Lonzo Ball (USA Today)

UCLA Post-Cincinnati Press Conference

Mar. 19 -- UCLA's Lonzo Ball, Bryce Alford and coach Steve Alford answer questions from the media after the win against Cincinnati in the second round of the NCAA Tournament...

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations to the UCLA Bruins who move forward to the Sweet 16. They will meet Kentucky in the next round in Memphis, Tennessee. This is a rematch of a game between UCLA and Kentucky on December 3rd which was won by the Bruins 97-92. Our student-athletes are Bryce Alford and Lonzo Ball along with head coach, Steve Alford. Coach, you had a 3-point deficit at the half and turned it around in the second half.

STEVE ALFORD: Well, I'm just really proud of our guys. For Isaac and Bryce it's their third Sweet 16 in four years, and now we're trying to advance past that. It will be no easy task, obviously, but need it do win this bracket, and that's been our focal point all week is to win our bracket.

We knew we were going to have a really tough out here in Cincinnati and that proved to be true. I got so much respect for Mick and his staff and the way they play. So for us to do what we did in the second half, score 49, shoot it at a 62 clip against a defense like that, it's very encouraging. We will take a lot of confidence to our next bracket, which is good and hopefully we take a lot of confidence to what we did defensively because I thought we were really good, especially second half. But we had moments in the first half where we were really good as well. This team showed its colors again. There are not a lot of games this time of year being played, 21 assists and 3 turnovers. I think we had 6 on Thursday.

So we just played two games in the NCAA Tournament and we're yet to have 10 turnovers. I think we have 9 for the tournament. That's a job well done. Very excited for this team and this group of guys, 31 wins. They're taking us coaches on a terrific journey, and I'm very, very pleased.

Q. Coach, could you talk about that second half? You scored 30 points in the first half, but the defense created a lot of opportunities for you guys.
STEVE ALFORD: It did. We talked about that. They do a lot of switching and I thought to start the game it was pretty good. We got out, ran, and did some things and then we started standing around looking at the switching and you can't do that especially that team because that team is big, long, strong, physical.

So we talked at halftime about more ball movement more people movement and the key to that was going to be defensive stops and we came out in the half and got three stops in a row and they had to call timeout and we scored on all three of those possessions. So when we get stops we're a whole different type of offensive team it takes us to another level so I thought our defense was the key to the second half.

Q. TJ and Bryce had combined three points. How did you get yourself going in the second half, 24 points in the second half and brought a lot of energy. How did you recharge and get going in the second half?
BRYCE ALFORD: We're not used to doing that. TJ and I, that's our role on the team to be scorers and we were upset with the way both of us played so it was an aggressive mentality. I talked to TJ at halftime and made sure that he stayed aggressive. That's all you can too is stay aggressive and continue to trust in what you do and we both got hot in the second half and that helped.

Q. Lonzo, throughout the second half you keyed that big run you guys had and you stayed calm like you always tend to do at all times. Is that something you have worked on over time? For Steve, do you ever wonder in Lonzo is going to show any emotion on the court?
LONZO BALL: I've been playing like that my whole life, nothing new. It's a 5-on-5 game, not just me out there, so credit to them, too.

STEVE ALFORD: I think his teammates play off that. That's not his role. We said from day one, I remember Bryce going to him in Australia, be who you are. Do what you do. He's been built for success, built as a winner, trained to be a winner all of his life and showing a lot of emotion is not part of it. I think if you look at our team through 35 games we've had teams make runs against us. We've been down before.

We haven't been rattled much and when your point guard plays with the poise that ours plays with I think it has a calming affect on everybody. Things didn't click the way we wanted them to offensively in the first half. But there was no panic. There has never been panic in our locker room or in a huddle. A lot of that has to do with Zo's demeanor.

Q. Just your thoughts on Sacramento, Golden 1 Center, the vibe in the building the last three days?
BRYCE ALFORD: Yeah, it was a blast to play in. We had a ton of fans here, so that was really good. Really thankful for the support, for them coming out to watch us. Obviously it's a beautiful arena, brand new. It was a blessing to play here for sure.

LONZO BALL: Piggybacking on what he said. The fans are great. It always helps when you can play in your state and definitely helps even more when you get wins.

Q. Lonzo, you go to the half. I don't think you had an assist. The team held to 30 points. Do you go in there and think it's a matter of time that you guys are going to explode at some point?
LONZO BALL: I just play the game the best way I feel I can play it. Bryce and TJ weren't hitting the first half. That's a good and bad thing. Bad that they're not scoring, but good that I know they're not going to do that two halves in a row. Credit to them. It's a good team effort.

Q. When you took the lead for good, Lonzo you hit two three-pointers, and it seems like you know when the moment it. Is that in the back of your mind?
LONZO BALL: I'm a game of runs, I feel like I have a good feel for the game and when it's time for me to make plays I try to do my best.

STEVE ALFORD: He has a great feel for the game, not good, great.

Q. It's not often you may a nonconference opponent twice in the season now you are going to play Kentucky. You beat them on their home court and now you're going to have to play a team with an edge. How do you go about with the mindset?
STEVE ALFORD: We'll enjoy this. We got a flight back we're going to enjoy, get back to Westwood and enjoy this, get tomorrow off. At least we know them pretty well as far as prep goes and they obviously know us and I've got a ton of respect for Cal, his staff and their team.

It's a very, very good basketball team and I think they're better now in March than they were when we played them in December, and I think we're better than what we were in December as well. Makes for a great match-up. I don't know if all the other regions went chalk, but it's 1, 2, 3, 4 in the south. So that south region and bracket is going to be a lot of fun.

Q. Steve, how important was pace and tempo in this game? Secondly, the gauntlet here coming up could be Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas in that order. How well prepared is this team for that?
STEVE ALFORD: I think we're very well prepared for whatever is thrown at us, just because we're 35 games in. Doesn't mean it's going to be easy. It gets tougher each bracket that you get to. This bracket that we're getting ready to take on next weekend, that's a demanding bracket. This team sitting March 20th now, and every team we've played on our schedule we've beaten, every single team we've beaten and I don't know how many. I bet there's three, four, five teams in the Sweet 16 that we've already played.

So the schedule has been great. I think we've been drilled for this and for our guys to be this consistent, and you get 31 wins at this level your guys have done a lot of good things. We'll prepare for them, do the best we can and we know we got a tall order ahead of us. We also know we're a very good basketball team.

Q. I know the whole goal is to win a National Championship. Three straight Sweet 16s, that is an accomplishment within itself. Talk about that experience?
BRYCE ALFORD: Getting to the Sweet 16 is very difficult let alone just getting into the tournament, so for me to be able to say at the end of my career I've been to three Sweet 16s at the end of four years is a blessing. I'm proud of that and the teammates I have had over the four years and it just shows we've been successful for four years. I know that the goal is to get to a Championship, get into the Sweet 16 is very difficult in and of itself.

Q. Steve, in all your years of basketball when this team is clicking like this is that some of the most impressive stuff that you've seen over the years?
STEVE ALFORD: It's fun. We talked about it all year. The national media has talked about it all year. I think they've been point on. I don't know of a more fun basketball team to watch when we're clicking and we've had a lot of games where we've been clicking. I think the difference is in the last seven weeks we've been better defensively. Now we can go to a different level offensively and you saw that in the second half.

Bryce has mentioned it. Guys have mentioned it. It's just a blessing. They're taking our coaching staff on an incredible journey all year long! It started in the summer, back in June, July, we go to Australia together. This entire journey, it's been a Godsend. We're very blessed that we've had this opportunity to do that and now we get to the next bracket and hopefully we can keep this thing going.

If any group of guys deserves it, it's this group of guys. They deserve everything that they're getting because of how hard they've worked, the type of character they have, how well they get along, the chemistry we've have. They've been a complete joy to coach.

Q. Steve, I wanted to ask you to address the tempo and the pace. How important was that?
STEVE ALFORD: Yes, I failed to do that. I apologize.

Q. That's okay.
STEVE ALFORD: We talked about that at half time. The first 20 minutes was Cincinnati's pace, 33-30. They were being efficient offensively. Our defensive efficiency was 110. We talked about that. It can't be there. It's got to be in the 90s for us to have a chance. I haven't seen the last numbers, but my oldest son told me our offensive efficiency in the second half was 150-something, and if that's true, that's crazy. It doesn't happen very often, so we got the tempo going in the second half at a much faster pace than what it was in the first.

Q. Steve, there is a published report out saying that you've been offered a contract by Indiana.
STEVE ALFORD: I addressed the Indiana situation maybe Thursday, and I don't have anything else to say on that. This is about our team. I've already addressed that matter and I'm not going to address it anymore. This is about our team and what these guys are doing. Like I've said over and over again, it's a journey I feel blessed to have a chance to be a head coach at UCLA and in particular this group of young men and the young men that we have in our locker room, it's phenomenal. I'm going to enjoy this ride as long as we possibly can.


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