UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE
COACH PITINO: It was a hard fought game for us. Russ is not used to playing that many consecutive minutes. He's obviously a much better free throw shooter. Normally he hits the rim (laughter), but he was so gassed because he was playing so hard that he's 112 pounds, so he just got really, really tired. But he helped us. Payton I thought played his best point guard game of the season with the exception of throwing it to Russ when we had the lead there at the break because Russ pays no attention to clock, time, score. He is just Pac Man. He just looks to gobble everything up and go to the rim. Outside of that he played terrific.
Q. Just talk about, I remember you were saying that at this point of the year, this is kind of how you have to play a little bit. Are you expecting to see these kind of games the rest of this weekend and next week, as well?
COACH PITINO: Well, we're a mirror image of each other. We play the same type of zone that's really man. We try to confuse the opponents. We press a little bit more than they do.
RUSS SMITH: Don't give away our secrets.
COACH PITINO: I think they know now. (Laughter).
But we really did a good job tonight especially in the second half of getting the ball on the interior and making some plays. Real proud of our guys. I told them it's just got to be about defense. Defense helps you advance. In the second half we started hitting some shots and it was much better.
Q. Do you have as much sway with the selection committee and can you get Seton Hall in or do you think they should be in?
COACH PITINO: Well, to show you how much clout I had with John Marinatto, if you look at the schedule this year, I think Syracuse is 1, Pitt was 2 or 3 and we played them both twice. I've been on the road four straight years at West Virginia. On the road twice with Cincinnati. I wish Sauce (John Marinatto) would get off his ass and follow the schedule and say one of my main guys in life is getting shafted with the schedule.
I will say this, because this was a big day for us with Temple. John Marinatto, and you all know I love the guy, but he has done the most incredible job I've seen in some time. I didn't even think he was up for this Herculine effort. To get Boise State in football, San Diego State and all those teams all at once, and then we had to have Memphis, we had to have Temple. I'm real proud of him because he preserved the legacy of Dave Gavitt [check], and all of us who loved Dave wanted to see the BIG EAST be preserved and he went out and got Memphis with the culture of urban basketball, real proud of Villanova for supporting their neighbor and getting them in, and we're real excited to have them in.
I say this joking around. This guy Joe Lunardi has no agenda. How would you like to wake up in the morning and all you do is bracketology all day long? Can you imagine that? He doesn't pay attention to his wife, he doesn't pay attention to his children, all he does all night long is bracketology. So just follow him because his batting average is incredible. The only thing obviously is he doesn't know where teams go, so if he does they're in, they're in. Everybody call Joe. Here's his number, by the way, just write this down. But just ask him because he's really on the money most of the time. I think Seton Hall is worthy to get in but you're all going to say well, he loves Kevin Willard like a son. I think Seton Hall is terrific and they've had a good year.
Everybody says the BIG EAST gets so many teams. Look, Connecticut, they can beat anybody in the country and they're in the bottom tier of the conference. I think they do, but I've got no sway with that type of stuff.
Q. Looking ahead to Marquette, as you guys trying to figure things out late in the season.
PEYTON SIVA: Definitely. Marquette is a tough team. We played them tough at their place until the end. But like Coach P said, it starts with defense with us. As long as we continue to play defense and continue to get steals, then that's when we're at our best. When we just focus on offense and focus on that, then we play bad, we have our slumps. Right now just focusing on defense. Me and Russ have a little steal battle going on. I had six, I don't know how many he had. Zero. So that's what we're going off of today.
COACH PITINO: But Russ had 15 fouls.
Q. Can you talk about Gorgui impact defensively? How much do you think he bothered the other side?
COACH PITINO: You know, one of the problems with having CL, and I think it definitely affects our free throw shooting, I'm not playing enough guys to do what we did tonight from a pressing standpoint. But our goal tonight was one thing and only one thing, and that's to wear out Theodore. We just want to wear him out. But what happens in that situation because I'm not playing a whole lot of guys is that sometimes you lose certain things, but we did not he is probably one of the top point guards in America in terms of what he does for a team, so our goal tonight is just to make sure he had no legs the entire game.
Q. But he came back and hurt you late in the game.
COACH PITINO: Tough shot, I mean, real tough shot, and speaks volumes to what type of player he is. But tough shot, made good plays. But really, great players make great plays, and he did certainly, but our guys made some great plays down the stretch with some inside to outside, occur I can to Russ, Peyton did a great job of running the team, and like I said, that was his best point guard performance of the season.
Q. Peyton, you guys seemed to be going at it pretty good in the second half?
PEYTON SIVA: Definitely, Jordan Theodore, like Coach P says is one of the best point guards, especially what he do for his team. He runs their offense, and our goal today, my goal, was just to try to force him into turnovers and not give him open shots. We did a pretty good job in the first half. Second half he got to our big mens' chest and got fouls. We always get up for any team, and like coach said, just worry about defense all the time, and it showed today?
Q. Coach, just nine turnovers, last time you played them 24. What did your guards do to handle it better?
COACH PITINO: Well, Peyton worked we didn't show him the tape of the last game purposely, but today we spaced them real well. We got the ball inside when they came after us, and we were going to run a certain offense whether they were going to play man or zone. But what we did a very good job of because last night they had great confidence, we were going to take away the three point line, and we did a very good job of that. We felt if we took away the three point line when we got to the foul line and made our free throws, which we did not do, we were going to win the game.
Q. You mentioned some similarities with the way they play and the way you play. You watched them yesterday and you saw them today. Did you get the feeling maybe they were one or two experienced players away from what they
COACH PITINO: No, I just think that we played really good defense, and we're not the greatest offensive team, but we played really good defense. We're one of the top defensive teams in the country. Last night they got open looks. Tonight they struggled. Even when we fouled them a couple times, we weren't going to give them an open look, so it's a credit to the defense playing great. We had 39 deflections tonight, which is very, very high.
Q. (No microphone).
COACH PITINO: I was infuriated by him in the first half because he passed up three open looks. I use him as the analogy. We don't count misses here. An open look, you take it. If you're guarded, ball fake, give someone else an open look. I say this honestly because usually he takes challenged shots. Tonight we talked about him, Russ, under ten seconds on the shot clock, all twos. Anything under ten, do what you want, and he took all good shots tonight. This is the first game where he took all good shots that we played. But his mentality is contagious on everybody else because he has no fear. He's a 6'0" New York guard that has no fear. He's bailed us out of more difficult situations this year because of and I wanted Kyle to do that because he had so many open looks. He started hesitating and you can't hesitate. He also started taking NBA threes. Sometimes the lines here confuse you.
Q. What did you think of these jerseys?
COACH PITINO: Unfortunately wait until you see the these guys love them. They're the lightest uniforms you've ever seen, and it's infrared. You're not going to believe the color of the now we become a visitor. This is modest and mild compared to Syracuse has played so well in those uniforms that we thought we could take a page out of their book.
Q. Coach Pitino just talked about you didn't have any easy threes. What did you see out there?
COACH WILLARD: I mean, they're one of the better defensive teams in the conference. We had some really good looks early in the game that I think if we had knocked down we could have loosened it up a little bit. And we didn't knock them down, and we kind of had a battle from that point on. Just really proud of the way these guys played tonight.
Q. Kevin, how much did Dieng's presence just change the whole equation?
COACH WILLARD: Yeah, Gorgui, they've done a tremendous job with him. He just sits back there and you go in there and he's got great timing. I voted for him for Defensive Player of the Year just because of the way he's played all year long. It was a big presence.
Q. Jordan, Coach Pitino talked about he wanted to wear you out. Just talk about the flow of the game.
JORDAN THEODORE: Yeah, I think early on in the game they did a good job of pressuring me a lot and wearing me down but toward the end of the game I just didn't want to lose. I wanted to win so bad, and just not for myself but for this guy, for coach. I just wanted to just leave it all out there for Seton Hall and just go out there and battle.
Q. Was Aaron still feeling a touch of the flu?
COACH WILLARD: You just don't get rid of the flu. He wasn't 100 percent healthy, but he was feeling better than he did yesterday.
Q. I know you're disappointed somewhat about how this turned out, but it has to be really valuable source of experience for the younger players.
COACH WILLARD: Disappointed in what, the season?
Q. In the way things turned out, you had up times, you had down times.
COACH WILLARD: No, I'm not disappointed at all. I'm actually win 20 games in this conference and have five out of seven on the road and three in a row on the road? We played the 15th toughest non conference schedule.
Q. But I'm talking as far as experience and giving that type of experience to the younger players that you have on the squad this year, to experience winning, to experience the pressure of being this whole thing could help you down the road?
COACH WILLARD: Yeah, that's part of freshmen becoming sophomores, sophomores becoming juniors. Eventually hopefully you have a couple guys like this. When you have guys like this, you have a good program. I said that all year long. We'd go as far as these guys take us, and they've taken us pretty darned far. Again, to have the 15th toughest non conference schedule and to have only one loss and our non conference RPI was fourth in the country. I'm ecstatic the way the season went.
Q. Those kind of numbers, taking all that in, where do you think you will stand?
COACH WILLARD: Yeah, I believe this team deserves to be playing and its name called on Sunday. Again, I've always been under the belief that it's the total year, it's not just two games that you played bad maybe at the end of the year or a tough stretch. Our total résumé is as good as anyone's out there. Our non conference schedule, we played road games, we played neutral site games, and we had one loss. We lost to a very good Northwestern team. We were No. 4 in the country in the RPI at the end of the non conference, and we played the 15th toughest schedule. So to look around and then played with all freshmen and sophomores and two seniors in this league. Unfortunately, for some reason we were the only team that played three in a row on the road. That really hurt us. That was our losing streak. We played five out of seven on the road and we had three in a row on the road.
JORDAN THEODORE: It's really tough. For me and Herb at the end of our Seton Hall career, especially just leaving it up to the selection committee on Sunday, we wanted to go out there and just prove a point, and we came up short tonight, so it's a tough one.
Q. Jordan, how difficult are these next few days going to be?
JORDAN THEODORE: No, I'm just going to get in the gym, get better and just pray. That's all we can do. That's all I'm going to do is just get better. I'm not going to watch TV, I'm just going to get better, go to school and live my life.
Q. Jordan, you heard the coach make his case. What would you say to the selection committee about why Seton Hall deserves to be in the tournament?
JORDAN THEODORE: Well, from day one until now, I think we've done a pretty good job of winning games and beating the teams we had to beat. We had some tough losses, but I think we did enough to get in. But I just can't say that; it's up to the selection committee, so we're going to see what happens on Sunday.
HERB POPE: Absolutely, definitely everybody is going to come into this tournament and try and win it all obviously. For the long term goal for the season I don't feel like we came up short at all. I feel like we overachieved things, especially with the adversity we had to face and overcome, so I feel like this season was a success for us.
Q. (No microphone).
HERB POPE: You know, I've faced Brad Miller first game of the year and figured out he's got a pump fake, so I feel like we handled him. He changed a lot more shots than he blocked. He did a great job of stepping up. You've got to give credit to their guards. He couldn't bounce pass anything in there because when he would step up they were in there for the steal. He made you second guess yourself when you got in the lane. I felt like he blocked shots, that's what he was supposed to do, but he changed more shots than what anybody gives him credit for.