UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT
COACH CALHOUN: Well, needless to say, I think probably, I'm not sure what Bobby would have said, but actually I loved coaching against Bobby and all of our guys that I know and some of these other guys I don't know all that well. But he knows that next week is an important week for all of us.
For us, we got pounded on the boards. We know that. It's kind of been happening a little bit, and we couldn't get our front court woken up. I think Alex did a good job. I thought both Roscoe and Andre did not play well early. But we hung in there. We were right there, okay.
And then the constant pounding, because you see all those offensive rebounds, you also remember that about six or seven of them are blocked shots. They seem to get every blocked shot that we had. So not that it's misleading, but we played defensive a little bit different than maybe some other teams, and down the stretch it did help since we blocked two of their lay ups.
Point being is that I thought we were going to win the game in regulation. Once Shabazz made his three, it was true, we were only down four at that point, or two, and we ran out of we got into overtime, of course losing Shabazz and all the things that did happen.
But as I see the second half and I see the overtime, Jones who was a tremendous basketball player, and I just got a chance to tell him so, I don't think he scored a heck of a lot over the last 15 minutes. As a matter of fact I don't quite frankly remember him scoring.
And I think that Bryant had a very difficult time. Shabazz did an incredible job on him. We all did a good job switching because at times Shabazz was just great wasn't good defensively, he was great. Bryant is a hell of a player. And then we ran a little something late in the overtime which eventually became the game winner, and that's kind of a Ray Allen. All we did was kind of change up our circle play and sent a cross screen with Alex across for and they were waiting for the whirlwind and we went straight at him and came off, and we were just talking about this a game or two ago when he didn't shoot the ball, and I said no, the other guy is what we want to shoot it. That's your job. Your job is to shoot the basketball. What a great job for most people. We changed it up a bit and he got open and there wasn't an ounce of hesitation and made a big three and we hung on down the stretch.
I couldn't be prouder of our kids. I think for a team that obviously has had its ups, downs, no coach, no Boatright, all the various things that have happened to us, that's not those are things that happen and they happen to other teams. But I can't judge that. I only can judge mine, my family, my guys, and my guys have come back, won three in a row, and I truly believe that a coach couldn't be prouder. And I honestly mean this. It's a funny word to throw around because you know you've had some moments to be proud, and honestly bigger places because you know what the Big East Tournament means to me, but that's one heck of a win. It's two teams finding different ways there, front court power, backcourt quickness. We had some terrific steals for lay ups. So it was a great battle, and if they had won the game, they could have won the game, but my guys weren't going to let them, and again, I'm so proud.
I thought Shabazz was close to magnificent. I thought Jeremy stepped up like the big time player that he is, Alex Oriakhi was great. And let me just get back to Andre Drummond for a moment. He didn't play 30 minutes very well. He didn't compete the way I want him to compete. He's young. He's still learning what this whole deal is about and you guys know what Madison Square Garden and March is about. It's different, and even the games themselves are different. But with ten minutes to go, I think my guys would say the same thing; he grew up a little bit and played a hell a play and held the scorer and did a wonderful job. I couldn't be prouder of our kids. Niels Giffey coming off the bench. A strip, two enormous rebounds down the stretch by Shabazz. So again, I'm incredibly proud.
I think West Virginia is a very good team. But that was a 20 second game against top level competition. I'm not going to politic. I'm just telling you, if you look at our record, you say, well, they only have 20 wins, yet we played some people. We played some people, folks. Knock off four of those. So we've got four. I'm telling you the honest truth. This team has been through something and maybe it's a little different and maybe some of the guys I see every single day would tell you, I don't know what it is but they look a little different in how they respond to different things, and once again, I couldn't be prouder of them. Thank you.
Q. How big, especially tomorrow, is it going to be for Roscoe to play a big role?
COACH CALHOUN: Yeah, and maybe just the way it worked out today, he didn't have such a great game, and that's fine, because we can go back and forth to different games and the three of us can talk about, this game and that game and so forth. Roscoe is going to be there for us. He's starting to understand who he is, what is he. He is a hell of a basketball player is what it is. He can do all kinds of different things. He couldn't get himself going today. That happens. He got posted up by big guys. He normally plays threes and fours defensively, can play any perimeter person, but yeah, he'll be big tomorrow because we've got to crack that zone.
Q. That was West Virginia's last Big East Tournament game ever. Can you talk about the significance of that and what the league will look like without them and Temple next year?
COACH CALHOUN: Yeah, first of all, I think Temple is a great addition. I can't get a word in edgewise with Rick praising Temple. I always thought Temple would be a great addition being in Philadelphia. That's not against Rick, I don't Twitter or Tweet or any of those things (laughter). You know what I'm talking about.
But my point being is, Temple will be a great addition to our league. They've got a tremendous coach, it's a great city for basketball, and I know that it will make an incredible trip there for a lot of folks.
But West Virginia leaving is sad in many, many ways. One of the great experiences that UConn ever had, 1987, '88, we go down there and we're down two, Tate George makes a bank shot to send us to overtime and we hadn't won anything from a national perspective, and we win. We go on to win the NIT that year, beat Ohio State in 1988, my second year there, and I remember walking around the coliseum, got the early update of the shoot around, looking at the history.
I'm going to miss them greatly. I'm going to miss Bobby, going to miss the competitiveness, that's the kind of game you play against them, and he's heading on his way to being a Hall of Fame coach. I don't think this league needs to be losing Hall of Fame coaches. I know it's not basketball driven, but I'm going to miss them a great deal. I think West Virginia has been a great addition to this league, and from Jerry West to all the other great things that have happened, we're going to miss them a great deal. They run a tremendous program, and my good friend John Bilein was there before and now Bobby, I'm going to miss them personally. It's a place I like going. It was tough. Yes, I'm going to miss them a great deal.
Q. Shabazz, given the way you played on pretty much both ends of the floor, what was the feeling checking out with 2:30 to play?
SHABAZZ NAPIER: First, I didn't know what was going on. I didn't know I had four fouls, and then when I heard a lot of West Virginia fans going crazy, then it kind of hit me, wow, I got my fifth foul. I didn't know that at all.
But I have faith in my teammates no matter what. I know Jeremy, I know boat, I know Andre and them guys, they're going to miss me, but I love watching them play because they play with a lot of heart. That's exactly what they did. I told Jeremy, you've got to be willing to shoot now, you've got to be looking for hits, and when he came off that curve, there was no doubt in my mind it was going in because that's what he works on in practice, that's what we work on in practice. I yelled at boat for missing three free throws, but boat is always there for us. Go back to the first game he came and he knocked down three free throws we needed for Florida State. That's what he gives you, he gives you a lot of heart no matter what. He played with a lot of heart like Andre. Andre is young but even out there he gave us all he got. He played Kevin Jones for the last minute and that's all we want from everybody on the team, you just want them to show up.
Q. Can you talk about that play, that three pointer you hit?
JEREMY LAMB: Well, yeah, I knew we needed a score, and in the game yesterday, Coach told me to shoot, and I didn't take a shot. You know, Coach was just saying, I want you shooting the ball.
So today they ran a play for me. They set great screens and I was able to get wide open, have a little time to set my feet, and I just shot it with confidence, and thank God it went in.
COACH CALHOUN: Alex made the adjustment. Alex made the adjustment with the side screen across as opposed to down screen, and the kid was starting to come up the lane, he whacked him, and he made it.
Q. I'm thinking about what you said, the front court couldn't wake up
COACH CALHOUN: Well, their front court dominated the game for most of the game. Our backcourt held its own and then took over and won the game for us.
Q. And as I was watching in the other room, at the end your team's momentum picked up. What happens at that moment when you have to really dig to end up where you are right now?
SHABAZZ NAPIER: You know, we've been through a lot this season, not having Coach, not really understanding the chemistry, not really understanding the leadership, and sometimes we questioned our heart and how we played. But after that Pittsburgh game, all that went away. We dug deep in that Pittsburgh game. We tied the game up, we were down by one point, and we could have quit, but we dug deep and we learned from our mistakes. The Providence game before when we lost by two, and today we did the same thing. We dug down deep. We were down by nine with three minutes and 40 seconds left. We dug down deep. At the end of the day Coach told us one thing, we've got to lock up the game. We have everything to lose. Why not go out there and give it your all. You're playing in one of the best stadiums in the country, Madison Square Garden, who doesn't want to play there. Everybody just went out there and played as hard as we can, win or lose. As long as, like Coach said today, as long as you get on that pillow and said I give it my all, what else can you say and what else can you do?
Q. Have you talked to these guys about this is sort of a fresh start?
COACH CALHOUN: That's the exact words I said. We don't have, as we normally do during the season, before the game we put 16 up, 17, as we go forward, and then getting ready for the DePaul game we put one up. I said, look around, new season. The old one is done. Me being away gave me a different perspective on my guys. It was a better perspective because I knew who they wanted to be, we just had to find a way. The moment I walked back in the gym on Friday, I looked at the guys' faces, that's not what I'm talking about, I'm talking about the connection we all have with each other and just the fact of what we were going to do. And over the last three games we've done things quite frankly during the season that we haven't done. In some ways it's been attributable to a terrific schedule, the best schedule in the country. Some of it is attributable to us. We didn't do the job. We admit that. But yesterday was No. 1, today was No. 2, tomorrow will be No. 3. This is the wild, wild west and you all know how crazy it can be. But it gives you a chance not to undo anything because I never feel that way. I feel that tournament play is wonderful.
One of the reasons I think we do well in tournaments is because we play with even a little different attitude. We don't have anything to lose. We're going home. In my opinion we're going to play next week someplace, but we've got a hell of a lot to gain. We're going to really show some people that maybe some of it is caused by us, some of it is caused because maybe we've got to talk about different things, and we're pretty good. We did lose five games by three points. All the other various excuses that you eventually make. Bottom line, you're probably looking at a little different basketball team than maybe you saw during the year, and that's good. I'm not talking about making shots and all that kind of stuff. I'm talking really about just the stuff that teams win with, and we won with that stuff in the past, we've won with it for 25 years. UConn will continue to win with it for a long time going on beyond this in my opinion. This is the program.
And it may take us, and it did. No doubt, you are 100 percent right, much longer than I could ever anticipate, and I was gone for the last eight, to find it. Is it magical? No, it's just us. It's just us understanding each other, how much we can benefit, okay, if we each give all that we have, and I think we have.
Q. Last year, last regular season you lost to Notre Dame. You had a practice where you felt like the practice was great.
COACH CALHOUN: Tremendous.
Q. This year you're starting to say the same things.
COACH CALHOUN: But I'm going to talk about Jeremy and I'm going to tell you and Shabazz is going to tell you and coach is going to tell you, last year and this year, two completely different deals. This is not Kemba Walker. He's a totally different player. In the last week that I've been around Shabazz, he's a different player than he was three weeks ago. He's a different player. He's not a different person, but he's found some other things, like even himself because he has so much stuff to give, and I mean that very honestly.
And Alex got a technical yesterday. Really didn't mind it. Alex is now standing up. We all know what we're talking about when we talk this year. Texas, Tennessee, Michigan State, Kentucky, I think any comparisons are unfair to last year's team and unfair to this team. Kemba is making a lot of money, just built a house, doing great. (Laughter).
Q. Given that last year was unique, it was its own piece of work, but here you are, and you're two wins in. Does it feel like it's happening again? Can it ever happen again?
COACH CALHOUN: I don't think it can happen again, but then again, I said it could never happen in the first place. Would we like to give it a shot? Yeah, but when people said to me, you guys are defending national champs, I said, no, we're not. I saw the trophy case right at UConn. We don't have to defend it, we have it. It's true, we don't have to defend anything. We're the national champs. What we have to do is create our own stuff. We've got 20 wins now, so it's time to create more. My point being simply is that are there things out there we'd love to do? You named one, okay. But I think I'm not sure how many teams will ever do that again. Would we like to take a stab at it? Everybody out there would. Everybody out there would. We're just going to try to play tomorrow's basketball game to take it where it may. When we beat DePaul and Georgetown we weren't thinking about the rest of the stuff, nor are we today. We're thinking about we're playing one of the best, in my opinion, along with Kentucky, the best team in the country tomorrow.
Q. Kevin, I know this is tough, but can you talk about your emotions right now, last Big East Tournament game and what's going through your mind?
KEVIN JONES: Just a little bit of disbelief, disappointment. My team played their hardest. We didn't make the correct decisions at the end. We didn't hold on to the ball. They stole it, two turnovers for lay ups that they really didn't earn. It's just tough because me and truck definitely wanted to go out winners of the Big East Tournament our senior year, and it's tough. But it's the past now. We've got to keep on moving forward and hopefully make it into the tournament and try to make a run in the tournament.
Q. Did UConn switch up their defensive looks in the final six minutes?
KEVIN JONES: I think it was a little bit of it might have been that they had Andre Drummond on me, which is a total player, making it tough on me for my shots. But Coach ran a couple plays for me, which some of my teammates weren't able to find me in the right spots. UConn made the correct plays at the end to win the game. They played how they were supposed to.
Q. Truck, you guys were 0 for 11, field goals in overtime. Do you think it was more legs tired or nerves or anxiety or what do you think was going on?
DARRYL BRYANT: I think it was just the fact that we didn't execute down the stretch like we were supposed to. I mean, it just was a rough game. You got up, got a big lead and feel like you're about to put the game away and then the game slips away from you. It's rough. When teams go on a run, we all know it's basketball and it's a game of runs, but it got tough down the stretch.
Q. Did you guys feel that slipping away the last few minutes? They seemed to turn up the pressure.
DARRYL BRYANT: I mean, I don't think I felt that we still had the game. I mean, it was still a close game, two, three point game, so that's one possession. I don't think we was down on ourselves. We all thought as a team we were going to win the game, even when we were down four. One of us will hit a three and then we'll get a stop. But that didn't happen.
Q. Six or seven games where you've had sizable leads in the second half, is there a common theme in these close losses and stumbling down the stretch?
KEVIN JONES: Well, I think it's just our execution offensively down the stretch. When coach asked us to run a play, we have to execute it as well as possible, and I don't think we do a good job of that, and also, we don't do a good job of staying strong with the ball. We let people take the ball from us, and it's kind of a matter of getting out toughed the last five minutes?
Q. Can we get your thoughts on the fact that this was the last Big East basketball game for the program?
COACH HUGGINS: Well, it's been a good run. We've enjoyed it, most of it anyway. I mean, there's nothing like coming to the Garden to play in the tournament.
Q. Do you think you're in the NCAAs?
COACH HUGGINS: We've played more games against top 100 people than anybody in the country. They say play a tough schedule, we have. We've played more games against top 50 teams. We've done everything they've asked us to do other than maybe win a couple games. You all know that there were some and several of those games there were some other factors that were involved. It wasn't just us. You know, you hope that the committee looks at that.
Q. It seemed like Kevin really dominated that game for a long time but there was a seven or eight minute period where he didn't shoot it much or take too many shots. Can you talk about what was going on there?
COACH HUGGINS: Yeah, he was playing with a bunch of freshmen that don't have any idea what the hell they're doing. I mean, we run a set to start the game with him and he's wide open and we look him off. They don't mean to. They're good kids, they don't mean to. But to do what this guy has done, both of these guys actually, to do what they've done with seven freshmen and a junior college transfer and the junior college transfer didn't really play until the end. We couldn't ask them to do any more. You hope that your freshmen get better and start to understand a little bit better. You can't give them the ball at the end, and knowing full well it's hard to guard him at the foul line. It's hard, so you can't hand him the ball.
Q. Williamson's shot at the end, what broke down on that play there?
COACH HUGGINS: He made a hard shot.