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March 12, 2006

Mario Chalmers

Bill Self

Julian Wright


MODERATOR: We'll go to you first, Coach. Your thoughts on today's conference Championship.
COACH BILL SELF: It was a great game. Of course I wouldn't be saying this if it went the other way, but two teams playing at a high level for vast majority of 40 minutes.
I don't how many league changes there were or ties, but there were a lot. We played great. That's the best we probably played all year. I thought Texas was really good. But down the stretch I just thought we executed and got stops defensively and of course rebounded the ball a lot better than we did the first time we played them.
MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Self.
Q. What were you able to do to take LaMarcus out of game?
COACH BILL SELF: I think fouls helped. He got a couple relatively early the first half and he still played the majority of the first half. But he got, if I am not mistaken, I don't know exactly, a quick third and a quick fourth when he checked back in. He's a great player, and we were unsure even during the game do you trap him or not. But fortunately for us, we did not have to make those decisions for us because he played out of foul problems more. But our big guys are good post defenders. Sasha and C.J. can both guard very well and they did a good job on him.
Q. How much does this win lift your team with tournament coming up?
COACH BILL SELF: Well, I don't think there's any question that it should give us great confidence. Last year we went into the tournament on kind of a down swing and this one we're certainly on an up swing.
But playing well this week doesn't guarantee anything next week. But I think it gives us great confidence and the atmosphere and everything will be comparable to an NCAA tournament type atmosphere. So I think we got a lot out of coming to Dallas this week.
Q. Hawkins played pretty well in the tournament?
COACH BILL SELF: Yeah, he was great.
Q. Is he a bigger part of the offense and do you have confidence in him taking those guarded threes in big games like that?
COACH BILL SELF: I have got a lot of confidence in him right now. I like for our guys to shoot the ball. If they guard hard they can pretty much shoot it every time they are open. They play smart enough to share it, and when another team plays zone, Hawkins becomes very, very valuable and Texas played a lot of zone which allowed him to get some shoulder squared jumpers. Fortunately for us he made them. He played very well the entire three day weekend though.
Q. Your younger players talked yesterday about wanting to prove kind of a tone for that last game. They played great all year, but do you think this is still a lift for them?
COACH BILL SELF: I think it is a lift, yeah, I think so. These guys, they have only played in -- last 22 wins they have only played -- well, every win we have had this year, 25 wins, only two of them have been single figures. So they have played pretty good. Then of course 5 to 7 losses were on the last possession.
So we have been in games -- but I really think the Oklahoma State game probably did as much for us as any game because we need to win a close game, a grind it out game. We were okay yesterday, but today we played at a level that we haven't played at consistently all year long, and it was so good to see because to get all 5 guys, regardless of who they are, on the floor, working together like that, was something that we needed to see and that's even with Brandon having an off night.
Q. This season you haven't played a lot of teams that are going to be one or two seeds for the NCAA?
COACH BILL SELF: We played one today.
Q. Exactly. Will that win over Texas, does that give you a lot of confidence that you can compete with those kind of teams?
COACH BILL SELF: I think some. We have got truly good players, and they are playing to their talent level a lot better, and -- but I think so. But the thing about the NCAA tournament, you can't look to see who the one or the two is with you. We know firsthand we got to take care of business whoever we're playing the first day and obviously that won't be -- I don't think will be seeded such where you will look and say, well, that's definitely a win.
I think it will be a situation where like last year or four or five or whatever, that we're going to have a very tough opponent first game, so I am concerned about our guys believing they are good enough to play with anybody. But we need to not be looking too far ahead. We need to take it one day at a time.
MODERATOR: We're joined by Julian Wright from Kansas.
Q. Bill, when we look at McDonald's All-Americans we always look at offense. Great athletic ability. Did you see the defensive potential in Robinson and Chalmer and Wright or does that kind of surprise you how good they are?
COACH BILL SELF: Mario, I mean, Mario and Julian and Brandon done were obviously -- Brandon wasn't a McDonald's guy, so it was Mario and Julian were. And I will be honest with you, the way they played in high school, Julian only averaged about 13, 14 points a game, so he was a complete guy. It was easy sell for him. I think it's been an easy sell for Mario. Russell, that's who he is. Russell came here, that's who he is. I think Julian would agree that's his mindset. He's the heart and soul and pulse of our team more than anyone else.
And the other guys, C.J., Sasha, Darnell, those guys weren't McDonald's guys. Those guys weren't highly recruited. Those were guys that didn't score points in high school. So it was an easy sell for them if they want to help the team do this and that, and certainly they have done that. These guys have bought into guarding probably better than I thought they would at this age.
Q. Talk about that pass you are making from the high post, seems like Sasha catching the ball much better now. Is that a matter of doing that through three, four months and then getting used to that pass?
JULIAN WRIGHT: Definitely. We work on that a lot in practice just high, low, also being aware of the ball and knowing that that's what I like to do. I like to distribute the ball, me and Sasha developed a good chemistry in terms of where we like the ball, where he likes the ball to score. He's a big body. I know he's going to get to the line, get big man in foul trouble, put pressure on them, and the guards were able to knock down shots too.
Q. Can you talk about 32 points off turnovers. Were you surprised at how many points you were able to get off that when Texas only had 7?
COACH BILL SELF: They only had 7 when? They had 16 turnovers.
Q. Points off turnovers?
COACH BILL SELF: I am sorry, okay.
MARIO CHALMERS: We were kind of surprised. First game they got us when we played them at their house, they kind of scored off our turnovers. Today we tried to bring a lot of defensive pressure to them and make easy baskets off their mistakes.
Q. Talk about what it means to win this tournament coming from where you guys have come from at the middle of the -- at the middle part of season with all the talk?
JULIAN WRIGHT: It means a lot to me and to everyone. Just the way that we became -- we have become a team, you know, team oriented, everything we do outside of the court and everyone is ready to work and make sacrifices.
That's the big thing this year. We were able to just bounce back from when we were 1-2 and look at us now, we just try to, you know, listen to Coach Self and coaching staff and try to get better day by day.
MODERATOR: One last question for Coach Self.
Q. No trophy presentation in Manhattan, but this one might have been a little bit sweeter today?
COACH BILL SELF: That kind of got blown out of proportion in how that went down. And the league certainly told us that it was kind of a mishap, so there's no hard feelings on that deal at all. But I think in a weird way, it might have helped us because, you know, we did tie for it and our guys maybe probably didn't feel the same way the Texas kids felt when they tied for it. No fault to anyone, but certainly it was nice to hold that one today. I know the guys really enjoyed that.

End of FastScripts...

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