THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the Bakersfield Road Runners, head coach Rod Barnes, student-athletes Aly Ahmed, Kevin Mays and Dedrick Basile. Coach, your thoughts about the game?
COACH BARNES: Well, I can't go without thanking my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, just to have the opportunity to coach such wonderful and great young men. These are my sons, and I'm very proud. Their season and what they've gone through and what they've done, for our administration, for our university, for our city, and I'm just proud of them.
I thought tonight was one of those games or this afternoon. We have to give OU credit. They are a really good team. They're really talented. Buddy is the real deal. I told him if I had a vote today, I don't know whether it's ESPN, SI, whatever it is, he's my Player of the Year, because I think he's been the most consistent player in the country this year.
Saying that, I thought our kids were up for the task. That was the difficult situation playing against a team of that caliber. I thought we responded well, but they did what they normally do. Down the stretch there where it was close, they hit a couple of threes and that was the difference in the game. But we'll be rooting for them. Good team, good coach, well-coached, but proud of our kids. Questions?
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Aly, when I saw you leaving the floor for the final time there, you were hugging everybody at the end and, I think, thanking everybody. How difficult is it now to say goodbye to this team now that this run is over?
ALY AHMED: I'm happy. I'm happy to end it this way. I feel a lot welcome in this program. These guys are just amazing. It's an amazing feeling to play with these guys. I love each one of them, and I knew it was going to be a fight, and I knew it was going to be a fight tonight, like every game. I knew these guys have always got my back, you know.
It's a really good feeling to see the program come all the way to this point and finally make it to the NCAA. I promised myself that I want to be in the NCAA before I go back home, and these guys made it come true and I couldn't thank them anymore. I love them all. Thank you.
Q. Kevin, you guys wear "believe" on your shirts. You talked about how you're a 15 seed, you still believed. How strong was that belief when you were down 12 several times and you kept cutting it back and making it a close game and scaring the crowd? How deep was that belief?
KEVIN MAYS: It was definitely deep. We're just a team that's never going to go away, and I feel like the guys on our team just wouldn't give up and we wouldn't roll over. I felt like we really believed that we would win that game.
Q. Aly and Dedrick, how much did that belief and that confidence build the longer the game went when you took in some early shots and came back and led a couple of times and stayed in the game the whole way?
ALY AHMED: It stayed with us the entire game. You know, these guys are fighters. If you look at our stat sheet, we don't have just one player that we have to go to every time. All of us got scores and all of us achieved something at some point. We never are going to give up. I knew these guys are going to be over their skin and we're going to play defense until the last second.
DEDRICK BASILE: Like Aly said, we don't have one scorer, everybody on our team can really score. Oklahoma just hit shots, like big shots that they needed to hit. So we respect them and we just never gave up as a team.
Q. Dedrick, these other two guys are seniors, you're coming back. What kind of taste does this give you going into the next year?
DEDRICK BASILE: Hopefully it will make our team hungrier. We want to thank Aly and Kevin for everything, leading us all this way, and hopefully we can do the same thing next year and carry on the legacy that we started.
Q. Aly and Kevin, I know that you've kind of said throughout this process that this is all about the program and its growth, and this run is more than just you two. Can you reflect on what this means and what you're looking forward to seeing this program and Coach Barnes achieve in your absence?
KEVIN MAYS: It's only going to get better from here as far as from my standpoint. I'm just excited to see what the future holds for the city of Bakersfield and this team. They've got a great team coming back. I'm just happy to be a part of the foundation of it.
ALY AHMED: I can't ask for any better end. I've been here for three years, and just seeing it grow every year. I'm not talking only about basketball. It's about education, life lessons, guys improving. We have guys that weren't on the right track. And once it fits with us, you know, life is more than basketball. We start building something. We become a disciplined team, very disciplined.
That's why I said I'm very proud to be a defensive team, and that just builds because of our discipline in and outside of the court.
Q. In the first half, we got word that Michigan State, a 2 seed, went down against Middle Tennessee. No reason why that word would filter to you, but I'm curious when you guys learned about it. And if you did hear about it, did that make you even more confident that it could happen today with you guys as well?
KEVIN MAYS: I felt like we were confident before anything. Just as a team we felt like we could really beat them. That was just the vibe in the locker room. I don't think I heard about that until late, so that doesn't affect us at all.
Q. Aly, what were your impressions of Buddy Hield after seeing him up close?
ALY AHMED: Of course, he's a good player. He's a really good player and they are a good team, like I said, but I don't think they're great, like I said before. I thought we played pretty good defense and we played solid with them today. I believe my team could beat them, yeah, just because of the toughness. Look at our faces.
KEVIN MAYS: Aly made that man mad. But he's definitely a great player. I respect him a lot.
DEDRICK BASILE: He's a great player. I respect him too. I mean, it was crazy.
Q. Just talk about what this means to be a part of this game against this team? You guys were the Cinderella, I guess, tagged in this going in, and you gave the No. 1 team in the country -- that peaked at No. 1 in the country a scare. What did that feel like on the floor in front of these fans in that moment?
DEDRICK BASILE: I mean, it felt good, but we expected to be up like we were, and we just didn't execute everything like we were supposed to. But I believe if we kept doing what we were doing in the beginning, who knows what would have happened.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Barnes.
Q. A lot is made over the years about NCAA Tournament games being won with guards and being won with veterans. The fact that Oklahoma has three guards that are veterans, how much do you think that played into the game late?
COACH BARNES: I think that was the difference in the game, there's no question about that. That was my biggest concern once their name came up. We're not talking about one-and-done guys. We're talking about a team that's been together, played a lot of games, been in a lot of battles and that was my concern.
I knew they were a team that we were not going to break. Normally, with our press and our pressure, at some point during the game, they would break. But they were veterans. That's what I told our guys, this is not going to be a 20-minute game, this is not going to be a 30-minute game, we're going to have to go from start to finish. I think you just mentioned, it's because of experience. It's because they've been together.
Q. You guys talk a lot about heart, and, for about 36 minutes there, it looked like three or four times Oklahoma could have pulled away there, and every time you guys came back and had an answer. Would you say that's pretty indicative of this team that you guys have had this year?
COACH BARNES: No question about that. I felt like all season long that the difference in today's game was that they have heart too. That's the only difference. We've played against teams that are really tough and put us in that position, and to be able to come into this game -- we played, I would consider a great New Mexico State team last week, very similar type of team. But their guards are not as experienced as these guards.
So we played with heart. I mean, that's my motto with our guys. It's a privilege to play this game. Everybody doesn't get a chance to play or have the opportunity to be on scholarship, travel all across the country to play this game. At least what we can do is get to the floor and give it our all, and this team has bought into that.
Q. I'll test your recall ability here. The under 4:00 timeout when you were down 4, 4 seconds on the shot clock and you end up with an Aly three-pointer, what was drawn up out of the timeout there?
COACH BARNES: What was drawn up? We had a back screen for Kevin coming to the basket. We had from Dedrick and a screen from Aly to get Dedrick open after the screen. So it's called a screen the screener. We had ran it before and got a shot out of it from Aly. We weren't running the play for Aly. We were actually running the play for Kevin and Dedrick, but then because of their size we couldn't get the ball in. So Aly popped out, as he would normally do, and he had to take the shot because there were only 4 seconds there.