UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI
COACH CRONIN: Just like we drew it up (laughter). Dion Waiters put on an unbelievable show in the second half. I don't know what his numbers were, but he made some big time shots to get them back in the game. Proud of our guys. We controlled the game. Our zone obviously was highly effective for the better part of the game. But my guys played with unbelievable toughness. To be able to battle them on the glass even, with our lack of size, and come away with 11 steals, just a tremendous job all around by a lot of guys on our team.
I've been telling them all year, people keep putting it that we stunned Georgetown. We beat them four in a row. I've got faith in my team. When our toughness rises to the level of our talent, we've got a great team. We can beat anybody. We came here to win the tournament, and we've got one more tomorrow night at 9:00.
Q. On the three pointer, you were just kind of planted down in the corner to rotate. Can you talk about how that play unfolded?
SEAN KILPATRICK: I mean, I just Cashmere just told me to stay in the corner, and then Coach was telling me to go to the corner because Kris Joseph, he was going to come up and play cash because Cash was hot, as well, throughout the game. Once he played Cash, I was just wide open, so Cash it was a good thing that Cash caught me?
Q. Did you know it was good as soon as you let it go?
COACH CRONIN: He always thinks it's good when he lets it go. Just ask anybody in white planes.
Q. You played seven guys, a lot of wear and tear. Talk about the poise you had to maintain.
COACH CRONIN: Yeah, because we played zone the whole game, I'm with these guys every day, I know what they're capable of. I can tell when they're tired, and fatigue wasn't really a factor because we lived in the zone, and we were I thought we got a lot of rest. We never let the game get at the pace where they could get up and down and play in their comfort zone. They're the best conversion team in America from defense to offense. That was a big key for us. I think that helped us, as well, because we've got a lot of freshmen over there on the bench and Cheikh Mbodj is a first year player as well good tonight because of the pace of the game I didn't think these guys I kept asking them if they needed a sub in the timeouts, but everybody kept saying no. I had to get a volunteer one time to get our six man rotation going.
Q. If you could speak to the luxury of being up by 17 and the challenge of how hard it is to keep a lead a whole game against a team that good.
COACH CRONIN: Well, no matter who you're playing, the top half of our league, the game is never over. It's human nature to flinch a little bit when they come obviously it's like a home game for them, which makes the win even sweeter for us. But we hesitated for a little bit and didn't attack their pressure. Once we started attacking their pressure, we were able to get it back to a ten point lead. I kept telling the guys in the timeouts, this is going to be a crazy ending and we're going to win by more than ten because we got to break the press. I have seen them play. When they get behind, they're going to come. They're not going to sit back in that zone. They're going to come. So we did a pretty good job after our initial hesitation of attacking their pressure.
Q. As far as obviously you've got a whole game plan and you're prepared, but when your team shoots the way that it does, a team that makes a little more than a dozen threes a game, and is shooting the way they were, are you thinking that something has come together?
COACH CRONIN: No, we've made more in the course of the entire season, we lead the BIG EAST in three point field goals made. We've made more threes than anybody in the BIG EAST. We're standing there wide open. Last night, we were 2 for 21. We shot 7 that went in and out. We've got guys that can make shots, so law of averages catches up.
When you let it fly with confidence the way we do, we only shot 22 threes, so I'm not going to sit here and act like it was some miraculous things that we made some shots. This is not the first time we've made we're going to make 10 threes in a game. We've made way more than that in games throughout the course of the season.
Q. You were sitting right where you are now when you mentioned that rebuilding the Cincinnati program was like trying to raise the Titanic. You beat Georgetown. You've had some good ones. You just beat what most people believe is the No. 1 seed on national television. What kind of a statement is this for your program?
COACH CRONIN: Well, it's a huge win for our program. I think what you've got to realize in college basketball is you've got to allow teams the course of the season, some teams get better. We had injuries to key guys early on, and we lost five seniors. We lost a lot of toughness on our team. It took us a while to develop toughness, and now that our toughness has caught up to our talent, when we make shots we can beat anybody. But our defense hung us in there last night. You need that all against Syracuse because they are arguably the best team in the country. But it's a great win for our program. Maybe the guys that vote in the coaches' poll will give us at least one vote on the also rans. We didn't get any last week despite winning eight of our last ten.
Q. I just wanted to ask you about Jackson's basket at the end. Was that drawn up?
COACH CRONIN: I'm trying to remember which one. You're talking about the press? Well, I was begging our guys to throw over the top against their pressure. If you keep trying to play sideways they're going to steal it. They've got nothing to lose, so you have to throw over the top and attack. It's easier said than done. They were coming after Cash pretty hard. But once we were able to catch it and throw over the top the way we were trying to do it when you're in that situation they've got to take that gamble.
Q. You kind of spoke to this earlier, but it's a big win for the team and the program but you still have another big game tomorrow. Can you speak to not getting too caught up in a big win tonight?
COACH CRONIN: As soon as I by the time I got done with ESPN I walked in the locker room, the guys had written "we need to win one more" on the board. I didn't even have to write it.
Where we come from, we play to win. Like I said last night, we'll show up tonight at 7:00, tomorrow we'll be here at 9:00. We're not in it for the old college try. When this tournament starts next week, we're quietly going to try to win it. We don't let people outside our locker room define who we are as people. We're not perfect. Or as a team. We try to define that for ourselves and make sure we're giving our best effort. That's what true greatness is, John Wooden.
Q. Yancey, can you imagine that you're one game away from a BIG EAST championship?
YANCY GATES: No, not at first, but as the season went on, yeah. I told the guys last night, talking about the Georgetown game, I was telling them, we're not going to miss those shots today. I mean, we knew we'd come in here and we was going to have a good chance of winning. I didn't think we would be up that big at halftime, but I knew that we had a chance coming in here and beating Syracuse.
Q. Yancy, the three pointers kind of stopped falling there for a period in the second half, and you kept attacking the glass, going against those shot blockers. How critical was that, going to the rim like that?
YANCY GATES: It was big because them hitting those shots really opened it up for me in the middle, so you know, it was pretty much one on one with Fab Melo. A couple times they converged down but they blocked it out of bounds so it was still our ball. Then they had to try to play both of us and that's when Cash hit the three in the corner, so it just worked out the best for us.
COACH BOEHEIM: I thought the game started Cincinnati moved the ball better than we did. They got some real good looks. They made eight threes in the first half, and we didn't get anything going offensively in the first half. I was shocked that we were within 12, and then we started the second half off and had a couple good defensive possessions, didn't get the rebound, and they got it, put it back in.
We just couldn't get anything going. We'd get close a couple times, we'd get it where we'd have a good shot, a good look, a couple free throws we missed, right when it was when it was still seven, eight minutes to go, I think it was five, and I think Brandon missed two free throws and we missed a drive, didn't convert. I thought we had an opportunity then.
And then late, Dion made a couple really difficult threes, and we got it to two and we had an opportunity, and we just couldn't make a play there. Dion made the we wanted to try to miss the second one, but he's such a good shooter, he couldn't do that. We tried to get the ball back.
I thought we really made as good an effort in the last ten minutes as we could make, but the first 30 we just really didn't move the ball well. We didn't pass it well. We didn't shoot well until the last ten minutes. We made all of our threes in the last ten minutes of the game. We probably made six or seven of the threes that we made. We were about 4 for 15 in the first part.
But I give Cincinnati a lot of credit. I thought they moved the ball. They made shots. Gates played really good inside, and they did a good job of controlling the game. I give my guys a lot of credit, to come back the way they came back.
I think unfortunately we're doing a couple things defensively not as well as we have, and we really haven't seen a zone defense, probably hardly at all really, since I can't remember the last time we saw much zone. So I think that's one thing, we didn't attack like we probably should and could.
But I think when you lose I think you take we've had some spotty games over the last ten, but I think when you win, you don't learn enough from those games. I mean, you talk about them, you try to change things, but I don't think you learn enough, and I think losing this game we'll take some things out of here.
The one thing that stands out to me is when we've played well, Scoop and Kris have been there for us. They've been very good. And Dion has been consistently good all year, C.J., Fab, Brandon, they've been pretty consistent. But when we played our best, Scoop and Kris have been there. Scoop wasn't there tonight. He didn't get a rebound in 33 minutes, and he's got to be there for us and Scoop has got to be there. I don't think either guy I think they had nine turnovers. They are two seniors who have to take you forward. As we go to next Thursday, the two things I told the team we had won 31 games, which is a good thing, and we've done it with Scoop and with Kris setting the tone every game, and everybody else doing what they can and should do.
And as we go forward into the tournament, I think that's going to be a key for us.
Q. Dion, obviously it's disappointing to lose. So many people had you favored to win the Big East Tournament. What's the mood of the team right now in the locker room? And Coach, what do you say to your team to get them prepared for the tournament after this disappointing lose?
DION WAITERS: I mean, we hate losing, at the end of the day. Our mindset coming into this tournament was just to win and continue to get better as a team. Nobody likes to lose. You know, Cincinnati came out on fire. You know, we've got to do a better job at the guard position getting up on the shooters and contesting the shots better than what we did in the first half, and I think if we do that and continue to work hard on the defensive end, I think we'll be a lot better moving forward.
COACH BOEHEIM: And what I'll tell them is we've won 31 games, and we've proven what we can do and we've got to get back and we have to play a little better from the beginning. Our two seniors have got to do what they need to do. Most national championships not all, but a lot of them have been won by teams that lose in their conference tournament, including us. So as much as we want to win this tournament, the tournament that starts next week is the only one that matters. Nothing else matters anymore in college basketball. It doesn't matter that you win 31 games. It doesn't matter that you win your conference tournament. The way college basketball is now, whoever you are, whether you're VCU or Syracuse, the only thing that really matters is how you do in the tournament. We know that, and we're going to be prepared for that.
Q. And in that regard, you mentioned that things have been a little spotty coming down the stretch. Do you feel you are playing your best, or do you see certain threads that show
COACH BOEHEIM: No, I think we play good enough to win ten games in a row. In our league, that's good enough. But can we play better during those games? Yes, we can play better. We've got an extra day now, an extra two days, really, now to go back and work on those things, so hopefully we will be able to get better.
Q. 15 turnovers today after just four yesterday. What was the big difference?
COACH BOEHEIM: Well, I think we had four in the first half yesterday, but we had 15 yesterday, too. Did we only have four the whole game?
COACH BOEHEIM: Well, I think what I would say is we tried to play faster, and when you play faster you make more turnovers in transition. I think when you play against a zone like we played against our zone, you're going to make a few more turnovers, and their zone is very good, very active, just like ours is. So they had 14, we had 15. A couple of them were bad turnovers, but that happens.
Q. You mentioned the two seniors, that you need to get them going again. But C.J. struggled in both games, and he's been so consistent. Is he another guy who's going to be critical next week?
COACH BOEHEIM: Well, he's really struggled down here these two games. He hasn't really struggled all year, but he struggled here. He got going on the boards a little bit, he got more aggressive on the boards, and this game he got 11 rebounds. But yeah, we need him to be more of a factor.
But I really think for us the key has been all year, it's Kris, Scoop, Brandon and Dion in terms of offensive production. We're hopeful that James he got the same shots tonight he got last night. Last night they went in. We need him to make a couple. He's going to play. He's going to get six or seven shots, just like he did tonight, and we need him to make a couple.
But C.J., I think, will be all right.
Q. Can you talk about in a game where Scoop and Kris struggled how Dion kind of put the team
COACH BOEHEIM: Well, he's a tremendous offensive player, and he knows when other guys are struggling he's going to have to be more aggressive, and he was tonight, and he obviously shot the ball very well, and that's a good sign, too.
Q. For both players, what does this do to your level of confidence? Do you still have a lot of confidence?
DION WAITERS: Because we're confident. At the end of the day it should give us that much more to go out there and play more, and when we go back to practice, take practice to a whole other level and just get ready for the championship, the NCAA Tournament. That's the main goal and that's what we all talked about at the end of the day. I mean, winning the BIG EAST don't mean nothing at all. We're trying to win the NCAA Tournament. That's the main focus.
Q. For both players, I don't think that you guys trailed by more than 13 this entire season. At that moment when you find yourselves down 17, Dion, you said that they came out on fire. What is that like, that unfamiliar territory in that situation for the first time all year?
DION WAITERS: I think we were down 13 before to South Florida. It's the will, the will to win, the heart, and just having confidence in each other, knowing that we're going to come back. That's been our motto the whole year, even when we get down. We have faith in each other and we know at the end of the day we're going to win the game. Tonight we came up short but it gives us a chance to go back to the drawing board and work that much more hard and get ready for the main goal at the end of the year.
COACH BOEHEIM: When you look at this game, what it comes down to is, there were five or six opportunities when we had it to six and we had it to eight and we had it to five and we had it to four and we had it to six with plenty of time to go, not late, with plenty of time to go. We've made a play every game this year. We've been in that situation. We were down eight to Connecticut with seven minutes to go last night, eight minutes to go. We've been in that situation. We were within eight tonight.
But every game that we've been in that situation, we've been able to make plays, and tonight we had somewhat easier plays, and we just didn't make them. And we made two or three really bad turnovers in transition, not forced turnovers, that we haven't made in those situations. That's why we've won every close game we've played. The only game we lost wasn't close. Every game we've won has been close every game we've had a close game, which there have been a number of them, probably conservatively eight games that could have gone either way and that we were behind eight, six, seven, five late, and every one of those games when we made a play, we made it. We made the play we had to make, and tonight we didn't make that play.
When you're behind, you can't afford to not make that play. When you're up eight, you can afford to not make a play. But this is what we've done all year long. We have not overpowered people in our league unless we had a rare when we had really good shooting nights, at St. John's, last part of the Connecticut game at home. Every other game we've played has been very, very close, and we've made plays. And tonight we just couldn't make a key play.
And the solution to that problem is to play better earlier and not get in that position going forward. That's the answer for us.