HEAD COACH JIM CALHOUN: After a real tough loss to Notre Dame on Saturday which we got out rebounded and physically handled inside we made a nice bounce back game and I know that Oliver is doing a terrific job there and I know from personal experience in my first year we were 1 19 how that can be. I thought they fought, that's a credit to him and kinda kept themselves in the vicinity.
I thought that in an open court game we're pretty good with Kemba Walker and Shabazz, we looked so much better and sometimes we had defensive lapses and played the scoreboard a little too much but beyond that we're happy to get a win. It's been a while since we had a win here, seems like we were always winning the first and second game at least and last few years hasn't been true, 6 overtime, Gerry McNamara shot or whatever it was, technically how you break everything down it's important to advance. That's the whole idea. You don't say how, you say are we playing tomorrow and, yes, we are playing tomorrow.
Q. Coach, what do you see Friday's game that is encouraging you looking ahead to Georgetown and what, if anything is discouraging or concerns you?
COACH CALHOUN: We've been through now a season in which we played we played 20 out of 21 out of 30 top 100 opponents and we played some really, really good people and we found an awful lot of things in those games. In the Georgetown game we were fortunate enough to win at home. As I said, I think we played the scoreboard a little too much but to have the guy down the end, not this guy, but the guy down on the end rebound like he did, obviously that's very, very important and I just think we look different when he's rebounding, blocking shots and playing defense like that in the middle.
Q. The decision not to start Alex, maybe to light a little fire under him? What was behind that?
COACH CALHOUN: It's never one to have Alex care more, because very few people that I've known that care more than Alex, but he's been struggling, and basically I tell him it's simple, "go get the basketball." It's not simple as we all know, and today he went and got the basketball a lot and that made us an entirely different team. I thought we would give him a message and it isn't necessarily in life who starts but who finishes, and he finished and he made us stay ahead and winning big by being a true middleman and we're going to need him tomorrow and we advance beyond that we will certainly need him. He was clearly an important part of that. I benched him because it's been a 1 2 punch most of the time with Alex and Kemba and the last 7, eight games Alex has struggled and he struggled and I believe once again, it's not like a punish, because I wouldn't punish a guy like Alex because he wants it badly but letting him know coming off the bench he would feel better and he responded well.
Q. Coach, you've been part of the Big East for decades?
COACH CALHOUN: Yeah, but that sounds old (Chuckles.)
Q. How memorable has the season been for the conference, like a team like UConn being so memorable?
COACH CALHOUN: Memorable is a very funny word. Meat grinder, all kinds of words because there aren't many games, including portions of today's game the second half when they came back a bit, there isn't any game that you can take a breath.
I've watched enough basketball through this year to know there is going like that, before we got here we had Kentucky, Michigan State, and Texas and going through the Big East meat grinder is way tougher, and the knowledge of the other teams and the knowledge of the kids you made and who played against you. Years ago when Billy Curly and Marshall and Allen Iverson and Kerry Kittles, we had five great teams in the Big East but I've never seen it where every team in the league can beat and you I truly believe every, every team in this league can beat you, we've had really, really good games I've never seen that in 25 years, everybody has had to work for every win, every point, everything they did. Decades, yes.
Q. Can you talk about Jeremy Lamb giving you separation and why he got those open looks?
COACH CALHOUN: He got those open looks and it's important that he has those and I really thought that at West Virginia because they load up on Kemba's side all the time, that he can come off either a down screen or flat screen when we send Kemba out usually two guys are going to be with him that he makes those. Now it changes their game plan a great deal and I thought that's exactly what happened tonight. He opened up the first half and made shots for us. We took him out because he sprained his knee in the Notre Dame game and didn't practice on Sunday. We have to play tomorrow, so he looked fine but we want to make sure that he's at best full to go tomorrow as he can. He's one of the best freshman in the league, in my opinion, he has a chance to be a great player and when he plays like that, Alex rebounds like that and Kemba does what he does, we're a very good team.
Q. Coach, I would like to ask again about the depth of the conference. Is this the week with all the teams together where you really see how deep the conference is? And what would you say to someone who doesn't follow the Big East who might question if one conference should get 10 or 15 teams into a tournament?
COACH CALHOUN: It's 68 teams no longer 64, number one. Number two, if you truly check what our teams have done on the outside, who they have beaten from Purdue, to Kentucky, to the teams we have beaten as a conference, to quite frankly playing in this league you know when you go into Cincinnati, and we were really fortunate to get a win there, in a sense we played really well but they're good, really, really good. We lost to Marquette doesn't take a play off, they're a son of a gun to play. I'm not talking about the first four, five or six, by the way. I'm talking about the people who people don't realize how good they are.
We've had maybe more star power in the league, we've never had so many good, solid basketball teams. The only thing that's so remarkable is we've never had so many senior teams, too, Pitt, St. John's, the five stars at Notre Dame, we have an old league, too, so it's tough competing every night against it but it's what competitors want to do.
Q. Alex, can you talk about the rebounding today, the decision not to start the game and how you responded?
ALEX ORIAHKI: Before we got to New York, Coach told me to go after the basketball. Definitely haven't been playing my best the last couple of games and I definitely wanted to make it up to my teammates and help Kemba out and I went after the basketball.
Q. Talk about tomorrow's match up, are you guys going to look to run more?
KEMBA WALKER: We're going to watch film and see what had he did in the game we beat them in, that's the key, I saw the players get up and down, that's nothing new.
HEAD COACH OLIVER PURNELL: I wish UConn all the best as they move on in the tournament. I thought they played pretty well today. I thought our guys battled. We certainly could have played a little better out there but I thought our guys battled against an excellent UConn team. I told our guys after the game that I really appreciated all the effort that they made this year. They as much as any team I've ever had, they try to do what I ask them to do and they make coming into work every day fun because if they weren't ready we got on them and they responded and hopefully we've learned a lot of lessons, not just for basketball and next season but all of our guys including our seniors for life, in terms of dealing with adversity, battling, staying strong, staying together, just a good group of young men.
Q. What do you see from this season as much as the results weren't there that you latch on to going forward Na we don't see on the court?
COACH PURNELL: We're building a foundation obviously some of our younger players, Cleveland Melvin and Brandon, those guys did well for freshmen, but we all need for them to be better. Guys like J.K. understand our system, our way of doing things every day, the way we come to work every day, and the way we practice, we've got, you know, basic offensive and defensive systems and so we're not starting from scratch as we get the group ready for next year. Now, experience starts to be our friend as opposed to inexperience being our enemy so I thought we did a good job of laying the foundation, work ethic, developing a culture that will help us win in the future.
Q. Wherever you would be when you have a young team trying to put things together it would be challenging but this year in this league what was it like?
COACH PURNELL: Well, I certainly expected the league to be hard. It was a little harder than I expected because I thought at least there was a kinda the consensus thinking because that the league might be down a little because a lot of good players left last year. That certainly wasn't the case, it was as strong and as balanced as it's ever been and what that means for a young team like us is no nights off, no easy pickin's, and that's why I appreciate these guys battling, and hanging in there together. Because there were no nights off, no one is going to let you up. These guys battled every night and today was a good example of that.
For me personally I've been through it before. When I was at Dayton we didn't win any league games the first year and when I was at Clemson we won three, the Great Midwest was a great league, the ACC is not a bad league.
I've been through it before so it was probably easier on me than our guys.
Q. Oliver, what did you want to correct going into the next year the most?
COACH PURNELL: Well, first of all, the most obvious thing when you're building the program is the life blood of our program so upgrade our talent level. We want to get deeper and one of the things we haven't talked about is I'm not here to whine and cry but we had guys get hurt, Matt left, we had Devin Hill out for the year, Eric Wallace out for the year, Clev, who is having an excellent year for a freshman, out the last four games. We had a lot of guys get hurt. When you have depth you can absorb that, and I appreciate our guys continuing to battle, we're a man down, a man down, a man down, and they hung in there. We patched it up, we had two post guys in the program at the end and we played four or five guards at sometimes.
Upgrading our talent level and our depth is something that I think we've addressed and now it's a matter of integrating those guys into our program and these guys will help us teach them the system and a way of doing things.
Q. Having just completed a Big East schedule you know the ACC, that's your history, how would you compare the depths of the league, what would you say to someone who questions 10 or 11 teams going into the NCAA Tournament?
COACH PURNELL: I don't think there is a question that the Big East should have 11 teams in. I don't hear that and I don't listen to a whole lot of things but it's the deepest league that I've ever not just been a part of but as I've observed college basketball over the last 25 years or so it's the deepest league that I've ever seen and I think it's kind of the consensus. I don't hear anybody arguing that we shouldn't have 10 or 11 teams in. We should.
Q. What do you guys want to take into next year? What's important to learn from how tough this year was, moving forward with Oliver if he helm?
JEREMIAH KELLY: We've got to keep working, next year Brandon will have to step up and be a leader, but most of all we've got to work hard in the off season.
BRANDON YOUNG: Next year I'm not going to be a freshman anymore and me and J.K. will have to lead those guys next year, and we will have to tell them what to look for and to stick to the system and if we do that everyone has to stick together.
Q. Brandon, this is a guards league. What did they teach you this year, the guards from the other teams?
BRANDON YOUNG: They didn't teach me anything, but I can see it's a guards league and you got to work hard every day to get your name out there and make your team better and also get wins. It's hard to get wins, but if you fight and are aggressive then you're going to get wins.