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March 7, 2002

Ben Howland

Chad Johnson

Julius Page


THE MODERATOR: Ben Howland, Julius Page and Chad Johnson.

BEN HOWLAND: It was a very good win for us. They're a very good team, defending champions. Again, it came down to us playing good defense. I think we were down 20-15 and went on about a 21-4 run there to end tthe half, something like that. But we played great defense. Chad, Julius, Jaron all did a great job on their main two guys, Sydney and especially Bell. I think Bell only had four points going in the last four minutes. Again, it comes down to what we're trying to do which is defend. 17 rebounds is, again, outstanding. It's a team effort. I'm really proud of our team. Because we accomplished what we set out to do, which was defend and rebound.

Q. 14-6, sluggish start. Is that when you turned it up a notch defensively?

BEN HOWLAND: You know, the thing that's nice about our team is they never worry about getting behind. So, it doesn't matter what point in the game it is. We just keep doing what we're supposed to be doing, playing hard. They had a lot running on the line for us. I think we're already in. I hope that they get in because I think Boston College has got a very good team. But we withstood their best shot there early, then we came chipping back at them. Pretty soon we took control of the game. I thought the start of the second half we really took control. There was never really a doubt after the first three or four minutes.

Q. Coach, did you have the feeling that early in the year people might not have known much about Pittsburgh?

BEN HOWLAND: Well, you know, we went to the finals of this tournament last year and won three games three successive nights against very good teams: Miami, Notre Dame, who had won our side of the division, Syracuse, another great team and program. Then, you know, faltered the fourth night. So, I hope they didn't take us lightly. But obviously, no one is now. We've had a bull's eye on these chests here for about the last month and a half. These guys just play -- we have great team chemistry. They really like each other. They really care about one another. They're playing for each other. They really share the ball. When you look at the stats tonight, I hadn't even noticed yet, we had 17 assists on 26 baskets. They share the ball, they make the extra pass. No one cares about scoring. All they care about - the bottom line - the wins. As long as we keep that focus, this team can continue to win a game at a time.

Q. Can you talk about how meaningful it is to come in here and beat the team that was the defending champions. Then to get one game closer of claiming your own championship?

BEN HOWLAND: I mean, it doesn't matter who you play at this point in the year because everybody's good. There is no easy game out there in our league. So, you know, it happens. Today was Boston College. Anybody can beat anybody on a given night in this conference. We understand that. But, you know, our players have great focus and concentration. We've got a good, you know, I think rhythm right now in terms of our preparation. And, again, it's them executing. I mean, it's about the players. We have really good players. And I'll say this again publicly. It was absolutely a slap in our face that we're 13 and 3 and we have one player out of 18 on the all-league team. Any one of the three. Brandin had a great year. Again, he's a great player. You would think that a team winning is going to get a little more recognition. Other than that, though, 26 wins is the most in the history of this university. And these guys have a chance to win another one tomorrow.

Q. Julius or Brandin, people tend to overanalyze this time of year to see what the scenario would be to beat you guys or any team with your guys' kind of record. The word is out there you can defend anybody on the perimeter. But if a team has an interior horse like Ryan Humphrey, that might give you trouble. What would you say to that scenario in the future of this tournament?

JULIUS PAGE: We got a lot of good inside players. They all bring something to the table. As long as we play like a team, like we've been doing all year long, I think we can go as far as we want to go. We got Chevy, Toree, Ontario. That's a lot of fouls if we have to send people to the line. If you combine them together, we should do a good job. (Inaudible).

Q. (Inaudible). Can you talk about the play coming off the bench?

BEN HOWLAND: I've been saying that he's going to be a good player for us all year. He's really come out. You got to remember, this is the guy that didn't even play the first time we played BC. We're better than we were the second game of the conference. He's doing a really great job. I'm happy for him. He's a guy, like Jaron, a year ago, who has really worked hard. I've become a lot smarter playing him more minutes. Not very smart to not play him earlier, and, again, that's my fault. But, you know, he's stepping up to the plate and he did a great job tonight. So... I thought Zavackas had a very good game too. He hit some big threes. Donatas, when we got back into the game after being down, I thought he made a couple big threes. Chad, if I remember correctly, made a big shot for us in that game as well off the bounce. And so, you know, everybody contributed. We got in a little foul trouble. We have good depth. That's the key to our success is we have depth. We have nine and ten guys deep that we can play and they're all good players.

Q. Once you're up 10, 12, even with other teams they seem like they can blow it. You guys don't turn the ball over. Does that help that you that once you get the lead, you're not going to blow it?

BEN HOWLAND: Yeah, our guys are really smart. I think when you come down and you have a good lead, Julius had one layup there to put us up 20. What was the biggest lead of the game? I don't even know. It was a significant lead in the last four, five minutes. I think we had the game in hand with four or five minutes to go. And both teams understood that. But our guys are very unselfish, very smart, very patient. We're patient at both ends of the floor. And, you know, again, it's a tribute to our players. We have really good players. I know I sound like I'm repeating myself. But I guess 26-4 would indicate that.

Q. Coach, can you talk about the difference between this team this year in the tournament and last year's team that played Boston College?

BEN HOWLAND: I tell you, last year when we beat Miami in the first round, our guys, including myself, were really excited. These guys expect to win every game. I think, again, the experience factor and the fact that we're coming in here as the Big East west champions, 7th ranked team in the country, you know, speaks for itself. They feel good about themselves and they're very confident and, you know, feel like on a given day that we can compete with anyone.

Q. Chad, for you, how special is this, you know, last year - the journey and this year the whole season? How special is it for you as a senior?

CHAD JOHNSON: It's very special. Any year, going out having a record this good, even if you're a freshman it's very special. Obviously, since it's my last time around, I definitely wanted to go out and have a great year no matter if I was playing a lot of minutes or not playing at all. You definitely want to have a good year for your senior year.

Q. Can the two players talk about the difference between this year's team and last year's team going against BC? They beat you by 22 last year in the title game. You controlled them today. Can you put a finger on what the difference was, and was there any kind of revenge on your mind because of what happened in the title game?

JULIUS PAGE: Last year they beat us kind of bad. I think that was the turning point. They came in and outmuscled us and that told us that over the summer and over the off-season we had to lift weights and stuff like that and work on our game. As far as losing, Ricardo, Isaac last year, that was a huge part of our team last year. Losing them, that made everybody understand that we needed to, you know, do different things. We was going to have to come more together as a team in order for us to win. I think that's why our chemistry is a little bit better and that's why we win more.

BEN HOWLAND: Julius brings out a big point. When we played them a year ago, we talked about how big and physical and strong they were. These guys lifted hard all year and during the season. Every time I turned around, I'd see Chad, Ontario or Chevy. You can see our players are strong and physical. That's been a big key to the season, is they are strong right now and they are physical. You know, we don't get pushed around very often. You know, our rebound margin, again, was good tonight when you win by 17 on the boards. But, you know, these guys blocked out. BC's a good team. They have 20 wins. They're a very solid basketball team, so it's great to get a win over such a good team.

Q. Julius, what do you think your reputation is outside of the Big East? What would you tell people who didn't know who you were? How would you describe your team?

JULIUS PAGE: I think we're a hard-nosed team and we're going to come out and play hard every game. You can't count on us to come out and slack. We're going to try to (inaudible) up-tempo, make you play the game you don't want to play.

Q. Did you feel like you were frustrating them defensively?

JULIUS PAGE: I can't just take the credit for that. I was in foul trouble early, but all I try to do is just contest shots and make times difficult for him when he's driving to the basket. But it was a collective effort. I mean, I probably didn't guard him half of the game. Everybody was on him - Brandin, Chad, Jaron. It was a collective effort. Everybody took their time to slow him down a little. He's a great player. You can't just shut him down, but you can try to contain him.

Q. (Inaudible) It seemed like they had their opportunities early.

JULIUS PAGE: Yeah, we're not too cocky about our game. I mean, we come out and we understand that teams is going to try to come from behind. So we just -- Brandin does a great job keeping us, you know, level. I mean, half time, it's 0-0, that's what we say. We just try to come out and continue from where we start.

BEN HOWLAND: I tell you what, the leadership on this team starts with the players. Julius, Chad, Brandin, Jaron, they are the leaders both on and off the floor. You can see, you know, how grounded they are. You know, it's been an unbelievable year, and it starts right with them and their attitudes. And they're just the best. I mean, I couldn't say enough about what great maturity and great leadership we have in that locker room.

JULIUS PAGE: Along with great coaching.

BEN HOWLAND: Thanks, Julius (smiling).

THE MODERATOR: I think we'll end with that. Thanks, Pittsburgh.

End of FastScripts...

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