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March 11, 2006
THE MODERATOR: Okay. We're ready to continue on with South Carolina. We'll ask for some opening comments on the game from Coach Odom, then we'll go to questions just for the three players, and we'll have one more on the way. Coach.
COACH DAVE ODOM: Well, obviously our team played very well. I think both teams played really well. For the third game in a row, we opened with a deficit. I don't know what we're down, 5-0. Guys kept their poise and composure. Came back, tied the game, went ahead. Had the lead at halftime three games in a row and played very well in the second half as well.
I think when I think about the second beginning of the second half, probably the first time I've been upset at our team since we've been here. You could tell that Kentucky had the bit in their mouth and we didn't. They were out to win the basketball game. Not that we weren't, but we didn't raise the decibels that you have to raise to play at this level against a team like that, and we took that timeout. I think they scored five straight possessions at the beginning of the second half. We took the timeout, and I think they understood pretty well coming out of there how I felt.
They went back out and took control defensively. You cannot win a basketball game like this at this level if you don't have some control defensively. I think when you look at our team today and the game today, that really was it. We hit some key shots, we did, and we did not turn the ball over. Six turnovers in a game like that against a team like that is -- it's -- it just doesn't happen.
But really the thing that saved us I think was our defense, and they played really, really well. We were able to take away Sparks, I think, for the most part and, you know, Bradley, Crawford, gave us all kinds of problems, Rondo early, but I thought we pretty much contained him limit second half.
You always worry about Morris, but Renaldo Balkman continues to play extremely well, particularly on the defensive end of the court. For the first two years whatever hair I had I pulled out because defensively he was absolutely atrocious.
But this year, he has developed into one of the very best post defenders that I've coached in a while. He's very, very good inside. He really is.
So, we held on. Great win for our basketball team, for our university, for our state. Great win.
THE MODERATOR: Alright. Questions for Tre', Bryce or Tarence, raise your hand and we'll get a microphone to you. We'll start right in the middle.
Q. Tre', it looked like they were trying to foul you on the pass to Wallace in the final minute. Could you take us through that possession and leading to that basket?
TRE' KELLEY: Thomas threw it over the top. I think I dribbled the baseline once and Morris was chasing me. I went back towards the winning area, and he was still chasing me, but I kind of made some type of move to go back baseline, and I kind of lost him. I saw Brandon underneath wide open, so I bounce passed it to for two points.
THE MODERATOR: Other questions, raise your hand.
Q. Tre', you talked about yesterday after the Tennessee game that even though you lost to them twice during the regular season, you felt you could beat them and were just as good. Did you feel the same way about Kentucky, your team?
TRE' KELLEY: Definitely. Definitely. We were in both of those games. We lost everything in Columbia when we played them in the second half, but I knew if we take care of the ball, execute offensively and defensively that we'll be the game late. All we had to do was same poised and controlled to make plays and these guys made plays tonight to win the basketball game.
THE MODERATOR: Hands up. Alright. Back to the front.
Q. Tarence, I was wondering if you could talk about this being a senior getting his chance to go out and play for a championship tomorrow.
TARENCE KINSEY: Well, it feels good, you know. Last year we was one-and-done, but I think right now this team like we developed some type of toughness you don't want to lose, and I think everybody just jumping on the same momentum wagon and just pushing forward and the coaches keep putting in it our head that we're champions, play like champions.
To get the championship, the only thing that's necessary for us to do is just to get to the championship and play in the championship. Hopefully we can win it.
THE MODERATOR: Alright. Question. Let's go on the other side.
Q. Yeah, players, you had a lot of tough losses this year, lot of good teams that games came down to the wire and you lost. What does this do for you to be able to beat Kentucky in this situation?
THE MODERATOR: Tarence, you go first, please.
TARENCE KINSEY: Well, it feels good. If you lose games like at the end, that's the hardest part about losing when you were up and you have a chance to win it and one point, two point games, three point games. You can't get used to that. You can't get used to losing, period.
Coming out here, intending to win games and basically beating teams that beat us throughout our conference -- what you call it. It just feels more excited, you know. It's more exciting than you just playing and let us come out and compete everyday.
THE MODERATOR: Same for Tre'.
TRE' KELLEY: Execution is key for us offensively and defensively. Execution is key. It gives us a lot of confidence when we can execute offensively and defensively down the stretch, and we did that tonight. Got some key rebounds. It was loose balls coming out there that we grabbed hold to, and we made plays on the offensive end down the stretch. That just gives us confidence that down the stretch we can make plays on both ends.
THE MODERATOR: Same for Bryce.
BRYCE SHELDON: One thing with this team is we keep believing. Our coaches keep telling us to keep believing and keep competing. Some of the close losses, you know, broke our back, but I feel like that kind of got us ready for late in the season with these close games, kind of push us over.
It's been a team effort and coach has done a great job. We're just glad to be able to play for a championship.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Got time for maybe one more question for three players. Go ahead. Take it right there.
Q. Question for Bryce and Tarence. Talk about the stretch where you went from five down to six up in a matter of couple points. Both of you had a couple 3-pointers during that stretch.
THE MODERATOR: Bryce go first.
BRYCE SHELDON: I got up and hit a 3. Tarence got up. We got to give it up to Tre'. Tre' is the one that found us, our team screened, and we just hit the shots.
THE MODERATOR: Tarance.
TARENCE KINSEY: We got some good screens. We had some good open shots, and Tre' was the man that gave us the ball on I think all three of the 3s. I know for sure on both mine, Tre' passed the ball to me. If he wouldn't, he would probably had a clear lane. I think the defender helped. He did the right thing and kicked it.
THE MODERATOR: We'll excuse the three players. You can return to your locker room. Thank you for coming. We continue on with questions for Coach Odom. If you have a question for coach, raise your hand. Alright. Start over on the left side.
Q. Coach, talk about your defense today on Sparks. Obviously he had a big second half against you in the game against Columbia, and today I think he only had nine points today.
COACH DAVE ODOM: Well, you know, it was really the technique. It's very similar to what we did yesterday with Lofton. Once they get on track, they can run-off points in fast order. But you know, we gave the major part of the defensive assignment to Rocky Trice early, but because Rocky didn't play quite as much as he did the day before, Bryce Sheldon came in and he took over the responsibility, and I thought did just as well. So they tag-teamed him.
Basically what we said was, "You've got no help responsibility You stay out there." We want him to have no standing 3s, and I think for the most part, they did a great job with it. Not for the most part. They did a great job. He was capable of running it all.
I saw an interesting note in the Kentucky pregame notes. Amazingly, Patrick Sparks has not scored 20 points in his career in Rupp Arena. All of his big -- not all of them, but virtually all of his big games have come on the road, and fortunately he didn't have blue uniforms on today.
They had white uniforms on today. I was worried. When I saw that, I said, Lord, they're away from Rupp Arena, and he's liable to go off today. So we got to make sure we really go after him.
That's not to say we haven't had great games at Rupp. He's been there two years, and many times as he's had great games at different places, not to have scored 20 points in Rupp Arena is an amazing stat.
THE MODERATOR: Question down in the front.
Q. Dave, can you describe the feeling in a conference tournament where the difference between coming in the way you guys were at Wake Forest some years where you knew were you going to the NCAA no matter what happened and what you faced this year where you basically know you have to win the tournament to get in?
COACH DAVE ODOM: Well, you know -- you know, whenever you prepare for a tournament like this, you do it in a way that's right for you, and I made a conscious decision before the tournament began that I would not say to our team the only way to the NCAA Tournament is through that conference championship.
Basically what we've done is created a championship environment in our locker room three straight days. We played three championship games already. Tomorrow we'll have a chance to play our fourth.
I told our team just a minute ago, little kids not only in the State of South Carolina but around the country, as five years old -- at five years old, ten years old, 12, 18, what have you, dreaming about playing on Sunday afternoon in a conference tournament in college basketball. They dream about that.
For our kids to have a chance to do that, really, really makes me very proud.
Now, playing on Sunday afternoon in a college tournament and winning that conference tournament two different things: Our team knows they're playing a championship game tomorrow, the championship game. I'm going to push them to win this. I'm going to push them as hard as I can, regardless of who we play. But I'm not going to try to put more on them than they're capable of handling.
THE MODERATOR: Did you have one, John?
Q. Dave, Balkman's play today especially throughout the tournament played with so much energy. Are you concerned that he might have trouble, might be a little fatigued tomorrow, or if he would still have plenty left?
COACH DAVE ODOM: Who asked that? Okay. I'll tell you again what I told my team before the game. Kentucky is the deepest team in our league. They play 11 guys every single game. Could you tell that Tubby was going to try to wear us down. Eight minutes into the game, he's got five new players in there.
I told our team before the game, basically Tre' Kelley has played 37 minutes two straight games going into today. That's 74 minutes. As hard as I try, I never practice less than an hour and a half. That's 90 minutes in a day. If Tre' Kelley is doing what he's supposed to be doing everyday in practice, he practices harder than he actually plays in the game.
So for him to play half as much as he practices shouldn't fatigue him. And Lord knows Renaldo Balkman knows how take a play off every now and then. So I know he's not fatigued. I don't want to hear anything about four days and he's fatigued and all of that.
Let's get his uniform on, let's get him strapped up, and we'll wind that top up and let him go. He's not going to be tired. I promise you that. Basketball won't make him tired. Keep him focused on that.
THE MODERATOR: Let's take a question over here.
Q. Coach, you've one won three games here. Psychologically is there any difference in your team if you come down to a close game tomorrow, you've beaten Kentucky, down the stretch. Is your team -- can you describe the momentum the team might be having now?
COACH DAVE ODOM: Probably can't. But I can tell you that, you know, when you face different situations and you get through them successfully, that builds a layer of confidence that you can't build talking to them in the locker room.
I can tell them I believe in them all day long. I can write them love letters, pat them on the back, whatever, but the beauty of sport is that you bear your sole and your abilities in front of everybody and there's nowhere to hide, particularly in college basketball. We have no helmets on. Everybody knows what we look like and that's it.
So if you do it and do it well, there's a layer of confidence there that's hard to chip away, but you got to do it. You got to go through it. And when the hard times come as we had some this year, I mean, you got to play through those and talk to those and get back on the court and hope that another situation comes like that. But only in doing do you build that level of confidence which gives you what you call momentum. I don't know that that's -- I've always felt that was somewhat overdone but maybe not. I don't know.
I think really what you're saying is that -- momentum to me is like quick energy. It's like eating a candy bar with a lot of sugar. It's good while it lasts, but it goes through you quick and get back to the basics of building and passing and catching and screening and blocking out and rebounding, getting loose balls and things that win championships.
THE MODERATOR: Time for two more. Take them right there.
Q. Coach, the first five minutes of the second half I thought that Kentucky was kind of beating y'all to some loose balls and off on rebounds, got up six points. Did you feel like that it took your team a little bit to get going in the second half, and just talk about how big the 2, 3-pointers that were able to get it back to you at 45-45 after that.
COACH DAVE ODOM: You may not have been in there. I did address that earlier at the beginning when I talked about it.
That was the first time in the three days that we've played here that I felt like the team took it to us harder than we were taking it to them.
I told our team last night, in the second half in Columbia we were like punch-drunk fighter. We just stuck our head out and we took everything that they threw at us and didn't throw nothing back, and when I called that timeout after three, four minutes, whatever it was, I made reference to that to them again, that -- is that what we want to be, another punch drunk fighter? We just going to take it?
Of course, they bowed their necks and strapped it on and got back out there and got it done. That probably was the turning point of the game right there. Had we taken it then, we probably couldn't have won the game. We couldn't have gotten down anymore and gotten back. They're too good.
THE MODERATOR: Last question, go ahead.
Q. Coach, you guys only have 25 turnovers in three games here. Why have you been able to handle the defensive pressure so well, and also were you surprised that Kentucky started to foul in the last minute?
COACH DAVE ODOM: No, they had to foul in the last minute. They had to get it to 1 and 1, and I was not surprised at that at all. I mean, had they not done that, we wouldn't have shot the ball. That was the right strategy on Kentucky's part for sure.
As far as us not turning the basketball over, you know, that's the way the game should be played. You should put the ball in your best ball handler's hands and trust him to make sure that he makes good decisions. We haven't always done that, but we've been basically a low turnover team in my career, but we went through a period of time we turning it over too much this year.
All that said, you know, the advantage of playing a relatively small lineup is that all five guys can handle the ball pretty well, and what we do is we give a guy like Tre', a guy like Tarence, a little more leeway in terms of making decisions.
Brandon probably is our best and most solid ball handler. He rarely ever turns it over. That's why we have him most of the inbound passes.
So it's a key thing and, you know, turnovers are -- lack of them will be a big factor in the championship game tomorrow afternoon no matter who we play.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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