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March 25, 2018
Kansas - 85, Duke - 81
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Kansas head coach Bill Self and student-athletes Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and Devonte' Graham.
COACH SELF: Obviously, I don't think I could be or we could be more excited or more proud than we are right now. Not only going to San Antonio but the way we did it, beating an historic program, maybe the greatest college basketball coach of all time and such a talented roster.
And to do it in a way that we haven't done it all year long. We haven't beat anybody on the glass all year long. We win the rebounding battle by 15 or whatever today. So I couldn't be happier or more proud and certainly very proud to be a part of that game. That was an epic game that -- one of the best ones if not the best I've ever been a part of.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Devonte', just the final six minutes of the game, plus overtime, you guys were both trading baskets. And I think I'd imagine you could feel the tension. Talk us through what that was like, that stage and having to perform in that moment?
DEVONTE' GRAHAM: That's what you come here for, to play in those moments. All I kept telling the guys was players make plays. I knew we was going to make plays down the stretch, and we've been in plenty of situations like that. And it was fun going back and forth like that and it was just a great Elite Eight game.
Q. For the players, you know, I think you guys probably had faced a zone or two before this year, but this is still a new thing. It seemed at some point that it clicked, that you guys figured out kind of how to get, especially get Malik open shots. Was there a moment where it clicked? Did you guys kind of figure something out? Or did you always kind of have a sense of how to attack it?
SVI MYKHAILIUK: I would say we just always attacked it. And today Malik was open a lot of times, and he was -- 48 percent from the 3-point line, I guess? And he shot it great today. Everybody shot it good. Everybody attacked the zone. We found their weaknesses in the middle of the zone a lot. So I think it played out well.
MALIK NEWMAN: Just to piggyback on what Svi said, Coach just told us to keep attacking the zone. They were gapping us so much that Coach just said if we were able to get paint touches, then the 3-point line it would open it up.
And Lagerald did a great job in the middle, being active in the zone and we got a lot of shots in the corner, which opened up the penetration for us.
DEVONTE' GRAHAM: Basically what they said, and we knew that we could get the ball flat because of how high they played up. And we were just trying to get Lagerald the ball in the middle and tell him to go make plays and got a couple lobs and easy baskets like that.
Q. Bill, talk about Svi's game. He's guarding Bagley for so much of it. He hits the big 3 with 25 seconds left. That's obviously an incredibly tough role to put someone his size in to guard a guy like Bagley. What did you think of his overall game?
COACH SELF: I think that power versus power, 205 pounds over there. I thought his defense was unbelievable. I really thought Malik's defense on Grayson was terrific, too. But Svi, to me, things that we hadn't really worked on, butt fronting two feet in front, things -- we started the game trapping with the point and then Duval hurt us.
But he didn't keep him off the glass. He still had ten boards, but for him to only get four offensive rebounds when we got a guard guarding him, and I thought he was terrific. And he got a huge steal late when they ran a ball screen and tried to throw the ball back.
But everybody played. Everybody contributed. But certainly even though Malik scored a lot of points, I don't know that anybody had a better game than what Svi had.
Q. Svi, I wanted to ask you exactly about that, what was that like guarding Bagley in the post? Do you have much experience guarding a big guy like that? And, Malik, curious your perspective on Svi guarding the big guy?
MALIK NEWMAN: I thought he did a great job. Like Coach said, he was only able to get four offensive rebounds. And coming into the game we knew that him and Wendell got, like, 40 percent of their shots back. So I think Svi, he did a great job of battling down low and just being tough down there, being tough (indiscernible), just not letting him have his way.
SVI MYKHAILIUK: I would just say all the time he was on the court, I was with him, just pushing him a little so he could feel me every time, don't let him go everywhere without me actually just putting my hand on his body so he would get tired and stuff. I was just doing it the whole game so he doesn't feel free going around the court.
Q. Svi, you had missed a couple of wide-open 3s there in the closing minutes. What's going through your mind as you step up there with 26 seconds to go?
SVI MYKHAILIUK: Man, everybody tell me to keep shooting. D-tay, after the last one I missed wide open, D-tay said, man, just keep shooting the ball, and the two next possessions he passed me the ball, I was thinking about passing it to the corner, but I think it was Wendell just gapped it, so I just shot the ball and it went in.
Q. Devonte', as a senior team leader could you offer us a big picture, as Coach did opening this, advancing to the Final Four against Duke, another big KU/Duke game and you getting your Final Four against Duke?
DEVONTE' GRAHAM: It's just a great feeling for us, for the fans, just everything that we've been through this year, all the ups and downs, and the boot camp and everything that we've been through, we do it for moments like this. And it's just special, especially getting here this same game last two years and losing it. It's just getting over that hump and it just feels unbelievable.
Q. Bill, when Grayson let that shot go at the end of regulation, did time stand still for you?
COACH SELF: It did. And Malik defended it perfectly but he still got it off the backboard and kind of spun around, looked like it had a chance to fall in. Fortunately, when it came off, it was at zero so there was no time for any rebound.
But, yeah, we were fortunate, because they put the ball in his hands late to go make some plays, and Malik defended it perfectly. And I think that stop did give us some confidence going, no question, going into overtime, guarding them.
Q. Malik, can you talk about if you had any -- obviously you came through in this one, but what it meant for the two guys on each side of you to get to San Antonio?
MALIK NEWMAN: I mean, it meant a lot. These guys, they've been here plenty of times. And like Coach always said at the beginning of the year, they've been knocking on the door the last two years. So it just means everything to see these guys be happy going to San Antonio.
And I mean that's basically what we was playing for, to help these guys get over that hump. And I'm just glad that I was able to contribute in a good way to help these guys. And I mean I couldn't ask for any better leader than these two guys.
Q. Svi and Devonte', I think it was maybe about 15 seconds left when they started fouling. You kind of knew you guys had the win. And you guys obviously had huge smiles on your faces. Could you describe what that emotion was like after getting to this point and, you know, being heartbroken, to get back to here as seniors and to break through?
DEVONTE' GRAHAM: It's hard to describe, man. You know, the last two years, you know, it's just like you said, it's heartbreaking. And you come back and you get another shot at it again and you lose again and then you come back and you're in the same game.
And yesterday and all the media stuff, it was all about how you're going to get over the hump, the last two years, this and that. So you think about it all the time. And we knew we had the game wrapped up; all we had to do was make a couple of free throws. We just came and hugged each other and just said we loved each other and we're happy that we could get over that hump.
SVI MYKHAILIUK: Yeah, at the end we knew we were coming close to a Final Four, just me and Devonte' and Malik and Lagerald and somebody else shooting free throws, we just stay in there, say, man, we're coming close, just gotta finish the job right and finished it good. We know everybody can shoot free throws. So whoever throw it in, they're going to foul, we're going to make shots.
Q. You talked about actually winning the rebounding battle and you did that without Udoka on the floor most of the basketball game. Can you expound on how you were able to do that and maybe how the game changed because Duke finally took the lead when he fouled out?
COACH SELF: Silvio did a great job of filling the void, even though he didn't score much. He was a force defensively and he obviously was great on the glass.
But the way that we would outrebound Duke is strictly by committee and scrap. And here you have Devonte', I think Devonte' gets six and Malik gets seven and Svi gets 10. So I mean that's a lot of rebounds for our guards.
If you add them up, that's 16 -- that's 23. And the other thing, when you look at their rebounds, they've got 32 but eight of them were off deflections out of bounds. So they only got 24 rebounds when they actually secured it. So even though they may have got some rebounds by numbers, it was like that those out-of-bounds plays didn't allow them to get in transition. Those out-of-bounds plays didn't allow them to get second chance points.
So that was the best we've done on the glass all year long and the most dominant we've been, without question. We've really labored in that area, but today we were terrific.
Q. Devonte' described that game as fun. It was fun for us. Was it fun for you?
COACH SELF: I told the guys, I said I hope up guys can have as much enjoyment playing the game today as I will coaching it. And I meant that.
So many times when you're kind of the favorite throughout the season, you know, the wins are relief as opposed to as much fun.
And today was one of those games. I felt like -- I don't know how they felt like -- I felt like it was one of those deals, no matter what happened today it was going to be disappointing if you don't win but you're just proud to be a part of that game, proud to be part of this, something that's bigger than just individuals.
It's Kansas and Duke. We didn't even talk about going to the Final Four. All we talked about was playing Duke. I think playing Duke in that game helped us playing a school of that caliber and program of that caliber.
So it was fun. It was fun to be a part of that. I would be proud to have coached in that game even if the outcome was different. But certainly with the way the outcome turned out, it made it as special a game as I've ever been the part of, with the exception of one.
Q. Would you have seen this trip to the Final Four as being even possible a couple months ago?
COACH SELF: No. We didn't even know who was going to finish the season with our roster a couple of months ago. I mean, we were -- we had some hard lessons to learn, and I had to do a better job of motivating and coaching and pushing the right buttons.
But I didn't think that we were -- we were winning but I didn't think we were a very good team even though we were winning. Sometimes when you win that camouflages what you don't do well. When we got exposed, visually and by losses, I think that that helped us in the long run and changed our mindset.
Q. Svi, when did you know you were going to be guarding Bagley a lot of the game? When did you kind of -- did you kind of think when Duke won that would be the task? Or did you kind of find out the next day and what was your reaction when you kind of realized that?
SVI MYKHAILIUK: I mean, I gotta guard him, that's the way it is. When they won, like I knew -- I was playing the 4, so I'm probably --
COACH SELF: He's a power 4 defensively. He has been all year. So he knew that would be his matchup.
SVI MYKHAILIUK: Big guards. Yeah, just next game, next opponent and next player who I've got to guard. That's about it.
Q. Malik, when you set out your transfer year and going through all the tough workouts and stuff, did you picture something like this to motivate you? Did you think something like this was coming?
MALIK NEWMAN: Most definitely. Even like Coach said, we had a lot of hard lessons early in the season. We had some tough losses and things like that.
But I mean at the end of the day this is why you come to Kansas, to be in games like this, to be in moments like this.
And I mean I just knew that the guys that was beside me, I knew those guys, they cared. They worked hard each and every day. They love one another. So I mean I had no question that we can get to this moment.
Q. Coach -- and if any of the players want to chime in -- how big a factor and edge was experience? You've been here twice before -- besides Grayson Allen, their key guys, this is their first Elite Eight game obviously for them?
COACH SELF: I can't speak for them. I thought they only turned it over 11 times. They made their free throws for the most part. I didn't think that there was anything that they did that showed inexperience, to be honest with you.
I thought there's a lot of things that we did to show experience. So that was a heavyweight fight. They staggered us, but we found a way to come back. We staggered them a few times.
But the biggest thing I think the experience showed was when things weren't going right, we didn't panic. And we had more opportunities to panic than they did for the most part because they led the majority of the game.
But the only bad stretch, I think, that we had, if I remember right, we left a timeout up five and the next thing you know they go up like one or two with about six left or something like that.
But other than that, we didn't have a bad stretch the entire game for the most part. And even we had 18 turnovers, I bet if you go back and look at the 18 turnovers, I bet you eight were where we got the ball exactly where we wanted to get it and just didn't make the play.
But we wouldn't have won the game without experience, but I think talent was as much of anything in us winning that game today.
Q. Bill, at the end of the game I think I saw you just sort of raise your fist, maybe scream a little bit. What was going through your mind then?
COACH SELF: Well, these guys know, I try not to be too emotional. I'm not the most emotional guy. But sometimes you can just be overcome with it. And at that moment I was.
I mean, I'm happy for our staff and our school and all that stuff, but I'm more happy for these guys, because they've sacrificed so much and having experienced what the very best of college basketball is about.
And you think about it, hey, in their careers all we've been is the number one overall seed, the number two overall seed and the number three overall seed and haven't gotten to a Final Four.
So that means that these guys have done so well to put us in a position but we hadn't kicked the door in yet. So I'm really -- I'm happy for us, staff, school, everything, but I'm more happy for these guys because they deserve to experience what the best of college basketball is and that will be what takes place Saturday and Monday.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Congratulations.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports