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March 13, 2016

Josh Pastner

Ricky Tarrant, Jr.

Dedric Lawson

Orlando, Florida

UConn - 72, Memphis - 58

THE MODERATOR: We'll start with an opening statement from coach and then take questions for the student-athletes.

JOSH PASTNER: First of all, I want to give credit to UConn and they obviously played really well. They're talented, made some shots. I thought that what hurt us that first half was when Ricky got in foul trouble. That really hurt us, especially without Avery Woodson in there due to injury. That did not allow us to have that -- another shooter on the floor just to open things up in the middle, and so that hurt. Then when Ricky got that third foul in that first half -- and I usually sit guys with two in the first half, but I gambled there with Ricky and it just happened. He got that third one there. The other thing is, is we had some short shots there we missed early. That hurt us. We had some opportunities there early around the rim. We just couldn't buy a basket. They made a couple shots.

I thought defensively the first half we were really good. They were 2-10 from three. In that second half, they made some threes. You know, our whole game plan was to shrink the floor, keep it shrunk, keep it packed in, and not get spread out. They hit some tough threes. You got to give them credit. Gibbs hit that big three coming out of that timeout. That was a big shot. It was a long-range shot, too. So you got to give him credit. We were down four and we just could not get over that hump.

Again, we had some opportunities around the basket. However, I'm so proud of our young men. I'm proud of the two gentlemen to our right, Ricky Tarrant Jr. who just gave his all every time he stepped on the floor, every ounce of energy for this program this year. So proud of him. He's a great young man. The gentleman to his right, Dedric Lawson, same thing. Had a tremendous freshman year, got another double double tonight, so he tied Keith Lee for the most double doubles as a freshman in the history of Memphis basketball history, which is a great accomplishment. And the rest of the guys, very proud of them.

Overall, just with our season, look, we won 19 games. Obviously, we had some inconsistencies, but considering the fact that we lost Austin Nichols, who we were planning on, in late July, and we weren't able to replace him that late. And then we also lost K.J. Lawson, who was a key, key guy for us due to injury. So losing those two guys was -- really hurt our depth. However, our guys battled every time. They competed. They left it all on the floor, and I'm just proud of our young men. So overall, from where we started and to where we finished, I'm very proud of this group of guys.


Q. Obviously UConn got out to that big lead early, but you were able to cut it down to four. What did you guys do defensively to kind of slow them down a little bit and get back into the game?
RICKY TARRANT JR.: We didn't change our game plan. They came out early and made a lot of tough shots like Coach said. So, it was just all about energy and effort. So I give credit to UConn. They're a great team, and it's just the ball didn't land our way today.

DEDRIC LAWSON: What I think we did more in the second half, we played defense without fouling. First half, we fouled them and put them on the line, and they made all their free throws and we pushed the lead for them. Then when they made shots, it opened the game up for them. In the second half, we did defend without fouling for the most part in the beginning.

Q. Obviously kind of a difficult season. You don't know what's going to happen next. What do you think you showed, whether it's the NCAA Tournament committee or the NIT selection committee or wherever you go next -- what do you think you showed in getting to this championship game this week?
RICKY TARRANT JR.: Nobody expected us to be here today so it's -- we're proud of ourselves. Of course, we wanted to win, but we, every day, every practice, every game, we left it all on the line. So, I'm just proud of the guys and how hard we fought every day. Because nobody expected us to be here today.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen. Questions for Coach.

Q. UConn obviously has kind of had a tradition of being in these kind of games. Did you sense that their seniors, their kind of older players, knew how to rise up to this moment?
JOSH PASTNER: Yeah, and we have just, we were snake-bitten a little bit, one, with our depth. We just didn't have the depth on some of the -- on some of our -- we were subbing late. That's been our whole thing with this year. So some of the guys maybe I would have liked to red-shirt this year, and we put them in the fire. And then obviously losing Avery Woodson for this tournament really hurt us. That was a big thing, because just that shooting, and he was playing the best basketball of his career and shooting at 45 percent from three. That was a big thing that ended up biting us on the butt on that, and not having him out there tonight. Not that that would have won us the game, but it would have given us a better opportunity to win the game.

Q. Can you talk about the plan going forward? Will you guys play in any other post-season tournament that's not the NCAA?
JOSH PASTNER: Yeah, you know, we're not going to get into an at large to the NCAA Tournament. But I hope we have a chance to get in the NIT. We got to the championship and that could be a long shot, I don't know, but I would, I sure hope that we do. Anything other than that, I mean I would love to keep playing, but obviously I got to talk to my bosses and my deputy athletic director, Mark Alnutt, my athletic director Tom Bowen, and President Rudd, and we'll decide what we want to do and go from there.

So, we're hoping that -- we're keeping our fingers crossed that we can slip into the NIT. If not, then I'll get with my bosses and we'll decide what's best from there.

Q. Can this run to this tournament be a springboard for next year after -- I know the things didn't go well on the court early in the season but can this be a springboard for next year?
JOSH PASTNER: As I said in my opening statement, I planned on having Austin Nichols and K.J. Lawson as my two starters and also planned on Kedren Johnson as a starter for me. When you're going into the fall and you're losing three starters and you can't replace them, that ends up -- two of them to injury, one of them to a transfer very late in the summer, that just makes it hard. So, we have a good young nucleus, a good young group, and so I like our young guys. Our young guys got a chance to be good -- a good group of core that we have moving to the, moving into the future. Obviously Dedric Lawson will have a decision to make on what he wants to do with the new NBA rule where you can put your name in, go through the workouts and the combines, and go through there and see what happens there. So, we'll see what happens with that.

And then we signed two good kids, and we'll keep recruiting, sign some more in the spring. And Dan Leibovitz is back there and Dan's a dear friend, and Dan, great job with the tournament. As I said yesterday, everyone here at Central Florida, the host people, did a great job. You guys were excellent. Everybody was first class. Orlando, great job. Dan and the conference, great job. And I would have said that regardless if we played in the championship or not.

Q. Just can you provide a little bit of perspective on this tournament and how it has encompassed the up-and-down season, not just for your team, but for you personally.
JOSH PASTNER: Yeah, look, as I said, I think if most people sat back and you said going into the season you're going to lose three starters and one of them being a potential first or second team All-American, you would say -- and one of them being your starting point guard and then one of them being your top recruit -- you're going to have some up-and-downs. And we were inconsistent in that second part of that season, the middle part. We got inconsistent. We were 12-5 and defending really well. We stopped defending at the level we needed to defend and the last few weeks we got back to that. And that bit us in the butt on some games that we lost. We didn't defend like we did now, and me as a coach, you talk about it, you talk and Dan knows this as a former head coach -- that you talk about it, and you're on it all the time and you say you can't give away these games. And every possession is so critical. But the head coach understands it more than anybody. And sometimes when you're dealing with 18 to 23 year olds, I don't think they fully understand it until sometimes when the season's over.

So we dropped a couple games we probably should not have dropped, and if we win them we're sitting on the bubble maybe and having a chance to get in. But those things happen and that's part of college basketball. That's part of college athletics. This isn't pros, this isn't professionals. This is college athletics. But I'm proud of our group. We won 19 games, we made it to the championship, and in a very tough league. And so I'm proud of our season overall, but I am obviously would like to have a little more wins, obviously, but I'm proud of our young men.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

JOSH PASTNER: Okay. Thank you.

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