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March 15, 2003

Jim Calhoun

Emeka Okafor


COACH CALHOUN: First thing, congratulations to Pitt. As I said a couple of weeks ago and I will say it again: They are the toughest team in the league. Physically they do a great job mentally. Regardless of the circumstances they stay with their stuff both offensively and defensively and I am not going to get into evaluations with you guys. I will get into evaluation of the fact that they are the toughest team in the league. I thought at that time the best team in the league on Saturday night -- they proved that against us and wore us down with mental toughness. We have no excuse about being young 30 games in the season. Youth has nothing to do with anything. And hopefully our kids will learn from Pittsburgh. Very simply if you stay with your stuff, good things happen and certainly Pittsburgh is a well deserved BIG EAST champ. Congratulations. Our hats are off to Ben and his team. I know it's their first one. It was well deserved. They came out, flat out and mentally I thought just eventually ground us down and won the game by making plays when they needed to. Just really they are well-deserving champions. As I said two weeks ago, they are the best team in the league. Once again you can interpret that any way you want. I saw Syracuse last night, and we've got some talent on our team and certainly Pitt has terrific talent. The most important thing, they are the best team in the league. They win the game with defense. They held us to 19 points in the second half. They did a terrific job of controlling offense and defense and my hat is off to them and congratulations.

Q. Did you and Coach Howland talk about that when you shook hands?

COACH CALHOUN: I mentioned something about the fact when you back off on defense it's probably a pretty good idea to let the shot clock run out, but he apologized right away for that. And very classy gesture. But I said you have been here for few years in the league and I just really feel good for you because you have worked really hard to get your team there and you came out and flat out just beat us and my congratulations to you.

Q. Talk about the disappointment, Coach, to get this far and then to fall short.

COACH CALHOUN: We'll play next week. You have to look at it that way. I know like I said that they don't count. Look at my face -- they count. When they throw it up and you are in Madison Square Garden on a Saturday night or last night on Friday night you don't think they count? Take my blood pressure right now. They count. And they count and they count enough that Pittsburgh you know, came in here and then beat us. But the disappointment will go away pretty quickly because quite frankly we have another tournament to begin next week and if we can come out of this a more mature team understanding that a team took something away from us an we were unable to adjust to that, boxing out they scored 19 points on missed foul shots. We should put that on us. That's the kind of things they did all night. That's why they are a deserving champ. You know I love tough teams and teams that scrap. They got all the loose balls in the second half. I give them the credit. With that said, I told the kids our BIG EAST season is over. We're the second best team in the league if you add it up. That obviously is going to be open to argument. We beat just about everybody else except for Pittsburgh. So we started talking about if we can take this as a lesson and move on that's what we're going to do. We are now anticipating what is going to happen on Sunday when they make the practice up tomorrow night.

Q. You seemed a little annoyed with Zavackas at the end. Do you think he was celebrating too much?

COACH CALHOUN: No, that was my bad. I thought he shot the shot. I think when everybody backs off each other that's kind of the unwritten rule, Ben Gordon did it once and I pulled him out and reprimanded him. And went into the other team's lockerroom to apologize. It was they were the champs and they had deserved it and I just was a little bit irritate by that. That's because I wanted to win the game because it is important to us. That was my bad I didn't realize -- I thought he had shot it. So that was my bad. He should celebrate. He should celebrate like hell they did a great job.

Q. You talked about Pittsburgh staying with its stuff; did you guys get away from your stuff?

COACH CALHOUN: I thought gamewise that Rashad didn't score a point tonight because he was looking to score points. He let the offense come to him -- they ran their 42 play with a double zone for Julius Page and other people they were free every time they ran them. Our guys thought they could create and Pittsburgh is good enough defensive team that you are going to have to do more than just try to create. We have maybe Ben and maybe Taliek and Tony occasionally but ---you have got to run one option to the second option to the third option; you will be open. We never really -- I won't be very surprised if we ever got to a third option tonight out of any of our sets.

Q. What do you think the difference in the game was tonight?

EMEKA OKAFOR: I mean, they just out-toughed us. They played tough hard defense and they stayed with the offense and you know, we didn't.

End of FastScripts...

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