Transcripts at bottom.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll go ahead and get started with an opening statement from Coach and then take questions for the student-athletes.
COACH PITINO: Well, we’re very excited to move on. It’s the first round, it’s very difficult. We knew it would be a fight. These two young men down the stretch made big plays for us, and we have been calling it Madness for years, but out of my 20 NCAAs, I think this is the craziest I’ve ever seen it opening up early. There’s a lot of reasons for it. Give you just some examples, I thought Jim Calhoun on television today made an excellent analogy. He said, you know, if you limit Tom Brady, the quarterback of the Patriots, to a few throws per game and keep his numbers way down, then the possessions don’t go in, don’t favor the Patriots. That’s what’s happening in college basketball. The possessions are down, so when you get running teams like Notre Dame scores 69 and Carolina, 67, you’re in dogfights. So that’s what’s happening on teams that are able like Kansas and Arizona and Kentucky to get out there, well, they’re probably a lot better than their opponent and their possessions are greater, and then you see some blowouts. So it’s very exciting to see, but these two guys had to make big, tremendous plays. You know, Quentin had to get a big rebound down the stretch, he got fouled and stepped to the line as a freshman and makes two big free throws. Wayne played great the whole night. So when the two stars of your team — the reason they didn’t play well, our two stars, were because of UC Irvine. You got to give them all the credit in the world. But these two guys stepped up, and that’s why we got the victory.
THE MODERATOR: Take questions, please.
Q. Yesterday Coach mentioned that you had to step into a larger role than maybe you anticipated at the beginning of the season. And it seems like today a lot of the offense when you were on the floor at least started through you, whether it was dragging and kicking or kicking some of those Tony Parker-type floaters in the lane. So I was wondering if you felt that extra pressure and how you kind of stepped into it.
QUENTIN SNIDER: Pretty much I just tried to have confidence in myself. Come through the game, coming into the game, just have confidence. It is my first NCAA Tournament, you know, just try to be confident.
Q. Wayne or Quentin, how much does having a 7’6″ guy in the middle of the defense actually alter what you do? It seemed like it really had a significant impact today.
WAYNE BLACKSHEAR: It was a little tricky, but we know that, yeah, he’s the tallest player in the college basketball game. But our thing was just to get reversals and just try to attack. We know that his reaction was kind of slow, so Terry drove one time, and obviously I drove to the basket a couple times. But we just had to attack those guys and close out, and that’s what we did.
Q. Wayne, you probably have been criticized more than any player on that roster. How does it feel to have a big game in a moment like this and everything you were able to do today for this team?
WAYNE BLACKSHEAR: I don’t pay attention to anything like that. As long as my teammates and the coaching staff believe in me, I don’t care what other people say. So, I take it as it is and I just let my game do the talking.
COACH PITINO: I want to interject something on that question. It’s very easy to criticize, it’s very easy. It takes no talent at all to criticize. But the coaching staff, every coach that’s coached Wayne Blackshear, thinks he’s the greatest kid in the world, thinks he’s one of the hardest workers. So we have never one time criticized him. We all think we have been tremendously blessed by his presence at the University Of Louisville. So it takes no talent to be a critic.
Q. For Coach, you looked a little bit in the postgame interview as though you got a call from the governor and a reprieve. You were pretty elated there. This was sort of addressed to Wayne; I’d like to ask you the same question. How much of it is physical and how much of it is psychological or mental when your guys have to go up against a guy 7’6″?
COACH PITINO: Well, why don’t you answer that. I didn’t have to do it. He looked eight feet to me.
WAYNE BLACKSHEAR: It was tough. It was a little tricky, like you said, because I was getting a couple midrange jumpers, and I noticed after I shot that I could have got to the rim. And then I did it at the end. So it was a little tricky, so you just have to pick and choose on which one to attack on.
COACH PITINO: I will say this: On film sometimes he doesn’t look as good, but one of the coaches in their league who I was talking to said pay no attention to what you see on film because when you see him in person, he protects the rim as well as anybody. So don’t watch film and say you can beat him laterally. It was — that coach was 100 percent correct.
Q. Quentin, you’re going to the line with the game tied and still in the balance because they get the ball back no matter what happens. Just take us there you that and what goes through your mind. That’s a big situation for anybody no matter what class. You’re a freshman. What were your thoughts on what you were doing there?
QUENTIN SNIDER: Well, going to the line I wasn’t really — I didn’t really think about it. I just got up to the line and just shot it. I just knew my team needed these points, so I just knocked them down.
WAYNE BLACKSHEAR: We all believed that he could knock them down, too. We had all the confidence in him, too.
QUENTIN SNIDER: Thank you, Wayne. (Laughter.)
Q. Quentin, you’ve not been afraid. Coach has talked about your willingness to take big shots. Where does that come from and what’s made you just kind of not worry about taking the big shots no matter what the situation?
QUENTIN SNIDER: I think Coach P believed in me. That’s the thing. All the players and the coaching staff believe in me, so I just had to step up and take big shots.
Q. Rick, especially in the second half, it seemed like Montrezl didn’t quite get as many attempts as he normally does. Was that just a function of UC Irvine’s interior defense, or how can you get him more involved?
COACH PITINO: Well, it was a possession game. They’re playing zone, and Montrezl, to be honest with you, was not moving enough. He was standing still too much. They played a box and one on Terry, which was a great move. Then these two guys had to do something about it. But Montrezl obviously has to move more because, like I told those guys after the game, the other coach on the blackboards, they say we have no chance of winning if we don’t keep Terry Rozier from scoring and we don’t keep Montrezl Harrell off the backboard. So you got to give all the credit. They were well prepared, well schooled to take away our strengths. Fortunately for us, these two guys stepped up and we made big plays defensively down the stretch. Like besides Quentin and this guy, if you pick up a stat sheet, you’re going to say right now, well, these two guys played great, but who won the game for us? At the defensive end was Mangok Mathiang. He made all the big plays down the stretch that we needed to make. And that will never show up. You’ll never write it. You will now, but I mean if I didn’t say it you, Kenny wouldn’t have written that. You know, we have coached this young man, one of my children coached him at seven, another child coached him at eight, another child coached him at nine, I’ve had him since he was eight years old at camp? How old were you first time?
QUENTIN SNIDER: Seven.
COACH PITINO: Seven years old at camp and he won the MVP every single time at camp. All my children coached him. Every time he does something well, I get texts from them that say: It was my coaching at that time that did it. But he doesn’t have any fear. He was thrown into a very difficult situation. But he makes our guys better, he gets into the lane and he doesn’t have any fear at all. And he’s getting better at the defensive end and doing some good, real good things. I’m very proud of him. It’s been a long relationship with him.
THE MODERATOR: All right, thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll go ahead and get started with an opening statement from Coach and then take questions for the student-athletes.
COACH TURNER: I’m incredibly proud of these guys up here and all the kids in my locker room and our staff and our fans for a good performance. And I congratulate University Of Louisville on a solid victory in a hard-fought game.
THE MODERATOR: Open it up to questions, please.
Q. What did you see as the difference where you just couldn’t pull away? You made some nice runs, but then they seemed to answer every time.
COACH TURNER: I mean, they’re a good basketball team we were up against. I thought in many ways in this game we were their equal. Hard to say we were better than they were because of the way the game ended up, but we were a play away from winning that game. So it’s not easy to identify a difference. I thought that we made a bunch of key plays, but there were equally many that they made. And they came out, what, two points ahead.
Q. Obviously from your demeanor and you can see with your players, was that the toughest postgame locker room you’ve ever walked into and ever had to speak in?
COACH TURNER: No. It’s tough to lose, but there’s an incredible positive feeling in that locker room because of the growth in our program and each of these young men. So, yeah, it’s hard to lose, but it’s hard to face guys who have given everything they have got and come up short. But aside from winning that game, that’s about as good an outcome as you could have. To lay it all on the line and be a basket short, that’s basketball. We got a lot of guys who are going to play more in our program, and that’s how you continue to get better, to go through games and moments like this. While I’m sorry for a guy like Will who is a senior that we didn’t win this game, it’s hard not to look around that locker room and feel incredible pride. I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms at the end of the year when you don’t feel that same positive feeling about the entire group that’s assembled. So, no, that wasn’t the toughest one, but it’s tough as I’ve ever faced in some ways because I care about these kids and they care about every other member of our program. And that’s solid.
Q. For the players, on that last play, you knew they were probably going to try and foul. What was your thought going into that one?
ALEX YOUNG: Well, try and get the best shot that we possibly could. We had a quick play lined up and unfortunately I lost the ball, we couldn’t get a timeout, and it just happens. It’s basketball.
COACH TURNER: It was a tough moment there. They had a foul to give that they clearly tried to give, and the foul wasn’t called. I didn’t want to use our last timeout, and I’m not sure if Alex even knew they were trying to foul right there. I think he did. But that’s an unusual situation to be in with nine seconds and a team with two fouls remaining to give. And I thought they gave that foul.
Q. Coach, what did you think of Mamadou’s play and what — just what did you say to the guys afterwards?
COACH TURNER: I thought Mamadou was terrific, like he usually is. I thought the game plan that Louisville had was smart. They challenged everyone of his catches and were willing to foul and utilize all three of their biggest guys to make it hard for him to get the catches that a lot of teams have to allow because they don’t have the size and depth to play him that way. What we tried to do was get him the ball as close to the rim as possible, and a couple of the plays at the end we were able to do that. The fact that they were able to play that entire second half with that strategy and still have fouls to give at the end is a little surprising. But Mamadou was good, as he always is. They made some incredible plays over him. Blackshear’s three-point play in the stretch, I mean, that’s a kid who played in a National Championship game. He’s a national champion. He made a national champion play right there, and that’s probably the difference in the game. And what was the other part of your question?
Q. What did you say to the guys afterward?
COACH TURNER: Some of the same things I just said here. I mean, you know, I thanked these seniors for the impact they made on our program. It’s hard to exaggerate what that is. I told them that they’re the greatest class in our program’s history because of what they accomplished through winning. And I don’t think that can even be denied at all. I told them, I think what I said before, that just as we experienced this pain, this emotional struggle with losing in a big game that we feel like we could have won, we had that happen to us in the Big West Championship in a game that would have qualified us for this tournament a couple of years ago. And I felt like that helped us this year to overcome that barrier. I hope that our ability to perform and play and compete in this game today will allow us as a program to move on to greater success, be an experience we can draw on to win this game or a game like it.
Q. Coach, you’ve been able to keep turnovers fairly low in recent weeks. Did you anticipate that might be an issue tonight, or did that kind of catch you by surprise?
COACH TURNER: Playing against Louisville? Yeah, they’re pretty good turnover-creating team. They’re a multiple defense team. They’re a team with length, size, and athleticism at every position. You can prepare for Louisville. I feel like we were well prepared. But as they continue to change and continue to throw different looks at you, it’s hard. It’s hard to handle the ball well against them. Most of the game we did. I haven’t looked at the stat sheet to see how many turnovers we had. I thought that that was the difference in the game, the fact that there were so many possessions where we did not get a shot. Because I’ve gotten used to with this team us getting good shots, and that’s a big part of the reason why we have been successful coming down the stretch.
Q. For Alex, did you believe you were clearly fouled on the last possession? Also, how difficult is it do you think to walk away from this without being able to get — a game that was pretty spirited, give and take at the end, not being able to get one last shot up?
ALEX YOUNG: I’m not going to comment on the foul or if it was a foul or not. That’s not my judgment; it’s the referee’s judgment. But not to even get a shot up, that’s on me. Being a point guard and leader on this team, I got to make sure we’re all in the right spot so we can get a shot up in that last possession of the game especially. So I take responsibility on that aspect. But if it was a foul or not, that’s not for me to judge. But it hurts not to even get a shot up. That’s my job, and I got to make sure that I can create something or for myself or especially for my teammates to try to get a shot at that point in time, especially that late in the game.
Q. For the players, did you guys notice during the game the crowd kind of rallying behind you and did you feed off that energy?
WILL DAVIS II: Yes, during points of the game when we were going back and forth with Louisville, whenever we got a basket or a good defensive play, we could hear the crowd just erupt. It’s always good just to have the crowd behind us, especially in our first NCAA Tournament game. And we have had a great fan base all year, and it was great to have them here tonight.
Q. Coach, have you been in a situation where you may have perhaps lost a game with a foul 90 feet from the basket with nine seconds to go in the game?
COACH TURNER: I’ve been in a lot of games, I’m fortunate to have experienced the number of games I have, so probably, but not a game like this, obviously. As you can probably imagine, to have the game be as competitive, well played and just as good as it was, overall, to have it come down to a foul call and a non-foul call, that’s a tough one. But that’s basketball, that’s life. And when those things don’t go your way, you got to be able to accept that and move forward and be men.
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