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March 28, 2015

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

T.J. McConnell

Sean Miller


Wisconsin - 85
Arizona - 78

THE MODERATOR: Coach, an opening statement.

COACH MILLER: Well, it's always hard to end a season, but especially when you have a great team like we have. I'm not going to apologize for being 34-4, and I'm not going to apologize for not making the Final Four, and neither should these guys. There are a couple of them, and I'll just use these two as an example, that have won 69 games in two years, have won back-to-back conference championships, have been in the top 10 for every day that they've dribbled a ball at Arizona, and we lost to Wisconsin in two hard-fought battles in the Elite Eight. And if that's a problem, I think you know what you can do. From my perspective, I give tremendous credit to Wisconsin. Their offensive execution and their ability to make shots in the second half, it was like a video game. I'd like to blame our players or we weren't playing hard. Let me just tell you, Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, they're really good. And their offense is the No. 1 offense in the nation, and no team has done what they did to us in the second half. That's to their credit. They made shots, and if they play like that next weekend, they have a chance to win it all. So I credit them getting back-to-back Final Fours is quite an accomplishment. And Bo Ryan is a tremendous coach and wish him well.

Q. T.J., that was a poignant moment watching you come off the floor and embracing Coach Miller. I wonder if you can talk about what you were feeling and what you guys said in that exchange.
T.J. McCONNELL: Well, obviously the feeling wasn't good, but I just came off the floor and apologized that I couldn't get him to a Final Four. So, I mean, that guy right there is like my dad, so I just felt down that I couldn't get him there.

Q. Sam Dekker was hitting shots all night and they were definitely not uncontested. You guys were right in his face. How frustrating was it to be all over him and still watch those shots go in?
RONDAE HOLLIS-JEFFERSON: It was tough, you know, to be playing hard on defense and trying to get a stop to win the game and he made those shots. It was tough to watch them go in, but in basketball you have those days.

T.J. McCONNELL: Yeah, you've just got to credit Sam. He made big-time plays when they needed him to. And we contested most of them as well as you can, but he made some big-time shots.

Q. For either of you, is there any more sense of frustration given that it was Wisconsin for the second year in a row or is it just the same feeling regardless?
T.J. McCONNELL: I think it's the same feeling regardless. But put any team up against Wisconsin in the Elite Eight, I would say most of the time it's the same result. We played as hard as we could, and they just made more plays than we did tonight.

Q. To follow up on the moment with T.J. Clearly he felt an extraordinary burden to get you to the Final Four. Can you talk about what he felt and what you felt in this situation.
COACH MILLER: Yeah, I mean, that's how T.J. talks. Obviously, we were all trying to get each other to the Final Four. And when you're in this game you're really close, especially when you're up three at the half. We were up three at the half last year against Wisconsin, ironically, about the same score. Obviously the second half went much different this year. But T.J. McConnell and Rondae, the two guys that were up here, they're the greatest kids that I've ever coached. They've done everything that we've asked. They play so hard every day that what they do becomes contagious, and it goes throughout the locker room. In my estimation, the greatest compliment that you can give these guys when they leave is that you're trying to find those that are like them to bring more in. Those two guys are unbelievable winners. We're going to miss them. We really are. But what they've done, and that is the hard part for me, because the focus is so much on the last game and the Final Four, I've been in this game four times, that you can't take away the 34 wins that we've had. Winning conference championships, I think we have the nation's longest winning streak, and they did all that, and yet we didn't get by Wisconsin today. But as much as this hurts, it's so important for us and for me to give them that feeling that what we did over the last six months was the right stuff, and how they went about it was something that we're all really proud of, and I'm proud of them.

Q. In terms of defending or trying to defend those two guys, did you kind of empty the bucket as far as schemes, match-ups, everything you could think of?
COACH MILLER: Emptied the bucket, and it was a big one. You know, I think we've tried everything. Going into the game, because we played them last year, we tried the best we could to hedge every on-ball screen that happened with Kaminsky. We did an excellent job, in my opinion, of that. That's one of the reasons that our defense was organized and we were good at the half. Rondae did a really good job in the first half when he was on Kaminsky, but he's not going to be able to just pitch a shutout. The problem was he can't guard two people. When Sam Dekker does what he did, and I think some of the shots were very well defended, when he does that with Kaminsky, maybe Kentucky is that school that can beat them. But I'm telling you, I don't know if there is another one out there when they're clicking with that one-two punch. By the way, Nigel Hayes is pretty good, and he'll keep you honest making a three as well. So you're right. Same thing with post trap. Hey, you've got to double team Kaminsky. You can do that a few times and get away with it. But eventually when that ball gets out, everybody on the court can shoot it, and they get you with an open three that breaks your back. I think they had two threes at the half. Think about that. Two made threes at the half, one, and they had eight in the second half.


COACH MILLER: 10 in the second half?

THE MODERATOR: 10 of 12.

COACH MILLER: We weren't letting them shoot. So I credit them. It was a very difficult match-up for us. I wish I could have told you before the game, but I didn't do that. I knew before the game that we would have to play in many ways the perfect defensive game, and by the way, need some good fortune. Like maybe one of them has a bad night, because they have some answers that we don't really have a solution towards. If you would have told me that we would play the game with 10 turnovers, that we would have one more rebound than them, that we would go 28-30 from the foul line and shoot 56% from the floor, I would tell you that we were going to win. But their second half offense was spectacular, extraordinary, and they deserve the credit for that.

Q. Sean, did you have any feeling at all at halftime that you had spent so much energy coming back that it would cost you a little bit?
COACH MILLER: No, actually just the opposite. In last year's game we jumped on them like they jumped on us, and then I thought the rest of the half kind of favored them. At halftime of last year's game, even though we were up three, I can remember that it didn't feel right. Obviously it became a great battle in the second half. If you think about it, for the last 16 minutes of the first half today, we were clearly the better team. I mean, we outscored them by about 10 or 11 points. So I believe we felt good. We also liked how our game plan was working. What hurt us in the second half was right away that other player jumped on us from three, making threes. Kaminsky made one, but he's a great player. He really is. I think every one of these guys in college thinks they're a pro. I've got two of them. Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, I know they're pros. And I don't mean that like Sam should leave. I'm just telling you he's a great player, and everybody in the Big Ten knows it, and we know it. And Nigel Hayes is great too. They have that one-two-three punch. They obviously run an offense that puts them in a great position, but they were on fire in the second half.

Q. This is the fourth time you've gone out in the Elite Eight in the last seven years. Is there any feeling that you've been snake bitten at this point or anything like that?
COACH MILLER: Yeah, no question. I mean, when you lose in this game, it's hard. You lose four times in seven years, and that's probably a record, right? It is what it is. But, again, I come back to the point that it's a process. It's a long journey. It's not a single moment. It's both a long process in terms of what you do in a year. We started in early October when school began, and we've worked, and a lot of great things happened this year for our team. And over the last couple of years, a lot of great things have happened for our program. And over the last seven years for me, a lot of great things have happened with the teams I've coached. You get to this level and lose -- tonight actually felt a little bit different in that it didn't come down to the last possession. The last couple that we've been in kind of was a single play that you hold on to. Tonight, I think over this summer when you have a perspective, I mean, my God, there were so many threes going in. It almost took the bite out of the loss somewhat. But with the way the world is today, people will jump all over us for losing in the Elite Eight, and I just want to protect our players. Because if you're T.J. McConnell and you've won 69 games in two years and you never lost a home game and you've gone to back-to-back Elite Eights, no kid should walk out of here with anything other than their head held high. That's my point. We'll see. Maybe the fifth time that I get back here, maybe I'll break through.

Q. Brandon got two fouls in the first two minutes and there was a lot said about he didn't play last year and he was going to make a difference this year. How did you navigate that defensively and also the other foul trouble you might have run into?
COACH MILLER: Brandon did a great job on offense. It was a tough match-up for him defensively. But it was a tough match-up for all our guys. I thought Rondae was the one guy that really could guard any of them. We tried to figure out how he could get two of them to play. But there was only one of him, and the other guy that he wasn't on went to work. And as we moved Rondae around, that guy will go quiet. But as he left one Wisconsin player, the other one would heat up. And Sam Dekker in the second half was spectacular.

Q. There were 43 fouls called and 61 free throws shot. I mean, these are two really good teams capable of a lot on offense. Would you like to see a looser-called game than stop and shoot free throws over and over again?
COACH MILLER: No, some of it was because of how the game ended. I think they were protecting a lead and we were trying to make a comeback and that happens. But I think we shot the most free throws in the nation this year, and we were playing against a team that generally doesn't foul. But I thought the game was called the right way.

Q. I'm just curious, can you remember any game that you've coached where a team has gotten hot like Wisconsin did in the second half?
COACH MILLER: No, but especially against our defense, who is very good, and especially in a game of this magnitude, what they did in the second half. And you know what? Sometimes a kid has a bad night. A team has a bad night, and you miss some open ones that you got, and it went in the reverse order for them in the second half. They probably made some tough ones, but they're capable. They're a great shooting team. They're our game's best offense. To beat them, you have to both be able to score, which we did tonight, but you also have to have a solution in guarding their front court. Their three, four and five are spectacular players, especially two of them.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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