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Sweet 16 Press Conference Transcript
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: March 22, 2011
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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March 22, 2011

Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller:

How does it feel to go to the Sweet Sixteen with such a young team, who is experiencing it for the first time:
"It's an incredible feeling, and it's an incredible feeling when it first happens, when you're at your previous site, and you see the emotions in the locker room, and how much it means, and the reason it means so much is that it's so hard to do. I think that at that moment in time, every player and coach knows how hard it was, and all that goes into it prior to the game being played. The focus, the ups and downs, the adversity a season brings, and to be here at the end, and to move through the tournament with only sixteen teams is just, an incredible feeling. Then reality sets in, and the reality is that you want to play well in your next game, and you prepare and get to the next site, and that's when it starts all over there. It's really a renewed feeling of what you first felt at the previous site, and that's the reality of being a part of this great tournament with sixteen teams, and the thrill. I will also say that it's a little like making the NCAA Tournament. The next context is that you want to play well. You don't want to be that team that's just giddy about being there. Enjoying the thrill and all that goes into being a part of this, but at the same time very focused on trying to be the best you can be, because the one thing about this tournament is that it's not like the NBA playoff series, where it's just hard for an underdog to win a seven game series. In this tournament, from this point on, it's the team that plays the best on that day. Once in a while, different things can accompany a game. Foul problems and injuries, bad play, and just the opposite. A great individual player, a great play, hot shooting. We're trying to put ourselves in a position to be at our best on Thursday. That's not the focus."

How does the short turnaround work with the players going to class:
"It's very quick, but it's like that for both teams. I think the hard part of our journey was leaving Tulsa and getting back to Tucson. If you were on Tulsa time, I think we got back at three-thirty, four in the morning because we had a delay. You go through those two games in three days, then get back that late, and yesterday was pretty much a wash. We would have been foolish to try to do a whole lot. My hope was that our guys were able to get both feet on the ground yesterday, and then today, you're practicing, but you leave right afterwards. It's almost as if it hasn't really stopped. That's all about being a mature team, a focused team, and that's what's required in this tournament because it's very difficult to advance. Now, when you face an opponent like Duke, the stakes can't be any higher. The second wave of travel, we're not going nearly as far as they are. They probably drove back on Sunday and were home at a reasonable time, but their travel across the country is going to be very different than our hour flight. It's quick, but every team in the tournament is reading about themselves and listening, and again, it's part of that thrill of being one of those teams."

On someone stepping up when Derrick Williams gets covered:
"We've been a true team in every sense of the word, and that's where our success should be credited. We've played ten players in every game this season. We've played eleven in quite a few more. The guys who come off the bench, who don't start are just as important to our success. We all recognize Derrick and his terrific season, and what he brings to the table, but just like the other day, when he was out of the game, we played very well. When he was in the game, different players have to play well around him. We've had that throughout the season, and I don't know if we've gotten enough credit for having so many contributions from a lot of players. Sometimes we only have one double-figure scorer, but the other part is we have five or six guys on a given night that are capable of being a double-figure scorer."

On Jordin Mayes' progress:
"Jordin played with incredible poise this past weekend. It wasn't just his shooting, but it was his overall play that helped spearhead this team to the Sweet Sixteen. Again, one of the things that helps Jordin is that he's played every game. He's been on the road, he's been in the Pac-10 Tournament. He's bee, more than any player on the team, very comfortable in the role that he has. And that role has grown recently, because of his terrific play."

On Duke's Kyrie Irving being back for their team:
"It's different to prepare for them, because I don't know if there's ever been a situation like this very often, where such an elite player misses almost the entire season, and then comes back for the most pivotal time of year. We've watched them a little bit with him, and watched them quite a bit without him, and he's just an excellent guard, like so many other great guards who have played at Duke. You look at Nolan Smith, and both of them out there together, and very few teams have two guards who are that good, on the court at the same time. We have to watch the early tapes because that's when he played, but if you watched him in the first two games, I'm sure it's a challenge for Duke to just bring him along at a good pace, and at the same time keep the others players in the same roles they've had, and have had so much success in. They really earned a number one seed almost without him, and now you put him back into the equation, and I'm sure that's what they're trying to work through that."

More general thoughts on Duke:
"I think that, no matter who the coach is, or what team you coach, when you play Duke, it's about one thing: giving them the proper respect that they deserve from the perspective of there not being a harder playing, consistent team, than them. Whether it's in the forty minutes of the game they're currently playing, or if you look at the season. They take everybody's best shot, and they don't flinch. Every team tries to match their intensity and effort, and at best it's almost a wash. For us, looking at our game, it's almost the one thing we're trying to instill in our team is that this game is so much about great effort, because the team you're playing is great at that. They have a lot of talent, a great coach, defense is terrific, but it's their effort level that they play at that sometimes can catch you off guard. We're trying to not let that happen to us. They've struggled from the three sometimes in their losses, and sometimes in their good games, but you can say that about any good team. When they're making three point shots, to me, they're almost unbeatable. What you want to do is defend the three point line as best you can. I will say that is something we've been good at from start to finish, and we're going to need to be really good at that on Thursday. For me that's one of our goals for that game. To do as good a job as any team has done in trying to make sure their three point shots are challenged, and to make sure that we are out there, because they can really break the game open when they're making threes. They play with great intensity on defense, they have size. They have such a great identity on defense of taking you out of what you normally do. Taking care of the ball, and making sure that whatever we run, we run hard, and that we try to get great shots. Easier said than done, but their defense really feeds their offense, and their defense, as it feeds their offense, they get those three point shots going, and you've seen it almost a hundred times, that's how they do teams in, many, many times. Same thing on offensive rebounding. They're bigger. Right now, and maybe some other Duke teams in the past, and they really tried to offensive rebound, and when they get the offensive rebound, sometimes it results in a three point shot. They're the very best at giving great effort, getting second shots, kicking it out, back breaking three. A lot like Texas, and we did a very good job rebounding against them, and we have to rebound as well. You rebound and try to defend the three point shot as best you can, through our own defense, and through our own offense, you really try to play the game with very few turnovers. Don't allow them to disrupt and steal the ball like they can. If you're solid in that, then that's our best chance at winning.

On Kyryl Natyazhko's impact on the Texas game:
"Kyryl's rise really started about three or four weeks ago, when we went to LA and played poorly as a team against USC and UCLA. He was the one bright spot. The bigger and more physical team that we play, the more value Kyryl has. He was really good, as Jordin Mayes was this weekend. His statistics won't reveal that, but the impact he had on the game was significant. His size and presence, his ability to rebound really helped. In one of the last plays against Texas, he was very involved in getting that offensive rebound that kept the ball alive for us."

On winning on the last possession and the feelings that come from it:
"To advance in the tournament, no matter how you do it, is such a thrill. This time of year is one of the great times of year for a sports fan because it seems like every game comes down to the end. However you're able to win, every team takes it and feels very good."

On balancing giving Duke the respect they deserve without getting awed:
"Part of it is the program we represent. It's not as if this is a first time thing at Arizona. Regardless of our current team's status, the history of our program, we're at a place that many Arizona teams have been at in the past, and that helps. I really believe that. We're played against a lot of really great teams. I've watched our Pac-10 conference in the NCAA Tournament, and you really look at the quality of play of the UCLA games and the Washington games. It's not a far stretch to imagine that all three of us could still be in this Sweet Sixteen. Those two games were two of the hardest-fought losses of the tournament, UCLA and Washington. We've played some really good teams. We've played Kansas on a neutral court, and this point in time, just beating Texas, I don't really look at our team with having a problem with being star struck. I also know that we respect Duke tremendously, as well we should."

On Kevin Parrom and his foot:
"Kevin has made a lot of progress, and that's one positive thing. When he went down in the game, sometimes you don't know the degree of the injury. We feared it was a high ankle sprain, which can sometimes take longer to recover, but he's worked tirelessly, around the clock, and Justin is a great trainer, and I believe that, just based on watching where he was and where he is that he will be able to play and be effective. He started right away with what he needed to do to play on Thursday, but the good news is that we still have a couple more days. We're not on a long flight, and we're going to practice him today. We do expect him to play. I'm hoping that he will be effective."

On interaction with Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski:
"I've had very little interaction with him. I respect him like all coaches do, and admire what he's done, not only at Duke but what he's really done for Team USA and reviving that. Playing him in the NCAA Tournament isn't a thrill. Whoever you are, it's seems like they're going to be there, and it's a real credit to their program. The ultimate respect is what I have for him, and the reason is that I admire how hard his teams play, and as the faces change, that's the common thing. Their effort level is amazing, and that's something that we all try to instill in our own teams."

On hypothetically preparing for Duke by their characteristics, not by their players:
"Their defense is very similar year in, year out, but their offense changes depending on who they feature. Sometimes it's one player, other times it's two, but like any great coach, on offense they really tailor what they can do to the players that score. Offense no, defense yes, effort level, certainly yes."

Is this the biggest game of your coaching career?:
"No. The game in the Elite Eight to go to the Final Four, I would say would be bigger, but when you get to this level, you can't take it for granted. Our objective is that we can't necessarily control what Duke does, but in a quick turnaround there's only so much you can do to prepare. We have to go out on the court on Thursday and play with tremendous effort, and do the things that make us a good team. There's a reason that we are twenty-nine and seven. There's a reason why we're in the Sweet Sixteen, and we have to do those things as well as we can on Thursday, and let the chips fall where they may. Anything can happen in the round of sixteen, just like all the things that have happened in the first two rounds. It's just a matter of who plays well and are we going to be able to match Duke's effort level because that's going to be part of the game."

On incorporating the experience alums into planning for a team who is so young:
"They're always incorporated. They really are. We talk about it endlessly, the great tradition we have. It's such a family atmosphere at Arizona that only a program like Duke can come close to resembling it. To me, those guys have reached out in such a major way to congratulate us in advancing. The pride that they have about us being in this round and this game, or even getting back to the tournament, it's really felt among our current team. I think every player on our team understands that everyone who has played at Arizona is proud of where we are and hopeful that we can keep going."

On the awareness of Arizona's history with Duke:
"I'm very aware. You almost have two giants in college basketball for such a long period of time that it only makes sense that some of the great games in the tournament, very meaningful games--National Championship, Final Four--were played between the two programs. It's nice to be able to play them again, and if our program continues to grow, the one constant will be that we play them more. They're going to be there.

Arizona Player Quotes

Lamont "MoMo" Jones:

What are the days between games like?
"Sleep, get treatment, scout, just try to heal your body as fast as you can for the next run."

How much do you think about Duke?
"None. I worry about them when we get into the locker room and we watch film. As far as my off time, just laying around the house, I'm getting rest. I try not to think about it. Of course it's a big game, it's probably the biggest game of our college career right now--the Sweet Sixteen against Duke, a number one seed. It's a big game and I try not to think about it because I know how I get when I get hyped up. I just try to stay levelheaded about the whole situation."

On Kyryl Natyazhko and Jordin Mayes' improvement throughout the season:
"They bring a lot of dimensions to this team. Kyryl is a heck of a screener. In the Texas game, that's what he did. He came in and he rebounded the ball. He screened and took up space like we need him to. With Jordin, he's just been playing with a great amount of confidence. Over the year he just got better and better. I think he's got a lot more confidence, and I think it has a lot to do with us letting him know that we do believe in him, and we do think he's a part of this team."

On Coach Miller's previous experience at the Sweet Sixteen:
"He hasn't really said much about it. We all know he's been there, but it's a different situation with us. It's a different school, different era. There's no game more important than this one we are about to play."

On the team going to class before leaving for Anaheim:
"You have to go to class if you want to play. I don't think about the game. School is school, and that's it. It has a whole different thing going on there. You have to worry about school, not anything else."

On calling Derrick Williams `Superman':
"It's just a joke that we play around with. When he makes plays like that, we joke and say the things we say. We say it to everybody. If it was somebody else who made that shot, they might have been `Superman' for that day. To us he was Superman and he made a great play."

On the L.A. guys getting to go home, whereas he is from New York:
"A game is a game, no matter if it's played in New York or in Anaheim...We just want to make it to the next round. It doesn't matter where we station, we just have to win. I think if we played this game in the street, it would be just as intense. It's Duke, it's the Sweet Sixteen, it's the NCAA Tournament. A lot is riding on it. Like I said before, it doesn't matter where you play it."

On who steps up for the team on a given night:
"Any given night, anybody can step up. Everybody looks to Derrick, and Derrick is going to be Derrick, night in and night out. We all can contribute, and we all can have big games. As seen this year, we all can go do stretches where we play our best basketball. That's why we're in the Sweet Sixteen. We're not here because of Derrick, or because of Coach Miller being Coach of the Year. We're in the Sweet Sixteen as a team, and we practice as a team. We win as a team, we lose as a team, we fight as a team. We know a lot of people are going to key onto Derrick, and some nights a lot of guys will key on to me, or Solomon (Hill), or to Kevin (Parrom). A lot of people try to key on the key players of this team, but there's not just one key player on this team. If you key onto me, or to Derrick, or Solomon, or Kevin, there's somebody like Blav, who can step up like he did the other night, or Jordin Mayes, who can come off the bench and step up like he did the other night. You can't really focus on too many people on this team because we have a team of people that can perform on the highest levels."

On winning in the final seconds:
"It's a relief. Down two, last second shot, and one, made free throw, go to the Sweet Sixteen. It's a relief feeling, but at the same time, we understand the fact that it's the NCAA Tournament, and every game is going to be close. There aren't many teams that are going to get blown out at the NCAAs. That's just the nature of it. You're there because you're one of the best teams in your conference. You had a great season, and you could play with anybody. A lot of people have shown that. Every night is going to be a war and it's going to be a dog fight."

On what Coach Miller means by `nastiness is going to be required':
"It means to be nasty. It means to be physical, it means to rebound the ball, it means not to get punked most of all. It means to leave everything on the court and play with as much heart as you can play with, and with as much emotion as you can play with."

How does the experience of playing in the tournament compare to what you thought it would be?:
"It helps a lot. The first two games were dogfights, and it went down to the wire. Both games could have gone either way. We have a sense of how hard everybody is going to play now. Those two games were just to get to the Sweet Sixteen. It wasn't even the cream of the crop. Now, this is where champions are made, and we have a sense of how hard everybody is going to play, and we have a sense of how hard we have to play in order to win."

Brendon Lavender:

On the quick turnaround:
"We've got a lot of tension right now, but it has to do with maturity. You have to focus and be humble. Can't let it get to your head because we really haven't done too much. We've done a lot, but we're going to the Sweet Sixteen, and we haven't won yet. We just have to stay humble and be ready for this next game."

On the last time Arizona and Duke faced each other in the NCAA Tournament:
"I watched that game before, with my great-grandmother. She's a great sports fan. She just watches all the college games. Football, basketball, everything. Duke has always been a great team. It was a great game, and they came ready to play. I just remember watching Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas going against them. Hopefully it's a different result in this next game, for us. They've had one of the greatest coaches in college. I guess, as a basketball player, you look up to teams with that great of talent, but, like MoMo said, we're Arizona and we're also iconic, so we just have to focus on ourselves."

What is your charge as part of the second unit?:
"Just try to be the toughest team out there. Just be intense and meet their level of aggressiveness. We want to be the toughest team out there, and just do what we do. As reserves, we just want to fill in our spots, play our role, and we try to do our best. It's kind of tough to get into the flow of a game, sitting down for five to ten minutes, but we come in focused and ready to do our part. We practice every day, and if we're open, we'll knock down a shot."

On being one of the guys on the team with tournament experience, and how this year is different:
"For me, this year, we worked really hard to get to where we are right now. I feel like our freshman year, our record wasn't that good, and I didn't feel like it mattered. This year, we've been working so hard. It's a great feeling to get to where we are right now. I'm just happy for the team, I'm happy for the coaching staff, and I can't wait to play Duke."

On struggling with his shot this season, and how the Texas game helped:
"It's a great confidence booster. With shooters, you just have to keep shooting. With the minutes I get, I want to do my best and play my role, and if I get the chance against Duke to knock down a couple shots, that's what I'm going to do."

On the 2009 season's tournament run, again:
"I feel like this team is more focused and determined to win. Our freshman year, we didn't have that same motivation. This year, we're really on top of everything. I'm excited."

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