UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE
COACH PITINO: Well, I think you can see how excited our guys are and how much the tournament means to us. We wanted to come in here and start to play better basketball. We started to get healthy about three weeks ago and started playing guys more minutes, and it was our practices have been a lot of fun, even though we lost to Syracuse the last game of the season. It meant a lot to these two guys being seniors to win this championship, and they played every game.
This game was very difficult, and we knew it would be, no matter how much we tried to push the pace. They know us as well as we know ourselves. We know them as well as they know themselves. Mick and I worked together, and we know the way each other think. We just it's very difficult to play two teams that know each other so well an hour and 20 minutes down the road. It was going to be a defensive battle. We knew we were going to give up some lay ups because we were guarding the NBA line with our life, and prior to Chane going for a steal, we were able to blank them from the line. So we did a lot of really good things defensively. We knew it was going to take defense to win this game. We thought it was going to take offense to beat Marquette, we thought it was going to take defense to win this one.
Q. You played great defense all year, now you're healthy, had a good performance this week. How do you feel about this team going into next week?
COACH PITINO: Well, I told the guys just two weeks ago, I said look, we've got to get through the last two games, and we'll go change and go back to the way we normally play because we'll have some numbers. We still have a couple of guys that aren't ready to play the type of defense. Wayne is starting to get it, but he's still away from that. Kevin is struggling with it. But getting Wayne and staying healthy is a big thing for us because with all these timeouts, it is so long, you don't have to use your bench quite as much. So that's a good situation for us.
Q. This is, I think, the first conference championship without a founding member. I guess some people might view it as a changing of the guard in the BIG EAST. From your perspective how different, if at all, did it feel to you?
COACH PITINO: You know, I'm a traditionalist, and I'm very disappointed that teams are leaving, certainly. But this world today, like I told the guys, even in our town, our players felt it. We lost a couple of games, and people said, you can't score, you're not that good, and I said, guys, don't worry about that. Peyton was getting a lot of criticism. I said, Peyton, just kidding around to him, you go into New York and be MVP and nobody will even remember you played a regular season. I used the analogy of the Giants. I said do you think the New York fans can remember who the Giants lost to? All they remember is beating the Packers and moving on. That's the worst thing about your culture: The gratification is so short, and the way they handle failure is so short that it's one game removed.
My brother in law, who I lost in 9/11, always used to say your business is so much different than mine, and that was right before 9/11. He said, on Wall Street, we're only as good as our last trade. You guys have longevity. But not anymore. You get on a two game losing streak and you can't believe how much panic there is in this world. So we try not to get too high, not to get too low, and these guys didn't, and we always felt this tournament is a new season because it's a tournament and you get to play great competition, and the BIG EAST right now is taking on a whole new thing. It's disappointing that we're losing some teams, but on the other hand, we are inviting. I think you guys will be excited about Temple, and I don't know a whole lot about some of the other teams coming in, but it's just a change. Everybody wants change nowadays. Let's go to this league. You see Nebraska leave and go to this league, this one jumps to this league. It's bizarre how everybody just leaves.
It reminds me a lot of when you watch the movies and you see people constantly, oh, I'm with you forever. I'm with you forever. I'm with you forever, and you see these mobster movies, all of a sudden in the Godfather I'm selling him out. It's only business. I can't believe it, it becomes business, and great analogy, but I always think of that when everybody is ready to jump. I say, why don't you like where you are. Somebody mentioned to me, you've been very stable the way you stayed at all those jobs all those years, and I looked at him and I said, "good point."
Q. How special is winning the BIG EAST Championship to you?
COACH PITINO: You know, it's special because I love coaching these guys. We have a very unusual group. It's a throw back. This young man here, he'll speak in a few minutes, I coached him for four years, came in as a walk on, was dying to go to Duke as a walk on. His goals weren't very lofty, and then I said walk on about Duke, not about Duke. It goes from that to last week they were asking me do you think he could get a shot at the NBA. And I kicked him out of my office and said I don't want to think about it. He's really grown to that point.
Chris has led a different life. He's been in with a very celebrated brother, and both of them have been great to coach, and they know what this means. Both of them, Chris had a great game tonight, and they've been knocked by the NCAA, and this meant a lot. This was a great starting point for both of these guys. We've got a great group. You saw how much enthusiasm they had for winning that championship. It means so much to them to win.
Q. This is for Kyle: Obviously you guys have more games to play in the tournament, but what does this mean to you, especially given the growth you've had over your four years as a player?
KYLE KURIC: It means a lot, but I don't really think about it as my growth. We had a real rough season, and coach talked to us about a new season, and we took it to heart and Peyton led us the whole way from the beginning, and we all followed him as a team.
Q. Chris, they talked about not having that focus tonight. You guys had it the entire time. How do you continue it into the NCAA Tournament?
CHRIS SMITH: Well, we continue it by just staying with the same mindset and growing on what we've built here.
Q. Kyle, you mentioned Peyton. What difference did you see from him the last four or five days or was there something special?
KYLE KURIC: You could tell he stepped into the role we needed him to play. The Peyton that we're all used to, you could tell he didn't want to lose and he wasn't going to let us lose. Anytime something happened, he would pick somebody, every timeout, he was always talking. He was very vocal.
Q. Coach, Mick, when he was in here talked about his team and he sensed some overconfidence from them. Did you sense that from them?
COACH PITINO: Well, we played great defense at their place, held them to 32 percent shooting, but they made 11 threes, and against Syracuse they made eight threes in the first half. Our strategy was very simple, we were going to show zone, play man but we were going to guard the NBA line. We were going to limit their attempt and if they did get an attempt, it was not going to be a good look. Prior to Chane going for a steal there, we didn't give them good looks, and they were 0 for 9, I believe, at halftime from the three. We knew they were going to go one on one. We felt good with Gorgui being back there. He's learned now to foul being back there. So we knew we had to win this game with defense. We played a heck of a game against them at their place and lost. We showed the guys why we lost, but we wanted to stop the three point line tonight. We've been winning off our defense. We knew, although both teams were trying to push the pace, we know each other too well, and you don't have time to innovate your offenses with one day prep.
Q. Had you been able to slow it down
COACH PITINO: No, we didn't try to slow it down, we tried to run. Both defenses were great.
Q. You've mastered every pace in this tournament. Is that going to prepare you better for whatever match you get in the tournament?
COACH PITINO: Well, it's not the players' fault. We started out, we had a very difficult time practicing. We've had three knee surgeries, Peyton Siva was out a month, we've had five concussions, multiple concussions, Kyle missed two, three weeks. So we had probably more injuries so we never had any continuity. And if I would have run and press and go crazy up in the all I would do in the last ten minutes of the game is tire our own team. So we had to get to this point where everybody got healthy. We've got three guys wearing helmets in practice.
Q. Are you injured, as well?
COACH PITINO: Russ Smith bet I couldn't dunk, and I told him I could. I went up and grabbed the rim and scraped it, and I came very close to dunking. I just pulled it on the rim.
UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI
COACH CRONIN: Well, obviously wasn't our best night. Give all the credit to Louisville. Very happy for Coach Pitino, love him like a brother. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. So I'm very, very happy for him. Very disappointed for my players because we didn't give our best effort tonight. I take nothing away from Louisville. We have a tendency to get over confident at times. I thought that was an issue for us.
But I give Louisville credit. I don't like to say that we play bad. I hate when coaches do that.
The other thing I would say was just from an X and O standpoint, our passing was as bad as it's been I'm sorry, our lack thereof. So I was very, very disappointed in that we dug a hole because we wouldn't pass the ball. We had one assist in the first half.
Q. What do you think caused them to be overconfident?
COACH CRONIN: Yeah, if you've followed us all the time complacency is an issue. It cost us a couple games early in the year that it shouldn't have because we're just over confident. We have a tendency to be on cruise control. I would have been much happier if we had to play Syracuse again tonight where my guys would have thought that we had to have a great effort. The fact that we beat Louisville I said it to Bill yesterday, that was a big concern of mine with our guys.
Q. The offense picked up in the second half. Was that because you passed better then?
COACH CRONIN: We actually executed what was being called and passed the ball. But our lack of free throw the comeback was tough, but when you're making a comeback you have to make free throws. We didn't do that. 1 for 7 in the second half, you've got no chance to make a comeback if you do that. You're 5 for 7, and instead of being down four you'd be tied.
Q. You had that 16 6 run that you closed the game out on. JaQuon really got a little more aggressive. Were you happy to see that they were executing what you wanted?
COACH CRONIN: You know, this is a simple game. The team that executes and plays harder wins, and Louisville did that tonight. It gave us a chance when we started executing and passing the ball. But it's my job to get them to do that, and obviously I didn't get the job done with that tonight. So I always try to self evaluate. You hold a team to 35 percent shooting, you should win the game. 50 points, you should win the game, with our talent level. But we didn't play team basketball on offense until it was too late.
Q. You did talk last night about your fear of overconfidence. Did you sense going into this game that
COACH CRONIN: They just admitted it to me. They just admitted it to me.
Q. That they were overconfident?
COACH CRONIN: We just have a tendency to go to cruise control at times.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH CRONIN: Well, you've got to be able to defend, you know, because when you get in the NCAA Tournament, 99 percent of the teams have a good team. They're there for a reason. You know, even if they didn't have a great overall record, they got hot late and they're playing well. So I think that if you can't get some stops, you can't win. And I think leadership if you were to ask me one thing, I think, that affects winning, especially in basketball, whether it's the pros or college, leadership from players.
Q. Mic just said that you guys admitted to him that you were overconfident. Did you think that was a problem?
YANCY GATES: Yeah, I was the one that said it. I could tell the difference in the way we was getting ready for the game today. A lot of people didn't have the same focus as we did when we first got out here, and I think because we won our first two games, they were so tough and we won them the way we did, we kind of felt like Louisville was going to come in here and kind of give it to us, but I think it was the reverse, we came in here and gave it to them because we weren't prepared to play a hard game until the second half, so we paid the price for it.
Q. Cash, does this feel like an ending? Your season isn't over, but it's the end of this championship.
CASHMERE WRIGHT: No, it's not the ending. We've still got games to play. We can't lock back, we can't look at this game no more. It's over. We can't mope no more. We've just got to look forward and keep pushing in practice and get better.
Q. The win over Syracuse, did that give you the confidence that you could beat anybody in the country?
COACH CRONIN: Well, I try to impart to my team that I believe most teams that are good teams can beat anybody. But we're also capable of losing to anybody. You know, there's only one or two teams, I think, that can have a bad night and still win. And in the NCAA Tournament, I don't know if that exists. I don't think there's not enough NBA players stacked on teams like the '90s in college basketball, and I firmly believe whatever happens in the NCAA Tournament, you could replay it and have totally different results. There's that much parity.
But I think for the kids, what I try to tell my guys is it's a great opportunity.
Q. Cash, what finally got you guys going offensively the second half?
CASHMERE WRIGHT: We started playing with our heart, and we came out thinking we were going to win like Yancy said. We weren't playing with our heart, and we were just playing off last game. Then in the second half we realized they weren't going to give us the game so we had to go take it, but after we started pushing, it was too late.
Q. When Cincinnati came into the BIG EAST, you faced some adversity early
COACH CRONIN: There's the understatement of the press conference.
Q. But you've reached this level in the BIG EAST championship. In the next couple years there's a flux of new teams that are coming in. Do you see the potential for some of these other programs that will be coming in?
COACH CRONIN: I'll say what Jim Calhoun said six years ago. I wouldn't want to be a young coach trying to build a program in this league, and I'm glad I'm not anymore. But I will say, fame is fleeting, too. There's a fine line between 12th place and 5th place in our conference. There's teams that finish there with McDonald's All Americans and talent. So you've got to make sure you've got winners in your program and develop winners.
We're here tonight obviously you know, the guys know me, I'm a competitor. I wanted this more for them than for me because I'm where I want to be in life. I'm with who I want to be right now. But I know where they want to go. You've got to develop winners in your program, and we're here because these guys have really fought hard to rebuild our program. Coaches get a lot of credit. No coaches win without players.
Q. Yancy, you were visibly frustrated a couple times in the first half, talking to some of your teammates. What were you telling them? What were you saying up there?
YANCY GATES: Basically, you know, I mean, when you're out on the floor you can feel that we wasn't playing with the same intensity as we did the past few games. I was trying to tell guys, we need to try to find a way to pick it up. Normally the way we started the game wasn't scoring, and the way we get going is with our defense and deflections. We tried to find a way to pick it up, and it didn't happen until late in the second half. Like we said, by then, it was too late. That was basically the frustration. It wasn't with any scoring or anything. It was just how we was playing as a team.