COACH ROBINSON: Listen, you’ve got to excuse us. We have a very emotional team right now for a lot of different reasons. But I know I could not and have not been prouder of a team any more than I’ve been proud of this team. It’s not just because of tonight. It’s because of all season.
We have fought hard and lost our share of games five points and under, and it’s not due to this guy’s ‑‑ these guys’– hard work. It’s not due to these guys’ lack of hard work, I should say. I mean, every day, four overtimes, one overtime. The next day, they come to work as if they had won the game.
So this win is for these guys in that locker room, as well as our fans and our staff and all that kind of stuff. But it’s special and emotional for these guys because they’ve been working this hard since the end of the season last year.
One more thing before I open it up for questions. We have talked about all season long that I and my staff have believed in these guys more than they believe in themselves, which shows you it’s a special group, because in this day and age most people are believing and talking about themselves, especially their age, than they’re talking about anybody else. But these guys are such a tight‑knit group that they wouldn’t allow themselves to believe how good they could be.
We could see it as a staff, and it was just a matter of time. Now, what you saw in the last 4 minutes, after that 4:00 minute timeout, you saw a team that believed they could win the game no matter what was going on there. So with that, I’ll open it up for questions.
Q. Jared and Joe, why do you guys suddenly believe in yourselves? Both yesterday and today, there was no panic from you guys, it didn’t seem, on the floor. Earlier this season there had been times that you panicked and let games get away from you?
JARED CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, well, we’ve been together since this season from the start, from summer workouts all the way up until now. We’re a close‑knit group, and we love each other and want each other to do well.
You see it out there on the court. We didn’t give up at the end. We just kept fighting, sticking through it, and we grinded it out.
Q. You just knocked off the No. 1 seed. How much do you see in your team them starting to believe about all the things you thought about this group before the year?
COACH ROBINSON: Yeah, these two days have shown it, but I’ve always believed it, even those close games. And I tell you what, we played this team really well the first weekend of the year, the first game of the year. The game got away from us in the second half because we were still young then.
I can keep some perspective in this game because I’m a bit older than these guys. But I can see their hard work. Hard work always pays off. It may not be the way you want it, but it pays off at some point. It could have not paid off for us right now, but I saw the hard work, so I knew it was going to pay off at some point.
I think these guys started to believe it. Funny enough, the last game we lost, which was the Civil War game at our place where we all thought we were playing well, and we happened to lose the game. Then from then on, this is what ‑‑ you’ve seen the results from them.
Q. This is the first time you’ve won two games in the Pac‑12 tournament since 1988. What does this mean for you to be able to accomplish that here and then do it with your guys?
COACH ROBINSON: Well, it’s great. You’ve heard me say many times that when a program was in the doldrums that this was that there were going to be a lot of firsts and a lot of firsts since and all that kind of stuff. We try not to really focus on that. We’re just trying to get better every day, which these guys are doing.
But it is extremely meaningful to me, to my staff, to these guys that we’re doing it for our fans and for the university.
It’s been rough these first four years. Now it’s four years. But the first three years were rough because we were trying to get these guys in here and get them going, and our fans have really supported us. It is nice to be able to pay them back with a weekend like this.
Q. Joe, talk about the mental toughness that you guys had to have today after being up 13 at the half and then down 8 with only 4:00 left to play?
JOE BURTON: Yeah, that was a rocky time, but we bring it in the huddles all the time and say keep your head. Even Coach at halftime said, they’re going to go on a run, so we’ve just got to play together, keep our chemistry and stick to the game plan.
Q. Joe, talk about going against Washington’s bigs in there today. It was a physical battle, but you guys, especially in the first half, played really well.
JOE BURTON: Yeah, N’Diaye, a seven‑footer, Gant, 6’8″, 6’9″, very physical, and they know how to play basketball. But the game plan was just buckle down, play good D, help‑side and we’ll come out victorious.
Q. You don’t know who you’re going to play yet, but could you talk about the possible match‑ups that you might face tomorrow?
COACH ROBINSON: Do we play the winner of this game? See, that shows you, I really wasn’t paying attention. That’s UCLA and Arizona. Both teams are very good. They both finished above us in the conference. I think UCLA’s strengths are they match us from a size standpoint. Arizona matches us from a speed standpoint. It’s pretty interesting. So they’re two separate things.
We’re so excited to be playing in the semis, that it doesn’t matter who we play. But seeing how we only played Arizona once and ‑‑ oh, we only played UCLA once. That’s odd. I was going to say the team we played once we’d have a better advantage over, so there you have it (smiling).
Q. Were you not going to be denied on that and one at the end of the game there where you had it in your mind you’re going to attack the hoop and try to get the foul?
JARED CUNNINGHAM: Yeah at the beginning of the play I was trying to find Ahmad for the open shot, but the defense gave me the pick‑and‑roll, and I attacked the rim as hard as I could, and focused on the rim and made it.
COACH ROBINSON: It should be noted that I have said on numerous occasions to this entire team that your best player has to help you win these kinds of games. I’ve said it all season long.
Jared had a ‑‑ not‑Jared‑like shooting night, but he almost had a triple‑double and won the game. I mean, he won the game for us with his play.
While all these guys are the reason why we play so well, you can’t move to the next level, you can’t become an elite team until your best player starts playing the way you’ve seen him play and not scoring. That’s the thing. He’s not killing it with the scoring. He’s doing everything else for us. That should be noted, even though no one asked that.
Q. The difference between Jared’s stats was yin and yang between yesterday and today. Was his point total the difference in today’s game, and for Jared after, what was the difference between the way Washington attacked you on defense and the way Washington State attacks you on defense that made that such a fluctuation in numbers?
JARED CUNNINGHAM: It was a little more not as much pressure as Washington State. They sent one man at me yesterday. But today I was able to use the ball screens and find my open teammates. They did a great job of finishing the ball. Once I got open, I didn’t really make as many shots as I wanted to, but I passed the ball really well and got everybody involved, and they held their part. In the end I had to make those free throws to help us.
COACH ROBINSON: A big part of the way we play, you look at this. We’ve got 17 assists on 32 baskets. That’s how we play. While Jared’s playing a better offensive points game, it’s the assists that help us. I mean, his ability to draw people to him and make his other teammates better, really important for us to beat really good teams.
Q. Jared, can you talk about that stretch at the end where you made 1 of 4 free throws and then Tony missed 4? And Coach, in your opinion is Washington an NCAA team?
JARED CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, that stretch at the end was nail biting, because I fouled Tony going to the basket, and that wasn’t part of the game plan towards the end. But he got to the free‑throw line.
COACH ROBINSON: No kidding.
JARED CUNNINGHAM: Some of the shots that he shot weren’t that successful. So we got the rebound, and we just wanted to attack and get the last shot at the end.
So they fouled me. I made a couple free throws, and that was it.
COACH ROBINSON: And with regard to Washington being an NCAA team, I sure hope so. I hope that they’re an NCAA team, because we just beat an NCAA team, and we think we can be a good NCAA team.
But I’m not well versed in ‑‑ we’re not good enough where I’ve been concentrating on RPI and all that kind of stuff. I know our league is considered down, but people don’t understand how many good teams we have in this conference. I know before the game I thought they were well in. I hadn’t even thought about us beating them and how that would affect them.
But if they’re not and it’s because of us, that’s a good thing. But with those players and the way they played, they’d be a fantastic team to be in the NCAA Tournament.