Quotes - Romar and Pondexter

SEATTLE - It was a day to celebrate on Montlake, as the Washington Huskies found out their NCAA Tournament fate, along with 64 other teams on Sunday. They will face Marquette Thursday in San Jose, Calif., with the winner to play either New Mexico or Montana on Saturday. Dawgman.com spoke with Lorenzo Romar and Quincy Pondexter about Sunday, as well as their Pac-10 Tournament title run, and more.

Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar:
On Selection Sunday: "For starters, this is a great turnout. With less than 24 hours notice, we had more people than when we won the Pac-10 championship last year. Our guys are excited, because our guys have been extremely focused the last six or seven weeks, and have now been rewarded with an NCAA Tournament berth. We don't want to give that away too soon.

On the draw: "We're playing against an exceptional basketball team. Marquette is very, very good. They've had some great wins. They are tough. They play in a tough conference. They play against some tough opponents. It's going to be an unbelievable matchup for us. But you're in the NCAA Tournament; you have to expect to play against the best."

On San Jose: "It doesn't hurt us, that's for sure. We've been to that area. We're familiar with that area, so we're pleased with that. Spokane, San Jose - all of it is West Coast. Spokane is even closer. But given the fact that we were an 11 seed, we can't complain at all going to San Jose."

On the seeding: "I thought we would be a 10 or an 11."

On Cal being seeded ahead of UW: "Beggars can't be choosers at this point. We're excited to be in the NCAA Tournament, and I don't mean that like this is a vacation. We're excited to have an opportunity to do well and advance. We felt like we were a better team than we showed earlier, and if we got the opportunity we would cherish that - because we would try our best to take advantage of that. I'm happy that Cal got a much-deserved bid into the tournament."

On this team being the equal of the UW Sweet 16 teams in the past: "I would say right now we're pretty close, the way we've been playing. Man for man, the 2005 team was awfully good in terms of the personnel, but that was a team that had a number-one seed. I think we're fairly close right now."

On finally seeing an identity emerge from his team: "I think there's no question that our team understands what butters its bread right now. We are a team that has to go out and defend, rebound and play together. If you look at the stats over the last 14 games, we're holding teams to under 40 percent from the field. That shows how our identity has been solidified."

On having their backs against the wall, and that contributing to their identity: "Well, Justin Holiday is playing a lot of minutes, and playing right. That alone helps us defensively. To add to that, Matthew Bryan-Amaning has not only become a good shot blocker, but more like a goalie around the rim. He puts out a lot of fires. When you put those two guys in with Isaiah (Thomas) and Venoy (Overton) and how they defend, it's become more of a better defensive unit."

On the juggling act with the frontcourt foul trouble against Cal and how that could help down the road: "I think right now those three (Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Tyreese Breshers and Darnell Gant) are really complimenting each other. Obviously Matthew has stepped up as the guy that plays the majority of the minutes. And then given the nature of the game, what the game dictates, either Tyreese or Darnell are able to come in there and do a good job for us. Against a quicker team, a more perimeter-oriented team, maybe Darnell is the guy. Against a stronger, bulkier team, maybe Tyreese is the guy that comes in and helps. But they all compliment each other and this team."

On seeing this identity emerge: "If you ever hear our guys refer to 'Husky Basketball', they are talking about defending, rebounding, sharing the ball and competing. We have done a good job of rebounding and competing, but we had not always done a good job of sharing the ball and defending. Once we grabbed a hold of those two, we took off."

On the ESPN Game Day catalyzing the run: "I'm not sure what it was. I've used this analogy before…sometimes the seed has been planted and the flower is blooming, but it hadn't come out of the soil yet, so you can't see it. I think the flower had been blooming for a little bit, even though we hadn't started to win yet. Then, it was just a matter of time before it sprouted up.

"The LA road trip, against UCLA we played a much better basketball game on the road. Prior to that, we had not done as well in conference. The scores were double-digits and we laid an egg in the next game against USC, but I saw progress. And it was just a matter of time before that progress would turn into wins."

On his knowledge of Marquette, back when they were in CUSA when he was at Saint Louis: "I know their athletic director, he's a good man. Marquette has played in Final Fours. You go back with Al McGuire…they were independent then. Everybody knew who Marquette was, they were a fashionable program to try and get recruited to when I was younger. More recently, with Tom Crean was he was there and Dwayne Wade and those guys, they've had some pretty exciting basketball being played. And they are continuing to do that now. They play with a real tough mindset. And Buzz (Williams), I know he's a good coach. I know he's fiery and he's tough on his guys. He demands excellence."

Quincy Pondexter:
On thoughts right now: "It's an incredible feeling right now. It's a great experience that many people don't have a chance to live. For our team to come together collectively and finish out the season the way we did, to give ourselves an opportunity to be in the NCAA Tournament, it's truly a blessing."

On the last month: "We really kept our faith. We really believed in ourselves. We knew the things that we had to correct, and we just had to play Husky basketball. Once we did those things everyone bought in to the team aspect and we played so much better together. The sky is the limit for us and we've been on a roll ever since."

On telling the younger players about the NCAA experience: "I'm going to tell them like I told them during the Pac-10 Tournament - just enjoy the experience and live your own. I can't tell them how to go about their own experience. It's theirs, and it's something they are going to have to live with for the rest of their lives. I'm going to tell them that you can't change what you do, so just come out and play basketball like you always have been and let the wins and losses take care of themselves."

On any frustrations knowing there was a chance a while back he wouldn't make the tournament again: "It's truly a blessing. There's not much I can say, because if certain things didn't bounce the way they did, maybe we're not in this tournament, and I don't have a chance to play for a national championship again. So I'm just really proud of the coaching staff and my teammates for really coming together and getting the season on the right course."

On Marquette: "One of my teammates from the USA basketball last summer is on the team - Lazar Hayward. He's a tremendous player. He leads those guys. That team is a really scrappy team that plays well together. It's going to be a tough battle, and I see a lot of similarities between ourselves and them in this game."

On the run to win the Pac-10 Tournament: "I don't know the words to explain it. It was incredible. I can't really explain it. We had so many questions going into the last month of the season, and for us to take it one game at a time and cap it with that type of championship and secure a spot…it meant a lot to all of us."

On anticipating the rest of the season playing out like it did: "I never even looked at it as…I never looked down the road too far to say, if we win this game or if we win these games or we're going to have to win this many games to get into the tournament. We took it one game at a time, and before you know it - we're in, regardless of what happens with the selection committee. It was truly a great experience to live and I just appreciate everything that's happened so far."

On Lazar Hayward: "He's very versatile. He's a really strong guy. He can shoot outside shots, he can take it to the basket…he plays extremely hard. That's his best asset. He's really similar to a Robbie Hummel, who is the heart and soul of a team and they play harder than anyone. It's going to be a tough matchup, whoever matches up with him, because he's such a great player."

On taking the experiences he learned in Portland last year to San Jose: "Don't lose. (laughs). That's it. The only thing I know is that it is a time where, if you lose you're out. So everyone has to play like it's their last game. So regardless of what happens, what's the score…if things aren't going for us early we have to try and find a way to win these games. Because it could be our last. We're going to have to fight, because we are going to be the underdogs going into this thing, and it's going to be a lot of fun."

On enjoying being the underdogs: "It doesn't matter. We're in, so no matter what…if we were a 16 seed I think we would have the same mindset as everyone else in this tournament. And that's to surprise some people and win this whole thing. It's going to be a tough matchup every week. Every game, every week…and we're going to have to see how it plays out these next however many games."

On comparing to where this team was at last year: "We have a great momentum right now. Last year we had momentum, but at times we got complacent with success. Now we have a real roll that we're on. We found our identity a lot later than last year's team did. Last year's team, we found our identity relatively early after some losses. And this team, we kept getting hit over the head with the same thing over and over again. So I think we've learned a lot as a team and we're really clicking at the right time."

On playing so close to his hometown of Fresno: "It means a lot to me because it's the NCAA Tournament. I know I want to get this team really far, and it's in California. It's where my family going to have a chance to watch me play these games. We don't have to worry about flights for these couple games. It's going to be a lot cheaper for us all. I felt my phone buzzing even before I found out where we were going, so I know all my cousins and my family members are all going to be begging me for tickets, but I can't distract myself with that. They are going to have to go buy their own."

On what Husky Basketball means to him: "What Husky Basketball means to me is playing at a high level: It's defending; it's rebounding; it's sharing; it's sharing the ball and competing. Those are the rules we live by to play Husky Basketball. It's really made us into the team that we are coming down the stretch this season."

At what point did this team start playing Husky Basketball?: "I didn't realize it until a week ago. We hadn't really had a chance to reflect because of our schedule and how much we'd been on the road. But as of right now we've been playing great basketball. It's hopefully something we can carry over to the NCAA Tournament and see how far it takes us."

On the turnaround in becoming road warriors: "It's been a great turnaround. Some guys have really stepped up and embraced their roles. Guys have been playing much better, and we've been peaking at the right time. It's hard to say, but in basketball you need that to win games. We've been playing that way, and it's been taking care of itself on the road or wherever we are - neutral site or wherever."

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