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March 14, 2019

Dan Hurley

Christian Vital

Tarin Smith

Jalen Adams

Memphis, Tennessee

UConn - 80, USF - 73

COACH DAN HURLEY: Thrilled, obviously thrilled to advance, really liked the way we guarded, you know, really liked the way we played the game completely, especially the first 35 minutes. We were in complete command of that game up until when Jalen had that sequence where Christian got knocked to the ground and then Jalen fouled out. And then things obviously got a little sketchy for us out there. But I thought until that point, we did everything we wanted to do.

Our guards played great, Tarin got off to a great start. Christian and Jalen played at an incredibly high level. Tyler was big for us in the second half, too. We did what we needed to do in terms of keeping the ball out of the paint, especially the first 30-plus minutes. And from a rebounding stand point, we were at least able to hold the fort there.

So thrilled to advance. Obviously, winning that first game, getting a chance to play in the quarters is exciting for us.

Q. What was the feeling like in that first half when you guys were on fire, hit 9 of 11? What kind of feeling was that for you? What was it like experiencing a run like that?
JALEN ADAMS: It was a great feeling. I was out there having fun with my teammates. Especially when it is do or die and you see everything going in the hoop like that, it's a great feeling, you build so much confidence. So I was happy for my teammates.

Q. What did you have to do to close the game out?
CHRISTIAN VITAL: Just be solid on both ends, you know, execute our defensive match-ups, make sure that we are in the right spots and make sure we rebound as well. We know they are a tenacious rebounding team. They beat us on the boards in our regular season game, so we knew if we took that from them, that we had a pretty good chance.

Q. The contributions you got from Isaiah, what can you say about that? And how hard has it been to get him playing time with the way the roster is?
COACH DAN HURLEY: It's tough. He is our most improved player in the conference and he is a guy we are trying to build with, short-term and long-term. Eric earned that back-up spot. Isaiah was hurt a lot pre-season and even in the early part of the season, he was dealing with a high ankle. And then Eric obviously got off to that great start at the Garden, and you want to give the senior their crack. You want to be loyal -- or that opportunity. So we've stayed with Eric as kind of the back-up behind Josh.

But Isaiah is a such a high character guy and he's a pretty smart player and we tipped him off the last couple of days. I know these guys have been talking to him. I know Jalen talked to him about being ready, and Pork Chop was ready today!

Q. Christian, in that first half, you made four threes in a five-minute span. You have been shooting the ball well all year, but did you do anything different?
JALEN ADAMS: I think the game is just slowing down for me. Coach has put emphasis on not taking just any shot, taking the right shot, you know. So like I saw how my teammates were hot in the first half, so I didn't want to take any extra shots where they could get one. And when the shots came to me, what I knew I could make, I put them up.

Q. Tarin, early in the game they might be leaving you open a little bit, and you hit those three shots right away and then that seemed to change a bit with that. Is that the way you saw it?
TARIN SMITH: Yeah. I knew they were going to leave me open, but I was ready to fire. My coach had confidence in me, all the assistant coaches had confidence in me, my teammates were saying -- Jay say yesterday if you're open you better shoot it, and I've been shooting the ball well in practice, make a couple, and that got us on the run.

Q. You guys have dealt with a lot of adversity this year with guys being out. Did that help you when you got Josh in foul trouble and Jalen to know you could still do it because you have been used to making adjustments on the fly?
CHRISTIAN VITAL: Absolutely. I didn't panic at all. My teammates didn't panic either. We know everyone has worked on their game a lot, and throughout the year has become more confident each game and each practice. So when I was out there, I just knew that the other four guys were confident in themselves as well, and we were going to win that game no matter what.

Q. You guys had lost six in a row. You've now won three of four, you have advanced, you have a daunting task tomorrow. I'm wondering your thoughts on confidence, playing the top team in the league and kind of having built some momentum leading into this, the importance of that?
COACH DAN HURLEY: These guys have helped us establish a work ethic, character, culture, and we stayed in the fight. And young players kept developing and Tarin and Christian while Jalen was out kept things together. I don't know if you know this about Christian, but he's got a lot of confidence. I don't think anyone ever gave in.

Quietly on the side, they saw Jalen working and rehabbing, and I'm sure they knew he was going to get back out there for us. So I think, you know, that South Florida win at home was huge for us and to get Jalen back, you could see the way offensively in particular things have changed. He just gets so much attention, and he just makes the right play so often. And when you have a guy, a player of his caliber on your team and you have a guy shooting the ball the way Christian is and some of the other pieces we have, you always have got a chance. When you have the most talented player in the conference on your team, you always have a chance.

Q. For anybody really - the challenge of Houston tomorrow, what do they bring to the table and how tough will that be for you guys?
JALEN ADAMS: It will be a tough challenge. We are ready for it. Our guys held their own in the first match-up without two starters, and I think the confidence is going to go through the roof with me coming back. And I don't know. We'll see what happens.

CHRISTIAN VITAL: We got Jalen back so I like our chances.

Q. Christian and Jalen, how much difference does this feel than the game last year with SMU? Ironically the score was the same 80-73 only the reverse. How much different this feels like from last year in this tournament?
COACH DAN HURLEY: We should have won by more. I'm sorry...

CHRISTIAN VITAL: The main difference is we are not thinking about going back to Storrs right now, to just be honest with you. We're thinking about Houston, our next match-up, and going to the next round. And with a lot of confidence, with a good group of guys who feel confident, not only in themselves but in each other. We have been through a lot this year. And now it's March, now it is time to lay everything out on the line.

JALEN ADAMS: I think the difference between last year and this year is just the team is so much more locked in. We are not worrying about other things, outside things. Everyone is locked in on the team in front of us, the match-ups, all of that stuff. So now that we've got past USF, we are all locked in on Houston, so outside things are affecting us.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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