NCAA Tournament First Round Post-Game Press Conference Transcript
March 18, 2010
MODERATOR: Coach, a few comments about the game?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, you're looking at three guys up here that have just played in their first NCAA Tournament game. In our starting eight, not one of our starting eight had played in an NCAA Tournament game.
For us to have 27 assists on 31 baskets in our first game, I'm proud of these guys. But also here comes Daniel Orton again, here comes DeAndre Liggins again playing well, and Darnell Dodson played the best defense and rebounding he has all year.
East Tennessee State, they got us at we played. We played in that first half. They hit a buzzsaw. So hat's off to Murry. He's done a great job in that program, and getting in the NCAA Tournament in back to back years is phenomenal. But they hit a buzzsaw today. Hopefully we're this good, I'm not sure if we are, but we'll see if we can keep it going.
MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Have you ever shot the ball better than that? Eric Bledsoe:: No, I have. I was just out there playing. Coach told me to play defense, and when I play defense it carries over to offense. So that's what I did.
Q. You talked before the game about potentially having some nervousness in this situation. How did you feel? When you got into foul trouble at the end of the first half, how did you feel about that?
John Wall: I felt I played good. I found my teammates and ran it to them like Coach told me to. He told me I'm not going to score a lot of points every night, but as long as I'm leading this team and we're winning games, that's all that matters than playing defense.
When I get in foul trouble, it was pretty tough because I'm a competitive person; I want to be out there with my teammates and helping them win. It was frustrating sitting there, but I knew my teammates were going to back me up. But they kept playing and pushed the lead up even more without me out there.
Q. Being it is your first NCAA Tournament game, what was it like for each of you?
John Wall: It was big time, you know. It was big time playing out there. You know, like Coach said, you don't want to have no upsets. You've got to go out there and play again. So we came out there and played with the intensity we need. We got the lead going and played defense like he wanted us to, and the offense was good going to come like he said. It felt great to win our first NCAA game.
Eric Bledsoe:: He told me, yeah, he was experienced, he told me the first NCAA game was always the hardest one, because you don't know where it might happen. Because you're nervous, but you've got to get it out of your system. Once you play the first one, you can go throughout.
Patrick Patterson: Basically it was just a lot of fun for me. Just being out there with my teammates. Playing basketball, March Madness. Something we've all wanted, and something I've always dreamed of doing.
So just being out there on the court was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it.
Q. Can you explain a little bit of this dynamic with Coach Calipari? I mean, he says he hopes you guys are this good, he's not sure that you are. Is he doubting you? Is that his way of challenging you? How does this work?
John Wall: To be honest, he's not doubting us. It's like you said, it's motivating us to play better, you know. He basically says you're going to be good every night like this. There are some games where 25, 30 minutes you're playing good, and then the next ten minutes we're playing lackadaisical like the game doesn't matter.
What he told us for the NCAA Tournament games, you've got to play 40 minutes. He's trying to bring the best out of us, and that's what we're trying to do for ourselves.
Eric Bledsoe:: Like you said, he's challenging us to do good because I had a great game today doesn't mean I'm going to have one next time. Somebody else is going to have to step up. So I think that's what he's doing is trying to challenge us.
Patrick Patterson: Just basically like they said. Coach Cal just challenges us to be better every single game. We may not play the way we want to play, but we have to keep our heads up. Continue playing tough, battling. Teammates may be hitting the shot, getting them the ball. Do whatever we can to get them the win. So as they all said, to sum it up, Coach Cal just challenges us every day.
MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Calipari.
Q. Coaches are often looking for something to nitpick about. Can you find something to nitpick about with this game?
COACH CALIPARI: No, I look at Patrick 9 out of 10 from the floor, and Eric and John's floor game, and DeMarcus who got into a little foul trouble. But the guys coming off the bench all played well. I thought they played loose, which is what I was worried about.
I want them to have more fun than any team in this tournament. This is their first run through this thing. I mean, they've never played in NCAA Tournament games. I've got the youngest team in the whole tournament, the whole field. If they're having fun, we'll do our best.
Now, I don't know what that means. I don't know how far we can go with a team this inexperienced. But I'll tell you, if they're having fun, it will be as far as they can possibly go.
But today, you know, that first timeout you've got to understand now. East Tennessee State had Pitt on the ropes last year. They've taken every time they get in this tournament, they take someone right to the wire, and I was worried about it. The way we played, they hit a buzzsaw. We played well.
Q. You were talking about hitting a buzzsaw and everything. I noticed it in the first half there was an alley oop from Orton to Patterson.
COACH CALIPARI: My center to my foreman. That's when you know, like, what is going on?
Q. Right. I was going to say do these guys amaze you at times?
COACH CALIPARI: Both ways. Like I cannot believe you just did that or said that or you reacted that way. What is wrong with you? Then the other one is, wow, did he just do that? Has he got that much? But we're just I mean, even in this game there was a lull. Part of it was because I was not going to press Murry up that much. So we backed up and played half court defense.
NCAA Tournament or not, I've got too much respect for he and his family that I wouldn't do that. So we were in a little bit of a lull ourselves. That's why I got on a couple of guys. Come on now, we've got to be ready for 40 minutes in two days. Let's go.
But this is a great group. Let me just tell you, if you spend time with them, you're going to find out they've got good hearts. They're good kids. They're inexperienced and immature at times, but they should be because of their age. They're 19, 18. They don't know better. Sometimes they'll react to it a way they would in approximate an AAU game in Vegas eight months ago. They'll act like they would there. They're learning.
I love every one of them. I tell you what, they're a talented group. They're a talented group of good kids. They had 27 assists on 31 baskets. Come on. I mean, that's unheard of.
Q. You obviously seem relieved that they've got this one under their belts. You obviously had some concerns. What did you fear it might look like?
COACH CALIPARI: I don't think in those terms. My terms and the way I'll be thinking about it is we're going to play great. We're going to come out and play out of our minds. Then my job is if anybody's struggling, how do I deal with it? Who do I put in? How do I keep the momentum going and the good feelings in and how do I challenge guys yet not bury them?
We've got a couple guys on the team we need to play a little better than they are. But it was great to have DeAndre Liggins back today. He hadn't played in two weeks. Today he dove on the floor, came up with four balls. He had six assists, five assists. He missed some shots, but I'm not worried about that. He defended.
So my mental picture of my team is very high. But we sometimes you haven't been following us all year. We've done some things this year like what in the world are we doing? But they're young. They're inexperienced.
Q. One point in the second half you guys were so far ahead that they showed a montage on the screen of fans who were falling asleep during the game. I was just curious if you saw that, first of all, while it was happening, and how you felt your young team kept its focus in the second half with such a big lead?
COACH CALIPARI: Let me say this first of all. These were the first empty seats that we've played in front of all year. There's never one in Rupp Arena. There's 25,000 every it doesn't matter who we play. If it's snowing, sleet, they're there. And every game we've played on the road has been a sellout. So we've had no empty seats until today.
What I told them prior to the game is, and I told them coming into this, this is not what you're used to. A crazy road game or a nutty home game. This is a neutral venue, and you've got to have your own energy. You've got to have it from within. You can't expect them to give it to us because it's not that kind of venue.So I think they were a little surprised. They played though. I thought they helped each other and talked to each other. They want to do this. They do. They want to play well.
Q. You did use a lot of guys. Like you said, you didn't press up late. But you also let guys play until pretty deep in the game with just a couple minutes left. Did you not want to pull them to the bench too early?
COACH CALIPARI: They were playing so well I wanted them to go. If you look at it, 30 minute was the most I played anybody. So it wasn't like I played people 38 minutes. 30 minutes was the most. Normally in the NCAA Tournament, you're in this kind of game, your best players are going to get 36 minutes because there are so many TV timeouts and halftime is longer and all that. So I did.
But I wanted John Wall to finish on a good note. I wanted DeMarcus to finish on on a good note. I wanted them to feel good going into the next game. The next game, whether it's Wake or Texas, is going to be a bear of a game. It's going to be a hard one for us to win, and we're going to have to be in a great frame of mind.
Q. I was just mentioning to some folks over here before we started that it seems like you landed the plane tonight without any calls to the FAA. So do you learn anything about your team in such a blowout like this?
COACH CALIPARI: You know, it's amazing. When I walked in on the board they put we landed the plane. That's what they put on the board. The stuff will keep coming. There will turbulence. There's going to be lightning. There's going to be all the stuff that tries to get us off track.
Some of it will come from some of you. But I've done this too long, so it won't affect me. I'm just trying to make sure it doesn't effect them, so we stay the course and we land the plane. Let's just land the plane. This one was smooth sailing.
I doubt seriously if Saturday's will be smooth sailing. Probably 200 foot to the ground clouds. It's going to be hard for us to get it down. That's fine. That's what this is right now.
I told them after tomorrow, the good news for us is there are only going to be 32 teams and we're one of them. 32 teams go home after tomorrow. 32. 16 are going to be done after tonight. You start to put that into your minds like do you understand what you're doing? What you're accomplishing? It's great stuff. Just keep trying to land that plane.