Game Talk: Arizona 97, USC 70

USC jumped out to a 9-0 lead and it looked like once again the Wildcats would struggle with the more physical Trojans. However, Arizona fought back. The Wildcats were still trailing 40-39 at halftime, then picked up the defensive intensity another notch and went on 15-0 run early in the second half to put the game away.<BR> After the game, UA coach Lute Olson and the players commented on game.<P>

Lute Olson

"The crowd was great when we made the run in the first half and they really helped us make the run in the second half. (The crowd) was appreciating the effort defensively out of our guys. It was a good win. The areas that killed us at USC were improved. We out-rebounded them, we had more steals than they did and at USC that was a complete disaster. I thought we got a whole lot better pressure on their perimeter shooters. You could see with (Desmon) Farmer if you make a mistake he makes you pay. But there weren't a lot of mistakes made on him tonight."

Can you talk a little bit about the defensive play of Chris Rodgers?
"The big thing is he doesn't let the guards come down and start their offense. He forces them to the sidelines and then once he gets them there he has his hands up and it's difficult for them to find an open man. But defense starts with the guard on that point guard. You also need to make sure they can't enter the ball and I thought Channing (Frye) and Hassan (Adams) did a good job. They were having to work for every pass they were getting."

Was there more of a sense of urgency in this game tonight?
"There should be urgency all the time. We're at the point of the season that you can't play without urgency. I don't know what in the world has happened with us with our starters but we may have to change our starting lineup to solve that. We got down 7-0 at Stanford or 9-0 and 7-0 again tonight and it could have been more, but we're going to have to do something to solve that."

You started Chris Rodgers in the second half. Was that more because of Hassan's ankle or because of Chris' defense?
"Chris' defense was very important. He played really well and played really well at Washington, so he's put together some good effort for us. Tonight he took the shots he should take and got the ball ahead to the wings and I thought he penetrated and found the open people well. We're just going to have to take a look at what we have to do."

Could Chris be the guy that sneaks into the starting lineup?
"He could be. We obviously have to do something. We can't continue to get started like we've been starting, so we'll see what we need to do."

What were the keys to the great defense in the second half?
"The keys were Chris Rodgers' defense on the point guard where they couldn't get their offense started. He pushed them way out and the second thing was Salim's defense on Farmer. He had to fight to get every pass and every time he got it Salim took away his left hand, which is critical on him. With Farmer, when he catches the ball you have to be there when he catches it. Salim not only physically played real well on him but mentally played real well."

Chris Rogers

You really sparked the defense in the second half. Is that your role on the team?
"Basically the whole game starts on the defensive end. If we want to take care of our home court, we have to play defense on every possession. That's what I try to do when I come in, give my team a spark."

Why did you start in place of Hassan in the second half?
"I think Hassan went down with the ankle injury and I had to step up and give my team some energy off the bench."

Did the team's energy level go up when you picked up the defensive pressure?
"I think bringing energy to the game and getting steals and creating havoc, creating deflections and that's our game. Defense allows us to get out in the open court and get things going offensively. As soon as we do that, we're rolling. We just feed off the crowd, feed off the energy and we just get going."

Why does it take this team so long to get started?
"Every time I step out on the court, I'm going to give it everything I've got. As soon as they (the rest of the team) figure that out and make it their motto we'll be a first half team as well as a second half team."

Why were you so effective tonight?
"Overall, I just try to do what I can for the team. Rebounding, passing, getting steals and being as aggressive out there as I can defensively and offensively....whatever it takes to win."

Andre Iguodala

What do you need to do to play defense in the first half like you did in the second half?
"The main thing is we need to come out and focus on defense at the beginning of the game. Defense, defense, defense. We need to be consistent to be outstanding."

What do you need to do get ready for UCLA?
"I love playing UCLA. It's a team with great tradition and when they're playing their best game they're a tough team, so I'm going to come thinking they're a team that can beat us if we don't play our best."

Didn't your defense really key the offense tonight?
"It all started with defense. The guys just communicated well and we made a lot of switches that led to steals and guys found each other on the breaks and that's exciting. That's just part of the game.

Did you guys make a concerted effort to focus more on defense tonight?
"Definitely, guys came out thinking that we had to play defense as a team and it just carried over to the offense. Chris Rodgers came in and did a great job of creating havoc. He was a spark."

How was practice this week?
"Practice was very intense on Monday and Tuesday. If we can continue to practice well, it's carry over to the games."

It seemed as if you kept your intensity even though a number of players were in foul trouble. How did you do that?
"We just had to adjust. When they went up 9-0 we had to adjust. That's just the way it was. I think we did well with the foul problems we had. The guys just had to adjust and we did that."

Is someone starting to take more of a leadership role yet?
"I think we've done it collectively. I think Salim has been doing a good job of keeping the guys together. I think we're coming together well." Salim Stoudamire

What did you say to Lodrick Stewart when he came up short on the dunk attempt?
"They (the Stewart twins) are on my summer team in high school, so I was talking smack to him."

Were you laughing with him or laughing at him?
"I was laughing at him."

What can you guys do better?
"Take pride in the defense from the jump. Not in the second half like we did tonight.

Are you making an effort to be more positive?
"I think my demeanor has changed since the Stanford game. I was out there trying to pump guys up and showing a lot of emotion and that's what I have to do.

You were very aggressive defensively.
"We were playing aggressive and we forced a lot of turnovers and we capitalized on them. We don't want to go out and play soft anymore. We just need to be smart as well as aggressive."

Was Chris Rodgers the spark that got you going defensively?
"Definitely. On the defensive end, he sparked us and we fed off his energy. He was the one that got us going and we all followed suit."

Andre (Iguodala) was more aggressive tonight and had some big plays.
"I don't see why he doesn't do that every game. He's 6-7, long and he can shoot. He can jump out of the gym. He just needs to be aggressive."

Are you trying to take a bigger leadership role?
"I have to. We've been losing and people are going to be pointing the finger at me because I'm an upperclassman, so I might as well have them point at me while I'm trying my best to lead this team."

Are you trying to be more vocal on the court?
"Definitely. It's not my personality (to be vocal), but I've got to change."

Mustafa Shakur

A number of you guys were in foul trouble but maintained the defensive intensity. How important was it when Chris Rodgers came in for you when you got your fourth foul?
"He did a great job coming in off the bench. He provide a spark and that's what the coaches have been asking of him in the past."

Are you trying to be more assertive offensively?
"I have to keep the defenders honest."

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