March 13, 2002
Head Coach Lute Olson
Q. Could you talke about teaching, coaching and planning at this point in your career...
A. I think the experience i having been in as many appearances is certainly helpful, maybe in terms of making sure that the team doesn't get too uptight about things. We try to keep them a lot looser. I think the first few times that you are in it you are uptight yourself -- and it's hard for the players not to see that. I think that the experience has helped a lot in making them undesstand that it is not bigger than life."
Q. How is Luke Walton a different player this year?
A. "Luke always has had that great sense of how the game needs to be played. Even when I watched him play in high school, as early as his sophomore year, he just had a feel for the game that you just don't teach. He just reacts. This year the biggest thing that he needed to understand was that we had to get the ball in his hands as often as we could get it there. When he has the ball, most of the times good thingsare going to happen. If you take a look at his shooting percentage in non-conference games and take a look at his three-point shooting in conference and his shooting in general, he has improved as he adjusted to the role of scorer. Prior to this year, we had so many different scorers on the team that he didn't need to step up as much. Now he does."
Q. Could you talk about being seeded No. 3 vs. a 14 seed..
A. "I don't think there is a problem with our team, maybe there is a problem with our fans. The team understands that we have one more game and if we do a good enough job we have one more game. I don't thinkthat there is any danger whatsoever of this team looking ahead to anybody else."
Q. What about your return to The Pit and past experiences here?
A. "We are 1-1 at The Pit for neutral-site games. These (New Mexico) fans are great from the standpoint that they put a lot into the game. They are like our fans in Tucson where we said from the start that we don't need spectators -- we need participants. Our fans in Tucson participate in the game. I've said that I hope you leave McKale Center as tired as my players do. I think that it is very obvious here with this scene.We like to play in places where there are enthusiastic fans."
Guard Jason Gardner:
Q. The Wildcats have been very successful despite some serious personnel losses. Could you explain why?
A. "I think a lot of it has to do with the off-season, with Luke and Rick telling the guys in the weight room and in conditioning, how hard it was going to be. I just thought it built a lot of confidence in this team, and I think the coaching staff did a great job. Playing all (those big) games, the team has done a great job, and now it's tournament time."
Q. Some believe you won't have the support of New Mexico's fans in The Pit. Is that a factor?
A. "I hear the crowd's not going to be on our side, but I think we've played through that in all the road games that we (had). So I think it's just like playing another road game, people saying things about you, heckling you... you just have to go out there and play."
Forward Luke Walton
Q. Could there be a tendency to look past UC-Santa Barbara?
A. "That's something (coach) tells us all season, because with the amount of big games we play, there's always going to be games that you tend to overlook. So he hasn't really had to stress it that much now, because we've dealt with that before. I think he knows that Jason (Gardner) and Ricky (Anderson) and myself have been here before, so we'll be able to help the freshmen and be ready to play tomorrow."
Q. Could you talk about your break-out season...
A. "It took a while at the beginning of the year. I mean, I knew I could do this but that wasn't my role my first two years here. When this year started, it had been so long since that was my role that it took awhile to get adjusted. Then, having the confidence of the other guys on my team, confidence in myself and from the coaches helped a lot as well."