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March 4, 1998

Gail Catlett

Damian Owens

Brent Solheim


COACH CATLETT: My general comments would be that we had great difficulty guarding Clark and Johnson and Billet. All three played great. We just seemed to be -- we couldn't keep the ball away from Clark. He just dominated us inside. And Johnson and Billet played a brilliant basketball game with their penetration, with their shots, and obviously were cranked up and ready to go. And then making their free-throws down the stretch. And I thought, once again, that is one of the poorest games we have had shooting. We shot 36 percent of the day. I just don't understand that. I think it has to do with shot selection more than -- I think it has something to do with shot selection. I thought their defense was very good, but shot selection also. We couldn't seem to get anybody going. And, I thought in the second half when we got the lead with the presses, different things, we were going to be okay then. I thought Rutgers did a nice job of settling down and finally hit some great shots and did some things they had to. And it doesn't always pay to be outrebounded by them 48-35. That is not always a great thing. But, I think the key thing was -- I think the key thing was that they hit the big shots, made their free-throws. And we missed free-throws. We were 11 for 20. We are the poorest free-throw shooting team in the league. And today it really hurt us. And, we had a couple situations before it got into us fouling them at the end to really knock some free-throws in and maintain a 6 or 7 point spread. And we didn't do it. They came back and they hit some big shots, but I thought they played very well. I thought we played very poorly.

Q. Lewin was playing well when he had to go out with four fouls and you were up by about 6 points. You were down about 6 when he came back in. Did you think about trying to get him in there sooner or do you think that was --

COACH CATLETT: I wasn't going to put him back in when the assistant coaches talked me into it. I didn't want to get him back in right then. We finally got to the point where we thought we had to have him back in there. But we had talked about it in the pre-game meeting and in practice about the isolation for Clark and how he had the big guys (Inaudible) we had three big guys and we weren't going to do that. But we did for Lewin, place -- Lewin plays 15 minutes in the game, Solheim is in foul trouble and fouled out. Goree, you know, was in there, but we had him guarding forehand (sic) most of the time we played. That is probably the most minutes I have played Tom Beynon this year. He is a walk-on for us. I had to play him because we don't have another big guy, so...

Q. Do you have any explanation -- you have talked about poor shot selection a lot over the last two or three weeks. Is that essentially the reason for your slump right now in addition to what happened to Damian?

COACH CATLETT: Well, what is interesting is that we have either led the league for best field goal percentage in the league all year. All of a sudden now we can't shoot 40% or -- that is a bunch of games. The shot selection and pairs on offense, I think our earlier season success came and we fell into somewhat of a trap because we were stealing the ball and making shots and latter part of the season -- I think what has happened now we are taking shots we shouldn't be taking. I think we are forcing some shots and I would have to guess - although I don't understand how you explain this - I would have to guess pressure on the team from the standpoint if we get up to 22 wins, then, we, for some reason, we have not played poorly in a while -- not played well, I mean. Our best game, by far, was the Connecticut -- we have not played well since the Connecticut game quite frankly. We played a fair game at St. John's. And could have won it. We have played a fair game against Seton Hall at home, but I really wasn't pleased with the way we played in those two games. The other games have not been very good. Owens goes down with seven minutes and a half at Syracuse but we weren't playing well and then the Marshall game, we didn't play well average game. I talked about the Seton Hall game. Go to BC and yeah, injury hurt us, but I am not sure it should affect you that much. We have some other players that just have really dropped off in their statistics, some very good players that have had very good years for us, dropped off statistically. You can look at the stats; you can tell who they are; you know who they are. So, why that has occurred, I don't know because certainly they haven't been pressured by me or the coaching staff to say you have got to do this, this, this. And, I don't know whether it is the thought of trying to go to post season or -- I mean, all of our guys today understood how important this game was in the Big East tournament. One of the objectives of this team, so they told me, and the coaching staff said to them, we want to win the Big East tournament. We didn't get by the first round. And, so, consequently, I do not think we are playing with the freedom in our brain, making the extra pass, our defense is not as good, that we played with back earlier in the year. This is a different looking team than I coached against Connecticut.

Q. With a week off do you have any idea how to address that now?

COACH CATLETT: I haven't given it any thought yet, David. We might just take the week off and just line up on the court and play the next game. Evidently, practice is not helping us very much. We have practiced some and our practices have not been good for some reason. The guys are playing hard, but we are not executing the last couple of practices -- we had a practice yesterday at ten o'clock. After, I went back to my hotel, I found my wife. I said we just had a horrible practice - the day before the tournament, we had a horrible practice. People going to the wrong place; not setting screens; people just doing things that I wasn't accustomed to seeing. I called a couple of set place like we would in the game, I don't know if we executed one of them. And so that has to shake a coach up a little bit, almost not one player has ever said a word back to me or acted funny, but just almost as if we are not reaching them, incoherent for some reason, I don't mean on purpose; just not there. Three guys run the play and two guys don't. We have been really splintered here as far as everything being on the same page.

Q. Coach, last year you won 19 games; did not get in the NCAA Tournament. This year you have 22 but two of them are non-Division I wins which really puts you at having 20 Division I wins. Is there any doubt whatsoever in your mind this year that you are definitely in the tournament? I mean, are you convinced 100% that you are in for what you have done in this stage?

COACH CATLETT: I have no idea.

Q. You are talking about how the team has struggled a little bit in practice. Does it disappoint you that this is a senior dominated team? I mean, if it was a younger group you could understand it. It is especially disappointing because it is a veteran group that they haven't responded?

COACH CATLETT: You weren't in my last press conference when we lost at Miami, but I had told -- I see David is here, Michael Cherry is here also -- Yeah, we have had a heck of a year. This team has been a good team. We have had a heck of a year. May I answer the question? We have had a heck of a year. So, why this has occurred at the end of the year, I don't know. But, I am very proud of these guys. They have had a great year. Nobody gave them a chance to do anything to be ranked in the top 25 since December the 20th, still, you know, I am very proud of them. Now, can I address or understand what has happened -- maybe Owens and Solheim, two wonderful young men, much smarter than I am 3.5 students maybe they can answer that question -- maybe you want to make the same question to them. Ask them the same question.

Q. Are you surprised I mean, this is a time of year where you guys should really be peaking, especially you probably have as much experience at any team in the Big East this year that you wouldn't be coming together as opposed to maybe not being as sure as yourselves at a crucial time and not to diminish that you have accomplished to this point, but now there really isn't any room for error.

DAMIAN OWENS: Well, one thing we all -- I mean, it is a disappointment. I mean, we was proud of what we was doing in our first 20 games and we had improved so far from each year and been in the Big East last year, we got 19, this year we got 20 plus wins. And we tried to improve coming into this tournament. The first year we got eliminated first round; last year we got knocked out second round. We just tried to do better than we did the year before. And, I mean it kind of hurts.

JOHN PAQUETTE: Anymore questions?

Q. Where does it go from here? Where do you feel like it goes from here?

DAMIAN OWENS: I really don't have no clue. We just got to sit down and find ourselves and start over.

Q. If you think -- Damian went down. How much of that plays into what happened since?

BRENT SOLHEIM: I think it definitely hurt us, but it shouldn't have hurt us as much as it did. Damian is the best player we have had on our team for a few years now and when your best player goes down, you are going to drop out but not as much as we -- I don't think we should have dropped as much as we did. But it did hurt us, there is no question about it.

Q. Do you think you are back from that yet from what happened and struggling without him or is it a struggle getting used to him and doing the whole thing over again?

BRENT SOLHEIM: I don't know. I think we are over it now, but that doesn't change the fact that we have come up flat the last three games. Now that he is back, he is definitely helping us but that is not the reason why we are flat. I really couldn't tell you why we have been flat the last couple of games. I really don't know what the problem is. Seems like we are playing hard. Everyone is playing hard but we are just not executing on offense. It might be patience. When we work the ball around, we get layups. I don't know why we don't do that for 40 minutes.

Q. Did you have a good feeling coming into today? I know you didn't have a good practice yesterday, but did you feel like when you got into this building today that you guys were going --

BRENT SOLHEIM: I had nothing but good feelings coming into today. I thought we would play a lot better than we did and we didn't. Coming into the game I had quite a bit of confidence.

End of FastScripts....

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