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March 14, 2003

Ben Howland

Julius Page

Donatas Zavackas


COACH HOWLAND: It's a great win for us. We beat a very good team, a team that had won 10 of their last 12 games. Look at what they have accomplished coming into this game. They have been playing very good basketball the last half the season. And I feel for them. What they have been able to accomplish losing Agbai, to be able to regroup those kids and being in the NCAA tournament is a testament to their seniors and their coaching staff. Our defense tonight, we held them to 17 points in the first half. They shot 28 percent for the game. Any time you hold an opponent to 28 percent there's a good chance you are going to win. I thought these two kids it is right here, Zavackas had 11 rebounds. We talked about how important rebounding was. We were up 24 and 10 at halftime. We ended up being 15 by the glass for the game. We hadn't been reading (sic) around the ball like we need to the last four five games. Today I thought we really stepped. He had 6, he had 11. Jaron had nine. It was just a very, very good overall performance by our team.

Q. With 11:18 left in the first half Smith gets called for his third foul, can you describe how you think that changes the complexion of the game?

COACH HOWLAND: You deal with foul trouble. I don't know the technical foul part. There was a foul, no question. Then they called a technical which was the third call, or the third foul on him in the first half. He's your second leading scorer, he's getting 20 points and 8 boards, railroad, he's an all BIG EAST selection. I thought our team defense really tightened up on him. He had 13. Most of them though late in the game when we had the huge lead.

Q. How do you think it affected --

COACH HOWLAND: Any time you lose one of your best players it helps the other team. So how did it change? It took their all-league player out of the game and they are not as good without him in the game.

Q. Talk about what it would be to your program to win tomorrow night winning the Championship not related to the seeding or anything?

COACH HOWLAND: We have been here. This is the third year in a row now we have been in this Championship game. Tomorrow tonight we're going to play a great team, no matter who it is. Both of them are great. It will be a fun atmosphere to be involved in. We have just got to be ready to go and ready to play tomorrow tonight because whoever we're competing against is going to be outstanding.

Q. Knight?

COACH HOWLAND: Knight strained his perineal tendon. And his status based on right now, he had an X-ray and we got our doctors working with him. It's really going to be a game-time decision. We're going to just have to go back -- he did put some weight -- bearing weight on it. That's a good sign. I can't tell you -- it was a freak deal. Just he came down, his foot, I am not sure exactly, I will have to watch the film. Hopefully he will be okay tomorrow.

Q. Right or left?


Q. (Inaudible) the NCAA tournament is a big thing for you. Any thought you just might not play him?

COACH HOWLAND: I don't think so. If he can play... Brandon wanted to play. Brandon -- I got killed here last year for putting him back in the game with a second to go to almost throw a half court shot to win the game. And I leave it up to my trainer, our team doctor and Brandon as to what happens tomorrow for him to be being able to play. Knowing Brandon the way we know him, I mean it will take a lot to keep him out of that game. He will have to really be not able to play to not be able to compete at all. I don't have a feeling for you to tell you where that's right now.

Q. Chevy. You played Chevy today. It looked like he limped off there at the end ---

COACH HOWLAND: Tony said that he got a little stiff because I sat him so long there at the start of the second half because we had things going pretty good. Just got a little stiff. He will be okay. We were fortunate we got away with winning against a good team and they only had to play for us how many minutes -- 14 minutes, he gave us good minutes. Trust me. We need him. We need these guys, and after tomorrow night's game we will take Sunday and Monday off and really heal those two days, but we're going to try to do everything we can to be successful tomorrow.

Q. Some people billed this as a match-up between Bell and Knight. The fact that he got injured and --

COACH HOWLAND: Julius did a great job on Troy Bell. Troy Bell is an outstanding player. Can't say enough about what he's done for his team and his program, but he still shot 35 percent from the field. He had to work for every one of those, and I think that if you ask Troy Bell he'd probably tell you of all the guys that have defended him over the last four years -- in this conference -- I can't imagine anybody having done a better job on him than Julius. He plays great defense, 6 boards 16 points, I thought Zavackas -- got to a 10 point game and then boom, boom, back-to-back 3s went back to 16. We never looked back from that point. That was the key juncture, he hit one and then we ran a special play for him. He hit another one and then, boom, there was no way we were losing.

Q. You worked the shot clock down quite a bit tonight to the buzzer a couple of times. Was that your approach you had coming in?

COACH HOWLAND: We just did it late in the game. They were really playing a soft matchup zone and I thought our guys were very patient. We shot 46 percent from the field and that's pretty good when the other team only shoots 28 percent.

Q. Donatas, he seemed to --

COACH HOWLAND: He had a great game last night. He's playing like a senior. This is his last time around. He knows what is at stake here. This is it. He's going to have a great career beyond the university of Pittsburgh. I am really proud how he's playing, his last go-round here in The Garden and as we go into another post-season for him and after tomorrow. It's a good sign.

Q. Tell us what was going on when the double technical was going on?

DONATAS ZAVACKAS: I mean I don't really know anything. It was kind of surprising to me when Tim Higgins, he was at the halfcourt, called a double technical on me. I knew I got fouled because he pushed me in the back. The other ref, was standing right next to me, and he knew I didn't say anything, I didn't do anything, and I mean, you just got to ask him, how he decided just to call a double technical. I really don't know what happened.

Q. Julius, was it your back that was bothering you for a while?

JULIUS PAGE: No, I am fine. Oh, when I came out I was touching the cramps in my quads. Nothing major.

Q. Talk about how you got Smith to get that fourth foul there, kind of set him up a little bit. Obviously huge to keep him out of the game and just overall, can you elaborate on what coach was saying about you making this last run in the BIG EAST tournament and beyond?

DONATAS ZAVACKAS: About Smith's fourth foul that just got into a spar, he tried to push me off a little bit, a little bit of acting helps all the time, so (laughs) so I mean it was a good call, so I mean you can't just push me off the spot if I am over there first. He has got realize that it doesn't matter no matter how strong or big you are. About the game we're looking forward playing in the Championship game tomorrow. No way I want to lose this game. It's our first year in a row playing in the BIG EAST Championship; doesn't matter who we play, we're trying to win tomorrow.

Q. As a senior and (inaudible) --

DONATAS ZAVACKAS: I look at it just as another game. It will be nice just to win some kind of tournament. I have been over here four years, I never won any kind of tournament in this country, so it will be just great finishing off my career, Brandon, Ontario, if we can get at least one Championship, we are looking forward to an N.C.A.A. too but it is a lot tougher.

End of FastScripts...

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