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March 11, 2017

Kevin Ollie

Jalen Adams

Rodney Purvis

Christian Vital

Hartford, Connecticut

Cincinnati - 81, UConn - 71

THE MODERATOR: UConn is here. Joined by Rodney Purvis, Jalen Adams, Christian Vital. Head coach, Kevin Ollie. We'll take an opening statement from coach.

Coach, if we begin with your thought on the game please.

KEVIN OLLIE: First, I want to just thank our crowd for coming out and helping us through the whole season. They didn't ever give up on us, I appreciate that. It was a tough, hard-fought game. Our guys never gave in. I thought the second half they came out and really fought. Just proud of them. Proud of our seniors. They won a lot of games here and left this program better. And the next thing they have to do is graduate, and that's going be probably one of the happiest days they have here at UConn. And I want them to finish strong, and let them know they always got a family here and I appreciate them to death.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student-athletes at this time.

Q. This one's for Christian. What would you say is your biggest take-away from the season, and what can you say that you learned from Rodney this season?
CHRISTIAN VITAL: I would say my biggest take-away is how to keep fighting, never to give up, and what it really means to play for UConn. I learned a lot from Rodney, and not only Rodney, but the other seniors as well, you know? They've taught me discipline. They've taught me how not to be a freshman and, you know, just how to be composed on the court at all times and fighting through adversity. They did a really great job of being our captains this year and leading us as a team, and that's something I'm going take through the rest of my career here at UConn and I appreciate them.

Q. This is for Rodney. Rodney, why do you think you got close a bunch of times and weren't able to get over the hump? Why do you think that is?
RODNEY PURVIS: I just think we needed to dig down a little bit more, get the key stops that we really needed to get once we was in reach. Anytime we got the game down to, like, four or five, I just think we would make a small mistake on the defensive end and give them another shot at it, or we would foul and they were going to the free-throw line, and that was it.

Q. Rodney, obviously, the game was called pretty tightly. How did that change the way you guys were playing and how did you -- obviously, they had a deeper bench than you guys did, so how did you adjust when all those fouls started getting called?
RODNEY PURVIS: I think we did the best that we could as far as the foul trouble and the different things of that nature. Of course, I can sit up here and say I felt that we played good defense, and somehow we fouled, so, I don't know. But the game is over with, you know? Like I said, the main thing we wanted to do was just try to get stops and get timely stops.

Q. Rodney, I want to know what was going through your mind when you left the court for the final time. You seemed pretty emotional on the bench. What was going through your mind at that point?
RODNEY PURVIS: Probably that it was just my last time being in a UConn jersey. That's about it.

Q. Jalen, how difficult was it to have to sit at the end of the first half with the foul trouble?
JALEN ADAMS: It was tough. I see my guys out there fighting, trying to hold on and get the lead, get back in the game, and I put myself -- I put the team in a difficult position by getting those early fouls. So I'VE just got to learn from that and stay solid and disciplined.

Q. Rodney, this is for you. As you reflect on your time at UConn, a couple things you're most proud of from the experience.
RODNEY PURVIS: Just overall relationships I've built with my teammates, coaching staff, peers around campus. That's it, really. Just the relationships was a huge piece since I've been here at UConn. Of course, the basketball was great. But it's nothing like the relationships that -- you meet people and you're able to connect with them for the rest of your life.

Q. Jalen and Christian, the team obviously went through so much adversity, especially injury-wise this season. Did you talk about how that's preparing you for what's coming next season, especially Christian. Obviously you got some playing time that you might not have gotten otherwise.
CHRISTIAN VITAL: To me, I'm just ready, you know? Whatever minutes was thrown to me, obviously, you know, everyone had -- everyone's role increased through the injuries that we got. So I'm just going to go into next year just with the same confidence that I had this year and just ready to compete with my guys again.

JALEN ADAMS: I think the injuries were very unfortunate, but I think as a team we learned a lot. Going into next year, we know, even if we're short-handed, we can compete with everybody. We just learned the overall lesson to never give up and keep fighting. I think that's the overall lesson and that should carry on forever.

Q. Rodney, you talked about this game last night and you said one word, that you guys had to be tough. Is that essentially the kind of game you were anticipating where you wanted to be physical, match them, for toughness, hit them first, hit them back? Is that really the kind of game that you guys wanted to play against them?
RODNEY PURVIS: Yes, definitely. That's the only way you can really compete with a team like Cincinnati, SMU guys, who just crash the boards nonstop. They're a physical team. So the only way you can compete with those guys is to play tough against them.

Q. Rodney, correct me if I am wrong, you were at UConn, I guess you were sitting out that year when you all won the title, correct?

Q. When you were sitting there watching, what was it like in the locker room in that group, given what you experienced before and how did that affect that title run?
RODNEY PURVIS: It was great. That team had a lot of veteran guys on it, Shabazz, Boatwright, all those guys were great leaders -- Niels Giffey, Tyler Olander. All of those guys have been through a lot over the course of their career. Shabazz, Niels, and Tyler, they all won a championship before, so they all knew what it took. All of those guys were great guys. Shabazz was a just great leader himself. He didn't have to say much, even though he did. Guys was going to follow his lead. So that was the main thing.

THE MODERATOR: Seeing none, gentlemen, thank you. Excuse you to the locker room.

And we'll continue to questions for Coach Ollie.

Q. Coach, kind of the same question I had for the players. Obviously this wasn't the season you were anticipating, first losing season Connecticut's had in 30 years, but how does it prepare this team going forward with the adversity you faced? How will that help?
KEVIN OLLIE: I think adversity always helps. It's just part of life. You've got to fail to succeed most of the time. So, we looking at it as disappoint -- a moment in our career, my career, my players' career that you got to get better from. You build off of it. One thing I know, they didn't give up in that locker room and they didn't stop believing. They didn't stop fighting. This is not a basketball lesson, this is a life lesson for some of these guys. That's what it's going to be in life. Life is going to punch you sometimes and that's just how you respond.

I thought they responded great. I tried to be positive throughout the whole season, try to coach them and prepare them as best as possible, and I thought those guys played hard for me. But most importantly, they played hard for what is on the front of their chest.

Q. How difficult is it to play, or coach this game when it's so choppy with stoppages whether it's called that way or played that way?
KEVIN OLLIE: It's just tough substituting, you know? But I guess the Refs did the best job that they possibly can, you know? You see 46 free throws, 31 free throws, in one half. So, I don't know if a lot of people was watching that game, I mean because it's just all free throws. So, that's not how basketball is supposed to be played.

Q. Kevin, just kind of follow up on that. When Nick was in, he talked about in Cincinnati, assuming it was with Xavier, he said ugliness occurs when you don't call every foul. And I don't want to get you in trouble with officiating, but were you surprised that it was called as tight as it was? Because it seemed like everything was called today. I'm wondering if that was tough to work through?
KEVIN OLLIE: Like I said, it was a tough game played. We don't have a bench anyway. We're short-handed, but just trying to shuffle guys in and out. I thought our guys fought through adversity, just some unfortunate calls, just didn't go our way. So, I mean, it's the game -- that happens sometimes. You've got to make adjustments. We didn't make the adjustments today, I guess.

Cincinnati, I give Mick a ton of credit, though, so it's not just the Refs; I mean, they put our guys in position to foul. So, we have to show more resistance, but that's a good team, it's going to be a great Championship game, and both of those teams are going to represent the American Conference very well in the tournament.

Hopefully our guys learned from this, how to play on a championship level, and I thought we did that in the second half. But, of course, it's hard to win a game when a team goes to the free-throw line 46 times. Credit to them, they made them. In the second half they made 28 out of 31.

Q. Coach, tough loss here tonight. I often believe that when your team has to compete, they best take on your demeanor and your personality out there on the court. Can you speak to how proud you are of this unit despite injuries and how they fought tonight?
KEVIN OLLIE: Yeah. Like I said, I'm proud of them. That's not even the word. I'm just -- I know they got better, you know, throughout the year. They could have made every excuse in the book, but they never did. They came to practice. I mean, sometimes we had practice with four guys, and, you know, anybody knows my practices, we practice full. And we have four guys trying to play with walk-ons and everything. So I'm just have pride in those guy. I love them.

Those seniors, they didn't miss a practice. Just the energy they brought and the leadership they brought was just something that I'll always cherish. You know, everybody can say we had a losing season in 30 years -- I don't know what it is. I think you said 30 years. But at the end of the day, I know those guys got some brothers for a lifetime and, that's the thing I pride myself on from UConn. We're going to keep fighting, we'll going to be right back, and we'll be back better than ever. And I truly believe that.

Q. How did guys like Christian and Vance benefit from the extra playing time they had this year because you were short-handed?
KEVIN OLLIE: I thought they benefitted well. They came in, they was thrown to the fire. It wasn't like I was able to take them out or anything like that. They just fought. They kept getting better and better and better. What Christian did today, that's UConn basketball right there. That's the type of players I want, just fighting, scrappy. I got to calm them down a little bit, but I'd rather calm you down than try to stir you up. And that kid, I don't ever have to stir up. He got's super confidence, going in and getting nine rebounds and he went to get some man rebounds. That's what our guards do. He has a bright career ahead of him.

I thought Vance struggled in the first half a little bit, taking some ill-advised shots, but then settled down in the second half and started playing solid. Everybody from 1 through 8, we had this year, 1 through 6, we had -- three quarters of the season, they played tough, and I appreciate them for that, and they didn't make no excuses.

Q. How you going to replace the guys -- how are you going to replace Rodney, two big guys up front. That's a lot of experience leaving. What do you feel you need to happen to be able to pick up the slack for those guys next year?
KEVIN OLLIE: I mean, you just got to work. Every team is going to lose players. At the end of the day, you go into summertime, you be selfish, you get in the gym and try to get better. You can't replace Kemba; you can't replace Shabazz, you can't replace Amida because they're their own entity. But you can replace them -- not replace them, but you can get better because of their presence, learn from them, and then whoever is coming back that's putting on a UConn jersey, have a different mindset, have a championship mindset.

Every season is different. Those guys got to come back, they've got to work, they've got to be coachable. They've got to get in the weight room. They got to get a nutrition plan. They got to finish well in school. There's a lot of things they got to do. Emotionally, spiritually, physically, everything got to change. Because you can't be the same person you was today. You got to be something different tomorrow.

Hopefully, they got their lessons from me and hopefully they get their lessons from all of the resources around our great program.

THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for Coach?

Coach Ollie, thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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