Transcripts at Bottom
COACH PITINO: Well, I couldn’t be more pumped up, more excited because we beat such a great team. Sometimes I hate these press conferences because you listen to the other guys up here first and you just bleed for a group like Northern Iowa, who the reason we played so well tonight is the amount of respect we had for them. We knew they were a great team, statistically, five seniors, we know they’re beautifully coached, so it sometimes it breaks your heart even in victory. We are so pumped and so excited because we know the feeling on the other end, but for us, this is the first time in history, according to go Kenny Cline, that this is four Sweet 16s in a row. And Louisville’s had a very rich tradition. So we’re very proud of that. These two guys kind of amazed me, because I prod them the whole game because I can’t take them out. Montrezl was just working so hard and he was so dead, and I kept saying: You got to give us more, son. You got to give us more. You can’t tire. And I don’t know how they do it, I really don’t know how both of them do it, but they have done it the whole year. They have carried a team on their back that it has many problems and tonight we played our best game of the season. Defensively we did a lot of good things, switching from zone to man, back to zone, back to man. And then offensively, that’s the best we have executed with swinging the ball, east to west, and then attacking north to south. So I’m real proud of these guys. Two guys that are going to go on to — I won’t say greener — I could say greener pastures, because they probably will be, but they’re tremendous basketball players. It’s been an honor to coach both of them.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Coach, your defensive schematics tonight really confused those Northern Iowa kids. Is that something that you designed well before the game, or was it an ongoing process?
COACH PITINO: We have been doing it all year. We simplified this tonight. I told the guys we’re not going to press but sparingly, so I want you to really have one day, I want you to really, really focus. What helped us tremendously was playing Virginia twice. Because this is a shooting version of Virginia in terms of the way they play. And that’s the highest compliment I can give a team. So we wanted to really focus in on keeping our bigs inside, switching our back court guys outside, going man, going zone, and they did it to perfection. Then they came down the court offensively and they all took great shots. They just were not only — they were not only tremendous basketball-wise tonight but they were very, very intelligent in the way they approached this game.
Q. Coach, for you, I was kind of wondering, you talk about the four Sweet 16s, what makes this year especially sweet? And maybe for the players, maybe can you talk about the last month and the ups and downs you’ve gone through to get here.
COACH PITINO: You guys take it.
MONTREZL HARRELL: Well, as a basketball program we have had a lot of ups and downs in this season, but I feel like we responded in the right way. I feel like we came together as a team tonight and we really did the key things that we need to do on the defensive end to make sure that we rode our team to a victory. We know that Coach is going to coach us for every part of the game, so we made sure we stayed together as a team, we took the coaching and we went out there and executed our game plan.
TERRY ROZIER: He said it right on the money. We prepared. We only had one day to prepare, and we know it was a tough team, a lot of seniors on that team, so we just wanted to go out there and just stick together and keep them off the backboards and just, most importantly, win the game. We had a lot of — we played with great effort and we got the job done. So a lot of props go to them. They did a good job today.
Q. Coach, I wanted to ask you maybe just a comment on Terry’s game today, because there were some times where nobody could guard him. Then I was going to get whoever at the panel to talk about the two ESPN alley-oops at the end that ended the game. And also, but more specifically, did your being able to shoot maybe set those up at the end?
TERRY ROZIER: Well, it starts in practice. The guy that’s guarding Montrezl, he’s kind of like blind to see Montrezl and he might point up, so everybody’s watching the ball, so I just see him and I just throw it up there and he go get it. That’s an easy play to make because you can basically throw it anywhere by the rim and he’ll go get it. And we got that feel for each other. So we made it happen today. Both of them oops I threw him.
MONTREZL HARRELL: With that being said, it was one of those things where I told these guys: You put the ball anywhere around the rim that I’m going to catch it no matter what. I’ll come down and it will be my turnover before it will be a turnover on you. So majority of the time the guys put it in the right spot and I try to finish it for them because I know they work so hard with getting open, I set screens off them and they give me the ball on the inside. So when they put the ball around the rim, I try to make sure I finish for them.
COACH PITINO: Yeah, you know, with both of them, the interesting thing about both guys, I always tell pro scouts this, I say: Look, I don’t have to tell you about their abilities, it’s very evident. But what you get with these guys is they don’t take a possession off in practice. So, if I’m a pro general manager, I know these guys are going to a pro team, and they have been built to play every possession and not take any time off. So when you’re drafting a basketball player, you want that type of heart and that type of attitude. Their skill level is great. Terry has improved dramatically and Montrezl came back and he’s become much better at every phase of the game. There’s a lot of things you don’t notice. The shooting is obvious, but a lot of things — his ball handling, his passing, his blocking shots, his maturity. So both of these guys I think are going to have — they had great careers now, but I think they’re going to go on and be terrific NBA players because of how hard they play all the time. That’s a skill as well as shooting, dribbling, or anything else. I said this about Terry since he’s come in, he just acts like a professional every single day. He takes coaching, he takes criticism, he takes it. And Montrezl is a warrior. He is — you see all these dunks. We see 15 of them every practice where we say: Get out of the way or somebody’s getting hurt. And I tell our guys: Just do not get in his way. Just get out of his way, let him dunk the ball and have fun. He’s relentless the way he wants to dunk in practice. Even in like we go five lines he want to break a backboard.
TERRY ROZIER: He’s not giving himself enough credit either. We don’t take a play off because of him. He’s a great coach.
Q. Terry, you’ve had a few great halves. You’ve had a few games where — especially like Georgia Tech where you had a breakout second half, but this was a complete performance from you front to finish. Did that feel good to get that kind of confidence boost back for after the past couple months you’ve had shooting?
TERRY ROZIER: Yeah, I’m surrounded by a lot of great guys. It was just opportunities that I was provided with, and I got to step up to the challenge. I was challenged by the coaches and by the players and we just came here with a game plan. And like I said, it was just all opportunities and I just made it happen and luckily the ball went through.
Q. Coach, where would you rank the last month and the fact you’re back in the Sweet 16 when maybe this wasn’t the role that you guys were usually accustomed to?
COACH PITINO: I watched every Northern Iowa tape and I think most of them make it. I’m impressed with everybody. But these guys were really impressed by Northern Iowa. We watched a double overtime at VCU which is a really difficult place to play. We watched a home victory against Wichita State, and they reminded us of Virginia who shoots the ball. So we were going to take away the three-point shot tonight and do everything in our power to do it. Then when they would drive to the basket, challenge. But what they did tonight execution-wise, you have to be very, very smart people. Montrezl, you see this guy who is just dunking and he’s very aggressive. But what you don’t realize is he’s one of the five brightest players I’ve coached. Very, very smart. He’ll say some things in our timeouts where we watched 15 films and he’s right nine out of ten times. So these guys were great at every phase of the game tonight and our respect for Northern Iowa is the reason we played so well.
Q. A month ago did you envision this?
COACH PITINO: Look, you got to go through — we had a bad situation and we all — our heart bleeds for one of our teammates. But I don’t know what we expected from Quentin Snider. We didn’t expect this, to be honest with you. But Quentin’s always looking for these guys and he has no — he doesn’t get nervous at all. I thought he was maybe losing his mind throwing that lob at the end of the game under a minute, but outside of that, he’s unflappable. He doesn’t get nervous at all, he’s a cool customer, he’s always looking for him and these guys have a lot of confidence in him as well as our coaching staff, and he’s gotten a lot better defensively. So, we have had a rally around it. We have had a short bench, but I say it again, these guys, they don’t take a play off, and that’s quite unusual in today’s world.
Q. Coach, the block by Wayne Blackshear?
COACH PITINO: Awesome.
Q. Was that the signature play of his career?
COACH PITINO: Big key of the game. If there’s one key in the game, it was that. But what we wanted to do and it doesn’t really show up statistically because we just talked about staying aggressive on offense, moving the basketball, going north and south. If we throw it into Montrezl, they’re going to double him. Get to your spots. But the great thing, we kept staying aggressive. If you look at the first half obviously we shoot 52 percent, but the second half you can see, well, you didn’t shoot as well. Yes, we did because we kept going to the foul line. We kept driving, getting to the free-throw line. And that’s what we wanted to do is go downhill on them, go downhill and make them guard us. And these guys executed it to perfection. We held them to two assists in the first half. Five seniors, great passing team. That’s an awesome stat to have.
Q. Rick, you got some very important minutes from Jaylen Johnson and David Levitch and Shaqquan. The end of the first half you put them in. You really didn’t miss a beat and had the lead at half. How big were they? And second thing, just your flow shooting this post-season has been great?
COACH PITINO: You can see Montrezl’s followthrough, how slow his release is. Every one he took tonight I thought was going in. Terry has become a great free throw shooter. You know when we put those guys in, Jaylen is having great practices and Jaylen is very lucky, he has to go against an All-American every single day, and so when he goes out there, he’s not going to face anybody in the likes of Montrezl. And Montrezl never takes it easy on him. So, he’s improved dramatically because of it. And then David Levitch is one of our best passers. I mean, Terry knew if he went back door he was going to get it from Levitch because he’s an excellent passer. These guys have a lot of confidence in him. Wayne scored his thousand point, Wayne’s part of history of these four Sweet 16s, and just look at his resume. It’s incredible. These guys are now going to another Sweet 16. And the great thing about being in a place like Louisville is you’re just not satisfied, you have an insatiable desire to keep moving on, and I know these guys do.
Q. Montrezl, you guys, you and Mangok in particular, did a really impressive job on Seth Tuttle tonight. How did you — you he still had 14 points, but how did you make things a little more difficult for him?
MONTREZL HARRELL: We made him work all night. We didn’t let him see anything easy. He have time, he caught the ball. It was either 15 feet away from the basket or we were making sure that he wasn’t getting just no easy catches in the post. Every time he caught the ball, we tried to make sure that we had a body on him. When he went to his move, we have watched a lot of tape and we know he likes to counter and spin back. So we studied the film and we knew everything that he really wanted to do when he caught the ball. We also know he’s a great passer, but we had to make sure that we didn’t let him get any easy touches because if he gets any easy touches — he was looking at for being Player of the Year. So we had to make sure that he didn’t see anything easy tonight.
Q. Terry and Montrezl, you talked about the two alley-oops a couple times, but it felt like those came at really key times and took some air out of Northern Iowa. Did you feel like that at the time and did it feel like more than two points when you got those at those times?
TERRY ROZIER: You said just two points?
Q. Two alley-oops.
TERRY ROZIER: Oh, no, it was more, it was definitely more than just two points. It’s a confidence booster for all of us, we all get pumped after he dunks the ball. That’s just a connection that we and him have. It definitely makes us play harder after he gets dunks like that. Any type of dunk he gets but especially an alley-oop. It just feels good. So that’s all I can say about that.
MONTREZL HARRELL: I would say it was a key point in the game. They were making their run and starting to come back so when Terry threw that up, I tried to make sure I finished it. The other one ended up becoming an and-one, so I felt it did take the air out of them. But it’s always one of those big type of plays that you would love to have because it gets your team pumped up and gets you ready to go down there and know that you have to sit down on the defensive end and you have to get a stop. So it’s always one of those plays that gets our team rallied around each other, and we know that we’re going to get a stop on the defensive end.
COACH JACOBSON: Thanks. Well, boy, we battled hard to grab ahold of the momentum tonight and we just couldn’t do it. A lot to or all to do with Louisville and the way in which they went about their business and the game tonight. They deserve a ton of credit for that. They had us out of rhythm a little bit with our offense in that stretch in the first half and that slowed us down. It hurt us. They played with good pace on offense and they got some stuff that we felt like we maybe could take away tonight. But they got to it. So, from top to bottom, they deserve a lot of credit, because man, I love our team and that’s — we did a couple things that we haven’t done for a while, and I think that credit goes to Louisville. Because we got tough guys and we made a few mistakes tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Coach and Seth, can you discuss the job that they did on you, Seth, on the inside? And, Coach, just the challenges that their defense presented?
SETH TUTTLE: Yeah, they got some really good, long, athletic guys in there, and they are extremely physical. They did a great job for the most part not letting me get anything easy. It basically kept up for 40 minutes. Like Coach said, all the credit goes to those guys.
COACH JACOBSON: They — we got off to a good start and we found some openings against that zone so that the start was exactly what we had hoped for from a game plan standpoint. We found Seth in the middle and he found teammates and we scored and had the momentum to begin the basketball game. They made a really good adjustment and started to follow some guys through when they were in their zone. I didn’t adjust soon enough. That hurt us, the fact that I didn’t adjust soon enough and find some different ways to get Seth the ball. In the second half, they got some — we got some more touches with Seth and Nate, and I needed to do that sooner.
Q. Coach and for Seth, how much did that zone look like a man because the way they were following and how much maybe were you calling man plays when it was actually a zone defense?
COACH JACOBSON: We were running a lot of our zone offense in the first half, and one of the actions can be run against man or zone so that we didn’t have to try to figure out what they were in. That — we talked about that a lot, that we weren’t going to try to figure out if they were in man or zone. If it was really obvious, then we would run this or this. But, otherwise, we’re just going to play and be in these actions. And, again, at the start I think that really helped us because our guys were just playing and weren’t thinking. When they adjusted and started to run through a little bit, I don’t think they went to man, but they ran through with some cutters. I needed to get us switched into something that would attack a little more, overload a side, attack a little more inside. So that’s — again, that’s on me for not adjusting quite soon enough.
Q. Coach, how many different defenses did you see in — it looks like they went three quarter and then full court. Did that give the guards some trouble and the shot clock down to like 24 most of the time?
COACH JACOBSON: Yeah, you know, they didn’t press as much tonight as they have. As maybe they normally do or at least what I saw on tape. So the press didn’t, I don’t think, impact us. It was the court to court defense. It’s two, three zone, it’s kind of a matchup, or it’s straight man. So they have got some different ways that they can play the zone or they can go with the straight man. And that can be a challenge. Again, as I said, we were good out of the gates, and we got stuck a little bit. I needed to get us adjusted to some overload stuff or some things that would get it to the block, as we saw in the second half. We were a better offensive team in the second half and I just needed to help our guys a little bit more.
Q. Seth, obviously emotional for you. When did it hit you that this one was over?
SETH TUTTLE: When I got subbed out. You know, it was that moment that I just was walking over and I was going to give Coach a hug and tell him I love him and, you know, it’s been a good run, a great season. We made a lot of memories.
Q. Seth, just talk about clearly the tallest team, just size they bring that you’ve probably seen all season. You kept attacking it, but how did that impact the game, their height?
SETH TUTTLE: Yeah, it takes away anything easy at the rim. Deon or Wes will get there, and even if they blow past one guy, there’s going to be another guy rotating. And obviously that’s how they play, and they do it really well. It’s just they change a lot of shots at the rim. You don’t get much easy.
Q. Coach, you got a bucket like with about 17 1/2 left in the game, and then you called a timeout and you got very fired up. Can you tell us what happened right there?
COACH JACOBSON: We talked at halftime about playing the way that — with the discipline that we have played with all year. These guys have taken tremendous ownership of our team, of their team. We have got five seniors that have been off the charts in terms of their leadership, and we have played a certain way because of that. In the first half, we made four or five plays that went against the way in which we have done things for a long time this year and for most games, most of the season. We talked about that at halftime. The first two defensive plays of the second half we made mistakes. So I just wanted to make sure that our guys gave themselves every opportunity to win this game. I didn’t want any more mistakes that we have control over for their sake so that they had every opportunity to win. And that was my message. Boy, we got close enough a couple times. We had Jesperson hit an open three, Nate had an open three, we had a run out, boy, we had chances to get it down to four or five, and we all saw it. So, we fought and got back in it. That’s the only thing I wanted coming out of that timeout.
Q. Nate, with what Jake just said, I’ve seen you make big shots this year, but tonight they just weren’t falling for you. You had a couple opportunities. How different is it if you can get it to a four- or five-point game?
NATE BUSS: Yeah, we were just — Coach made a lot of great decisions at the end of the game as far as our offense goes. We were getting a lot of open looks. Nine times out of ten I’ll make most of those shots. But, I don’t know, they just — like he said, they just weren’t falling.
Q. Nate and Coach, what would you see as the legacy of this team or the one word or thing that this group accomplished, whether consistency or whatnot, that you will remember from this time? Nate and coach.
NATE BUSS: I think we just kind of set a standard for work ethic for this team. You can see it from everybody, not just the five seniors, how hard everybody works on and off the court, everybody setting the standard not only for themselves but for their teammates. You know that for the years to come, every time you walk into the gym in Cedar Falls at Northern Iowa you’re going to see guys working, whether it’s a red shirt or a senior, they’re going to be in the gym getting their shots up, they’re going to be in the weight room working as hard as they possibly can. And I think that’s a standard that’s going to be continued for years to come.
COACH JACOBSON: Yeah, I would — the thing that I’m most proud of is the way in which these five guys carry themselves. With all of the success that we have had this year, they haven’t changed at all in terms of who they are and what they stand for and how they represent their families and represent our program and our school, and that’s what I’m most proud of. From a basketball standpoint within our program, they raised the bar again. I love them for that. We have had a lot of good things happen at Northern Iowa in our men’s basketball program, and these guys raised the bar one more time. That’s hard to do with some of the things we have done, but they did it. And it took a lot of sacrifice, and I’m really, really proud of them for that.
Q. With all that you just said, Coach, how do you use that and catapult — you got a good core coming back next year — catapult this success into future years?
COACH JACOBSON: The only way to raise the bar as these guys did is have somebody do something really good before them. And we did that in 2010 and they had to have somebody do it before them, right? And we could keep going back. That’s how you do it, that’s how your program continues to get to new heights. So, everybody that’s been around our program and all the kids we — all the young guys and families we’re recruiting right now, they just saw the best entire season. We didn’t get to the Sweet 16, so that’s the only thing we didn’t match. But they just saw the best four months of basketball our program’s ever had, and that’s saying a lot. So these guys, man, I love them. Absolutely love them.