VIDEO: Alford after Washington State
I was really proud of our guys in the second half to do what they needed to do. It was a gut-check game for them. All the pressure was on us. Not a whole lot of pressure was on Washington State. I thought Washington State did a really good job of competing and playing extremely hard and that credit goes to Coach Kent and his staff. They played very hard and were very well prepared. They already got a win here in the city so we knew they were trying for a sweep. We took their best shot. We had a lot of guys do some really good things tonight. Obviously our senior in Norman [Powell] had a terrific game, not just with his career high but he did a lot of good things for us tonight. I thought that was big. What Tony [Parker] did off the bench gave us a big lift. He was disciplined a little bit for being late for shoot around and I credit him with how he responded. He responded in a very big way. Obviously it’s a very big win for us. They are not going to be easy, and Wednesday won’t be any easier, so we had to get by this one to set up that last one before the season concludes. This was a really good win, and I am proud of the guys.
On Norman Powell:
He has stepped up a lot and done a really good job of attacking the rim. He got to the free throw line 10 times – that is the kind of activity that we need to have. He has really matured in handling his body and who he is about as a player. Last year, he was anywhere from a 22 to 26 minute guy. You really couldn’t play him much more than that because he would have lapses. I think where he has really matured is that now there is no pacing to his game where he has learned how to play hard even in a game like this where I couldn’t get him a blow. He was in there for all 40 minutes. The same thing goes for Isaac [Hamilton] and Bryce [Alford]. They have played a lot of minutes here late in the season in these crucial games. You can’t worry about rotations – you have to go with who you are going to go with. Norman has really raised his game and that is what you really like to see out of your seniors.
On the pace of the beginning of the game:
Defensively we were doing some decent things and made some big shots. I didn’t like our pace on offense. We weren’t cutting at the rate we wanted to cut or screen at the pace that we want to screen. But those last 10 minutes, all of a sudden, we got stops, and in transition we started to cut harder and were doing a better job of screening, and we made some shots. We made some big plays when the game was around being tied and made some big plays to make it a two-possession game.
On being the favorite and the pressure:
Our guys couldn’t tell you who the favorite is or not. We obviously know we are ahead of Washington State but we are not looking at games to see if we are favored or not. At Arizona, I assume they were the favorite, but we never talked about going in there as an underdog. It is about playing well and trying to get better, and it doesn’t always work out that way. I thought we started out the game really well, we got on a good run to start the game, but then you have to credit them. I think they are first or second in the league in free throw attempts per game. We held them to 12 free throw attempts, and we had 31, so sometimes a sloppy game can look sloppy because there are a lot of free throws. I have to watch the tape. We only had 11 turnovers on the night and that’s a low turnover night again. The assists were down because we were driving so hard. In the post play, Tony had two or three bounces to get to the rim, so that takes assists out of there. But you score 72 and shoot 44 percent and only shoot 14 threes and get to the line 31 times, you outrebound your opponent, they had more turnovers than you do. There are a lot of positives in this game.
On the stakes of the NCAA Tournament:
It is not so much stakes. Our guys know what we have to do. They understand what we have to do. Our resume looks better as we get wins. We can’t help the scheduling. We said five of our first seven were on the road and down the stretch we are going to have five of the next seven at home. Other teams are going to have to finish on the road, or their record looks different by what they are doing on the road. Our resume is just going to change by getting a total number of wins. We get this one on Wednesday, we are 19-12 with the hardest strength of schedule in the Pac-12. So our schedule strength even with everyone we have lost, we have played the toughest schedule in the Pac-12. That is hard on a young team, and yet they have a chance to finish this thing at 19-12. If we win this thing, we are 11-7, and that is one game back from where we were last year, so to finish that strong would be terrific for this team. It is going to take a lot of work because we know we are going to get USC’s best shot – it is a rivalry game – so it makes it a lot of fun, it is senior night. There are a lot of pressures to that, it is not easy to do and hopefully our guys will continue to play well. We are going through a stretch where we are playing pretty good basketball.
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