NCAA Seattle 3rd Round: Gonzaga

Gonzaga head coach Mark Few and players Domantas Sabonis, Kyle Wiltjer and Kevin Pangos talk about the Bulldogs 87-68 win over Iowa in the third round of the NCAA Tournament in Seattle...

THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with an opening statement from Coach and then take questions for the student-athletes.

COACH FEW: Well, that was a lot of fun. I mean, we played great. This team is so much fun to be associated with when we're playing like that and we're in attack mode and sharing the basketball and making what we call the one more plus one more pass. And then just flying around on the defensive end and covering for each other. That's how we have played for long stretches of the season. I'm so happy that these guys were able to put it together on the biggest stage.

THE MODERATOR: Questions?

Q. Coach, I believe at one point Gary bell was even guarding Adam Woodbury. How important has his defense been both today and just throughout this season for this team?
COACH FEW: It's been the utmost importance. He's our identity down there at that end. These guys will tell you that. We're more than comfortable in some situations switching ball screens or switching things out of bounds. If he ends up on a big, he's set on top, you know he's going to give you a fight, and that fight that he exudes is contagious. I think it carries over to these other guys when they see him locking down good players. He's also guarding Uthoff and White at times tonight and giving up probably nine or ten inches there.

Q. Coach, how big was Eric out there with his energy and defense?
COACH FEW: He was great. These guys will tell you, he reminds me so much of rob Sacre in that Rob's an energy giver, not an energy taker. And whenever Eric steps in the locker room, steps on the floor, at our place, steps in a game, I mean, he brings energy. Like I was saying about Gary, it's contagious. But he's got a positive vibe around him. And then against their pressing and trapping, it's great to have that speed that he has and athleticism. I thought he went out and made some huge rebounds, and a big key to that game was we were able to put him on Gesell at the last six minutes of that game when he usually gets really aggressive and tries to drive and get to the free-throw line and he did a good job keeping him in front.

Q. For the three of you, especially Kevin and Kyle, it seemed like a lot of those 3-pointers, especially in the first half, they went in, but you were several feet off the line. Was that a conscious thing to kind of like space things out a bit? Talk a little about the philosophy on offense going in.
KYLE WILTJER: We just think those are good shots. We don't really look down at our shoes, and so we're just looking at the hoop so we don't really realize where we are. But keeping the floor space for our bigs and when I can mix it up and go in the post and space the floor for Domas and Przemek, I think it really does open up things for us. So on my part I'm just glad the shots went in, because it really helps. It's really tough to defend for another team.

KEVIN PANGOS: We don't really look at the line or that. I didn't even know they were off the line at all. When we get the ball moving and get open shots, that's a good shot for our team. And whether it's a foot off the line, two feet, three, whatever it is, we believe we can make that, and as long as the ball gets moving and we're open.

Q. Coach and then Kevin, have you guys got tired of hearing about the Sweet 16 drought, and is it a big relief to finally get past that?
COACH FEW: Personally, yes. On the former part of that question. I mean, I think the program's been six times, and it's just interesting to see the corner or whatever that we're being painted into. I mean, I don't know who is being held to that standard. But try not to listen to the noise and you just usually block that out. The biggest thing was of all the groups I've had or been a part of at GU, which was the group with Kev and Gary and Kyle Dranginis and Prezemek and all those guys that haven't been to a Sweet 16, and all the other groups for the most part were able to get there at some point in their careers, so you just want it for these guys. It gives us another week. At the end of the day, this is about two things: It's about staying involved in the greatest sporting event in the world. You want to stay in it for as long as you possibly can, because it's so much fun, it's so exciting, and as a basketball player you want to be involved. But the second part of it is, I mean, this team loves each other. I mean, they are tight. They enjoy every second of everything they do together. So you want to -- you want that season to last as long as possible. So, we just gained another week right here, and hopefully we can gain one after that.

KEVIN PANGOS: I kind of forget the question, but I think it was along the lines of getting past this round. And there's no greater feeling than this, because I haven't been able to experience it, and most of the guys in the locker room haven't, so for us to be able to get past this is definitely a great feeling. But it's not like we were stressing over what people were talking about. We just wanted to do it selfishly for ourselves and our fan base. Because we believed that we were good enough and we just wanted to experience this. So it feels awesome.

Q. Coach, you had to know that they were going to make a run, and their play did pick up in the second half. What were some of the characteristics that you saw from your team in the way they were playing right now that allowed you guys to weather that and respond?
COACH FEW: Well, we talked about that at halftime. We also talked about just staying in absolute full-on attack mode. We started the half 0-0 and we wanted to win the second half and we wanted to, again, just stay as aggressive and try to even be a little bit more aggressive with our defense and our -- the way we were attacking on offense. The first five minutes I think we got -- they jumped in the zone, and it took us awhile to get a little accustomed to that many possessions of zone. But then these guys started finding their 3s, and then that's where Domas was huge. And we started finding him inside, and he started going to work in there. It would really be great, because he loves coming to these press conferences, if you could get a question for Domas. (Laughter.) He so enjoys these moments up here.

Q. Kyle, do you have that shooter thing where you make the first one or two and you just feel you can't miss? What was going through your mind tonight?
KYLE WILTJER: If it goes in or not, if it's a good shot, I try to shoot it. If it's a good team shot and I missed my last two, to be a good shooter you have to have the confidence to shoot the next one. But tonight when you get on a roll and my teammates do such a good job of finding me, you just get more and more confident. That's what I was doing in the first half, and I'm just glad they were going in. And it was a good feeling. I got a question for Domas. All right, so you're from overseas. What's it like playing in the March Madness tournament? (Laughter.) Did you watch it growing up or what?

DOMANTAS SABONIS: I basically followed it last year when I was getting recruited, and it was amazing to watch all the emotion and the fans went crazy and everything. And I just really wanted to be a part of it.

KYLE WILTJER: Nice. Great answer. (Laughter.)

THE MODERATOR: Is there a NCAA rule against a player asking a question?

KYLE WILTJER: I don't believe there is. (Laughter.)

Q. Kyle, as a guy who makes behind-the-back half-court shots and is shooting 47 percent from the three, should you be shooting more? And I wonder if Coach Few would follow up on that.
KYLE WILTJER: Should I be shooting more? I mean, I'm in the gym all the time, so I don't really know any other gaps of time, because I don't want to burn myself out.

COACH FEW: He means in games. (Laughter.)

KYLE WILTJER: Oh.

COACH FEW: Don't you?

KYLE WILTJER: We're such an unselfish group of guys that it's not about numbers of shots. Like one game I could shoot only five shots. If we're winning, I'm going to be happy. And the thing about this group is, the way we play, we're just so unselfish. And I get my shots in the rhythm of offense. And if I don't, I hear it from these guys and Coach. So I try not to shoot bad shots. And I think that's why we do a great job -- I think we're leading the nation in field goal percentage -- is we shoot great shots. I think that to be successful, I think we got to continue that.

Q. Coach?
COACH FEW: I would just -- Kyle's right on. We have the No. 1 offensively efficient team in the country, I believe. At one point we were on a record pace with our field goal percentage. So, what we're doing is working. And Kyle gets plenty of shots and gets plenty of shots in practice. And this team does a great job, especially when he's feeling it, of finding him. And Kyle does a great job, when he's feeling it or has a mismatch, of finding the right places to get the ball. That's what made this thing work, and tonight that was great. We had four, almost five -- Przemek makes a free throw, we have five guys in double figures, that's kind of who we are.

Q. In the first 15 minutes from side to side and up and down, was that as well as this team has moved this season against a quality opponent?
COACH FEW: It's crazy, we have had stretches like that. We had SMU in our own building and we were really letting it rip. We had some stretches in the conference tournament maybe against BYU where we were really clicking and some other games this year where we really played like that. It's without a doubt the best offensive team I've ever been associated with. Again, the firepower, the versatility, the ability to share the ball. Lost kind of in all this, we have taken unbelievable care of the ball tonight -- or not tonight but all year. And that was a big key. Iowa turns you over and then they take those turnovers and turn them into points. I thought we did a nice job of limiting that tonight, too.

Q. Coach, I'm wondering, I'm assuming that you didn't put Kyle on the bench much in the first half because of his offensive performance. Was it hard to sit him down because of maybe some things happening at the other end of the floor? And for Kyle, how did you stay warm? It seemed like every time you got in there, even though you sat long times, you just kept it going.
COACH FEW: Well, we had to sit him because of foul trouble. He had two early fouls, and he did a nice job. He was chasing a two guard around tonight. Through some screens, over some ball screens, those are things that a 6'-9" power forward doesn't usually have to do. So there's fatigue involved there, there's early foul trouble, and we just always encourage him to stay hot, stay hot, and we trust him to get him back in. We put him back in with two fouls, and then also he's hot, he's hot, but then we love to come and hit them with Domas for a while, too. So you get a little, whatever that used to be, lightning and thunder or whatever those guys were in the past in football. But that's kind of what it's like. And then Domas comes in and banks on them and gets some rebounds around the basket, and it's a good 1-2 combination.

KYLE WILTJER: For me to stay warm, you just got to be into the game. And even if you're in foul trouble, you're just on the bench, you got to cheer for your teammates. And for me, I mean, tonight we were extra motivated because we were going to dinner last night and we passed one of my favorite restaurants, Benihana, and we are going to a burger joint. So I was like, Coach, we should to go to Benihana. And one of our assistants said, Hey, if you get the win tonight, we'll go to Benihana in Houston. So I was extra motivated because now we get to go to Benihana. So I'm hyped.

Q. Domas, seemed like you were really attacking the basket in the second half, especially. Were you just getting more confident, or was it the looks you were seeing?
DOMANTAS SABONIS: I think that it was just the in the moment of the game. I was getting more confident. Also my teammates were doing great job finding me open. I was trying to take advantage of it.

Q. Coach, back on the Sweet 16 question a minute ago and the standards I guess now that you're held to. Best you can in one question to sum up 16 years, though, to see where this program was back then and to now be associated and being one of the name brands, so to speak, can you just kind of talk about where --
COACH FEW: It's been amazing. It's been crazy. We went from, literally, I mean, being an assistant that slept in cars back in the day or slept on buddies' floors in the hotels, to in a little tiny gym, to dreaming about being involved in the NCAA Tournament, dreaming about actually winning a post-season game. Haven't even won a post-season game back in the days as the assistant. And then just building it step by step. And we have got a lot of help with the administration, allowing us to grow, and just the community and our donors and everything. It takes a village, literally, to make this happen. And then through it all, it just comes down to having great players. It's always, always been about the players and being able to attract the best players, and that's what we got. We have continually been able to get great players. I just love the fact that as great as these guys are -- back to that question we had, they make the extra pass. They share it. They give up their three maybe to get it to another or throw it inside. And that's what makes this group so special is that. So, I've been blessed a million times over to be a part of the run and to experience all of it with these guys.

THE MODERATOR: All right, thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports


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