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March 15, 2003

Demetrius Hunter

Brandin Knight

Julius Page


COACH HOWLAND: That was an unbelievable win and performance by our team. The third time is a charm and I can't say enough about the toughness of our kids. I talk about it sounds like a broken record but Brandin has got the perineal tendon. Carl has got the hamstring. Chevy's got the ankle. I mean let me tell you something, these guys will tell you Tony Salesi deserves a lot of credit getting these guys healthy enough to play. It's guts and determination. When we beat a team that's really set the standard in this conference over the last decade you think of what Connecticut has accomplished, it's especially meaningful to me because I look at their program as being over the last ten years -- obviously Syracuse has been great, but really Connecticut set the standard and so that's a great win for our program. When you look at the last two years, what these kids have accomplished we were 31 and 7 against the BIG EAST opponents in the last two years including the conference (inaudible) -- that's a pretty good record. So it's been consistent and to cap it off tonight at Madison Square Garden. I couldn't be happier for these kids and for all of our fans.

Q. How tough of a line is it to walk making sure Brandin is ready next week?

COACH HOWLAND: Do you think there's anyway that I was going to be able to hold him out? He would have killed me. There's no way that was going to happen. Didn't even enter into my mind to be honest with you, he's just too tough and I talk about this. This is three state championships for him in high school he and Julius only had two? Back-to-back regular season conference tournaments now, the third straight year in a Championship tournament here and winning it. I mean it's all about winning, we keep talking about that. We have really good players and they are tough and they are unselfish. I thought Jaron Brown had a big game for us tonight, and Chevy played big off the bench; obviously our guard playing, we have the best guards in the BIG EAST.

Q. Was that a performance worthy of a number one seed?

COACH HOWLAND: You know I am not going to worry about that. We have had a very good year we're 26 and 4 we have accomplished a couple of our goals that we have set thus far, we're excited about being in the NCAA tournament. There's no easy game. I don't care if it's a 15 or 16 seed that we open up with. It's going to be a tough night, night in night out. We have got to go back now. We're going to rest tomorrow. We're going to rest on Monday, come back see where we're on Tuesday. We'll find out tomorrow if we're playing Thursday or Friday, wherever they send us, wherever we play, we have to just keep doing what we're doing and we'll be fine.

Q. Ben, these kids have come through so much from where they were and tonight Zavackas gets the T and Brandin got upset, Ontario throws the cup; were you concerned at any point that emotionally after losing back-to-back in this thing that maybe you needed to hold them together or they would lose it?

COACH HOWLAND: No. Not at all. These guys are emotional. They play so hard, they are so physically tough, I didn't know that was throwing the cup. I thought it just got spilled. It was the right call. O pushed the kid in the back I saw it. O fouls at times where he gets upset because he's so competitive. But we battled through a lot of adversity all year long and I am just proud of how tough and determined our players are in terms of winning.

Q. How is this game different? What did you guys do differently? How did you prepare for it, anything differently? Talk about the play just over a minute ago when you dived on the floor.

BRANDIN KNIGHT: Really we didn't do anything different to prepare for this game. We pretty much prepare for every game the same way. I think the only thing this year that we didn't do is come to The Garden early, you know, and shoot around. We have had pretty good luck practicing at John Jay and coming over here coach wanted to stick with that. We had our walkthrough at John Jay today and maybe it is good luck for us: Second question, I mean, I just can't say enough about our team, you know, and the guys just step up and make plays and I don't know. Chevy, he's great, all the guys that come off the bench they are great. And everyone fills their void. Donatas, I don't think he got credit, but I think he was well deserving of being an all-tournament player, but that's what happens when we have good balance like our team does.

COACH HOWLAND: One thing Julius Page's defense on the other team's top scorer, last night it was Bell who earned his 21 points tonight, and tonight Gordon went 5 for 18, 13 points, and again that's a great team defensive effort and a very good individual defensive effort. I look at Emeka he had 7 boards and 8 points so again you have a lot of credit to our team defense. First half they shot 60 percent; second half only 32 percent and we did outboard them by 6. Those things equate to wining.

Q. Brandin, talk about what was going through your mind when you injured your ankle last night and did you ever conjure what had happened to you at last year's Championship game?

BRANDIN KNIGHT: Last night I was thinking not this all over again. But fortunately when I got my X-rays everything came up negative and last night I was with Tony Salesi until almost two in the morning during rehab and treatment on my ankle. Then he woke me up early again this morning because he still wanted to do some more treatment. So it kind of paid off. And just really, I wasn't going to miss this game for anything. Only way I was going to miss it is if I couldn't walk.

Q. Getting back to the selection thing last year you guys were able to take advantage of the system because you got to play at home. It doesn't seem like there's anything near your home now....

COACH HOWLAND: We're not worried about that. I do want to say one thing, that I am so happy for our fans, this is their first tournament Championship in the history of the school and also I want to commend what a great staff I have. Jamie Dixon, Barry Rohrssen, Ernie Zeigler, Chris Carlson, Tony, our trainer, Selesi, we just have a great great staff and I really want to make sure that they get recognized for what is accomplished here tonight and over the last four years. But I am not worried about where they send us - Boston, Indianapolis, Nashville, wherever they send us we'll be ready to play. Whatever seed we are we'll be ready to play.

Q. Brandin, (inaudible) --

BRANDIN KNIGHT: I think just for us we just didn't want to go through that again. Julius can tell, you know, it's no good feeling about going home No. 2. Or looking at that runnerup trophy so tonight I think all our guys except for two guys have dealt with that before, tonight we just didn't want to let that happen. Julius, he's battled through a groin injury and ankle, calf, everything, Chevy same way, Carl, same thing. Our guys just weren't going to give this one up. We were going to fight 'til the end and fortunately we came out with a victory.

Q. Julius, things that everybody keeps talking about here is the amount of desire that you guys were showing. How much of a by-product of being the runnerup twice is that desire that you guys showed tonight?

JULIUS PAGE: Well, out of last two times we were here in this situation, I thought -- I really felt bad because I didn't think I gave my all in those two games we lost so my main focus was to come out here and leave it out on the floor no matter what it took, I wasn't going to lose us a game because I didn't play hard or step up for my team. So took it upon myself to try to make big plays.

Q. I think you guys won 13 games your freshman year did you ever think that you would get to this point and in those final few seconds were you able to flash back on how far you guys have come?

BRANDIN KNIGHT: I think for me we guys Jerome Brown they have been around since my freshman year and Donatas and we had a pretty good nucleus. Then we brought in Julius who is great, you know, and we have just got some good recruits, you know, all of our guys are pretty have been stills, if you look at them how they have panned out. A lot of our guys were underrecruited. Just seems like all of us were hungry in the off-season, that's what prepared us to work harder and become a winning team.

Q. You guys had near-misses as we have talked about. What are you thinking as the buzzer goes off and you see Pitt BIG EAST champions on the board?

JULIUS PAGE: We did it. I mean, for me -- I mean, in my mind I watched the Bills lose four Super Bowls in a row and being from Buffalo that's in my mind. I can't remember as a player to lose three in a row in a BIG EAST tournament I just knew I had to do something about that. I didn't need that to be hung over my head.

Q. Late in the first half looked like you were limping. How did you get the ankle or the foot back in halftime?

BRANDIN KNIGHT: We just -- we were trying different ways to tape it, to keep some support on it, and make me feel a little bit more comfortable and halftime Tony worked his magic, I felt better the second half, you know, it wasn't bothering me as bad as it was towards the end of the first half. Really, he just came through with a great tape job.

Q. You guys have been the best defensive club in the league all year. Tell us why you guys are so successful? .

JULIUS PAGE: It's all pride, everybody on our team take pride in their defense. We don't want to let -- everybody works hard on our defense. I can't take credit for locking anybody down. As many times as Gordon beat me off the dribble today and everybody did whatever it take, I can't take the credit just like the M.V.P. trophy. This is the M.V.P. to me, he's the leader, he's playing hurt, things like that. Everything we do is team based. Ain't no individuals on this team never been and never will.

Q. What does it mean to get this title this first one against Connecticut?

BRANDIN KNIGHT: For me it means a lot. Like coach said, they are a team that they are expected to be there every year, and they have a program that has good history. I think they won the most BIG EAST tournaments, you know they just have great history. We want to start making some history and we know if we kept losing, you can't -- what are we going to be known as the Buffalo Bills of the BIG EAST tournament like Julius said?

End of FastScripts...

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