UCLA Coach Steve Alford = “Really proud of these guys. Texas A&M is a great basketball team that we got a chance to play that is very well coached. Another team that has a different style. This is our third game in the tournament, so we were not preparing for A&M a week ago when we were home we were really preparing for our bracket. We couldn’t emulate them at practice zone. I thought it got us a little stagnant, we stood around a little bit in the first half, but that is what early season stuff is all about. You learn more and more about different styles and the irony of what we can to this tournament, everyone talking about our offense and yet what we probably learned the most going home is that we got some work to do with half-court offense because we have been in transition so much. I thought we got great strides this week defensively. And the thing I really liked is that against Nebraska and now again against Texas A&M, who I think A&M and I thought Nebraska played well against us the other day. With five minutes left in the game these guys learned just how to go take the win. That is exciting, coaching a new group like that because we are still a new team. But down the stretch they were terrific and these two (Lonzo Ball and Isaac Hamilton) were a big part of that. Very proud of the team it has been a fun team to coach.
On how Lonzo bounced back to in the second half. – “I think that that’s what great players do. We call it “end to sketch”. You miss a couple shots you have to forget about it, you make a couple bad plays you have to forget about it, you get a good stretch you have to forget about it. You just have to keep playing the game you love. Again is new for him (Lonzo) and I was telling him you’re going to learn from this and this is great tape for you to watch because we haven’t played anyone with this kind of length yet. He can look back and see the things that were good and bad. He made tremendous plays and I thought he played a way better second half. Isaac played a big scoring first half. What would get unnoticed, but not by me is the job he did on Hogg I thought he was tremendous.
On how Isaac had a leadership role – “I thought that that was pivotal for us today. First championship this team is going through it for the first time this season and if you just look at what happened throughout the game Isaac was on fire in the first half. I think Bryce was scoreless in the first half and then he makes big shots and ends up with 13 for the game. That’s what we want. I think a year ago we could’ve won the Nebraska game or could’ve won tonight’s game. Isaac and Bryce were part of that. They have showed great growth and maturity. They have done a great job in my mid of telling Lonzo, TJ and Ike “look don’t wait, don’t think we are seniors thinking we don’t want you to do what you can do. No. We need you to do what you can do”. That is what great leadership is. Tonight was another night were one guy does it for a while and then another does it for a while. We share it well and that’s a positive.”
On the role of Bryce on the team – “Bryce has had a lot of pressure being a point guard. Bringing the ball up, get us into offence and by the way you have to score too. That pressure is off now having not just Lonzo but Aaron’s progress has been tremendous. So that eases up and allow guys like Isaac and Bryce to run the floor and utilize what they are good at, and that’s the movement without the ball and shooting the ball. I go back to the Australia trip and there was a moment in game three where Lonzo brought the team together and chewed them a little bit. Isaac and Bryce were shaking their heads because saying “that’s exactly what we want”. I have two incredible seniors in Bryce and Isaac and they know that these freshmen can help them get back that better taste in their mouth. Sometimes as Seniors is all about you, but that is not what our team is. Our team is about sharing, learning and doing it together. Whether is good, bad or different we are going to do this together and we are going to grow together and we need each other doing their role the best they can.”
UCLA Guard Lonzo Ball on What does it mean to you to win the Wooden Legacy? – “It’s great. Coach talked about this is our tournament it has our name on it. This is the first championship we were available to get and we got it, it was a team effort and as far as being the MVP it feels great.”
On what changed the game struggles and not making the first shots? – “It helps listening to my teammates and coaches to keep me focused. I shook it off and we ended up winning.”
UCLA Isaac Hamilton on how does Lonzo change the game – “It is amazing, the ball gets pushed ahead off the rebounds and we can make secondary plays. Bryce and I can now shoot and score. Aaron makes plays and aim tempo and you bound to get the open shoot when the ball moves in a way.
On what have Lonzo and Isaac have learned about each other – As far as the team we have to play together. It is a long season but we are a family not just a regular team. We play for each other and as long as we keep pushing and we keep grinding out wins we get better every day.
Texas A&M Coach Billy Kennedy – “UCLA showed how good they really are. Alford, the three guards, Ball, Hamilton really gave us problems. Thought we had some bad possessions offensively but a lot of it had to do with UCLA. I was really impressed with their poise on the perimeter. We had a hard time guarding those guys.”
Even though you had an edge in the paint were you hoping for more touches for Tyler [Davis] and [Robert] Williams? – “We were just talking about that. He got 13 shots. They got him off the block and he did a good job of helping off of our perimeter guys and we have to do a better job of getting him the ball. I thought the pace was where we wanted it to be. We wanted to be in the low 70s. DJ Hogg has been shooting the ball really well for us and he had some good looks and unfortunately we weren’t able to put the ball in the hole enough. And again, UCLA is a big reason why.”
Your impressions of Lonzo Ball and did UCLA take on his unselfishness sometimes? – “Yeah and the big thing which made him special is he made big shots. He struggled shooting the ball in the first half and in the second half I mean–at the end of the first half he made some shots. But that big three that he took—that was a deep shot that most of the time as a defense you’re going to say he’s gotta make it. He’s a difference maker for them on the perimeter. I don’t know if they’ve had that the last year or two when he could go make a play for somebody else and he can make a play for himself. He’s a really good player.”
How did you feel with three of four minutes left about your chances? – “We felt good. We thought if we could keep it under five then maybe the pressure would revert back to on them and then Lonzo Ball hit a big shot. Thought we had a transition basket where we threw it behind when we had a chance to lay it up. And then we turned it over at the top where our post guy—Robert Williams and DJ [Hogg] gave them the ball. You can’t make those mistakes against a top 10, top 15 team, basically on the road. Again, UCLA is really good.”
Texas A&M Tyler Davis – What did you think of the way UCLA guarded you and did they have anyone who could really match up with you? – ” No, they had nobody that could match up with me. But they did do a good job of what coach Kennedy said, getting me off the block. I felt comfortable, but in our offense, me being on the block is where the money is at. And I have to do a better job of being in my position and creating angles for my guards to get me the ball.”