pressure on your defense. Transition defense, their ability to shoot from three, and they take a lot of threes, you know, and it's been a problem for us all year, pushing out on three-point shooters.

So it's going to be a big test for us. We're going to have to do a much better job of forcing them off the line a little bit and getting out and guarding their three-point shooters. I think a big key in the game is going to be rebounding. We're going to have to rebound the ball.

Q. Tyler Dorsey has been one of the best three-point shooters in the country, the best in the Pac-12. I think he's 2-for-9 in the Tournament. What have you told him to get him back into a rhythm and shoot the way he has throughout the season?
DANA ALTMAN: To keep shooting. He's confident. He hit the big one late against St. Joe's. Just because he's missed a few, he's shooting 42, 43% from three. He's got to keep shooting the ball.

We opened up the second half, ran a play to get him a three just to try to get him going. He missed it, but it didn't slow him down. He plays with tremendous confidence, and we want him to be aggressive from the three-point line. I think any time a player struggles a little bit, you always look for good ones. Guys that are on a roll, you kind of give them a little bit more of a green light, and when you're struggling just a little bit, you take a step back and really look for a good one to get that confidence going again.

Q. Couple questions about Dwayne Benjamin. What were some of the things you saw in him when he was at Mt. San Jacinto? And he's now a pretty solid bench player. How did he handle the transition between starting and coming off the bench?
DANA ALTMAN: Dwayne has been all about the team ever since he's been with us. He's done an outstanding job of blending with last year's team and this year's team in a role that's been different for him. He's very unselfish. When anybody asks, I say we've got seven starters. I'm not afraid to rotate our top seven in any direction.

I think Jordan Bell, who started for us last year but missed the first ten games because of an injury, you know, his minutes, Dwayne's minutes, we mix and match combinations with those two guys a lot of different ways.

The first part of your question, I like Dwayne's athleticism and I liked his competitiveness. He's given us those two things both seasons with us at Oregon, very competitive. His length on the front of our press gives some people problems. His athleticism is really good, and so he's helped us there.

So he's been a real mainstay for us for two years, and we're going to miss him. He and Elgin have made big-time plays for us, and we're going to miss both those guys.

Q. How do you match-up against Brandon Ingram?
DANA ALTMAN: I'm not sure. I'm not sure how we're going to do that. He's a unique player because of his size and his ability to go inside and out. He's very versatile. So he's a tough match-up for everybody, 18, 19 points a game. He's been tough for everybody to match up with. As I mentioned earlier, they score 81 points a game, and Allen and Ingram are their first two and Kennard gives them a third scorer. So they've got guys that can score. It's going to test us defensively in all facets of our defense, transition defense, half-court defense. They give you a hard time in a lot of areas.

Q. Going back to the hiring process a little bit, I think you met with Pat Kilkenny in Indianapolis; is that right? If so, can you describe that meeting a little bit? Was there anything that he was able to say that made you confident in taking the job and vice versa and him wanting you?
DANA ALTMAN: You know, I don't know. It was six years ago, but I felt comfortable talking with Pat. I remember it was a long meeting and a lot was discussed. But I did have a lot of confidence in him. The other people I talked with at the university I could get the sense that they were really wanting, because of the new facility, to have a basketball program. Again, it was a good time personally for me to make a move.

So it was a good meeting, and Pat's been very supportive the six years I've been there.

Q. Coach, can you talk about the contributions of the Canadians on the team individually and together in Boucher and of course Brooks.
DANA ALTMAN: We've had great success with the young men from Canada. It started with Devoe Joseph and Olu Ashaolu and Jason Calliste, and Dillon and Chris. And Dylan Ennis has been a big part of our team, even though he hasn't been able to play because of a foot injury all season. His leadership off the court has been a big plus.

But Chris and Dillon for this year's team have been so much fun to work with. There is tremendous progress that Dillon Brooks has made as a player and his maturity. I'm really excited for him. He's been a big part of our team a year ago, but he's even bigger this year. And it's all because of his work ethic. He's put a lot of time in to change his body, to improve his skill level, and he's given us a big, big lift this year.

Chris, we weren't sure what we were getting with Chris. You look at him and he's pretty thin, and I wasn't sure how that would translate from junior college to the Division-I level, but he is a competitor. He's very coachable. He's a fearless shot blocker, so those two guys have given us a big lift.

So we've had great success, and all those guys from Canada have been so much fun to work with, we've really been fortunate.

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