UCLA After UAB Win

Mar. 21 -- Read what Steve Alford, Bryce Alford, and Tony Parker had to say after the win...

COACH ALFORD: Extremely proud of these young men. They have really been resilient all year. They've been a team that has stuck together. We were a team three months ago that had lost five games in a row. They didn't listen to the noise then. They listened in the locker room. They stayed together. They really fought to get better in practice. They competed like crazy. They're proof that, if you're resilient and you persevere when tough times hit, good things can eventually happen. No team is more rewarded and deserving than this team. They proved it again tonight, and I'm very, very pleased. We did a lot of good things in today's game, and we're excited to be the first team to punch the ticket. It's been a great couple days. One of the things they haven't been able to do is win two games away from Pauley (Pavilion) in a row, and there's no better time to do that than March.

Q. This is for Tony. In the last game, Bryce had nine 3s. Obviously, their game plan had to include getting out on the guards. How much did that help you in that first half when you had 19 points and, I think, 8 for 9 from the field around the bucket?
Tony Parker: It helped a lot. They were on Bryce a lot. He was able to get me the ball, and they didn't double. So I was getting easy looks and he kept getting it to me down the stretch. He attacked and I got good dishes from him, and he really passed the ball well today.

Q. For Tony, how easy was it there? You kind of scored pretty well. Again, 19 in the first half. You were getting a lot of close look. Just easy to convert there?
TONY PARKER: They weren't doubling. They didn't pack it in. They had to get out on the shooters. Norm (Norman Powell) hit two 3s early, so it really helped us out in the paint, and we were able to get good looks. Kevon was able to get my misses, and I was able to get his, and that helped us out a lot.

Q. I'm sure it feels great to go to Sweet 16 always, but is it especially -- I don't know if rewarding is the right word, but something like that, to do it in a season when you guys have been hearing all the criticism about you guys making the field in general?
TONY PARKER: It's just big for us to make the Tournament, and to go to the Sweet 16 again back to back is big for the program. And with Coach Alford in his first two years here, doing that is good for us, and it's good for him.

Bryce Alford: Going in, we had the confidence that we could get to the Sweet 16, and we just came out here and played with that confidence, and it worked out.

Q. For both Tony and Bryce, just a followup on that, how are you feeling one week ago today, before Selection Sunday? What were you guys thinking, and what were you feeling?
TONY PARKER: We were praying a lot. That's the big thing for us. We were going into the conference tournament hoping we could play well, and then we lost a tough one to Arizona, and the selection committee thought we were good enough to play in this tournament, and I think we proved it.

BRYCE ALFORD: We were ready to get into the conference tournament, like Tony said. We were going there to win it. We were the defending champs of the Pac-12 Tournament. So we were going there to win it. Arizona got us in a tough one. So we were just praying that we were going to get another chance to play, and we ended up doing it. Now we're proving that we belong.

Q. I asked Tony in the first half, it was relatively easy for him because they were out on you. Conversely, the second half, you had a bunch of your points, that inside-outside. How much did that assist you in the second half based on what he did in the first half?
BRYCE ALFORD: It's big. It's one of the things that we try to do the most on offense. If we can get the big fellow going and get him easy buckets at the beginning of the game, it opens everything up and takes pressure off Isaac (Hamilton), Norman, and I. Getting the ball inside is something we always try to do at the beginning of the game, and it was working. So we just kept going to him. They kind of had to sag off a little bit and relieve some pressure. So it helped to open up the outside.

Q. Tony, we talk a lot about Bryce's shooting, but today we saw him as a penetrator and a passer. How would you describe his evolution that way, as a true playmaker?
TONY PARKER: He has that in his game. Coach Alford didn't pass much. So I think Bryce focuses on being a better passer than him. That's big time for us. He passed the ball really, really well today. He always does to me.

Q. Steve, he's got a good sense of humor. Very relevant to this game, the inside-outside combo. In football, if you've got a running game and a passing game, it's really nice, but it just couldn't have worked out much better, I wouldn't think, with the first half what he did and then the second half what Bryce did. That's what you draw up, right?
COACH ALFORD: Right. Five guys in double figures in our starting lineup, that's kind of who we've been all year. So to do that in the National Tournament, that's the balance that, when we've been good, we've gotten during the year. I thought to get five guys in double figures and to outrebound this team the way we did, I thought that was the biggest key. We thought going into the game the board play would be the biggest. Halftime we were up 13 on the glass. We were able to establish paint scorers. We didn't know if they were going to double Tony or not. Teams have mixed that up on us. So we were prepared either way. When he got single coverage, then it was on Tony. We got him the ball -- and it wasn't just Bryce. Isaac got him the ball. Norman got him the ball. We did a really good job of getting it to the rim, and then Tony really finished well. Other than his first move in the second half, that was a fadeaway on a right block, everything was to the rim. When he does that, he's a big load. You're looking at 6'9", 265 -- since he's not in here, 275. He's a big body. So when he's going to the rim, that's hard to guard. I thought he had a presence today. I thought Tommy (Thomas) Welsh came in again off the bench. He had a presence. So having that center that really gives us a presence really opens some things on the perimeter and allows guys like Norman, Isaac, Bryce to be able to shoot the basketball, because all three of them were shooting. When they can get some shots that are open, that really helps the offense.

Q. Has this year been more rewarding the Sweet 16 than last year? Is this a more difficult coaching year for you compared to last year?
COACH ALFORD: They're just different. Last year, taking over a new team, you get a late start no matter -- any time there's a change of coaches, it's going to be a late start because it's April. You got to find a place to live. You're hanging out in a hotel. You've got to put together a new staff. As I mentioned, we spent probably the better part of two months just re-recruiting the guys that are currently at UCLA because it's new to them. The Wear twins (David and Travis) were getting ready to start with their third coach. That's not easy. So it was completely different. You've got a point guard like Kyle Anderson that's 6'9". So you're going to play one way. But we had some experience. We had some older guys. The Wears were in their fifth year. This team, we lost four guys in the NBA, three guys to hardship. We're the only program in the country that that happened to. And to get this team, young, inexperienced, lose five games in a row -- have a game on national TV where we score seven points in a half. Tony's right, I didn't pass that much. There weren't too many halves where personally I only scored seven in a half. To endure all that, have a five-game losing streak, and see these guys mature and grow up, last year was extremely rewarding laying a foundation, and that rewarding just continues to happen with this young, inexperienced team. You're seeing them kind of grow up right in front of your eyes, and that's been extremely rewarding to see this group get back to the Sweet 16.

Q. Coach, I'd like to ask you the same thing I asked the players. What was last Sunday like for you before the selection show? What were you feeling? What were you thinking?
COACH ALFORD: You're anxious because you're not in control. It's the first time all year we haven't been in control of something. You control what you do offensively, defensively. You're controlling who you play, how you want to play. And now all of a sudden, you lose to Arizona, and you're going to be an at large selection. So any of us that are in that at large position, you've got anxious times. Even those that thought they were 4, 5, 6, 7 seeds, that's an anxious time. Maybe you think you're in, but watch your seeding. So we thought after the way we played -- we played really well against USC. We avoided a first-round loss in the postseason tournament. A lot of teams did not avoid that. There were a lot of teams that got beat in the quarterfinal. And then we played really well, I thought, against Arizona for the second time in two weeks, both away from Pauley. So we thought we'd done enough, but you're still very, very anxious. Like I said before, first time you hear "UC" and then they say "Irvine," and then they say "The Bruins of," and they say "Belmont," you're hoping strike three doesn't come. You hope you get the call next time, and fortunately we did.

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