UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT
COACH CALHOUN: Well, it's crazy. Saturday was a very emotional time for all of us. It's been a different kind of season. But through it all, somewhat by separation, I realized how much I cared about these kids. Just as Caron is here in the locker room and all these kids and the guys who hold up the trophies and maybe sometimes you don't hold up the trophy, but they're your kids. Someone said I only have two years left on my extension. I don't know if I can make two more minutes. For them to think, I'm grateful about that, I don't know if I have two more years in my contract, now it's like I'm calling the shots.
Someone better pay me for two more years. That's what I'm saying. My point is, I'm trying to coach this basketball team, and that's my job. But it's also my love. It's also my love. And that's why I came back to my basketball team, because I felt I owed them something.
And during those eight games, I don't think there's many people here, but I turned the sound down, everyone, what an absolute pleasure. Surprising for a couple of you guys, I actually would read, and it was actually pretty good. Some of you actually understood the game. My point being simply when you see a team and you see them lose five games by whatever we lost by in every sort of possible way, then I think if you feel you can do anything, maybe just being a fresh voice coming back, whatever, with these guys, then I owed it to them if I could get back, and I did, and obviously the last two games have been very fulfilling, and I thought that DePaul is going to be a tough place to stop, by the way, going down the road. What all of it teaches is confidence, and I really thought when you're
down 22, Big East tournament, whatever it may be, and you bring that thing back to nine, yeah, we held them a little bit, but they kept playing, and I give them credit. I think DePaul is not going to be an easy stop. Coach Willard is a great young kid and a terrific coach. They're going to be good in the way they play, and they're different than most of our Big East teams, and as they get other kids and more experience, they're going to be good.
But our kids hung in there. We hadn't been in that position too many times. We fooled with it a little bit. You can't fool with the Big East. Two things aside, we played I believe the most difficult schedule in the country, if not the second most difficult. And secondly, we played the most difficult schedule in the Big East. And third, only three teams in the country, Villanova, Vanderbilt and Connecticut, played 21 top 100 teams. So out of that 31 teams, we had ten breathers. Who are those breathers? UNC Ashville? Oh, by the way, they're in the tournament, and I can keep on going. So we didn't have time sometimes to build up our confidence as I look back on the season and think maybe we would have done different.
But I'm extremely proud. I thought Ryan did not have a great game against Chicago the first time. I don't say DePaul, the say Chicago the first time, and he wanted to show just how good he was, and he did today. To get 16 minutes out of Shabazz Napier and have Boatright step in like that, that's when we needed our first team all Big East player to show up, and he got us started, that being Jeremy.
And I thought down the stretch when we went back and forth and they made their run, we extorted to lock them, get the rebounds, do some intelligent things, and I'm very proud of them.
Q. When the lead slipped they let it get away. What did you do today that you didn't let it get
COACH CALHOUN: Same thing we did Saturday. Saturday we were up 14 and they came back at us. We just talked about, okay, there's 14 to go, I'll see you here on the 12th, just make sure we're in better shape than we are now. So we stopped worrying about what this meant in the standings or what this meant in the grand scheme of things, but there was three minutes, and I think they'll probably tell you that. Just play the next three minutes, come back and see me at 11, come back and see me at 7. It's old school, but we tried to keep the game shorter and just talk about the things we need to do at those particular points in both games. Think about it, different scores 13, 14, at the same time, we go off this time, we didn't go off there, but the same situation. It was nine as opposed to being down two, but we kind of were smart, it was just about the same thing.
Q. You guys won 12 postseason games. Can you talk about what is it about the postseason that makes you step up?
JEREMY LAMB: Well, when we go into the tournaments obviously it's a new season. You go into the tournament and try to work hard, and then this year, like you said, playing without Kemba, all year we've been finding ourselves and everybody on the team has been stepping up and just been we've been preparing all year for this time. Now that it's here, we just want to give it all we've got and don't look back and just take it a game at a time and just try to get wins.
Q. (No microphone)?
JEREMY LAMB: Well, no, I'm not trying to be Kemba. Of course everybody wants to lead their team to championships, but I'm just trying to do what's best for this team. The whole team knows, we've got five great players, Boatright, Shabazz, Roscoe stepping up. We also got great big men, so it's a great team effort.
Q. I just wanted to ask you a little bit about playing DePaul. You didn't get to go to Chicago last year. Can you talk about what coach had mentioned?
COACH CALHOUN: I'm sorry, we played DePaul at home.
Q. Right, but you didn't get to go home, and also I wondered if you had played against Crockett?
RYAN BOATRIGHT: I really didn't look at it as trying to just trying to show off for DePaul. The first time we played them it was basically like we needed to get a win, we needed to get our roll going, and I felt like I pressed a little too much in the first game and just missed a lot of easy shots and a lot of careless turnovers, and in this game Coach talked to me more, said I didn't play very well the first time but he said at practice before he got here, he said you're going to have a great game.
When I came out today I just tried to do the best for the team so when I came in and get the start by playing defense, the offense came to me. I've played Jamee since I was like 13, 12 years old. We were in the same neighborhood, so we were playing AAU and high school ball since we were kids, so I've played him a lot of times.
Q. This has not been a great three point shooting team in Big East play but you were seven of the first seven and you got three of those. Can you talk about how the threes really dropped in the first half?
JEREMY LAMB: Well, I think today we moved the ball well. Early I had a couple open shots. I tried to set my man up, and our big men had great screens so I was able to knock down a couple. I think anything leaks on to the rest of the team, whether it's you're playing good defense or bringing energy or hitting shots, the whole team is going to want to do that, and it brings the whole team up. So today we really moved the ball, and we had a lot of open shots and we were able to hit some.
Q. When you saw that you guys were going to be playing DePaul to start the tournament just like you did last year, did you start to think at all, here we go again, such familiarity or such a similarity from last year's tournament?
JEREMY LAMB: I mean, it's a coincidence, but this is a whole new year. No, we didn't go into it like, oh, here we go again. But we was like, we're playing DePaul, okay, we need a win, and let's do our thing as a team.
Q. I'm assuming the pain is there after the operation. How are you feeling now? How are things working out?
COACH CALHOUN: The pain is a different kind of pain, it's a muscular pain. Thank God it's no longer a nerve pain and I'm not walking with a cane anymore. I couldn't walk on with a cane on the sidelines because the officials might have been hit. There was always the fear of pain of some sort. But they told me to wait two weeks and I felt if I went out and walked on Tuesday, I got home at 5:00, I think, I was under anesthesia for three hours and they were aiming to take bone chips out and stuff. But to alleviate that pain was incredible. It took us three weeks to find the right solution, which wasn't to put rods and fibers and fuses and all that stuff. We had a three and a half hour as that can be procedure, that was pretty intricate but not transforming in the sense that it's a hole in my back and it's sore, but nothing like a win or two wins now to make that but without question, I will definitely try to get more rest than I normally do.
By the way, speaking on that note, I would be remised if I didn't thank, generally speaking, almost everybody in the media for the way you've treated this. You reported what happened, you didn't make value judgments about it. I know people are going to talk about retirement, any other thing, because we're talking about the sport. But I have great respect, and generally speaking, for the way you've treated me and my family and allowed us to get through the situation, and I mean that. And I really, sincerely thank you for that. That meant a lot to me, and quite frankly all those periods up there and screaming on the sidelines, almost to a man or woman, you showed me and my family a great deal of respect during this, and I really appreciate that.
Q. Jeremy, I know it's only two in a row, but do you feel like you're starting to get some momentum?
JEREMY LAMB: Well, I mean, yeah, I guess you could say we get momentum. We had a great win, and then coming into the Big East tournament, just got another good win. Coach came back, so there's a lot of things that go into it. But yeah, I can say we're getting momentum, yeah.
COACH CALHOUN: I'd say the biggest thing overall, and this is two games, watching, I thought we played terrific, quite frankly, against Syracuse. A game we could have won. We had a lot of heart coming back at Villanova. Everybody in this league is tough, so when you go to Villanova and we're not there, that kind of team, the schedule if the schedule did anything, it supposedly made us hopefully is going to make us tougher down the line. But if anything, it took away some of our confidence. That was the most noticeable thing last Friday when I walked in. I can't believe some of the guys didn't have the confidence, and that schedule will do that to you.
But getting back to your point, we had six bad minutes against Providence. Other than that, we had control and played well. I thought Pittsburgh played terrific in the second half, made shots, et cetera, so I do think, yeah, over the last five games we have played better basketball and certainly could have come up with at least one more win, including Syracuse maybe two more wins, and we've got to play better basketball. You can't afford the six minutes and we had it, and in all those games we got leads against on the road or against Syracuse and so on. They should feel better about themselves and hopefully we'll feel better when we play West Virginia tomorrow.
COACH PURNELL: I thought Jeremy Lamb was awfully good in the game from start to finish. He really kept us at bay in the first half. They got enough balance with some of their inside guys scoring, mainly Drummond did a nice job in there of giving them some balance, but it was really too much Lamb.
We rebounded the ball decently in the first half and we couldn't keep them off the offensive boards in the second half. They got just enough in transition. They got a lead. I really admired our guys' fighting spirit to get back into the game the second half, but you've got to give Connecticut credit and particularly Lamb who played extremely well. And Boatright really played well, too, and they got their big guys involved. Again, I admire our guys' fighting spirit, and I'm really disappointed it's over, but we lost to a better team today.
Q. As you look back on the season, what did you see from your team?
COACH PURNELL: Well, I thought we got better as the year went along. We had a resilient team. I thought we had an awful lot of things occur starting back in the summer from injuries to losing guys to Moses' episode with a concussion and some other things he missed four or five games in the heart of the season, and we lost some close games that we were right there with a chance to win.
You know, I think an average team or some average character guys could have and would have maybe folded it up. These guys continued to come back and work and play hard, and I thought obviously our closing game of the regular season was our best, which was nice to see, and nice to have the seniors go out that way. And we can build on that. We've got most of those core guys back, and we've got at least three new guys coming in next year, athletic guys that we like, so we can continue to build on that.
But I think J.K. and Krys helped us build a foundation. I think any good program, any good anything has to have a solid foundation, and we're indebted to those guys for being a part of that. I think we're seeing a cultural shift in terms of guys really working and staying together, and I think any time you have a work ethic and you stay together with good chemistry and you add talent and ability, then you can't help but move forward, so that's what I see moving forward.
Q. When you get your guys in, a couple years to indoctrinate them into your system, would you expect that third year would be a leap year in a way?
COACH PURNELL: I expect we'll be a lot better. That's always been my approach is every year you get better. I think with leadership from these guys, I think them getting better themselves, and with talent and athleticism, we expect to be better.
Q. Coach Calhoun was very complimentary on you and your staff as far as DePaul not being an easy stop for conference opponents. How has the community around DePaul University embraced the new team going forward?
COACH PURNELL: Yeah, we're treated great, and our fans are great all year long. We average 8,000 or 9,000 fans all year long and they were solid and they were there all year long, and our students were great and very supportive. I think I understand where we are, but more importantly I understand how hard these guys are working. That's one thing that keeps our momentum going within our community, on our campus. It's easy to see that these guys are working extremely hard and they're competitive and they're right there, so we've had nothing but solid support, and for that, we appreciate that.
Q. Moses, what will you take into next year?
CLEVELAND MELVIN: Just got to work on maintaining our focus and just keep grinding and working hard on the court, staying positive when we're playing in a game, just coming out playing with that energy and playing for the whole 40 minutes.
MOSES MORGAN: I feel me personally, I have to work on leadership and bringing the new guys in and just getting them to where we're at and then just building from there as a team.
Q. Moses, do you feel you guys are close and why do you feel you guys are close?
MOSES MORGAN: Yes, I feel that we're close, just the fact that we work hard every day, and even though we lose, we don't hang our heads. We just go out and play hard, and today we wanted to just leave it all out there knowing that this could be our last game. But just the fact that we work hard every day no matter what, no matter who we're playing or what the circumstances, we just go out and play hard.
Q. How do you feel you guys have progressed from last year to this year?
MOSES MORGAN: I feel that we've progressed a lot, and our coach kind of touched on it a little bit, just our chemistry as a team. This is probably one of the best groups that I've been with, even when I was in high school. I love all the guys, and we just know each other very well.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH PURNELL: Oh, I think it'll help. I think it's a process of building your team or building your program is getting two or three good recruiting classes and growing them up with positive experiences. We would have liked to have a few more of those this year like senior night and conference wins, but there are a lot of positive experiences along the way, and then we've got another group coming in, and we need to have a lot more positive experiences next year.