Kentucky-Ohio State Postgame Quotes

March 26, 2011

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Kentucky Postgame Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Kentucky Head Coach Jon Calipari, students Brandon Knight, Josh Harrellson and DeAndre Liggins.

COACH John Calipari: I'm really proud of the guys. And Josh and DeAndre were so good today, wow, and Darius. And Terrence, who didn't play well in the first half, did things lights in the game. Brandon, who didn't make shots, made the two biggest shots of the game. Deron, who wasn't making shots in the first half, came out and made a couple shots. Jon Hood helped us and Eloy helped us. It was a good win. They stuck to what we were trying to do and didn't get away from it and eked one out.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.

Q. Brandon, can you take us through that game-winning shot and you know you guys weren't given, I guess, much of a chance per se. Ohio State was much more veteran and you guys were more freshmen and how that played out.

Brandon Knight: With the last shot Coach put me in a pick-and-roll a couple of seconds left. Instead of going off, I felt he gave me a lane to go right, so I just went right. And he jumped in front of me, so I pulled up, and thank God it went in.

And as far as with not people expecting us to win because we are a freshman team, I just saw today our older guys, veterans stepped up and did a great job.

Q. Josh, going into this game you said you were confident. But really, did you think you could get 17 and have the game that you had tonight?

Josh Harrellson: I have to be thankful for my teammates for doing that. They got me open. Easy drop-offs to me and I was finishing and they came back on pick-and-rolls. I have been guarding the best guys in the country for the last two years with DeMarcus (Cousins) with Daniel (Orton), Pat (Patterson), and this year guarding Enes (Kanter) and it gives me an edge guarding Jared Sullinger, one of the best in the nation. Going against Enes, it gives me more confidence coming into this game.

Q. Brandon, did you it in Tampa, you have done it again here in New Jersey, is there something to be said for having the ball in your hands late in the game?

Brandon Knight: I am not sure. Like I said, I just thank God for being able to make shots like that. And just when it comes to crunch time, a couple of seconds left and the game on the line, I focus in and make sure I am making the right decisions.

Q. Brandon, this is twice now that have you had game-winners where there is no time-out, they just give you the ball and I assume they want you to just make a play. What is that, what kind of confidence do you get out of basically being given the ball and just said, go and win it?

Brandon Knight: I get a lot of confidence from that just knowing that Coach Cal has a lot of faith in me to put me in a position like that to make the right play. Not only can it be shooting but he tells me somebody else is open, to get it to them to knock the game-winning shot down.

Q. Brandon, on the shot where you got the ball, were you intending to drive to the basket? And his defense made you improvise? Josh, can you talk about your defense on Sullinger when he put it off the side of the backboard?

Brandon Knight: Like I said before, I was going to come off the screen originally, but I kind of felt he gave me a lane to go to the basket. And his lateral quickness is pretty good, so he got a good pop. And he cut me off a little bit, so I just stopped and rose and shot the mid-range.

Josh Harrellson: You know, I gave up an offensive rebound right before that and gave up an easy lay-up. I didn't really contest it, so I was going to try to make it up for my teammates. I was trying to be big. I had a couple of inches on them. We were the same weight, so I was trying to be bigger than him, and I had hot hands and he threw it off the side of the backboard and I went for the rebound, and that was a key play right there.

Q. I was curious when you hear Kentucky-Carolina, what springs to your mind?

Josh Harrellson: North Carolina really progressed since the first time we played them. They are a totally different team. They beat us once, it will be a tough game to come out here and, you know, match up with them. The bigs did a great job the first time, and all they are doing is getting better. It will be a tough match-up for me. But hopefully we can come out and keep playing the same ball we have been playing the last couple of weeks.

DeAndre Liggins: North Carolina is a good team. They progressed this year as the season went on. And since they got the point guard, they have been great. That's my job to guard him in the next game and I will try to do my best.

Q. DeAndre, after the game you got up on the table and tried to get a message, I guess, to the fans. What motivated you to do that? What were you trying to say to them?

DeAndre Liggins: It is part of my game, to bring a passion to the game every time I step on the floor. Trying to lift my teammates. I am just happy we won the game.

Q. DeAndre, on that shot that went from, I guess, to go from one to three up, that's some of the most aggressive I have seen you a lot of the year. Did you want to take that shot?

DeAndre Liggins: I heard Coach Cal say yesterday when he was up here, he said, DeAndre, is going to make shots, and I listened to that and I thought I am going to make shots today and that's what I did.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, guys. Questions for Coach Calipari.

Q. John, the balance you got out of the six players that played so much, offensively and defensively, how does it feel as a coach to get that kind of just straight team effort, it wasn't one guy, it was all six? And how have you built maybe over the course of this year to get to this point when it hasn't always gone perfect?

COACH John Calipari: Well, the one thing about playing less players, they seem to become a better team. Jack Leaman when I was at UMass told me I was playing too many guys. He said, You have to play less people. Play six or seven guys. You will get a good team and my '95 team with Marcus (Camby), Carmelo (Travieso), Edgar (Padilla), Donta (Bright) and Dana (Dingle), we only played six guys that year and we were a pretty good team. What happened is like Terrence, I wanted Terrence early in the game to get Sullinger to go off screens and do stuff and drive Sullinger and that was a mistake. And he is not ready for that and that kind of screwed him up the whole first half. The second half he came back and played. That's growth. Earlier in the year when he played that way to start he could not finish the game. Brandon doesn't make a shot and then he makes that three, and then he makes the last shot of the game after missing all of those shots. That's growth. You're just not afraid to miss.

But this team is those veterans. Josh Harrellson, DeAndre Liggins, Darius Miller. Our freshmen were okay today. Our veteran players who were not significant a year ago, who have now taken on this team, that's why we're still playing. It's because of those guys.

Q. John, why did you go with DeAndre guarding the point guard rather than one of the other guys?

COACH John Calipari: Because I felt that if we could make the game hard for Craft, it was going to be in our benefit. The issue was, who are we going to put on Diebler? And, you know, we tried some different things and I thought we did a pretty good job. But, you know, there are certain players on teams that you got to go at them to change the direction of the game, and that's why we did it. The start of the half, I took him off Craft and you saw Craft go nutty. And I called a time-out and I put him right back on Craft. He's not only a great defender, he had two assists, four blocks -- I'm sorry, three assists, three blocks, six rebounds, 15 points and big hoops and big free throws. He was huge today, huge.

Q. A year ago I imagine you wouldn't believe Harrellson could play this big in a game of magnitude. What was the key of his transition to get to the point where he can play like that against Sullinger?

COACH John Calipari: I think it was November he twittered some stuff about me, and I about threw him off the team. And I went to mass and I thought better of it and thought and said, "You are going to condition for 30 minutes before every practice and then you are going to practice or you can quit." He worked so hard and all of a sudden his body changed. It's not what I did, it's what he did. His body changed. The extra work got his skills better. And it also got him to think differently. I tell players all the time, if you're going to do the same thing over and over and then expect a different result, that's the definition of insanity. You have to change, your habits, your work habits, your mentality. You can't listen to everybody telling you how to play, you have to shut it all out and have a different mentality and that's what he has done.

If you asked me at the beginning of the year, I would say no. No. But you know what? I have done this a long time. I'm not sure if I have ever been this proud of a young man who, you know, he's going to do what he wants to do now. But he changed. He did it himself. It's not what I did. We put him on stage, but they have to perform.

Q. John, how much did you honestly worry about the youth factor in this game?

COACH John Calipari: The what factor?

Q. Youth. And does a win like this in this situation kind of put this argument to rest finally?

COACH John Calipari: It will never go to rest. And I mean, we all have young players, it just seems that I am the only one with the young players, but we all have young players. And I would tell you, it never enters my mind. But that being said, the veterans won this game. Now Brandon made that shot. Terrence came up with a big rebound late. Deron made two nice threes. But those veterans did they what they had to do to win this game, defensively, on Craft, on Sullinger. We held a heck of a team to 32% from the floor and they make six threes. I told them if we get them to five or six threes, I don't think they can beat us.

But I don't mind coaching young guys. The way we played -- we had young guys in the past, and I don't look at their age. You are going to help us win, or you are going to do what you are supposed to do, you are going to make your teammates better, or you are going to be the kind of teammate that you want to play with. Well, if you are going to do that, what do I care if you are 18, 19, 21, I don't care. We are trying to win, and we are trying to build a team.

Now, I don't agree with one-and-done, never have, but it is the rule. And I am not holding kids back. If they have a chance to go, I will tell them to go. It has never hurt our program. I don't try to convince kids to come back. If they choose to do that -- even like Jodie Meeks, I would like to coach Jodie. I want to coach this team for three more years, are you kidding me? But we are in a situation we are in.

Q. You all had a bunch of games where they came down to the end on the road and you lost four or five of them in a row. And now the last three or four you have won. Do you think going through those losses had any effect?

COACH John Calipari: No question. No question. One, if it didn't hurt, we would have never changed. And I used to go in after those games and I walked in and I said, this has to hurt bad. And you have to take responsibility. It was a month ago that Derrick Rose had a bad game and he stood up and said, "This is on me. It won't ever happen again." And I told my team, that's what being a professional is about. That's what's being a good teammate. Don't look to blame. If you didn't do your job, just accept it and change.

So those close games were good -- now, they were painful going through them now, and plus I am coaching in Kentucky; you are supposed to win every game by 25. And if not, they want to know what is wrong with me or this team and everything else, just what we live with. It is tough going through it, but it benefitted us.

Q. John, Brandon talked before about the confidence you have in him for making a play. Is that why after 21 seconds after Diebler play you don't call a time-out, you let it flow kind of?

COACH John Calipari: I don't ever call a time-out, that's why we practice. And you notice the time before we ran something and I didn't like it and I called a time-out. But I very rarely do that and I will tell you why: One, you have to get it inbounds. Two, what if they change defense or change personnel and put different people on them? When you don't call a time-out, if you worked on it in practice, you know who's guarding who. I have all the faith in the world in Brandon. Against Princeton he couldn't make a shot, but he made the lay-up. Today he struggled shooting, but he made that last one. If we are in another game and it is late, that coach will know we're playing through Brandon.

Now, the play before I wanted DeAndre and I wanted DeAndre because he was the one that was hurting them the most. And so we called a time-out, went on the side out of bounds and ran it for him and kind of used Brandon as a little decoy. But whatever, he made the tough shot.

Q. Coach, what does it mean to you to be playing Carolina for a place in the Final Four?

COACH John Calipari: It means we're still playing. I mean, I didn't care whoever it was. I really like Roy, unbelievable coach. What he has done this year with that team. I mean, we played early and they beat us. They are so much better than they were then. Their big guys, their guards, they pass, you know, they are unbelievable. And Roy, you know, early on they struggled. But that's what coaching is in my opinion. A guy like him, he is a Hall of Famer and I am a big fan of his and he knows that.

Q. Coach, all the lead changes, all of the ties. You have been in a lot of games. Kentucky has been in a lot of games to be considered the best of all time. In your opinion where does this game ranks right now, is pretty much --

COACH John Calipari: At this moment, the best of all time, at this moment. I just have to go back. I told the players I am going to watch this tape to get me a little bit excited, and then I will start on the Carolina tape tonight to get ready for tomorrow.

Q. John, I wondered what happened on the technical. And was it reminiscent at all of the '92 Sweet 16 technical with the ref far away from you?

COACH John Calipari: I probably did something, I don't know. It was a great crew in the game, so if I did something, they called a technical, I don't care, we won the game. Terrence looked over at me and said, "I got your back."

I was happy he missed the first one, as you can tell, just to let them know, how about that. But obviously I must have done something. But it wasn't intentional, so, but it was a good crew in the game. Thank you.

Ohio State Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we're now joined by Ohio State Head Coach Thad Matta and Jon Diebler and David Lighty.

COACH THAD MATTA: Well, one of those games where we had a hard time putting the ball in the basket. And I think Kentucky obviously defensively did a tremendous job challenging our shots. You know, it came down to a couple of plays. Jon hit a huge shot. You know, they come down hit a big shot. I thought we had a great look there at the end, but an incredible season, an incredible run for these guys. I told them I never had a team like this and, you know, these two guys as seniors were incredible.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes. Questions for Jon or David, please.

Q. For either one of you, was it defensively what Kentucky was doing, was it one of the games where the ball wasn't falling? Just your read on, as Coach was saying, having trouble getting the ball in the basket.

JON DIEBLER: I think honestly, you know, some of the shots we missed are shots we have been making all year. It is one of those games you have to give them credit. I thought they did a good job of challenging shots obviously with their length. Again, we are going against length all year and those are shots that we make, and tonight they weren't going in.

DAVID LIGHTY: Yeah, like he said, you have to give them credit. I mean, we had open looks and when you get them open, you know you don't get that many and you have got to knock them down. And tonight we didn't. And I mean, you have to commend them, they made plays when they needed it.

Q. For both Jon and David: Was it a little bit difficult playing against this Kentucky team because they are so young and there's no sort of "they are not supposed to be here" type of thing with them?

JON DIEBLER: I think honestly at this point in the season they've got a lot of games under their belt. They're a very good basketball team. Very talented. Kind of like we say about our freshmen, they are not freshmen anymore when you get to this point. I think they hit some big shots and again, you have to give them a lot of credit. They challenged a lot of our shots and we just didn't get them to go tonight.

COACH THAD MATTA: Can I ask you a question, how the hell are they not supposed to be here ?

Q. It is a youth factor.

COACH THAD MATTA: They just won the SEC Tournament. It is a hell of a basketball team there, man.

Q. Jon, how disappointing is it to finish like this?

JON DIEBLER: It hurts, just because we felt we could, we could make a run at the championship. You know by no means were we overlooking this team. Like Coach said, they are a very good basketball team, very talented. To win the games that they won in the SEC, you have to tip your hat to them. Obviously every team wants to finish in Houston. You know, you can't take away with what we did this season in the regular season. I mean we had a great run, but it does hurt to kind of end like this, especially this is where we ended last year.

Q. You guys have been shooting so well in the Tournament, and tonight it wasn't there. How much of that should we attribute to their defense? And what did they do?

JON DIEBLER: I mean, again like we said, you have to give them credit on defense. They played hard and they just challenged shots. I mean, with their size and length, you know obviously we knew that they were shot-blockers and they got some shots blocked. And we kept going at them though. But, you know, we had games where we haven't shot well, but tonight, you know, Dave was saying it all game, we have to get a stop. And we couldn't get consecutive stops and that's kind of what killed us.

DAVID LIGHTY: Yeah, it was pretty much the same thing. You know, there have been games like this where we haven't made shots, but you have to find other ways to win the game. If they are not scoring and we are not scoring, it kind of balances out.

But like I said they flew at shooters. I mean they crowded the paint. They did a good job of that.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, guys.

COACH THAD MATTA: I apologize, I'm sorry. That's the best team we played this year.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Matta.

Q. Coach, would you elaborate a little on why Kentucky is the best team you faced. What separates them from all the good teams you've played?

COACH THAD MATTA: I just think that, you know, number one, their defense. Nobody talks about their defense. And, you know, obviously they're very effective defensively. I thought we had open looks. I mean, we missed lay-ups in transition, missed inbounds and got the ball where we wanted it and just couldn't put the ball in the basket. And I think offensively they -- you know we said this, I think Harrellson is probably the most underrated player in college basketball. He's a tremendous player and knows his role and does it well.

Q. You lose Evan Turner from last year, you find these guys to replace them and you really embraced this group. How disappointed are you it ended in the Sweet 16?

COACH THAD MATTA: It is hard, because as I said earlier, I never had a team like this that united and bonded, you know, just their togetherness. And you think about starting on October 15th and it's March 26th, you hit three bumps in the road. All three teams we lost to this year were at some point ranked in the Top 10 in the country. When you have a group of guys that take care of their business the way they are supposed to, you know, they are not problems off the court, they are a joy to be around in practice, it's hard. It's hard. I mean, I have to be honest with you, as I told them, I don't know what to say after the game.

Q. Thad, you might have addressed this regarding their defense. But I think you went a span of about four minutes where you only had a couple of free throws by Craft. I think William looked like he pulled the trigger quick on a couple of jump shots, and you guys might have settled, it looked like a few times, instead of going to the hoop. Is that their defense or not executing as well as you usually do?

COACH THAD MATTA: You know, I will be honest, I think the accumulation of some of the open ones we missed got to us and we may have pressed a little bit, but Will made those exact same shots throughout the course of the season. You know, we were trying to get the ball down low obviously, and they did a good job of kind of faking, staying at home, and getting back and challenging the shots. You know, on the drives, we got it on the glass a couple of times, they just didn't go in for us. I thought we executed pretty well, but we just didn't finish the shots.

Q. Coach, I wondered about the defense that Aaron played on Knight on the game-winner. It looked like he prevented Knight to get to the basket, which I was expecting Knight to do.

COACH THAD MATTA: Yeah, he made a heck of a shot. Aaron, you know he is a tremendous defender. He had his hand in his face and he just rose up and made a great shot. And, you know, those are the type of shots that we said we wanted them to make were challenged twos. To his credit he made a big-time play.

Q. Thad, I know you touched on it just a little bit, can you talk about the end of the game, and it looked like after the three you were trying to get a time-out, didn't get it?

COACH THAD MATTA: Yeah. Yeah, there was a couple that I didn't get. But no, we were trying to get a time-out there. You know, I wanted to try to get our defense set and, you know, alert our guy what is we thought could happen.

Q. After Knight's basket were you just looking, let's push and get it? Because you ended up getting a decent look.

COACH THAD MATTA: Yeah, I was watching the clock. It was like 5.4 when it went in and it was in Aaron's hands and I saw those eyes. He was reading it. And I thought he made a great choice. We'll get a great look off and we had enough time to make a play on it if it didn't go in. I don't know who it was that tipped it away from us. But I loved the shot that he got.

Q. Hey Coach, what do you think this run says about Coach Cal? I know you lost Evan Turner but he lost five guys last year to the NBA draft that were first-round picks. What does that say about him?

COACH THAD MATTA: He is obviously getting it done. You look at his track record of what he accomplished over the coaching career, rebuilding UMass and Memphis and doing a great job there as well.

Q. Thad, how did you think Jared played? And in particular, when you guys were down by one, right with about a minute to go, you went to him in the post and he put it off the side of the backboard. Just wondered what you saw on that one.

COACH THAD MATTA: He got in pretty good position. And you know there was -- we have seen him score well down there on that block. And the guy did a great job bodying him up and preventing him from getting the ball to the follow-through.

Q. Were you surprised with given the amount of fouls that they racked up in the first half that you guys weren't able to knock one of those or two of those guys out of the game?

COACH THAD MATTA: Yeah. You know, the tide turned in the second half, and you know we were looking at it, but they were doing a pretty good job of switching their match-ups and getting guys in and out of the game that were in foul trouble. But things didn't go that well for us in the second half in that regard.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.