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March 7, 2002

Caron Butler

Jim Calhoun

Ben Gordon


COACH JIM CALHOUN: First thing I want to do is congratulate Villanova on a terrific basketball game. Jay plays three different ways. He played us one way down in Villanova. Played us in a slow tempo game at our place. Then tonight just come out and played us. We were really fortunate to come back to win. The good thing we did was obviously Ben made some big shots, along with Caron. (Inaudible) made some big defensive plays. (Inaudible) times with the ball which became the key ingredient along with making plays ourselves. We've been here before. A couple years ago '99, we came off a year which we ended up having a pretty good ending to it. We beat Seton Hall, I think it was 68-66 coming off a bye. I always think that coming off the byes are a very difficult thing. I think the other team is not tired yet but in game rhythm. We haven't played since Saturday. I didn't think we ever really got game rhythm until there was a couple minutes to go. Thank God we got it then. And get ourselves going. This is a young team. Once again, we didn't play with quite the urgency I'd like to see in the tournament. I think some of it has to do with clearly I thought Jay did a great job coaching. Switched things. Played a one-man zone. Gave us everything we possibly could handle. Biggest thing, our kids stayed in there, believed they could win, like they did a lot of times this year made the play toss win the game.

Q. Coach, are you expecting -- is that exactly what you expected?

COACH JIM CALHOUN: I thought they'd go pick-and-roll, which they did. Then I thought they'd set a screen away for Gary, which they did. Tony got in and knocked him off balance. He did catch the ball but he was only on one foot. He had a clean look but it wasn't on balance. But he had to get it up because of the time factor. So, if he hadn't got banged at the screen when he came off the screen, he would have even got a better look. I thought they'd go pick-and-roll, roll Donnie Brooks or Wright, who both played terrific, Gary had a great second half coming off the screen. Didn't go in. We got there fairly well and made them have to hurry the shot.

Q. Jim, last offensive play, Ben, looked like you hesitated before you took the shot.

BEN GORDON: Yeah, the play we originally drew up, it kind of got messed up. Caron had the instinct to set a screen on Taliek's man which opened up Taliek. I fled down to the corner. When I caught it I was off balance. My first instinct was to regain my balance. I was fortunate enough to make the shot.

COACH JIM CALHOUN: We were trying to go to Taliek, to the pick-and-roll with Caron, flat screen for Ben. As he said, we just didn't get quite through it. The instincts game, we ended up getting Caron to set the pick-and-roll on Taliek. He still fled as Taliek's man took him. Made a good pass to him. He got himself. Being a freshman, he didn't think it was really important to make that shot. He'll know some day (smiling).

Q. Is that true, Ben?

BEN GORDON: Yeah, I was just shooting.

COACH JIM CALHOUN: Told you guys, see. Caron, I know how important it is. Ben doesn't know yet. He will (smiling).

Q. Ben, can you just talk about winning the game with that kind of basket here, being that you're from the neighborhood?

BEN GORDON: I mean, it just feels good right now. We had some seniors on the team and we came out and got the win for them, you know. I mean, this is my first year, but we got a lot of guys that's going out. So it felt good to do this for my team.

COACH JIM CALHOUN: I'd like to correct something. Johnny Selvie is the only guy I hope leaves. That's my personal opinion. I want to throw that in as kind of an afterthought.

BEN GORDON: I was talking about the walk-ons, too.

COACH JIM CALHOUN: That really is a good win for us. I think you've seen our tournament. People have gone back and forth. I mean you watch that Georgetown today, yesterday Georgetown, you watch some of the games that have been played. The thing that coaches love to see is the fact that we have a conference with great, great depth of good, tremendous young players. The guy, Player-of-the-Year along with Brandin Knight sitting over here is a sophomore. Emeka another freshman. Taliek a sophomore. I could go up-and-down other teams. I was really disappointed when I saw how few kids were getting awards at the banquet. They give the pictures out. I think our league has a depth of great young players and recruits coming in. We can match any league in the country next year. I think when you can show that one through twelve we've got awfully good teams. Villanova, if you told me they're going to the NCAA tournament, if they have the credentials, I don't know if they do, they could play a lot of people and be a good representative.

Q. Could you -- (inaudible)?

COACH JIM CALHOUN: Yeah, you know, really waiving whether I should put Johnny back in. I just didn't want to lose contact. I thought five, six, okay. But I didn't want to go any farther down. We get down five, put Johnny back down. He ended up getting a foul. I thought we did a really good job. The good thing we were able to do is bring three guards off and play Tony, Taliek and Ben together, which gave us much more offensive mobility and started putting points on the board. They did a good job with that. Every game left in the tournament, I'd be surprised if they don't play like that. That's the way our league has played. Fortunate to come away with the win. I give my kids credit. They've understood how to come away with the win. We've done this before. The kids have done this before.

Q. Talk about staying alive. Obviously, you didn't want to come here and leave after one night.

CARON BUTLER: Yeah, what happened last year, you want to leave your mark the right way. We feel that we a great basketball team. We got great players on this ballclub. Everyone just is on the same page. We begin to play together and we start rolling. But never in the game did we think we wasn't losing. We knew what we had to do to get back in and get the W. That's exactly what we did, play hard, crash the boards. You know, little rabbit over here knocked down some big shots.

Q. Did they do anything to somewhat limit your touches in the second half, and if that is happening, you sometimes look to the hot hand, in this case Ben, to carry you along a little bit.

CARON BUTLER: Sullivan did a great job of overshadowing me and limited my touches. When I did get the ball, I beat him, someone was coming to me and needed help. But with a great player like this guy next to me, he does just knocking-down big-time shots, I'm just glad to have him with me.

COACH JIM CALHOUN: Quickly on Villanova, I thought that Jay made even more adjustments by the fact that they played off Taliek and Snowden at times at one-man design. Any time Caron came off the cuts, to answer that question, he always picked up by two. Any time we penetrated, they were going to give us some threes but they were not going to let Caron go to the rim, which I think he did so well. They were not going to let Taliek go to the rim. What we beat them on before, they took away. We in turn found ways to win. Clearly Jay did a great job and should be congratulated. We were fortunate to win. If you keep winning games like that, there's something about your team that's kind of special, I think.

Q. Can you put it in words what it's like for you to be from Mount Vernon and have a game like tonight?

BEN GORDON: This game was what I envisioned. I came to the University of Connecticut because I know what tradition it has and what a great coach they have in Jim Calhoun. Just to win this game tonight is something I thought about all my life.

Q. (Inaudible)?

COACH JIM CALHOUN: Yeah, I thought Justin, by the way, I think you ask Justin an awful lot to play that many minutes straight. I thought Peter had mentioned before about holding the fort a little bit. I thought Justin Brown had a lot to do, along with Mike Hayes, about holding the fort. I didn't want to get Emeka. If Emeka is coming down the stretch, these guys know as much as anybody, down the stretch of the game they want him there to get the rebound and block shots. He's not going back in with two fouls unless we're really in dire straits. Justin did a terrific job coming off the bench along with Mike defensively. Our whole goal is to keep playing, winning and advancing and we'll have, you know, we've had -- we won a national championship and, you know, we're up 26 or something to nothing over New Mexico. We had a life-and-death struggle with Gonzaga. Had a football game against Iowa. I mean, a lot of things happen in post-season play. Here in the Big East, we've already seen thus far in two days some magical moments certainly and some tremendous competition. I think if we had lost tonight, I wouldn't have been overly disappointed, I wouldn't have thought we played well. But I would have thought that Villanova had a lot to do with that and that happens sometimes. What you need to do in post-season is be able to adjust. We adjusted late but we adjusted right. We found ways to stop them and make big plays of our own.

End of FastScripts...

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