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March 8, 2002

Ben Howland

Brandin Knight

Julius Page


COACH BEN HOWLAND: It was a heck of a basketball game. You know, Miami is such a good team, that really makes our win that much more satisfying because we beat a very good basketball team who I think really has a chance to advance in the NCAA tournament. That's a team that is going to win some games and win a lot of games when they start playing in the NIT tournament. We feel really happy. You can't say enough about our team's character, falling behind. They never think they're going to lose, and that's how they play the game. Shows a lot of poise, a lot of character and a lot of heart for our whole team to come back and beat a good team like Miami.

Q. After the seven turnovers you had in the last game against Miami, how satisfying is your performance tonight?

BRANDIN KNIGHT: I just wanted to cut down on my turnovers from last game. I think that's what kind of kept them in the game. Tonight I just wanted to come out and get my teammates open for shots and they made plays.

COACH BEN HOWLAND: One thing you don't point out, the last time we played Miami he sprained his calf muscle and actually played three weeks without practicing in all the games. So, I mean, that game has a little asterisk next to it because he played injured and hurt and still played the game as he did the next five or six games before he started to get better.

Q. It seemed like every time you did the Knight to Page alley-oop show, it rallied the team. Can you comment on the times you did it.

JULIUS PAGE: Comes with the game. First time was more transition, he saw me running on the wing. I converted on the dunk. Second time it was more of a set play. But, I mean, he makes the good passes and I just finish.

BRANDIN KNIGHT: Told him, I didn't even know he was going to be there. I just threw it and I was hoping that he was going to catch it. When I saw him go up, I saw his head (inaudible). I was like, "He's got it. He's definitely got it."

Q. You guys shut out Darius Rice. Talk about how you did it. And also how important that was in winning this game?

COACH BEN HOWLAND: Darius Rice is a great player. And he is one of the better players in our conference. It's just great defense. We actually changed our rotation today. We had Jaron Brown, who I thought did an outstanding job on Salmons because he's so physical. Salmons is a great player. I voted for him for first team all-leek. I thought Julius' defense, whoever had Chad, did a great job sticking to him like fly paperer. Can't say enough about them. We held a very good team to 41 percent in the field. The boards were even. They had a lot of offensive rebounds. But, again, it showed a lot on the heart and character to play that defense. They're patient. They make you play. They don't burp up quick shots. We did a good job staying with our defense.

Q. Coach, can you talk about being in the Big East final and what winning it could mean for your seeding, your school, your program, etc.?

COACH BEN HOWLAND: Well, you know, we're 27-4 now. So, I think our city and university are pretty proud of these guys already. Obviously, we want to win the game. We want to win every game we're playing in. We're going to play a great team, whether it's Connecticut or Notre Dame. You know, so we got to show up three games in three days and, you know, this will be easier for us this year from the standpoint we're not playing four days and four games in four days like we did a year ago. So, winning the conference on the west side and getting a first- or a second-seed really helps. Now you got to do it three days in a row. This is such a great conference. I'm so happy for our fans. We travel a lot of people. It felt like a home game for us. We like that. Our fans are great.

Q. Ben, statistically, Brandin had as good a game as a point guard has had in the Big East tournament game. Can you talk about his ability to control a game.

COACH BEN HOWLAND: He's so smart. I've talked about this over and over again. His feel and understanding of the game and understanding the tempo, I mean, he is the co-Player-of-the-Year in the conference. What I said last night, and I said when I found out, I said, the gentleman to his left, you know, we are now, what is it, 15-3 in the conference this year. We have one guy on the all-conference team out of 18. So, again, I take exception to that. That we can only have one guy on the all-conference team. Both Julius and Jaron were honorable mention. But you know what's great about our guys? They don't care. Julius was all about winning this tournament. That's what's so gratifying as a coach, to coach such great kids. You can't say enough about Brandin. When you're in the same company with -- I heard Mark Jackson's name. I don't know who else had 14 assists, but those are some pretty good names. If Julius would have made one of those jump shots, he would have broke the record (laughter).

Q. How surprised were you that they didn't take a three-pointer at that crucial stretch, 74-71?

COACH BEN HOWLAND: There was a lot of time left. You know, they get a two, then they foul, we were in the 1-1. I mean, I thought it was sound philosophy. So, I'm not shocked at all. Because, you know, we're guarding for the three. We don't want them to get the three. That's how we're playing it. But there's a lot of time left, 15 seconds. We were fortunate then. Again, it was a rotation over, I forget who rotated over, I think it was Chevy. They threw the ball around.

Q. Ontario.

COACH BEN HOWLAND: Ontario, he had a big game for us. Brandin says that lovingly. He did have 13 points. The one play he made, a looks ball, going down the middle, finishing left-handed. Ontario Lett, you guys got to remember, we fell into him. His JC coach came up to me. I was sitting there, minding my own business July 28th, in Orlando, he says, "Hey, I got a guy for you." Went down, saw him the next day, and boom, here he is.

Q. It will be a tough game whether it's Notre Dame or UCONN. What will it mean to face UCONN?

BRANDIN KNIGHT: I think it will be great. I think that's the matchup that everyone wants to see. But whoever it is, we're going to go in and we're going to prepare like we normally do. Everything will stay the same. You know. But hopefully, you know, if it does turn out it will be UCONN, hopefully we get a victory.

THE MODERATOR: Any other questions? Thanks, Pittsburgh.


End of FastScriptsâ...

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