NCAA Portland: Sean Miller, Arizona Players

The Arizona head coach, Sean Miller, and players Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson talk about the Wildcats 93-72 win over Texas Southern in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Portland on Thursday...

THE MODERATOR: Arizona head coach Sean Miller and student-athletes. Coach, we'll begin with an opening statement from you.

COACH MILLER: Well, you know, anytime you're in this tournament, it's a great moment for your team and coaching staff. It's not easy to simply be here. You have to earn it. Now that we've advanced, I think it's even more difficult, we all realize just to win one game in this tournament, regardless of where you're seated. We're excited and happy to still be here playing, look forward to whoever we're playing, VCU or Ohio State on Saturday. Today I thought our offense was efficient. I thought these two guys had great nights. We were difficult for Texas Southern to stop. From an efficiency perspective, points, whatever you want to look at, we were very good. What we talked a lot about during the game and after the game is we came into this tournament as a great defensive team. We were not that today. Not that, you know, the roof's caving in on us, but I think the point that we made is this tournament is unforgiving. When you don't do the things that you do well, you're not in the tournament very long. So what I'm hoping is that we learned a few things we can move towards Saturday and be both, the offensive team we were here today, but also the great defensive team which I think we've represented all season long.

THE MODERATOR: The floor is open now for questions for the student-athletes. Could the two of you talk about the challenges that Texas Southern brought with their speed.

STANLEY JOHNSON: I feel like Texas Southern did a great job of spacing the floor today. I get like their guards used their strengths on the court today to beat us to the basket multiple times. The defensive team we are, that was not acceptable. We won the game. That's what it's about. For us as a team, we're focusing on especially for next game our defensive stuff we do well. I think we'll clean that up.

Q. Stanley, can you talk about just how important that initial run, 15-2, was in terms of getting the momentum.
STANLEY JOHNSON: I think it's always positive when you get a great start to the game like that. Not that you can get comfortable, but, you know, you can kind of settle into what you do well. I think we got a couple easy baskets early. I think Rondae was active early, which is always a benefit to us. We got it inside early. We got off to a good run. We got our only kill of the half, three stops in a row, and we didn't get a kill all the way till the second half started. That's why we got to the 15-2 lead because we got to the kill early in the game. Without that, we wouldn't be able to score as well.

Q. Stanley, your coach talked about how you don't get rattled, there's such a confidence with you. Did you feel any anxiety going into this game at all and when was the last time you did feel rattled?
STANLEY JOHNSON: Rattled? I wouldn't say I was rattled, anybody was rattled. I'm always anxious for a game to start. What helps us out a lot is we're dependent on our defense every night. That's just effort. You can bring that almost night out. Offensively things aren't going to fall for you all the time, but when you can depend on defense, you can rest at peace with that for our team. On a normal night when Arizona plays, we usually have our defense intact. Tonight wasn't our best showing. Usually we have it down pat.

Q. We were in the locker room when Kaleb said when you're the guy that gets the early start going, it gets the rest of the guys going as well. Do you notice when you're having fun, they follow suit?
R. HOLLIS-JEFFERSON: Yeah, I try to be that way at all times. I know I rub off on the guys, I have that impact on them. No matter what, I try to bring that, whether it's 7:00 in the morning, 8:00 at night, I just try to be the same way. But sometimes it's a little tough to rub off on guys when they're a certain way. But I just try my best.

Q. Rondae, number three seed has already fallen today. Just getting that first one out of the way, what that means to you.
R. HOLLIS-JEFFERSON: As you guys can see, we didn't play that well on defense. It kind of -- I don't know. It kind of messes us up a little bit. We talked about it. We're going to focus on that part of the game. Offensively things will fall. Defense wins championships, so we have to be focused on that, be ready to play defense, get stops, grind it out.

Q. Rondae, what are your thoughts on getting a career night in terms of points despite the foul trouble?
R. HOLLIS-JEFFERSON: Well, you know, it's always good to have a good night offensively. But as everyone knows, I'm a defensive player first, and my mindset is to play defense. When we have a defensive night like that, it bothers me a lot, as I can say for our coach, as I can say for a lot of other players. My biggest thing is how to get the guys to be ready next time on defense.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Good luck in the next round. The floor is open now for questions for Coach Miller.

Q. Coach, that's a pretty good basketball team that you went up against for it being a 15 seed. Rondae said he wanted the defensive effort to be better than that. Have to give some credit to the other side of the floor as well.
COACH MILLER: No, no question. We knew before we played them, especially their perimeter attack is high major in its approach. They have guys that can play in about any program in the country. That's at the one, the two and the three. What Mike Davis and his staff do a really good job of is they play two three-point shooting big guys with those three. Part of our foul troubles tonight stemmed from we were playing against a team that's difficult to guard against the dribble. They're able to spread you out. Once their big guys hit a couple threes, that changes things as well. Believe me, credit where credit's due. Texas Southern is a difficult team to defend. That's why they were able to come into this tournament having won the games that they did. However, you know your team as the coach. There were quite a few breakdowns that we had tonight that we have to be better at moving forward. I told the guys afterwards, I don't want to be the coach gloom and doom. I recognize we're in the tournament. I know we won. I know we won by a big margin. But we have high hopes and high aspirations. In this tournament, you don't get a second chance. I know a couple games were played simultaneous to ours. Those teams wish they had a do-over, but there isn't one. The best team doesn't always win, it's the team that's best on that night or that day. What we can control are the things we know we're great at or good at. Our team defense is what carried us. For us to be in this tournament, all of a sudden not be great on defense, we won't be in it very long. That's what we talked about. You probably sensed that from listening to both Stanley and Rondae. But we're grateful to be around and excited to be a part of the 32-team field now.

Q. When you've had issues with defense in the past this season, there hasn't been a lot, do you point it to effort, preparation? Is it getting caught up in maybe the level of competition? Does it vary?
COACH MILLER: You know, I think each situation we've had is different. Obviously we only lost three games this year, but the way we lost those three games was very similar. I think that's the point. The teams that we lost to, although we respect them a great deal, they're not a part of this tournament. Which if you're 32-3, the three losses you received were not teams that are part of this tournament, it makes you ask those type of questions. I understand that. I think some of it is our mentality. Our team has always been better this season when we've been cornered. That's one reason why I think after each loss we seem to excel and go on a run. So, you know, obviously we don't have a chance after the next loss to go on a run. I think the point is that we have to get back to being an excellent defensive team, which takes a lot of effort and concentration. We certainly can do it. But whoever we play in the next round we know is going to be a formidable opponent. We want to make sure when that game ends we feel good about what we did, especially on defense.

Q. You've coached some tremendous freshmen in your career. Where does Stanley Johnson compare in that list?
COACH MILLER: Well, he's one of the best. I know Stanley made the freshman All-American team. If you look at the four others, each of those guys is going to leave college and have a long, long career obviously in the NBA. I think Stanley will be one of them. But the thing that you appreciate about Stanley is he's always won, no matter where he's played. USA Basketball, gold medal. High school state champions four times. So far at Arizona, he was a big part of why we won the conference tournament and the regular-season championship. In the Maui Invitational, he was the MVP when we won that. He's a winner. He believes in himself. A lot of the things he does goes through our team confidence-wise.

Q. Talk about your offense tonight, especially in the first half you were really on.
COACH MILLER: We have a balanced attack right now, which is great. Inside we're getting production from Ashley and Tarczewski. Obviously Rondae and Stanley tonight had big games. T.J. is right around double figures. One guy who didn't score tonight. I don't think he necessarily played bad, but for whatever reason he didn't contribute like he's been, is Gabe York. Gabe has been a huge factor for us down the stretch. Tonight I don't believe he scored. So considering that, it was one of our best overall offensive outputs of the season. I think that's why we offset a very mediocre defensive performance and won by the margin that we did.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much. Good luck in the next round.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports


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