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March 28, 2021

Dana Altman

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Oregon Ducks

Sweet 16 Postgame Media Conference

USC - 82, Oregon - 68

COACH ALTMAN: Well, I'm very disappointed for the guys. USC played a very good ball game. They outrebounded us. They outfought us in that first half. And we dug a hole again that was too big to dig out of. Our ball movement against the zone that first half was not good.

I let the guys down. I didn't have them ready for that zone. I thought we were. But their length and athleticism really bothered us. And we just didn't have good ball movement. We took some -- the other night against Iowa our ball movement was so good and we made the extra pass. And our guys tried to take too many shots off the dribble against that length and kind of dug ourselves a hole. We lost some of our energy on the defensive end, which really hurt us.

So I'm disappointed, but we're in this together. I've got to take my share of the responsibility. The players -- we didn't compete. They had ten second-chance points in the first half, which really put us down. We came back the second half. And I've got to know my personnel.

Franck did a heck of a job there late. I didn't use him in the first half because offensively we were having trouble getting going. And he hasn't worked much against the zone. But he gave us a big lift that second half. And he did a great job.

Q. I don't want to oversimplify things, but defensively, was the plan basically to take away the Mobley brothers and let anybody else beat you? And their wings just took you up on that?

COACH ALTMAN: Well, we didn't anticipate White shooting it as well as he did. They went 10-for-17 from 3. And that really changed our plan. They were shooting it well from the perimeter. The first half they went 5-for-9. And that was the difference in the game. They go 10-for-17 and we go 5-for-20.

I thought we had some good 3s. We took some questionable ones. But we just didn't shoot the ball, but they went 10-for-17. And that was the difference in the game, those extra five 3s -- but were a big difference.

Q. Offensively Omoruyi and Duarte gave you some of their best stuff. It was tough to get anyone else going. What caused those problems for anyone else to give you a scoring lift?

COACH ALTMAN: You know, I don't know. I thought Eric took some tough shots that first half. LJ just never seemed to get comfortable. Will had been scoring well. So, again, the zone didn't allow us to move the ball. Again, some of the shots early off the dribble, I thought took some guys out of their rhythm.

But you're right, those two guys scored a bunch of points and the rest of our guys, just 1-for-7, 2-for-8, 2-for-12. We didn't get the balanced scoring that we've been having.

Q. What do you say to the guys after a loss like this? What do you say in the locker room?

COACH ALTMAN: I told them one game doesn't define us. We had a nice year. We did a lot of good things. And I love the guys' perseverance, fighting through two pauses. I mean, it's a tough year. It was a tough year on everybody.

But I got to go home to my wife and my daughter and my grandchildren and child -- my dog. Those guys, they were stuck in their apartments all the time. They were stuck, couldn't go -- no movies, no dinners out, no camaraderie with other students. It's been a tough year.

So I'm very proud of them for sticking together, fighting through, winning 21 ball games, winning the conference championship, playing very well against Iowa. But they were all very disappointed in the way we played. And I wanted them to remember some of the good things.

We just didn't play well. USC did. USC beat us. They've got a very talented team. And that zone gave Kansas problems and it gave us fits.

Q. You mentioned that you guys took what you thought was too many shots off the dribble and stuff. Did you feel like you were just way too tentative trying to attack the zone tonight?

COACH ALTMAN: Well, I thought our ball movement wasn't very good. And then when we did get in there, their length bothered us. There's no doubt about it. But I just didn't think the ball movement was crisp. I didn't think our guys attacked it, were aggressive. I thought we got more aggressive -- Coach Mennenga said, let's put Chris in the middle of that zone. He did some really good things. He got tired at the end, faded on a couple of shots, left them short.

But we had a couple of transition baskets that would have got it under 10. We tried to throw the lob. We didn't get it. LJ got called on a travel that we didn't get a bucket down there.

You've got to take advantage of those opportunities when you're down and you're trying to come back. We had a couple of break opportunities, couple of open 3s that we really needed just to put a little pressure on them.

Q. LJ, like you said, if he plays his normal game, could have shot like he did could have been closer. I like to hear what you said about Franck. That's been the question and all everybody has been asking: How come Franck doesn't get more playing time? So he should be a great presence inside in the future, right? Because you really don't have a big guy that was able to score against USC and that was a big problem, wasn't it?

COACH ALTMAN: Yeah, no, I made a mistake. I said the first half, because they were in the zone and Franck hasn't worked much against the zone, I thought we needed offense.

We put him in there for a while and it didn't help us defensively. And I didn't play him long enough. I didn't give him a long enough opportunity that first half.

And so again the offensive things that he did, he got us a couple of rebounds. He kept the ball alive a couple of times. He just was a presence in there. And his energy defensively gave us a big lift.

So, again, I've got to take my share of the responsibility. And it's March; hell, I should know my personnel. And he joined us at Christmas. He's been a great addition. I love working with him. And that was the first thing, after the game, I told the team, you know, when you lose, you lose together. I made a mistake on personnel and I didn't have you ready for the zone.

And you want your guys to look in the mirror and say, when they don't get something done, and as a coach if you don't set that example, it's pretty hard for them to do it. And so those are the first two things I said when we got to the locker room. And I know Franck's a talented young man. I love his energy. And I think he's got a big future.

Q. LJ was not a player who was going to beat himself very much this season. But he has a season high in turnovers and a season low in shooting tonight. Was it simply that Evan Mobley matched up against him on the outside, just the length, forced ball deflections and other things? Some of it was stepping out of bounds. Some of it was uncharacteristic. What was your assessment of why LJ had such an uncharacteristic night?

COACH ALTMAN: I don't know. He had a tough night. We had a couple of guys step out of bounds, one thing that drives me crazy, James. They're not going to move those lines. You've got to know where you're at.

So we just weren't sharp. And again, as coach, you've got to take your share of the responsibility. Players got to take their share. But we didn't move the ball. We weren't sharp. And the turnovers, you know when we were trying to come back, we just -- again, those two opportunities in transition, where we didn't get a layup. They called LJ, I think, for traveling. We tried to throw the lob and didn't get it down.

When you're trying to come back from the deficit that we had, you just can't have those mistakes.

Q. This is a year in which seniors can come back to school. How will you handle that discussion with your guys? What's the timeframe, I guess, for that for you and the need to replace them or not?

COACH ALTMAN: Well, Gene is a graduate. He's older, because he sat out last year and had the surgery. He'll move on. Chris is going to get drafted. I think he should go in the first round.

So he'll move on. I'll talk to the rest of the guys. Right now the portal is going nuts and everybody's looking for something. And so I don't know. I'll have individual conversations with everybody. I'll tell them to take a week or two and think about what direction everybody wants to go.

Q. You've been a coach for a long time. A lot of seasons of basketball. What did this year teach you compared to the rest? What do you take away from this season?

COACH ALTMAN: Well, it sure was different. I've had an opportunity to coach 40 years now and either as an assistant or as a head coach, and at different levels: Division II. Junior college and at the Division I level. And this was a unique year. Again, I think it was the toughest on our players because it wasn't college.

You go to play basketball at college and hang around with other students, meeting people, establishing relationships with your classmates and other students. Going out on a date. Going out to eat. Going to a movie.

I can't imagine -- it wasn't any fun. The only fun they had was when they came to practice and if we had a good practice and they were running around and they would have fun doing that. And winning's fun.

But I think it was a really tough year on them. And it was tough on a lot of people. But it was tough on our players, and getting tested every day. And it's kind of like hoping that you never -- the guys that we did have were all asymptomatic. We were fortunate nobody really got sick.

But we had those pauses and guys get frustrated with that. And so it was a long year for them. It was a long year. And they're definitely going to need some time away from the game and away from everything and some time with their families. This was our spring break this week. But everything's online. So I want our guys to go spend some time with their families.

And Christmas, some of them went home. Some of them didn't. We did give them the option. We wanted them to spend time with their families there. But right now our guys need to decompress or whatever they want to say, but they need to spend some time with their families.

And it's been a long season. And I wish it would have continued, but I do want them to spend some time with their families.

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