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March 24, 2019

Dana Altman

Ehab Amin

Payton Pritchard

San Jose, California

Oregon - 73, UC Irvine - 54

DANA ALTMAN: We're in pretty good shape at halftime, up 12, and they came out with a great run to start the second half. We were a little stuck in the mud. Our energy level wasn't very good. The easy baskets that we gave up really got them really going.

And E came in and we finally scored a basket, and our energy level got back to where it was in the first half. And from there the guys really played hard and really played well. But we had a bad six-, seven-minute stretch that really could have cost us, but the way the guys fought the adversity I thought was really good. We've grown as a team. That's happened to us before, and we haven't handled it very well. But the way the guys fought it off tonight, and it started with E hitting a shot and really making some great plays defensively and just got us going.

MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Ehab, it was an incredible performance by you. You were cheerleading in the second half during that 14-0 run by UCI. Then you came into the game. What was it? What spark did you give that team? I don't think you missed from three. I think you hit four of four?
EHAB AMIN: Just giving my teammates some energy and being vocal and making sure to stay in the game. Coach had been telling us it was going to be up and down and stay together. We're up five, we're down five, up 10, down 10, just stay together and fight it out.

And I think when I came in, they made the run, so I thought it was our time to make a run. So just try to be vocal as much as I can and bring the energy and try to be all over.

Q. Payton, how were you guys able to turn that around? Just the energy? What was going on?
PAYTON PRITCHARD: Like what they said. Ehab came in and brought great energy. He broke the ice for us on that three ball he hit. It kind of just boosted our confidence a little bit. And we brought more energy on defense. But it's really because we got five straight stops and kind of turned that game around. They were hot. But once we got those stops, the tide started to change there.

Q. Kenny had seven blocks, two alley-oop dunks. He's now got 11 blocks in the last two games. Five dunks. What's it like to be out there with him?
PAYTON PRITCHARD: Kenny is a special talent. For somebody to jump like that and go block shots and go catch lobs, I mean, it helps me a lot. It helps everybody on this team. Just feel like somebody's a safety net back there for you. So we can't thank him enough for what he's been doing, and hopefully he just keeps on doing it in this next game.

Q. Payton, we talk a lot about the turnaround you guys have made this year. Does it surprise you, the team that left LA a month ago and now you're going to Sweet 16? How do you explain that?
PAYTON PRITCHARD: I feel like I've been getting that question a lot. I can't really put my finger on it, but we were really low. We were at a low point against USC and just, you know, we were dead in the water. Either the season was going to be over at that point or we're going to change it and see what we could make happen.

And, I mean, it just shows this season and this team were resilient, and I think it goes to show in this game they fought back and came back, and we could have been dead in the water again, but we're resilient. And just credit to this team and what we're capable of doing.

Q. Ehab, we talked the other day, I think you played four minutes in the second half the other day. What was the process coming into a game like this knowing, hey, maybe it's a game you don't get off the bench much but then keeping yourself ready to make the kind of impact you had?
EHAB AMIN: I think that's the key to our run of success lately, just everybody knowing the role and knowing they gotta stay ready and be ready once their name is called. And even if it's not, you just stay positive and cheering for your teammates, and they delivered. And I can't emphasize enough how fun it is to play with my teammates and brothers right now. And this run has been incredible, and I'm grateful for each one of them, and it's so much fun having to do with them.

Q. Obviously you just wrapped up here, but early impressions on playing Virginia in the next round, for either of you guys?
PAYTON PRITCHARD: I mean, they're a great team. Got a lot of great talent. Really, we're just looking forward to the matchup and competing for 40 minutes. That's what we play basketball for. So it's a great team, and we're just looking forward to it.

Q. Ehab, what does it mean for you guys, third time in four years of going to Sweet 16? Is this a little bit -- maybe to use the word sweeter, given the fact you guys were a double-digit seed going into the next round?
PAYTON PRITCHARD: No. It's always sweet making the Sweet 16. I mean, we're very pleased. We're not satisfied yet. We don't want to just go to Sweet 16 and lay an egg. We'll go in and fight. We're happy with making Sweet 16, but we want more. We don't play basketball just to make two rounds. We play to win it all.

EHAB AMIN: Yeah, I think our ceiling is really high right now, especially we found what we're good at and how dangerous we can be on the defensive end, and especially with Payton handling the ball and him and Will and everybody finding the roles. Lou is really dangerous, Paul is really dangerous. They've been really consistent for us lately, in double digits almost every game.

I think we can be really dangerous. That's what we all came here for, the Elite Eight, Final Four runs back-to-back years, and we came here for this reason, to make the NCAA Tournament and make a deep run and hopefully win a National Championship.

Q. Payton, in the second half, the shot clock was coming down, and you hit some key threes. Was this just one of those games where you felt it tonight? I mean, I don't even think you hit the rim. You hit net I think every time you threw it up.
PAYTON PRITCHARD: You know, I feel like one of them had to go in. I mean, in the first half I might have air balled two 15-footers. I was short. You know, my shots, they were open, but I was really short on them. So on those two I just kind of just relaxed and just let them fly. At the end of the shot clock you got no pressure. You just gotta let it go, so it felt good and it went in for me.

MODERATOR: All right. We'll excuse Payton and Ehab and we'll open it up for Coach.

Q. Congratulations on the win, Coach. Moving on to the Sweet 16. I bet it feels amazing. I just have a question. What is it with you guys and second halves in the NCAA Tournament? First Wisconsin, you went on that crazy run in the second half, and now against UC Irvine, another crazy run.
DANA ALTMAN: Well, except for that first seven minutes, bud. But we did play well the last 13 minutes. Once we got a couple of baskets, our energy level went way up. Ehab had some key steals, and then we just started bouncing around again. But we were stuck in the mud. I put them to sleep at halftime with my speech, I think, and we were really struggling there to start the second half.

And when they took the lead, we were very fortunate that we got a couple shots to fall there, because I could feel us tighten up. I was trying not to lose my composure, but I could feel us tightening up there a little bit. So E's three and then Lou's three really got us going again.

Q. Can you just sort of sum up the way your season. You looked dead in the water, as Payton said, back in February, looked that way for the first seven minutes in the second half. And then when things click, you guys showed what you can do? Is that sort of how the season's been?
DANA ALTMAN: Yeah, we've been up and down this year. And I really credit the players for staying with it, you know, because they could have gave into it at any time. I mean, bad losses, and I'm getting into practice and barking at them and trying to drive them a little bit to get them better. When you're facing that, it's easy to kind of give into it. So I'm really proud of the way they just kept fighting and stayed with it.

And you know, the second thing, and I -- everybody has injuries, but we -- Lou didn't play the first nine games, and then Bol gets hurt and then Kenny breaks his jaw. So you can imagine, you know, you just watched Kenny. We lost three games, home games without him because we didn't have any rim protection. And then we get Kenny back and Paul sprains his ankle and is ineffective for three weeks.

We are healthy now, so to give the guys that, they are healthy now and they're playing really well together. But, again, they could have given into it at any time, and they didn't. And so I'm really happy for them that they've been able to do this. I'm really pleased with their effort, their fight, and they're so together right now. V.J. and Miles didn't get to play much tonight, but they were in there, and, hey, it was just might be my turn next time. And that's when you know you got a team that's really thinking about one thing, and that's being the best and finding a way to win a game.

Q. I got two for you. One, just early impressions on Virginia and the matchup there.
DANA ALTMAN: You know, we don't get to watch them much because their games come on like at 4:00, and we're still practicing, working. So we really don't get to see the ACC that much because their games come on so early. I have seen them a couple of times. I didn't get a chance to see them play Oklahoma today. But I know they're really talented. And Tony, obviously what they've accomplished and their record in the ACC is off the charts.

So we're going to have to play really well. They're big. They're physical. They don't make mistakes. They're not going to beat themselves. But we've got a puncher's chance, and we'll go swing away and see what happens.

Q. And the second one, your women's team also won today to go to the Sweet 16 as well. What is the dynamic like between the two teams, staffs, all that?
DANA ALTMAN: Oh, they're great. Our women's team, Sabrina, Ruthie, those girls have been around. They've been to the Final Eight the last two years, and Kelly is a great guy. We share a gym. We share a practice facility, and they're so easy to work with. And I couldn't be happier for them. Those girls, they are top notch. I mean, they speak -- every time I see them downstairs, and when we were struggling, they were always trying to pick our guys up and pick us up. It's just a great group of gals, and they're a good team. They know what they want to do on every possession, and they're very skilled. They're a good basketball team.

Q. You talked a little bit about Kenny's rim protection. How does that free up everyone defensively, knowing that he's back there? And he had a couple blocks during that drought that you guys were in in the second half, otherwise it could have been --
DANA ALTMAN: Yeah, no. We were able to challenge three-point shooters a lot harder, because if they do get by us, he's there to clean some things up. We can rotate a little bit with more confidence and take a few more chances.

The difference in the game was the points off turnovers, 25 to 10. I mean, that was the difference in the game. And so he allows us to be aggressive defensively. Very similar to what Jordan Bell used to do for us when we really had it going a couple years ago.

So he's a big part. And when he's aggressive -- every now and then he's not aggressive. He hasn't played a lot of basketball, so sometimes he gets caught flat footed. But when he gets a basket down and he feels good, he's really active and really changes our look, no doubt about it.

Q. Coach, I have two for you. Yesterday we talked about defense and running their three-point shooters off the line. Was that key tonight? I think they were still 1 of 7 deep in the second half.
DANA ALTMAN: Yeah. We made two mistakes, we gave them wide-open ones to start the second half. We had a bad rotation there and got a wide-open three up top. And then we left Max, the ball went in the post and somebody turned their head and they kicked it right back. That was the one we weren't going to give up tonight, and we gave that one up late.

No, I thought the guys really were aware, ran them off the line. You'll have to look at the film, but I just don't think we gave them a lot of open looks. I remember those two, but I don't remember a lot of other ones that we gave up.

Q. Two years ago we were in Kansas City. This is probably a difficult question for you to answer, but the two teams, how different are they, the Jordan Bell team to this team? Can you maybe put that into words about how different or how maybe similar they are?
DANA ALTMAN: Oh, they're really different. That group had been together. You know, Jordan, Dillon Brooks, Casey Benson, Chris Boucher. Those guys have been together three, two years. The only guy we were blending into that team was Payton. The rest of the guys had been there with us. So we had a more experienced team. If we wouldn't have lost Chris, you never know what would have happened. But that was just a more experienced group that won 33 games. They were tough all year.

This group, you know, it's different. But with Payton playing as well as he is and Kenny cleaning up some things, Lou hitting shots, Paul's been steady for us. Will's been good off the bench. Ehab gave us tremendous lift. You know, the pieces are starting to fall together. Francis is giving us some rebounds. I know V.J. and Miles can still come in and give us some minutes. We got nine guys that can give us some help. They waited till late to come together, but I'm sure happy they did, and they're sure happy they did. They're having some fun finally, and it's good to see.

MODERATOR: Looks like we'll end it there. Thanks, coach.

DANA ALTMAN: All righty, thanks.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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