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March 7, 2002

Uka Agbai

Al Skinner


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Coach, can you talk about the defense they put forth on Troy? Once again we've seen Pittsburgh maybe defend him better than any opponent you faced all year.

AL SKINNER: Well, you know, the thing is that they're just, as a team, I think they're very solid and they're very consistent with what they're trying to do defensively. They are constantly talking to each other on what they're trying to do on the floor. So, it keeps guys alert. Any time you get good communication on the floor, particularly on the defensive end, it makes offensive players think a little bit more. And that's what, you know, that's what Pittsburgh was able to do. Not even just against Troy, it's just the overall team defense that is very effective.

Q. Coach, yesterday you overcame an 11-point deficit. Today you had a 12-point deficit. You weren't able to overcome it. What was the difference between yesterday and today?

AL SKINNER: The difference between yesterday and today was that the start of the second half, you always got to cut into the lead right away in order to make an impact. We just never really got -- we just never really penetrated the defense as effectively as we wanted to. I thought at times we were patient, and other times we were impatient. Because of that inconsistency, it really did not allow us to cut into the lead. But you need to do damage in the first five, six, seven, eight minutes. Then the rest of the game you can whittle away at it. But we didn't do that today.

Q. You got off to the quick start, 14-6 I believe. Did they turn it up a notch defensively after that?

AL SKINNER: No, the biggest change was the fact that Kenny Walls got his second foul. Took him off the floor. We were playing well, had it going fairly comfortably. It's clear that we don't have the deepest team. So, with the change, you kind of -- it changed our rhythm, and we didn't execute as well. And allow -- not only did we not execute well, we allowed them some transition baskets at that time that got them back into the game.

Q. Uka, really a tremendous game for you. I know you're not in good spirits, but you went 13 for 13. It's a career high for you, 25 points with 6 rebounds in 38 minutes. You're playing in your hometown. I know you're frustrated about your loss, but your thoughts on your own individual game today?

UKA AGBAI: Basically, yesterday I felt I, you know, let my team down free throw-wise because I was changing my free throws every first shot. I wasn't making them. I adjusted to that and followed through better. My free throws went down for me. I tried to play my regular game offensively. Tried to do everything defensively. Wasn't really anything different.

Q. You love playing here?

AL SKINNER: I love playing in The Garden. It's my hometown. I played here in high school. I plan to keep playing here as long as I can, you know. Even after college. But, yeah, I really love this building.

Q. How confident are you about your NCAA chances, Al?

AL SKINNER: Well, I mean, I feel pretty good about them. Obviously, if we won one more, we would have been in pretty good control. But our RPI is pretty good. You know, we've got some good wins. And the thing about it is that, you know, we attempted -- the only thing that's kind of being ignored, we attempted to schedule better out of our league. It just didn't work out. We played Penn State, who went to the Sweet 16 a couple years ago, Iowa State (inaudible). We played Michigan. All those games were scheduled three or four years ago. Unfortunately they didn't have real good years. But we made an attempt to play a stronger schedule. Unfortunately, those teams didn't have good years. I'm hoping if it does get down to the conversation with the committee that they will take that into consideration, that we made a serious attempt to go out and play some teams along with our league schedule.

Q. Would you have liked to see everyone else get to the line more, Uka? You had 13 free throw attempts. The rest of the team combined for 8.

UKA AGBAI: I would hope that other guys would get to the line more, especially like Troy who shoots pretty well, the best free throw shooter on our team. If you're shooting from the outside, you're not going to get those calls. If you're driving to the hole strong, you'll most likely get those calls. But taking shots from the outside, you're not going to get those.

Q. Can you discuss the Pittsburgh defensive scheme and their execution? This is the second game where they have been an outstanding defensive team in terms of execution and defensive fundamentals as Coach Skinner alluded to?

UKA AGBAI: Basically they knew that Troy was our go-to guy most of the times. They hounded him. Brandin (inaudible) hounded him, all the other guards hounded him. What they did best was gain rebounding, which we didn't do too well. They blocked everybody out, they put a body on somebody to get us out of position. (Inaudible) if we couldn't get any offensive boards, that worked for them. They outrebounded us by a lot, I don't know how many. We couldn't get any second shots, and that really hurt us.

End of FastScripts...

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