DANA ALTMAN: Well, I'm very proud of the guys. Man, they played hard. We had 25 assists on 38 baskets. We got the rebounding tied up, and Garza is such a good player and just ripped us up, but we really wanted to make sure that they didn't get the threes going and beat us from the three-point line.
We knew we didn't match up inside with him, so we just wanted to make sure the threes didn't kill us, and I thought our guys did a tremendous job with focus and talking on the defensive end the second half.
I thought the first half we got beat in transition, really gave up some easy baskets. I thought we were in trouble. But the guys did a much better job the second half.
Q. Dana, can you speak to after the third three-point play from Garza with 4:29 in the first, you went with your starters, they're all in foul trouble except for Will, and LJ just absolutely goes off, and you guys go in with an 18-4 or 18-6 run into the half and never looked back. That's a bit of a gamble. Walk me through the strategy and your reaction to LJ's play there.
DANA ALTMAN: We did, we had three guys, Chris, LJ and Eugene, all had three -- excuse me, two fouls, and I told them we've got to be really careful here, but we can't get behind these guys. We can't be chasing them. So we're going to have to score with them. Those guys are a big part of our offense, and you're right, LJ got a couple threes down there that gave us a little cushion.
Those guys have been with us this year. I stressed to them when I put them back in, fellas, I trust you here, can't have stupid fouls, got to pull back, no stupid reaches, let's finish the half, let's get in the half with all three of you. I wanted to keep them in there. I knew we had to stay with Iowa. They're such a potent and offensive team I felt like if we got behind we would be in trouble. I just didn't want to chase them.
Q. You talked so much about the first five, ten minutes of this game and how key that would be. How were the guys so ready to go from the start?
DANA ALTMAN: No, I did talk to them about it. I said, fellas, we've been out for 10 days. Our advantage may be in the second half when we're a little fresher, but that first ten minutes they've got a big advantage. They've played a game. They're not going to be tired the first 10 minutes. We've got to come out, move the ball, make plays for each other, get some easy shots, and not let them get easy baskets.
Now, we got shots and we scored, but I thought our defense really gave up some easy baskets there that really concerned me. Transition, I think they had 11 transition points the first half, McCaffery got out, got a couple lay-ups. We didn't do a very good job getting back at times. I thought the first 10 minutes was very important for us, and I thought we handled it okay.
Q. In the second half, what was the adjustment on Garza? You guys did a better job limiting him. It seemed like the inlet passes from Bohannon, you guys really seemed to cut him off really well, getting the ball to him. Was that it or was there more to it?
DANA ALTMAN: Well, it got a little easier because they weren't shooting the ball real well from three. We were able to collapse a little bit more when some of their subs were in because they're not quite as -- their numbers aren't quite as good as some of their starters.
We really felt like we could collapse around Garza a little bit more. I thought Frank did a great job. I thought Frank gave us great minutes both first half and second half of changing the game a little bit. So very pleased with his effort. He just played hard. He gave up two threes on a pick-and-pop that he just wasn't quite ready for that, but other than that, I thought he did a tremendous job.
Q. I'm curious, this is kind of a unique situation for your team or any team really ever since the tournament expanded to have had this kind of a unique time off. As bad as everybody feels for VCU, you guys had a unique experience, too. How do you go about dealing with it? Did you have to do anything extra or have any talks with these guys to make sure that they were able to deal with the last couple of days?
DANA ALTMAN: Well, we were really disappointed Saturday, and then we got to the practice floor and it started out slow but then the guys kind of bounced back, like hey, we've got a game. They were excited about playing. A lot of our guys, we only got two guys that have played in the tournament, and so the rest of our guys were just so excited to play, and when it didn't happen, they were a little down, but we just kept stressing, hey, we've got a game.
So we practiced -- we ran a lot Saturday night and then we practiced hard yesterday, not real long, but we went live. We scrimmaged some and just felt like we had to get some game action because we had really backed off on Friday getting ready for Saturday's game. We had gone fairly hard on Wednesday, but Thursday we toned it down, Friday we basically just had a long shootaround. Just felt like we needed some game action, so we practiced yesterday and didn't go real long, but the guys did a great job, and I think it helped us get ready.
Q. I think you had 11 threes and 10 dunks, about half your points in the paint. Where does that performance, especially the last 25, 30 minutes offensively kind of rank for you as far as most complete offensive performances you've had in the tournament?
DANA ALTMAN: Well, it was pretty good. I don't think we've ever scored 95 points, and so we shot it well that first half. I think Will was 5 for 5, Chris was 5 for 6, LJ was 4 for 5, whatever. Those three guys really shot it well. Us scoring 55 points in the first half is something that's really good for us.
The shots were falling. The energy was going. Again, 25 assists on 38 baskets is very good ratio, so our guys were really making plays for each other, and we got a lot of good looks because the ball was moving.
Q. Just wondering if you could comment on Eugene's contribution today and what he did to help shut down Iowa for you tonight.
DANA ALTMAN: Well, Gene is our most physical player. He battled his tail off in there, giving up five, six inches and 20-something pounds. He battled. Eugene has been our physicality all year. When we lost Dante, I was really worried about that. Frank joined us at Christmas time, so he's been gradually building in. But when we lost Dante, we lost our inside presence.
Eugene has done such a tremendous job of battling every night and giving us that physicality, we'd be in trouble if we didn't have Eugene. He takes charges. He works his tail off. He's physical. He's an awfully good player.
Q. Coach, how proud are you of your guys, and what did you think about the way that your team has just battled through all the adversity of this year and to come out and have an impressive performance like they did today and know that they have more basketball to play this season?
DANA ALTMAN: Well, to answer your first question, I'm very proud of the team. You can see how much Will Richardson has meant to our team, and we go without him for the first half of the season, and so that was tough. We lost N'Faly. We had two nine-day pauses where we didn't get nothing done in January.
And the guys fought through it. They stayed together. Again, they put up with our coaching staff, with me just constantly: We've got to get better, we've got to get better.
So I hope they feel good about what they've accomplished today and hopefully what we can do moving forward. The Pac-12 has shown exactly how strong it was. I'm so proud of the conference. And for us to be the champions of the regular season, I'm proud of that, and I'm proud of the guys the way they responded.
Mick has done a great job at UCLA, Wayne has done a great job at Oregon State, USC's doing great, and Tad at Colorado. Our league has done great, and I hope we can keep it up. It would be great to have five of us all in the Sweet 16. We've had some years -- I've been at Oregon 11 years. We've had some years that we haven't played well in the tournament, and I thought we played pretty good during the year, but the tournament didn't prove it out, and this year we had a good conference season, but whether it's match-ups, whatever it is, our teams are playing really well.
Q. So much was made about Garza's inside presence, but did you guys have an advantage on the perimeter? Seemed like you were just quicker than they were.
DANA ALTMAN: Well, that's what we hoped for. We knew that we couldn't stop him. He averages 24 a game. On a bad night, he gets 18. Without a physical presence inside, we knew we were going to have a hard time containing him.
We felt like we had to take away their threes and not give them a lot of good looks because that's where Bohannon and Wieskamp and those guys can really beat you. They get it going from three.
So we felt like our advantage was on the perimeter. Our advantage was driving the ball at them and making plays. We knew we were at a disadvantage inside.
The guys were really good. I thought the ball movement, again, was the key to our offense, and I love seeing 25 assists. I thought our guys were ready to shoot it, but we had some good looks because the ball was moving pretty good.
Q. What's the significance overall of these guys just being able to play when the building play was taken away for so long and so many multiple times even this season?
DANA ALTMAN: Yeah, you know, I hope they appreciate the fact that we are playing. I felt so bad for our senior class last year, Payton Pritchard, Anthony Mathis, Shakur. They came and they wanted to compete, and they didn't get another chance.
But through the ups and downs of this year, not getting started until late November and then we didn't get started until December because we had some complications with the schedule with teams that were supposed to play, and then January was just a miserable month. Not being able to get in the gym, we had a couple guys fortunately asymptomatic. We didn't have anybody with symptoms, but we had to get through January. We played some games without our roster, and we struggled. But for the guys to fight back in February and March and win the conference and now make a little run, we just want to keep it going.
A lot of fun. I enjoyed working with these guys, and I sure hope they're having a good time.
Q. Chris, what did you guys see from Iowa on film that you thought you'd be able to exploit?
CHRIS DUARTE: Well, Iowa is a great team. We knew they could score points. We knew that Luka Garza is a really good player. Our plan was we knew Garza was going to get his points. Our plan was get stops and play defense, play hard, get on the boards, and that's what we did.
Q. Chris, in the first half when they started to catch any momentum and the crowd got into it, you guys hit one three-pointer after another. You had one in front of their bench, Will hit one, and then LJ hit three late. How big were each of those threes in that stretch to keep the momentum from building?
CHRIS DUARTE: Well, it was great. That kept our head up, and as you can see, Eugene had 17, Will got 19 and LJ got 21. So we did really a good job moving the ball, finding our teammates, and that really worked out well.
Q. You guys obviously expected to play a couple days ago. What were your expectations for the team coming out today after not having a game to prepare for this game?
CHRIS DUARTE: Well, it is what it is. We know it's tough times. We really felt sad for VCU because we wanted to play them, but it is what it is. We can't control that, so we just keep moving on to the next game.
Q. Do you guys feel like maybe you had an advantage on the perimeter? I know you said Garza was going to be tough to handle, but they couldn't guard you one-on-one I felt like?
CHRIS DUARTE: Well, we knew we are quicker than them, so we said that we had to take advantage of that, and we did.
Q. You tied a career high today with seven assists. We all know that you're a great scorer, but how has your passing gotten better and better over the past year or two?
CHRIS DUARTE: Well, I'm just trusting my teammates, and they're trusting me on making good plays for them. You know, being out there, I know they're going to get on me and they're going to help, so I just find my teammates wide open. They did a good job by shooting the ball well.
Q. Just wondering if you could talk about your fellow Canadian Eugene's performance today and what he did against Iowa, as well.
CHRIS DUARTE: Well, Eugene was great, man. Eugene is a great basketball player on the court and off the court. He did a really good job, defending the ball, rebounding, trying to get Luka Garza stopped. He was great.
Q. Coach talked before the game about how it had been a long layoff and so he was kind of worried how the first few minutes of the game would play out and how locked in you guys would be. How were you guys able to start out so effectively and hit the ground running to start the game?
CHRIS DUARTE: Well, you know, we didn't play well in Las Vegas, so our plan was play hard and try to get as far as we can. We just tried to leave it all out there. We were the underdog, so we came out playing hard.
Q. What was the halftime adjustment on Garza? He still scores 14 points, but you were on him quite a bit. I know you guys were going back and forth between fronting him, collapsing on him. What was the halftime adjustment to better contain him?
CHRIS DUARTE: Well, not let him catch the ball easy. We tried to front him every time we could, and if he catch it in front of us, a couple times we ran at him so he can't kick it out. I feel like we did a great job.
Q. Simply put, what does it mean to you to advance to the Sweet 16? How good does it feel?
CHRIS DUARTE: It feels great for everybody, especially for those guys that haven't been here, like Eugene, Eric, myself and a couple more guys. It feels great. We are very, very excited about it, and we hope we keep doing this and keep going, keep moving on.
Q. From so many obstacles that this team on and off the floor went through, what's the significance of still being able to play when being able to play was taken away for so long?
CHRIS DUARTE: Well, we're just grateful that we have the opportunity to play. That's it.
Q. Obviously the Pac-12 is doing really well this tournament so far. What do you think with you guys and other teams like Oregon State and teams like that advancing, what do you think that does for the conference respect-wise?
CHRIS DUARTE: Well, you know, since we don't get that much respect, I feel like we don't get the respect that we deserve, it looks good on our conference. It tells you guys that our conference, we have talent, and we are really good.
Q. Your offense was flowing as freely almost as it has all season, obviously knocking down threes and a lot of breakaway dunks. How much fun was it out there? What were you talking about on the bench in time-outs, and were you having fun playing?
CHRIS DUARTE: Well, it was very, very fun. We had a lot of fun out there. Every time-out we were just trying to keep our focus on the game because Iowa is a good offensive team. We just said to keep our foot on the gas, and we did. We had a lot of fun.