Maui Jim Maui Invitational Game 8: Gonzaga 91, Arizona 74
Gonzaga – 91, Arizona – 74
Gonzaga Bulldogs Press Conference with:
Mark Few, Josh Perkins and Zach Norvell Jr
MEGAN GODFREY: We’ll start with an opening statement from coach.
MARK FEW: Another wild night in Lahaina. I’ve had a lot of those, but this one was definitely memorable. So unbelievable job by our guys. We made some halftime adjustments and they really, really bought in and flipped the switch. We guarded much much better in the second half, played without fouling, and took much much better care of the ball and pushed it. When these guys do that they can be pretty special on the offensive end and I think that showed.
MEGAN GODFREY: Questions for the players, please.
Q. You were down 13 with seven minutes ago, what’s going through your mind there? And then what sparked that comeback?
ZACH NORVELL JR: Just staying positive. Every huddle we had we never really talked about the score or nothing like that. We always knew we had it in us. Coach did a good job of keeping our spirits up and not dwelling on the last play or anything like that and we were able to respond pretty well.
JOSH PERKINS: Like he said, a lot of credit goes to our coaching staff keeping our head in it, but in the huddle we stayed positive and we stuck together. Adversity hit, but at times like that, we stuck together and that’s what came out the win tonight.
Q. Probably along the same lines. You look at it, you’re shooting 2-11 from three-point land, you’re confident shooters. What adjustments did you feel like you made in the second half to kind of get a little bit more of the flow offensively?
JOSH PERKINS: Those are shots we usually make. Shooters shoot, is what we say. And a guy like Snacks, he never let’s his confidence waver. We tell him to keep shooting it because more times it’s going to go in than not. So we stayed positive and stuck together as a team and we fought the adversity to fouls and shots not going in, but we stuck with it, stayed together, and we stayed confident. And a lot credit goes to our coaching staff and for us digging it deep to get that win.
ZACH NORVELL JR: Exactly what he said. We shoot thousands of shots day-in and day-out, so just trying to put this one behind us. We had a good team effort, we were able to pull it out, just ready for the game tomorrow.
Q. Josh, how much does experience factor into that attitude that you don’t get rattled at all because it’s loud in there and people are going crazy and you guys kind of weathered it?
JOSH PERKINS: I think it was a lot. It’s not experience just for me, it’s experience from Coach Few and the coaching staff. They have been there before and they stay positive and never — and it didn’t waver within us. So I mentioned to the guys to stay positive, stick together. And we all did that. You didn’t see anybody’s head going down, you didn’t see us bickering at each other. It was all positivity in the huddles. We knew things would go our way eventually and it did and we came out with the win, so I’m glad we did that.
Q. A lot of fouls in the first half, at the line a lot. What did you guys do to ratchet up the defense without continuing to foul?
JOSH PERKINS: They shot 22 free throws in the first half and made 19 of them. We knew coming in they were a great free throw shooting team and that was something they did and they took pride to get to the line. So second half we switched a lot of things, kept our hands back and made things tough on them. A lot of credit goes to them for getting to the line the first half, but I think a lot of credit goes to us in the second half for getting our hands back and adjusting to how the referees were calling the game in the first half.
Q. For both guys, how much are you guys looking forward to Duke tomorrow?
ZACH NORVELL JR: Really excited. Any time you can play a top opponent like that as a competitor, you are really excited. Also just knowing that our coaches have a good game plan for us tonight to be able to wash this game down the drain and be ready to go tomorrow.
JOSH PERKINS: I think Zach tackled it. In this tournament we played Arizona and Duke, so those are both programs that growing up you watch. So to play them is a blessing that basketball gives us. So can’t even speak for what we’re going through right now, but to play Duke tomorrow, Coach K obviously a Hall of Fame coach and a guy that we know about. But like coach — like Snacks said, our coach got a great game plan for us, so if we follow that we should be in good hands and looking forward to a big time matchup tomorrow.
Q. Josh, how much more confidence does the team have getting these wins without a guy like Tillie because of injury?
JOSH PERKINS: Yeah, I mean we’re playing well without one of our soldiers. And I think guys are going confidently, guys like Filip, guys like Corey, guys like Jeremy Jones, MVP yesterday, doesn’t get a lot of credit, but Jeremy got us that win yesterday. So guys like that confidence grows and when Tillie comes back it’s going to be a team added with Tillie. So looking forward to him getting back, but we’re playing for him right now. We definitely are.
Q. It’s always a pretty incredible atmosphere at the Kennel, but my ears are still ringing from what happened in there. I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like in the championship game. What do you guys anticipate as far as the environment tomorrow?
ZACH NORVELL JR: Just Zag fans being Zag fans. Ever since I’ve been playing here our fans travel well. Really looking forward to them being there tomorrow, feed off their energy and can’t wait.
JOSH PERKINS: Yeah, I mean, my ears are ringing still, too. Before the game listening to Duke fans I couldn’t even hear my music in the ear pods, it was so loud in the gym. So combining our fans with their fans, should be more ear ringing, but hopefully our fans are louder than theirs tomorrow and I know they will be.
Q. You talked about watching Duke and Arizona growing up, kind of like that’s a name brand program. Aren’t you guys one of those too now?
JOSH PERKINS: Oh, yeah, yeah. We came here for a reason, you know. I said Coach K was a Hall of Fame coach, we got a Hall of Fame coach on our side too. And rolling with the guys we have, and I know coach is too, so like we said we’re looking forward to that matchup tomorrow and showing the world who we are.
ZACH NORVELL JR: Just to piggyback off what Perkins said, we’re a top program too. Like our coaching staff did a good job building this program up to where it is now. Gonzaga is a household name now and I’m pretty sure everyone knows around the country with the runs we have been having and great job with this guy and Coach Few and the coaching staff has done.
MEGAN GODFREY: Take questions for coach.
Q. The guys talked about it, but tomorrow at noon Maui time, is that going to be a little bit different for the championship game?
MARK FEW: Yeah, yeah. I mean it really, really makes for a short prep tonight, so we’ll do what we can. It’s about these guys playing. They did a heck of a job making adjustments on the fly in the second half. I mean a heck of a job because we switched basically our whole game plan there at the half. And so — and I think it’s going to take something like that. We’ll have to really cerebrally challenge them tonight and there’s not going to be any physical things we can do, but just come out and play. But that’s what makes this tournament awesome. This little band box that we play in and you don’t get the locker room until 10 minutes before you go out on the floor and teams are filing in and filing out. It’s back to the true essence of why we all got involved in basketball. So we’ll get them ready and they will be ready and we’ll give it a good run.
Q. I don’t know how specific you can be to what — how when you say you flipped the switch entirely, what you did. But also — and also, can you do that with a team that’s not as experienced as this one is?
MARK FEW: No, no, no, you can’t. And it wasn’t anything diabolical or inventing the atom or anything, but it was just getting back to who we are. We lost our way a little bit with some silly turnovers that kind of got them going. We fouled way way way too much and just obviously there was some legit ones, but then we had some real silly ones that weren’t really smart. But we did change a couple things defensively that really helped, I think kind of keep us out of foul trouble. And then also just offensively got back. We played with massive foul trouble in that first half, so our lineups were really literally probably as crazy as we have had all year. So we really lost a lot of our offensive flow. That’s why we rode those guys hard in the second half.
Q. Obviously this tournament is just an ultimate test here at this time of the year, but I wanted to get your thoughts on what it would mean if you guys can pull it out to win a Maui Invitational title under this season’s circumstances?
MARK FEW: Well, we have won it before. It was an awesome, awesome feeling. It’s an incredible accomplishment, especially with the field we’re looking at here. Makes for a great Thanksgiving, which we get the day off. So I’ll take full advantage of that playing and frolicking in Maui. But it will put me in a lot better mood, that’s for sure. But, again, you got to realize when you’re playing this stiff of competition there’s a lot — you get exposed and there’s a lot to learn about your team, so I just like we learned tonight, we got tested and pushed from the brink there and didn’t break so I think that’s a great sign for us moving forward. Again, especially that we’re doing this without Killian Tillie, Killian Tillie is one of our best players and a lot of nights he’s our best player. And he solves, I say this all the time, he’s my problem solver. He solves a lot of things out there. And both nights obviously just with depth alone but I really give these guys credit, they’re scratching and clawing and figuring out ways — Jeremy Jones came in and there and give us great minutes and Filip came in there and held his own. And on short prep, we just got to rest them up and it should be a fun, I’d say night but it’s going to be morning, be a fun morning in about eight hours or whatever it is. I don’t want to see any of you guys in the bars tonight now. You guys get ready to get down here and cover this properly, all right?
Q. What’s the one or two things you need to do tomorrow to get in the W column?
MARK FEW: Take better, take good care of the ball. We have taken great care of the ball other than some zaniness against Illinois which they can bring and then this first half. You can’t turn the ball over and let Duke get out and run. And we just got to defend aggressively, like we did in the second half there without fouling. I think those will be two big keys. And again I need to watch some more of them tonight, I’ve just kind of been glancing at them here and there, so.
Arizona Wildcats Press Conference
with Sean Miller, Brandon Randolph and Justin Coleman
MEGAN GODFREY: Start with an opening statement.
SEAN MILLER: We knew Gonzaga was obviously an excellent team and, you know, for 20 minutes I thought we played with a lot of effort and played a great first half. For us to have 45 points we did a lot of things well in the first half and I thought had them on their heels about as much as you can. Maybe they uncharacteristically missed a couple of open threes but for the most part the first 20 minutes really favored us. And then obviously we were overwhelmed in the second half. Their defense, they started to switch both on and off the ball, not easy to do but the quickness that those two big guys had is very impressive. I mean they can switch out on guards, they really took us out of what we wanted to do and obviously a tale of two halves and they were the far superior team. The one stat that really blows my mind is that we had three assists in the game. I think what their defense did is they created a kind of a drive out of desperation, drive to shoot, drive to score and you have to move the ball, you have to share the ball and you have to be able to find open teammates. But that’s as much to Gonzaga’s credit as it is to our detriment. They were clearly the better team and especially in the second half, I mean it was 54-29 in the second half, I think that’s really all you need to know.
MEGAN GODFREY: Questions for the players.
Q. Did you see any changes in Gonzaga’s defensive coverages in the second half that surprised you?
JUSTIN COLEMAN: First of all, I want to thank my Lord and Savior for this opportunity once again. And to answer your question, yeah, like coach said, they started to switch one through four, one through five, it was hard for to us run our offense. We started to drive and not, like coach says, drive to kick for others, we started to drive and kick for our own, which we shouldn’t have done, that’s what got us in the hole we were in. So they just started to switch one through four and one through five and it took us out of our offense.
BRANDON RANDOLPH: Just add on, yeah, I think it was kind of hard. I believe like — I just believe that we need to make that adjustment and we just didn’t do that, so we just got to move on to the next game.
Q. Justin, offensively I just curious two nights in a row now you played really well there and I didn’t know if you feel like your confidence is up or was it also a case maybe of what was needed tonight and what you got?
JUSTIN COLEMAN: I just play my game and I just took the open shots that I had. And my teammates played a big part in that, they created shots for me and also like they had to guard, Brandon went up and Brandon Williams who also led the team in scoring the first four games, so they just helped my game a lot easier.
MEGAN GODFREY: Take questions for coach.
Q. What are your thoughts on the technical and the foul that Chase got and he’s been, like you said, a pretty sharp guy as far as the way he plays, what happened in that moment do you think?
SEAN MILLER: I think the emotions got the best of Chase. He has to control his emotions in that situation. Really, we’re not a deep team as it is, especially up front, losing him didn’t help. And it really gave them adjust an extra surge of momentum at a very unique time in the game. Even though they were the better team through the first eight minutes of the second half, I don’t have it in front of me, but at the 12 minute mark it was still really either way. They were up four points, but from the 12 minute mark all the way to the end — and some of it is they wore us down, some of it is they’re an excellent team. Rui, the development of him and just what he’s become as a player, it’s incredible, he’s one of the best forwards that I think plays college basketball. I don’t know if everybody gets the opportunity to see him, in this tournament they will, but he’s a handful and like always Mark and his staff they just do such a great job of putting their best players in a position to hurt you. And right around that high post area he just has a really unique way of being able to face up and make the shot, drive it, and he’s really physical. And again for the first half the same guys played in both halves, I was very happy with our effort, I didn’t think we could play much better, certainly even defensively. But they wore us down and I thought their adjustments defensively, switching on and off the ball it kind of took us out of what we were doing. It’s not easy to do that though. When you take your five man and you switch on to a guard and take your four man and you’re switching out and they’re able to do it, I think that says a lot about their talent on both side of the ball and those two big guys, Brandon Clarke and Rui tremendous front court, certainly one of the best, and if you look at our two bigs we were 1-6 from the floor three points. We need to get more out of them. And then our bench had one field goal and we played our bench quite a bit and we, guys who didn’t start the game played five minutes, 14 minutes, 17 minutes, 18 minutes when you sub like that you need some production. They’re better than they played, but I think fire power off the bench and a little bit more balance inside and outside will help us. Again, three assists, that’s tough, man, there’s not a lot of good basketball being played when you only have three assists.
Q. I was surprised when I saw three assists, but also you did a good job of defending the three the first half and they kind of picked up. What did they do on the offensive end that allowed them to get better looks from you in terms of offensively?
SEAN MILLER: They were great, they’re a very balanced team. They can hurt you from behind the arc, they really are terrific in transition and there aren’t many guards that are more experienced or better than Josh Perkins. He can score, he can make his teammates better, he’s averaging eight assists a game and you can really see how he can do that. He’s got a great group to play with, but it’s hard to hold them down for 40 minutes from behind the arc. Again they were 2-11 from three at the half, maybe they missed a couple open ones, but our defensive effort and the togetherness through the first 20 minutes, we needed to be able to do that for 40 and we didn’t have it in us.
Q. You have to turn the page quickly, so tomorrow what are some of the things that you would like to see from your team tomorrow? You got to get them to put this behind and you got to get them to focus. What do you want to see from them tomorrow?
SEAN MILLER: Well, I mean, I know Iowa State played very well today and I think they’re a really good team, we’re excited to have an opportunity to be 1-0 in this tournament. And when you look at the next two games, Gonzaga and either Duke or Auburn, that’s not an easy, that’s not an easy task for anybody. And right now we have to learn from this game, grow, and that’s what a tournament like this really does. Everybody wants to win. There’s going to be one team that’s going to leave here with zero wins and they’re going to be pretty good. Only one team will win all three games and then I think the rest of us will take what we did and then either build from it, learn from it and grow. And that’s the team we want to be. But Auburn’s exceptional, they’re a team that I think can go deep in the NCAA tournament. And Gonzaga’s that way, Duke’s that way, so for us I think sharing the ball, seeing if we could have a little bit more balanced attack and defending a very, very strong team in transition as well.
Q. I was wondering, when you talked about Gonzaga’s defensive adjustments in the second half do you think that helped them cut down on the fouling too or was there something else? I mean a drastic difference between the amount you guys went to the line.
SEAN MILLER: Yeah, I would say that it did. It was an adjustment that worked. For us, again, we’re not a seasoned group, we’re not a group that’s been through a lot of different things together, so early in the year in November, change can affect us maybe more than other teams or a team, a few of our teams in the past. We’ll learn from this game, we’ll grow from it. We played some excellent basketball through 20, 24 minutes, even the first four minutes of the second half, maybe the first three minutes of the second half, we were continuing to play the game like we did in the first half. But Gonzaga’s a better team than us and they really showed it in the second half.
Q. Justin’s offense just the last couple games, do you see, I mean you mentioned of course he had a couple of big time games at Alabama and earlier in his career, but did you see that coming out this week, does that surprise you at all?
SEAN MILLER: Yes and no. He took — he’s playing with a lot of confidence. I think last night kind of fed into tonight’s game. Thank goodness he was able to score the ball. A big reason we had the lead in the first half and why we were able to score at all in the second half was because of his efforts. But we have to be more balanced. Being able to get the ball inside, being able to drive the ball, pass, share it, that’s the types of things that we have done well over the years and we have to kind of get back to being that team. Maybe we have to do it a different way, but just driving to shoot and it’s not Justin, it’s really our whole team, that gets you in trouble.