UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE
COACH PITINO: I've lost sort of my voice. I'm going to let Gorgui give the introduction and opening remarks.
GORGUI DIENG: I can't do it. What do you want me to say?
COACH PITINO: Tell them what you thought of the game. Tell them you thought it was brilliantly coached.
GORGUI DIENG: It was a very physical game. We played good defense, but we got down in the backcourt. I hope that's not going to happen to us tomorrow.
PEYTON SIVA: It was a well coached game, a very well coached game.
COACH PITINO: Serious. Our guys did a fabulous job because when we played them last time we played two overtimes. I think 7 of 11 games have been in overtime, you think about that, how scary that is. The amazing thing is the last time we played them, including two overtimes, we got out five times on the break. We were banged up obviously with a lot of injuries and we were willing to play that style. Tonight we weren't. Tonight we got ahead 11 of 13 times on the break for 19 points, and we shot a very high percentage. But in a matter of a game we had 20 assists, which is really, really good, played good defense. So real proud of our guys. We've wanted to get to this championship game again. We lost it last year in a very close battle, and now we get the opportunity to play for it again, and it's a great opportunity for the players and all our fans.
Q. Just specifically offensively, what was happening maybe better tonight than it has in the past?
COACH PITINO: Well, we were trying to obviously push the pace. We were trying to mix it up, and any time we got in a jam, we wanted to go inside to Gorgui because they don't trap the post and he did a very good job tonight of going to a variety of different moves, especially his jump hook. He's becoming a terrific player, and we're very fortunate to have him in our program because he's one of the most popular guys on the campus because he's such a terrific person. So he's really improving. I'm real proud of him. He plays real hard. And the sky's the limit to how good he can become down the road when he gets stronger.
Q. I think it was about eight minutes into the game you guys were down 15 9, you called a time out, and I don't know what was said in the time out but you responded with a 20 to 2 run.
COACH PITINO: Well, a couple things. We were playing really good defense but we were giving up second shots. I said Gorgui can't cover Cooley by himself. The obvious thing they were doing is run pick and rolls and get him in foul trouble. If we get him in foul trouble today, obviously tomorrow it's difficult for us to win. We did it the other night. So I put the two mosquitos in the game with Russ and Peyton, and they just bother people, they just gnaw at people, they just really, really get under your skin, and that really gave us a big lift defensively.
Q. Kind of piggybacking off that last answer, I think you held them almost 13 minutes without a field goal. Can you talk about stifling their offense?
COACH PITINO: Well, we were putting good man pressure on it, and I thought Russ Smith did a tremendous job of leaving his man and helping Gorgui out. He kept saying to the guys in the time out, I've got Gorgui in the low post, and he did a really, really good job of that. I think Peyton is really changing pace, which is something he wasn't doing. He's doing a great job of changing pace and finding people. So our offense fed off our defense and our defense fed off our offense.
Q. This is a question for Peyton and then Rick. Could you describe the ways that the BIG EAST Conference tournament makes a team ready for the NCAAs?
PEYTON SIVA: I mean, Coach P told us before we got in the BIG EAST, just forget about the regular season, that we're starting a new season now, we're going to start fresh, and everybody really bought into that. Everybody really bought into defense on this team, and everybody was really feeding off that. We're just taking it one game at a time right now. BIG EAST is really a tough conference, like right now I'm beat up. I'm going to go hop in a bath after this. But it's tough. Like Gorgui said, Jack Cooley is strong, we've got Yancy Gates tomorrow, and it really gets us prepared for the NCAA Tournament because of all the different defenses we see.
COACH PITINO: I think it's a special treat. I think my players are all rooting for Syracuse in the locker room saying they want to get a third shot at them. I said, you guys are sick. There's something wrong with you. It's not the team because you all know how good Cincinnati is, they beat us. It's the fans. You have to play a road game. So any time you can get Connecticut and Syracuse out and you can play a championship in a neutral site, it's really good for you. So Gorgui kept yelling for Dion Waiters to score, score, score. I said, son, you've got to realize we've lost to them twice now, let's play without 16,000 people. And the interesting thing is how many people they'll bring to Tobacco Road. That will be interesting. There's not many Syracuse alums on Tobacco Road.
Q. Talk about Gorgui.
COACH PITINO: He led the we were struggling with the backboard and he led it. He played great last night. He's a great player, and we're very, very fortunate. They're just great guys to be around, and he's a good leader. He gets down when he doesn't play well like anybody else, but he never lets it affect the next day of practice or the next game. The most important thing he's learning right now is not making silly fouls, and he's changing his pace all the time, and that's making him a much better basketball player.
Q. How much better have you gotten this year?
GORGUI DIENG: How much better?
COACH PITINO: Answer them. Tell them your weight when you came in.
GORGUI DIENG: When I got in here, I weighed like 187, 197. And I started lifting more, eating much better, and my sophomore year I weighed 244. Then it was too high, then I lost probably 10 or 15 pounds.
But I think he changed my whole game. Like I can tell I was kind of I don't want to say soft, but I wasn't physical at all. I just got on the court and played. But he changed my whole game. He makes me like stand up, and like I say, he changed everything. I think he's going to make me look like a better player my junior year or my senior year.
Q. So far in these last games, you guys have led the script pace wise and every aspect of an opponent. How do you see tomorrow night, that game possibly being played at a different pace?
GORGUI DIENG: Like I always say, like my teammates, it's not like we're playing. We're just trying to follow the game plan, trying to execute well, play good defense. And I think if we play a better defense every game, it doesn't matter, we're going to win.
Q. This championship game tomorrow is going to be the first without an original BIG EAST team. Given this crazy year we've all followed, do you see any significance in that?
COACH PITINO: Yeah, I think Conference USA has come to the Big Apple. Look, some of us who were born in New York City and can't fathom Syracuse being in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The strange thing about it sometimes is certain schools don't need money. It really doesn't matter. You can't use all of you say money is the reason, and it really is not the reason. We're the No. 1 revenue producer in college basketball by $11 million according to Forbes last year. We made 40 and Duke was second at $29 million. So with that in mind, when we make decisions of what to do with our program, it's based on all our athletes and our alumni. So Tom says, okay, he polled all our athletes about how much they love the BIG EAST, and 90 percent of them said they love it.
Although we're going to miss Syracuse and obviously they have so many alumni in this area, I can't fathom the why part of it. Now, everybody says fast break. Well, we've got a better fast break conference now, so John has done a brilliant job with that putting it all together. Memphis will be very exciting for the league, Temple will be very exciting for the league. I think we're really going to miss Syracuse because the side of their court says New York's College Team. So we're going to miss them. Pitt and West Virginia were great for our conference, but putting Memphis and Temple in place of those two, you're replacing two great traditions with two great traditions, but we're going to miss Syracuse.
Q. What does it mean for a point guard for a guy that's a perfectionist?
PEYTON SIVA: It's very tough playing for Coach P, but it's fun, especially when you put in the style of running and getting out of a break. During the season, we played a lot of slow ball and it really wasn't working for us, and he pulled us aside and told us we're going to run Coach P ball. It's really fun to get out there. He said it's going to be more rebounds, more steals, more assists, more points. As players, we love stats, so it's a great program, fun little system to play, and I love it. It's tough sometimes, but at the end of the day, he gets results.
Q. With so many injuries this year, it was kind of mix and match with missed practices. How complete is this team right now?
COACH PITINO: What Peyton alluded to, we always would run and press, but we had to survive this year. We were really scared that we couldn't practice this year. Peyton missed over 30 days. Kyle Kuric missed two weeks, and then we had three major or knee surgeries, two ACLs and a microfracture. So we lost everything at once. And then two of our players, Kevin and Wayne Blackshear didn't become eligible until December and January, so we were just trying to play slow the first time just so we could try and win games. And the guys did a great job. And everybody was saying, well, you can't shoot, you can't well, we couldn't because we had no bench. We had to survive. And now that we have a bench, we have gone back I said, look, all we have to do is get to the postseason. We weren't going to speed South Florida up, and we could not run up and down in the Carrier Dome with the largest crowd ever their senior night, and it wasn't prudent to do that.
So I told the guys, look, we're going to go back to what we planned in the summertime in the Bahamas to running and pressing. We've got guys that can come in, and it certainly helps Peyton's game tremendously, and it helps Kyle Kuric's game because they can be playing in the half court. So we are still going to have to play some half court basketball, obviously, but we did a fabulous at that job tonight. The guys worked really well inside to out. They screened well. They run their pick and roll well, so that's why we shot 50 some percent.
Q. Is there any chance you're going to get an infrared tie?
COACH PITINO: Well, we were worried about Syracuse getting to the finals because of what we would look like next to them. I'm real proud of Mick Cronin. We've got two guys in the BIG EAST that I've had the pleasure to work with, Kevin Willard and Mick Cronin. Both took over devastated programs, both brought them back, and Nick is a tremendous teacher, great worker. He has tough kids that play their tails off. It did not surprise me that they won tonight at all because they had a lead on Syracuse last time and lost and I thought they learned a lesson. Mick had to weather the storm of people second guessing him and saying you are not turn it around. Very similar to the Tom Crean situation what he was left with and look at where he stands today bringing this program back to the championship game. I know our guys are really looking forward to playing a championship game, and we're really excited about that.
UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME
COACH BREY: You know, we turned it over there a couple times, and I don't think we really ever recovered. Their full court pressure kind of got to us, and we never really did recover. They defended the heck out of us. We had some open looks that you've got to knock down to kind of stop the bleeding when they were in the midst of their run, and we never got any of those. So give a lot of credit to Louisville, just kind of making us uncomfortable with their defense.
Q. You alluded to this, but there was that stretch there, almost 13 minutes without a field goal.
COACH BREY: Yeah, yeah. We called a timeout after we turned it over a couple times. It was 15 15, and then we broke pressure and we had a couple open threes that you've got to make one or two of those to kind of get you feeling good like you're kind of getting your momentum back or reestablishing your tempo. Never could really do that.
They're hard to keep out of the lane. Siva is so good getting in there. We had jack established. We were throwing it into him and he was doing stuff, and then when they started coming down on him we had some looks, but you've got to make a couple more of those to have a chance tonight.
Q. There were times, back to January down there, where it got a little hectic, and you were able to regain control. Was it a matter of not being able to make shots that you got the tempo back where you wanted it?
COACH BREY: I think so. When I called a timeout, I said this is exactly what happened at Louisville, and we got back under control. Now, they went back and played more zone down there. They fell back to more zone. They stayed on us with ball pressure in the half court. They kind of matched up, and that I think had us a little frenzied at times. Even when we got looks, we were kind of rushed.
Q. Talk about coming up short again?
JACK COOLEY: We had another chance tonight to do something we haven't done in our program before. There was that one stretch that's really hard to overcome if you go 13 minutes without a field goal. That's a pretty big amount of decline to put yourself down that much. It's a pretty big disappointment but we've just got to move on to the next tournament. The next one next week is the biggest one in the whole season, so that's what we've got to focus on now.
ERIC ATKINS: We are disappointed we didn't make it to Saturday, but they're a tough team. I give them all the credit. They really got after us. But I think now we have to set new goals in the NCAA Tournament and move on from there.
Q. You talked yesterday about Jack's struggle a little bit yesterday, and today he bounced back and you were able to establish him a little bit inside today.
COACH BREY: Yeah, I think that was a key for us, and I feel good going into the NCAA Tournament the way he got off and we were throwing it into him and him defensive rebounding. He has been such a key factor for us being 13 and 5 in the regular season and getting securing an NCAA bid. So we need his presence, and I think him playing well even though it was a loss, him in a rhythm tonight helps I feel good about that moving to a game on Thursday or Friday.
Q. You guys had 19 offensive rebounds tonight, shot a decent percentage on the arc, but talk about how the zone gets into you on the perimeter.
COACH BREY: It rushes you a little bit. Even when we got those clean looks, you are a little frenzied. The guy that is shooting it, his feet are not quite as set as they would be in other situations. And they do really a great job of it. I mean, again, the ball pressure that they kept on us and kept on our guards, it kind of takes its toll, and it did on us tonight.
We didn't make enough we had some free throw situations, too, that would have stopped the bleeding a little bit and maybe give you some hope, but we couldn't make a free throw, either.
Q. What did you go through after last night's performance, between then and now?
JACK COOLEY: Again, I was really disappointed. My team really helped me last night picking me up. I let everyone down last night. I had a decent game today and I wanted to make sure I came back and got a little bit more in the rhythm of thing and tried to play more for my team, and I wanted to play my hardest.
Q. Eric, how much of a concern, two of the last three games, this one and South Florida, Georgetown, three of the last four, it seems like points are such a struggle for you guys to get to?
ERIC ATKINS: You know, they have been a struggle for us lately. You know, I just think that we need to play our game and play at our pace. In all those games, I don't think we really got the ball where we wanted to, and we have to shoot the ball better. It really comes down to that. We had some open looks, and we're going to have to knock them down to beat some good teams.
Q. You talked in the past about almost exhausting yourself to get through regular season, get through this tournament. How do you get everything refreshed so you can make more progress in the next one?
COACH BREY: Yeah, I think the benefit, you have tomorrow to kind of get your legs under you and travel, and then Sunday we'll get back into a practice segment. It's kind of a fresh start. I talked to them about giving that we leave here with a bad taste in our mouth, can we be really hung rear and a little edge year as we move into the NCAA Tournament. I'm really proud of what they've done up to this point. They've had a heck of a run, and I love the fact that they're stinging. I hope that helps us in our preparation moving into the next one.