March 27, 1999
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA
COACH JIM CALHOUN: Well, first thing, I want to apologize to the people who have to copy down my quotes. They came out at 12:30 last night. By the way, I have spoken to them about it, so my condolences to them. You're going to have to put up with this. We played probably a very different kind of game for us offensively where we spurred and played terrifically well full court, and then when we, particularly in the first half, got a lead, we kind of relaxed on offense and then conversely relaxed on defense. Gave us the easy hoops, out-of-bounds plays. Allowed them right back into the basketball game. We talked about defense at halftime. Offensively, I think we played very similar both the first and second half, but I think defensively we were terrific in the second half. I know Ricky Moore said this all along, he's one of the best defensive players that I've ever posted. Scoonie Penn is one of the best players we've ever gone against. He was 3 for 13. He's a great player. I'm very proud of our kids and we're just happy and proud to have an opportunity on Monday night.
Q. This question is for Rich. Can you talk about your decision to come back your senior year. What were some of the factors that went into that, and in hindsight has it all been worth it now?
RICHARD HAMILTON: I think the big factors were that, you know, the Coach always told me, we won the Big East Championship, but we never won a National Championship. I kind of took that, thought about it, things like that. I said I don't want to end my season on a low note. The only thing I could do about it is come back and play.
Q. This question is for Ricky. If you could just discuss the defense you put on Penn and what you were hoping to do coming into the game.
RICKY MOORE: I knew Penn was a great offensive player and he was going to come out and attack me today. I prepared to come out and attack him defensively. I just wanted to make all the tough shots. I think he made terrific shots out there today, acrobatic shots. You can't do anything about it. You just have to make them where you can.
Q. For Khalid and Ricky, coming into this game, how important did you think your transition game would be, and what made it so successful against Ohio State?
KHALID EL-AMIN: Well, I think we just -- when we saw the opening, we just took it. A lot of times we did take the ball to the basket and transition when the defense had been back to us. I think that's where they helped us. We just kept our eyes on the defensive space.
RICKY MOORE: We wanted to keep the game up and down. You know, we could do that. We would win if we kept the game at a fast pace. And they really attacked us, too, offensively. We didn't get back a couple times. Coach told us make sure we get back. But just attacking them offensively.
Q. Ricky Moore, just exactly what did you take away from Scoonie Penn?
RICKY MOORE: I just wanted him to shoot tough shots. I was taking away the drive first. The second option was shooting jump shots. He did a couple times. So I just think I got a lot of help from my teammates. Although I was screaming and yelling at them, they did a terrific job today of helping me out. They would hit. That's all I needed.
Q. For Khalid and Richard, you guys had them a couple times by ten, close to ten; they'd bring you back and you'd get it up to ten again. Was there any point you thought you had them and they were out of it or no?
KHALID EL-AMIN: I think definitely in the first half we really had them on the ropes. At the same time, like Coach said, we got kind of relaxed on offense and we tried to beat our men one-on-one. That caused them to get a couple of turnovers and score easy. The second half we tried to slow it down. I think it worked against us that time. So I think we had them on the ropes two times but we could never put them away. But we're happy that we got the win.
Q. Before the game there was a lot made of a combination of Penn and Redd and they might be a better perimeter combination than you two. Did you guys sort of take that personally?
RICHARD HAMILTON: I mean, you know, before the game, you know, everybody hyped it up. One thing I told Khalid, you know, we're not out to prove no points. We did everything we did this whole season, you know. We just let our game do the talking. We said we're not going to go out there and match up against them two. It's a five-on-five game. As long as we play with our teammates, we'll be victorious. That's what we did.
KHALID EL-AMIN: I think Rich is right. But I think our pride stepped up a little bit, you know. We felt threatened that they were going to try to outdo us. We knew it was a five-on-five game and we had the better squad, and we worked with our squad and got the win.
Q. Just to follow that up, Khalid and Richard, can you talk about the confidence you have with each other in that back court?
KHALID EL-AMIN: It's just a long period of time, spending time with each other, getting that bond with each other, going back to even last year. We just have tremendous confidence in each other, and Ricky also has that -- he knows when to get us the ball at the right time. And that's just the bond that we had. Once you spend so much time with a person, you tend to believe in them and know what they can do, so you give them the ball in the right spots. It definitely helps things between us three.
Q. Basketball is your whole life, El-Amin, what does this mean to you?
KHALID EL-AMIN: It definitely means a lot. It means a lot to me, my family, especially my teammates, first of all my teammates and my coach. It means a lot for me personally. It's been my whole life. It was one of my dreams, to reach the National Championship, and now I have an opportunity to play a championship game in front of the whole world, so I plan to make the most of it.
Q. For Khalid and Richard, there was a key possession with a couple minutes to go where Jake got the time-out, lost possession and you ended up scoring off that at the end of that possession. Can you first, Khalid, talk about how you managed to call time-out. It didn't look like you had the ball.
KHALID EL-AMIN: No, Jake got possession of the ball. But I was so scared at that point when Jake had the ball, like 30 feet out from the basket, I had to call time-out and get our momentum back. But it was definitely a heads-up play and I'm glad Jake was able to come back and get the ball after he had fumbled it.
Q. He didn't have the ball. Can you talk about the shot, how tough a shot that was? The shot at the end of that possession, it looked like -- with the clock coming down, you looked like you were off balance.
The question was about the shot at the end of that particular possession.
RICHARD HAMILTON: One thing when I got the ball, they were trying to take away my three-point opportunities. So the one thing I did, I said I knew I could shoot over him. I'm 6'6", he's 5'10". One thing I tried to do is get as close to the basket as possible. I didn't want a jump shot, but I wanted to make the best opportunity. And they did a great job in getting me the ball. I was open. I saw the screen. I made the shot.
Q. This question is for Richard. Were you aware that you had gone over 2,000 career points? Can you just talk about what it means in the scope of things?
KHALID EL-AMIN: That's a lot of shots. (Laughter)
RICHARD HAMILTON: I earned 2,000 points, that's a great accomplishment. Right now I really can't worry about individual goals, we still have another game ahead of us. Right now we're looking forward to the winner of this team.
Q. Ricky, how would you evaluate your overall game today?
RICKY MOORE: I think I played pretty well today. I really got the ball to Khalid and Rich, and they finished plays. That's what they have to do for us in order to win. I'm going to take care of the defense and they have to take care of the scoring. So I think it was a team effort today, and overall performance, I would give it an A.
Q. This question is addressed to anyone who wants to answer it. Now that you've arrived at the Championship, which team do you think you match up the best with, Michigan or Duke, and who would you rather play?
RICKY MOORE: It doesn't matter, you know, who we would play Monday. We just want to come out and play the same that we've been doing all season long. I think if we keep running and playing aggressive on defense, it really doesn't matter who we play. Both teams are terrific. They have great players. So we have to be ready to play also.
Q. Richard, when they did make their couple runs and had their brief leads, it almost seemed like you were going to be the guy to cut it short. Was it your feeling that you wanted to be an offensive force to cut whatever runs they had short early in the game?
RICHARD HAMILTON: Not really. When they made their runs, I think everybody on the team took it personally to step up, in any way. It could have been a rebound, steal, anything like that. But for me, it was trying to put points on the board. And, you know, I think that's the type of players we got on this team. When the team comes back, you know, we still know how to -- you know, we've matured enough to sit back, relax and don't panic. And I think the guys did a great job of getting me the ball in open places. I just went with it.
Q. Jim, after that little offensive lull in the first half, did you feel the first five or six minutes of the second half must have been the most important time of the game?
COACH JIM CALHOUN: The game kind of -- it was like a fight, it was the first three or four rounds, feeling each other out in the first eight or nine minutes. We got a ten-point lead and then kind of just stopped playing a little bit offensively and defensively. Just to interject one point. I said before the game I think Jimmy O'Brien's team is the most efficient team that we played against or seen on tape this year. I would further that by saying I don't know if it's a more efficient team, but they get more out of their players probably than any team we played. Scoonie, he had to play against Ricky Moore today, so it was difficult. He scored three times on out-of-bound plays with us. He did a tremendous, tremendous job. If I didn't credit them, I missed doing that and I apologize for not doing that. But they were terrific. They were down ten, Jimmy had called the second 20. He stabilized them which allowed -- slowed the tempo of the game down and tried to get some good stuff out of us. I thought they ran their A stuff. We fell asleep a little bit and thought it was going to be much easier than it was going to be. Coming out second half, you mentioned that we had some motivational type of things at halftime to get our kids bursting out. There's no way that we can allow a team to come back ten down that easy. They can come back, but not that easy. And so we started the second half, gave ourselves a cushion which we basically played with the entire second half.
Q. Coach, at this point, how do you and your staff prepare for the next game realizing you just have a day or so to get ready for the Championships?
COACH JIM CALHOUN: Very happily. (Laughter) I mean, you know, we will watch the game here tonight, go back and whether it be Michigan State or Duke, work all night. We've already done -- one assistant coach has been assigned to Duke for two days already, one assistant coach has been assigned to Michigan State, worked two days already. Plus we played Michigan State, remember, back in December. So we've done a lot. We already have a breakdown of both teams. Then we'll take today's game and reemphasize that. We'll put a lot of thought into it. I'll tell you, there will be great joy in doing that, preparing the kids for practice tomorrow.
Q. Coach, you say Ricky Moore is the best defensive player. Can you expand on that? What he does and what makes him the best player.
COACH JIM CALHOUN: I think Scoonie Penn is going to be -- I don't say the next level because there is not many better levels than this, but play professional basketball. The next level kind of signifies better players. I don't know if it's necessarily better. He's going to make a lot of money playing basketball. I've seen Mateen Cleaves, some of the best players in the Big East, Jason Heart (phonetic), I've seen them all, it seems like they all have bad shooting games. Continually. I've never seen him -- he's amazing, if you asked for an MVP for this game, Richard would be up there. He's rebounding. Basically he cut the head of the dragon off. Scoonie to me is all about what happens. The decision about playing him on Redd or Scoonie, after watching the tape, if Scoonie goes so does Ohio State. I really think Ricky is an incredible athlete, he wants to play defense. Just like a good shooter understands how to fade, cut, and get over. He understands how to hold the screens, he understands how to use catch-ups, he really truly understands how to play defense, really wants to play defense. As I said, he's the best defensive player I've ever noticed.
Q. Ohio State counted so much on the backboard and scoring. Are you at all concerned that your backboard is going to have to carry the team in the Championship game and that if one of them doesn't come up, you're going to come up short?
COACH JIM CALHOUN: It's a possibility. That's a valid point. But I think we are 32 and 2. We played some good people, including Michigan State. We've had a whole team, kept them to 15 points a game. They probably are the best shooters, three or four of the best shooters I've ever coached, missed three or four open shots and didn't play well. So to beat the team, you're going to need other folks to get involved. We've done that in the past, averaged 80 points a game. We truly believe we have a better game in us. We played well together defensively, but I wasn't happy about our offense. I'm happy to be here. I'm tremendously happy to be going to Monday night's game. But I think we have a better basketball game in us and I hope we have that on Monday night.
Q. Jim, Khalid coming off over 12, every now and then do you go into this game assuming he's going to be okay, or was this a concern, oh, my God, what if Khalid does that again?
COACH JIM CALHOUN: Those lights shining on me is what he is, the spotlight player. He understands the moment. A couple times during the game he was fatigued, but he was not fatigued with two minutes to go to make the jump shot or steal the ball. He's done that all year. He's quite frankly done that in his career. The two passes he makes and foul shots he makes against Gonzaga helps win the basketball game. With most players, even some of the better ones I had -- Khalid, with him, he may not play well, but he lives for those games. He does live for those games.
Q. Jim, the Voskuhl play that happened right in front of you with under two minutes to go... (Inaudible) How did it look to you?
COACH JIM CALHOUN: What happened, he had possession of the basketball. Khalid called time-out. The first whistle was blown right in front of me. I stepped on the court and then the play continued. So it was already time-out.
Q. While he was over in the jump circle?
COACH JIM CALHOUN: While he was in the jump circle. He saw the action going and then the play continued on.
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