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Gonzaga Basketball

Zags answer the usual at pre-game news conference

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Elias Harris, Steven Gray and Matt Bouldin answered reporters' questions in Buffalo. Elias Harris, Steven Gray and Matt Bouldin answered reporters' questions in Buffalo.

by Jared Frank, SWXRightNow.com

It was as if reporters in Buffalo wanted to talk about two things: How bad it hurt to lose to Saint Mary's in the West Coast Conference final, and secondly, how does a team prepare to play a game after traveling 2,300 miles?

After shrugging off the introductions from the moderator who still believes Gonzaga is pronounced "Gon-ZAH-ga", Matt Bouldin, Elias Harris, Steven Gray and coach Mark Few said what they've been collectively been saying for the past 12 years in a row: you have to play hard if you want to win.

First, the issue about losing to Saint Mary's.

"That Saint Mary's loss hurt pretty bad, but we took it as an opportunity to improve on things that we struggled at late in the season and it gives us a chance to respond – something we've been really good at this entire year," said Bouldin.

Any insight, Steven?

"I think it was more about how we lost that game," he said "It was a close game up until  - like – the 9-minute mark. As a team, we pretty much just crumbled. That's what stung more: the fact that we didn't finish the game out playing hard and playing like we had for the majority of the year."

With the Saint Mary's question – and the game – in the rearview mirror, it was on to the topic at hand: the game against Florida State.  But first, what do you make about traveling 2,300 miles across the country to play as a No. 8 seed against team that plays really good defense?

"I don't think we need to change our game," said Elias Harris, like only Harris can say it. "[We just need to] stick to our game plan."

Good answer.

Anyone else?  Same question.

Both Gray and Bouldin compared Florida State to the athletic teams the Zags played early in the season. Gray specifically mentioned Memphis.  Bouldin thought of Cincinnati.

"Memphis – just because they're so athletic and they really get our and pressure on defense," said Gray. "We know that [Florida State is] definitely an athletic team. They get offensive rebounds really well. So we have to slow down and not let them hurry us up on offense and make sure we block out and rebound – like we did at the start of this year."

But about playing on the road.

"I really think we've been better on the road this year," said Bouldin "But I think some keys to it would be, obviously, rest. We try to rest up as much as we can and drink a lot of water. And then, go in with the right mindset.  We go in to these games on the road and… know it's going to be a battle – just really tough-minded."

With the two questions on everyone's mind out of the way, it was time to get down to the real business of preparing for Florida State. But first, a question or three about "Gon-ZAH-ga" living up to expectations.

Bouldin, Gray, Harris and Few all avoided those questions as well as they could.

"Expectations are all fine and good.  People can expect you to do whatever," said Gray. "But it all comes down to the game.

"As long as we go out there and play hard, and it's clearly visible that we're giving everything that we have, and we're not surrendering and rolling over or anything, and playing with that tough-minded mindset. I don't think people can expect any more than that."

Now, about Florida State.

"We're not going to alter," said Few with his patented straight gameface. "You know, you are who you are at this time of the year. We've been pretty darn effective all season on the offensive end.  It might not have been pretty or aesthetically pleasing, but at the end of the day we've been pretty efficient with our numbers."

Few mentioned it would, indeed, be difficult to generate baskets against Florida State's style of in-your-face defense. They key, he said, was to get some defensive stops of their own, turn them into fast break points and don't get beat in the rebounding battle.

"I think in games like this we need to execute really well," added Bouldin. "With teams that get after it defensively, you just have to play hard and execute, and definitely run. We just need to keep running like we have been all season so they don't really get a chance to get in their set [defense]."

And just like that, the Zags' news conference ended just like it had for the past 12 years.

"Any more questions?" followed by dead silence. And then the Spokane reporters walked over to the moderator and said, "It's Gon-ZA-ga", not "Gon-ZAH-ga".

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