Few, Players on Elite Eight Loss

The full transcript from Gonzaga's post-game press conference, featuring head coach Mark Few and student-athletes, Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell, Jr, and Kyle Wiltjer, courtesy ASAP Sports.

THE MODERATOR: We're joined now by Gonzaga University Head Coach, Mark Few, student-athletes, Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell, Jr, and Kyle Wiltjer. We will ask Coach to make an opening statement. We'll take questions for the student-athletes only. We will then take questions for Coach Few again. Coach.

COACH FEW: Well, we knew it was going to be a tough, hard fought game, and, you know, we were right there at the four-minute mark, and we just had some empty possessions that we didn't quite convert on. And, man, if you get down to Duke inside that four minutes, I don't think there's anybody better at finishing games as far as burning clock and getting the right guys to the free throw line, and then, you know, you just have got to convert on your offensive possessions. These guys have done that all year, and I thought Duke played great defense on us, stretches in the first half and late stretches in the second half, and that was probably the difference.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Kevin, can you talk a little bit about Quinn Cook's defense, what he was trying to do and how effective he was guarding you out there?

KEVIN PANGOS: He was scrappy and he was next to me the whole time, and so it was just made it tough and made it difficult, but, you know, it opened things up for the rest of my teammates, and they took advantage and were more aggressive. And I just tried not to force anything, but he was attached to me for most of the game.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes. Anything?

Q. For all three of you, what has this year meant to you guys?

GARY BELL, JR.: It's meant everything. You know, we made it to an Elite Eight, and this is something you dream of, to play on this stage, the final eight teams playing college basketball. You dream of that stuff growing up. And to be playing for a guy like Coach Few made me a better basketball player. Definitely fortunate enough to be in this position right now.

KEVIN PANGOS: Yes, it's meant everything. The best team I've ever been on talent-wise and the best group of guys and best coaching staff. So, you know, we accomplished a lot and obviously wanted to make it to the Final Four, but we can look back and be pretty happy with what we've been able to do. We just fell a little short. So, great memories of this year, though, that I'll take for the rest of my life.

KYLE WILTJER: We had a lot of fun this year. Close group of guys. We got to take the good from the situation because, I mean, anytime you lose it's not very fun. Great group of guys, and I'm just fortunate to have been on this wonderful team.

Q. Kyle, 52 points for you guys is kind of well below average. What did they do defensively to hold you guys down so well?

KYLE WILTJER: They were just scrappy and poking at the ball. They threw a lot of different defenses at us. They denied, did a lot of switching. Kind of got us out of rhythm. We weren't hitting some shots we usually hit. Just too bad.

THE MODERATOR: Anything else for the student-athletes?

Q. Kyle, I'm wondering how this tournament run compares to some of the ones you had at Kentucky?

KYLE WILTJER: I mean, we wanted to make the Final Four, so we're really down on ourselves right now. We have such a great group of guys that we were there for each other and going back to Spokane, we'll have each other's backs. And all these guys are going to matter what they do in their lives. We have such high character guys, they'll be successful. So, it's disappointing we weren't there, but at the same time, these are relationships we'll always have for the rest of our lives.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes. Anything else?

Q. Kevin, you didn't score until the second half, but you guys go on a 5-0 run to start that half, timeout from Duke. Are you surprised you were able to get up on them and they fought back as well as they did?

KEVIN PANGOS: I'm not surprised. We have full confidence in ourselves and our team that we can get a lead, get on runs like that. I wish we had a couple more, but the game of basketball is all about runs and it's going to happen to both teams throughout the game, and who responds is the ones that get on top. They had some more runs than we did. That's just how the game was.

THE MODERATOR: Anything else for the student-athletes? Gentlemen, we'll let the three of you go. Congratulations on a great season. We'll take questions for Coach Few now.

Q. Coach Few, Karnowski wasn't able to get it going tonight. Just talk about what Jahlil Okafor was able to do to kind of keep him from being able to be more effective.

COACH FEW: To be honest with you, it was the two fouls early. We had to sit him early, and I thought that was a big factor in that first half when we didn't have him out there. They were bringing -- first time I've seen Duke bring double teams. I think that was out of respect for Karnowski. They were coming off of either our other big if it wasn't Wilch or coming off of Wesley or Dranginis, which we've seen all year. That's kind of what other teams have done to us. Shem usually makes some nice passes out of there. Looking back on it, we probably needed to direct the ball to him a couple more times there down the stretch just to generate some baskets. And that's what we were trying to do in the one little stretch, and we just didn't -- turn the ball over. Kind of a couple silly turnovers.

Q. I think there was a stretch in that second half where right after you had the four-point lead, you went like seven possessions in a row without scoring and right in there three 3s by Pangos, Bell, and Wiltjer. Did they look like good looks?

COACH FEW: That's the one that kind of -- that little section right there sticks out in my head where -- or sequence, I should say. Those are the 3s we've been making all year. Those are the 3s that have been building runs for us all year and that get us going. Obviously I thought G.B.'s was fine and Kevin, we needed to get him some looks at 3. And Kyle's was the one that was probably not something we needed to take, especially in lieu of how the other ones went, but, again, we've all seen Kyle make that shot. So -- but that stretch I thought hurt us and then the stretch, you know, we had it 53-51 and missed a wide open layup that would have tied it. And then I think we were down 54-51 or maybe we were down 4, and Kevin got a beautiful look in the corner and just didn't hit it, another great team shot, and then we ended up, you know, going one for two from the line and traveling on a post move. So those -- that was tough way to end those -- empty possessions. But by and large, they're kind of possessions that we've converted all year. But you're right on it, that was it.

Q. You alluded to Kyle's miss on the layup that would have tied the game. It was a deflating miss, it seemed like.

COACH FEW: Well, I mean, it was a shot he makes. He would make that thing 499 times out of 500. Just a fluke, and there's nobody on the team we'd rather have taking it other than him. He's got such a beautiful touch with the ball around the rim. You know, just for some reason didn't drop and, again, same with Kev, that 3 from the corner. There's literally nobody we would rather have taking that shot at that moment in that time. When that happens, just kind of got to shake your head and it's not your night.

Q. Coach, did you go into a zone there to be able to get back into the game, you didn't go into the zone? Was it ever a thought with Okafor, looking like he was going to struggle at the line, to maybe foul him to put him out there to give yourself more possessions?

COACH FEW: No, no. We tried. They did a great job of keeping the ball from him. That was the plan in the last three minutes, never touched his hands. They do a great job of moving it and the ball is in Cook's hands and the ball is in Tyus Jones' hands, and they were isolating Winslow at the end of the possession and making plays there. We also gave up two really, really critical offensive rebounds in that stretch. We played hard enough, and, you know, it wasn't a pretty game by any stretch, but we were in position there to, you know, to bring it down to a couple possessions right at the end. But you can't -- you can't have those empty possessions like we had on offense and you certainly can't give up offensive rebounds after you defend for 25, 30 seconds.

Q. With as many weapons as they have, maybe you have to pick your poison a bit defensively. Their guard, Matt Jones, only had about ten starts this year. Was he someone you didn't expect him to go off like he did?

COACH FEW: We crossmatched with Kyle when these teams go small and athletic. We took a chance and had Kyle on him and put little rotations, different ones out there. He stepped up and hit shots. Initially we went in, we wanted to double Okafor, just trying to keep Przemek out of foul trouble early. They hit some quick 3s on that. We went back to guarding him one on one. We did a great job there. Both Domantas and Przemek did a great job guarding him one on one. But gave up a couple corner 3s to Matt Jones that we never should ever give up, that were just mental slip-ups.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.


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