Men's Basketball Weekly Press Conference Quotes

March 18, 2002

Head Coach Lute Olson

Opening Statement:
'Just in general about our advancing to the Sweet 16, I thought we played probably as well as we needed to play to get those two wins. The way Santa Barbara shot the ball from three really created a problem for us. But again down the stretch, we made the shots and free throws that we needed to make. With Wyoming, their front line was very physical and, I thought, very talented. But then again, it seemed like the same kind of thing. We'd get the lead up to 10 and then suddenly be back down to five or three. That's, in my opinion, because the other two teams were highly competitive. The game becomes a game of runs and you just hope that your run lasts longer or is the final run of the game.'

'With the matchup with Oklahoma, it's a tough matchup for us. The three teams that they would be the most like would be the three teams we've had the most trouble with-Connecticut, Kansas and Oregon. Their perimeter guys are very quick, they shoot the ball from out. But they take the ball to the basket really well too, very quick perimeter players. They go to the boards a lot, similar to USC. They send four guys and they're very athletic and very quick. So it's not just our inside guys who have to do the job on the boards, it's everybody. Defensively, they really get after you hard. I notice in their stats that they've given up a lot more fouls than their opponents. Defensively, they're probably more like ASU on the perimeter than anybody else that we've played recently. Connecticut and Kansas were similar also, in that you're fighting to get open for every pass. They get into you hard and once you catch the ball, it's a case of you'd better set good screens and you'd better make good cuts and stay active throughout the possession.'

'They (Oklahoma) are in an attack mode all the time with their quickness, the best comparison for me are the three teams I mentioned earlier-Kansas, Connecticut and Oregon. All three of those teams are very attack oriented and I think Oklahoma is, as well.'

Regarding the difficulty of playing well for 40 minutes:
'Better teams don't have the same kind of problems that we have, or have had. I think now, the young guys understand it's the time of the season where you'd better be ready to put together 40 minutes and I think we're getting closer to that. Sometimes, if we get in trouble during the course of the game, it's when we're taking quick shots and not letting the game come to us. But we've been able to come out and play well early. And we've been able to come out of the locker room and play well and still have some times in between where we may appear that we're lagging but that may also have something to do with the other team. But the worst problem we still have is becoming a patient offensive team.'

Do you feel that the tough schedule helped the team in Albuquerque?
'It's pretty obvious that the schedule we've played has been very important to us. As I've indicated throughout the years we've always tried to play two or three non-conference games in tough environments. I think that experience was really helpful to us. I'm actually relieved that we could get through the situation in Albuquerque because I was very concerned about the altitude. I don't believe as Tark (Jerry Tarkanian) believed that it doesn't make any difference because you're playing inside anyway, as he told his teams. (laughter) But I think in terms of what we took out of there, it was great to see Channing (Frye) have the kind of game that he did. I really feel like our young post guys are doing a better job of getting their men sealed off and making quick moves with the ball, as opposed to what we dealt with up until about two weeks ago. We're reacting much better and quicker inside. I think anytime you can continue to win in tournament play, and I'm talking about the Pac-10 and here, every game has been a win or go home kind of thing. I think that's good for our guys because they're very competitive people and, like in the Pac-10 tournament, they did not want to leave until they had a chance to play on Saturday. I think that's the same thing that's going on right now.'

'The NCAA Tournament is always a different experience because you're 40 minutes from the end of your season. That's the biggest thing. Now, in our going to San Jose, it's going to be a large arena with more of an NCAA (neutral-site) feel, as opposed to playing in Albuquerque which was like playing on the road. In San Jose, I think there will be a lot of Oklahoma fans, a lot of Arizona fans, a lot of UCLA and Missouri fans. I think it will be more of a feel of an NCAA Tournament than what we faced in Albuquerque. That's the reason we play in The Pond in Anaheim, in America West Arena this year, is to get that kind of environment of an NCAA Tournament game.'

'Interestingly enough, we've played all four teams that are left in the Midwest bracket, Illinois, Kansas, Texas and Oregon. And that's indicative of how tough our schedule was.'

On what he expects from Jason Gardner in Regional play at San Jose:
'Exactly what we got in Albuquerque, great court leadership, he had eight assists and not very many turnovers.'

'Jason understands that his job is more than just scoring. Early in the year, it was obvious that wer had to have him score a lot. I thought he did a good job defensively of keeping his guy out of the lane, better than probably what we would have seen early in the year. With that game against Wyoming, if you looked at the shooting percentages of him and Luke, you'd think we were in big trouble. But we got big production from Channing. I don't know what the percentage for the three juniors was, but it wasn't good. We were able to win despite Jason not having a great shooting game. But typical of Jason once it got down to crunch time, he was pretty good, as he always is.'

'I think they (the freshmen) have gotten a lot better, and I think they'll be better after practice today. That's how critical time is for them, they're just very young guys that need experience. And the only way to get experience is experience. Channing has stepped up very big for us, Isaiah (Fox) has stepped up big. Dennis Latimore's defensive job on Saturday was key, he did a great job for us. Probably the best we've seen out of Dennis in terms of reaction and recognizing when someone was in trouble, switching out and that kind of thing. The contribution of both he and Isaiah, although you didn't see them for a long time, they really did a nice job for us.'

On Channing Frye's recent performances:
'As you recall, he had some great games in the early part of the Pac-10. I think the biggest thing with Channing is he needs to stay focused. During that stretch where he had a number of good games in the league, I think he got a little complacent. The bench is a great motivator. I think he likes starting rather than sitting on the bench at the start.'

On Kelvin Sampson's success at Oklahoma:
'I'm happy to see the success they're having. Even at Washington State when they weren't winning, Kelvin was doing a great job. It's a lot easier to get it done in Norman than Pullman. He's a hard-worker, a quality guy and he does things the right way. He's got a great staff. It's certainly going to be a challenge for us, but I'm happy to see them surviving to this point.'

'We played them in a home-and-home back when Billy Tubbs was there. I think it would be a great matchup, I think it'd be national television on that. Both Kelvin and Karen have been good friends to both Bobbi and I.'

Junior Jason Gardner:

'For the freshmen, playing at Michigan State, at Madison Square Garden, that has helped a lot.'

'I know they (Oklahoma) are big guys and one of our biggest things is getting offensive boards. And that's one of their strongest points. I think they have some similarities to ASU because they go to the boards hard.'

On the tournament success of Pac-10 teams:
'UCLA is one team I wouldn't want to play in the first or second round. They are a team that always turns it up at tournament time.'

'In a way, we've got a bit of an advantage (against Oklahoma's guards) because we've been playing quick guards all year long in the Pac-10. I don't know about the Big 12's guards.'

'The main thing is don't look ahead. If things aren't going your way, you can't get down. After the first round, you really get an understanding about playing hard. You understand what's going on in the tournament. It shows that you can't look ahead and that seeds don't matter because anyone can beat anybody.'

'They're big, their defensive pressure makes you turn the ball over. Those are our two biggest things this week, rebounding and taking care of the ball.'

Junior Rick Anderson:

'It's been an up-and-down year and we've succeeded. We want to keep succeeding for our fans and for Tucson. It (San Jose) is going to be an neutral site. There's going to be Arizona fans, Oklahoma fans, Missouri fans and UCLA fans. Every team is going to have their own little section.'

'They (Oklahoma) are very good, they are probably playing as well as anyone in the nation right now. We have to go in and think we are better than them and play like it. It's going to be the toughest game of the season.'

'It (the season) is a success, but last week is over. The past is past. Now we need to concentrate on this week.'

On the performance of the freshmen thus far in the NCAA Tournament:
'They go out there and play their butts off, they don't get nervous. They all have different personalities and have really fit in well. That's what has brought this team together.'

'It all depends on who steps up. We just have to play good basketball. It's that simple. That team with (Eduardo) Najera in 1999 was excellent, but this (Oklahoma) team is even better.'

'Games are decided by players that have the most heart, the most confidence, the most desire to win. Mentally, it's a huge thing in the tournament. A lot of teams that lost (in the first and second rounds) weren't mentally prepared to play. We have to be mentally prepared.'

On possible comparisons between Oklahoma and any Pac-10 teams:
'They (Oklahoma) are one of a kind. They run like Oregon, they play defense like Oregon, they have big guys like USC and they have some shooters like UCLA and (Jason) Kapono. We've got to run our offense and move the ball.'

'They are going to focus on Luke and Jason, so I have to step up and play.'

Junior Luke Walton:

'Now with the experience we have, we don't let that affect us. You just go out and play. Against Wyoming and UC Santa Barbara, we never felt like we were going to lose those games. The way in which we won, we had to battle, is going to help us because it isn't going to get any easier'

On Rick Anderson:
'When he's hitting his shots, he's one of the most dangerous players in the country. Ricky is a competitor. If you start talking to him, he's liable to make you look stupid.'

'From what I've heard, they're a really big, physical team. We're going to prepare for a war, prepare for them like ASU.'

On upsets in the tournament:
'I think with the way college basketball has been this year, you could expect that. Every Saturday has been upset Saturday.'

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