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March 5, 1998

Jim Calhoun

Khalid El-Amin

Richard Hamilton


COACH CALHOUN: I couldn't be prouder of the kids, the way they played defense. Get the good news out of the way first. They did a terrific job with defense. I really felt -- Pete Gillen's did as good a coaching job as -- we had a go three times in the past -- about five weeks. I think it is -- they come at you and little guys get into you and disrupt your offense, and they really did a good job on us on offense. In turn, we did a magnificent job in defense when winning time came, that is the last 7 minutes of the basketball game. And, kids are being played, as I told you before, young team in new positions. Pete's team is young, but the position he is from and their kids are in different positions than we are coming from. We sat out a day and you always have a disadvantage with that. I think we showed that in the first half, particularly you don't have your game in sync and it is not an excuse, it is just a matter of fact. I feel that way sometimes. Nothing you can do about it. It is perfectly fine. I was really proud of the way we played defense, proud of the way we -- we have pretty good resilience. I think today it was clear and evident that Providence College wanted the season to keep on going. It almost did. They were a good basketball team. Pete has done a marvelous job coaching them. I thought Rich played maybe one of his best defensive of games, 11 rebounds which he reminded me of on the way over. (Laughter). So, I thought Khalid made terrific big shots. I thought we had enough poise and we can made plays down the stretch. That is sometimes what you have to do in a basketball game. It would be nice if you just played out watching some of the games yesterday, and games just kind of played out a lot of points being had and there was no easy points. There was a couple of dunks. But, beyond that, everything was contested by both teams. And, we are fortunate enough that we had to make plays down the stretch, Kevin Freeman, Rashamel Jones. Bottom line is we showed resilience. We had showed one of the reasons that we had 26 wins coming into the game. I am proud of the kids. Once again, great, great respect for what Pete has done and certainly for Providence College and the three games we had with them.

Q. You guys seemed like every time you play Providence, the game this year, last year's game, always seem to become like this contrast of styles --

COACH CALHOUN: Yeah, I think Pete does a great job defensively. I think we are a defensive team. I don't know why we can't break out on top. We had a couple of 6, 7. They came back and eventually take the lead. Once again, they have got great guard play. When you get great guard play, makes the game last. I don't -- the game was tied with 35 minutes to go up at our place, we -- we have had wars at Providence. Pete thinks it is because of proximity of schools. I think it is because of proximity of point guards, similarity of point guards, much more likely. We can't turn them over like we can a lot of teams. They come out and can disrupt our offense a little bit. Tonight we didn't do as good a job. One real major complaint of getting the ball inside, taking advantage of a couple mismatches. But, beyond that, I really don't have a lot of complaints.

Q. In this tournament you are probably going to come out as a 2 seed in the NCAA. What are you looking to get out of this tournament? What is the significance of this tournament?

COACH CALHOUN: We are in our neighborhood. We are home. These are against friends - enemies for two hours, and then real good friends for a period of time. And, it is a league that I grew up seeing and coaching in for twelve years. Anytime you are in the neighborhood, you always want to win the fight. That is what we are trying to do. We would like to have experienced a day like today because next week at 12:56 we can't get on the court until 30 minutes before, all that kind of stuff, when we start getting into post-season play, we are going to need to handle situations maybe that we can learn from here. And obviously while we are here, we would like to bring home a trophy if it's possible. More importantly my choice is I would much rather grow as a team.

Q. Controlling tempo, Jim, is one of the things you guys do best. But you don't seem to be able to do it against Providence. Is it because of their good guard play?

COACH CALHOUN: Put 38 in the second half. I kind of disagree with you. That is a 76-point game. We have averaged 77. And I agree, in the first half I thought they did a great job with tempo. Second half we didn't give them layups, but we got tempo going our way. And that eventually changes the game down the stretch. The game is still, remember Jones's and Kevin's layups down the stretch are off penetration, off tempo, off our tempo. As El-Amin comes out, turns the corner off our tempo. I think the tempo in the second half, we are forcing it. They were trying to holding it. I think we put 38 on the board. We have done the job. I agree, but I thought we were going to have maybe 20 points at halftime because they have clearly had great -- they were more than happy to sacrifice distance away from us. If we are not playing well, with tempo, they didn't want to get into a game where they had 30 points. But we had 46. They didn't want that kind of game. And, therefore, they sacrificed points, I thought, for tempo. Second half we probably said, hey, we will sacrifice points for tempo, let us go at them. And obviously we did a better job with them.

Q. Talk about the upset factor against the Providence team that already has a game under its belt in the tournament and played --

COACH CALHOUN: I think that is what I meant about the fact that Pete has done a wonderful job - trust me, every game is hard playing from that position where they are happy to play against us, we are happy to play against them too. But I think positions are entirely different. We were trying to protect something we have earned for the last three months. They have got a chance to do something in a 3-day period. Clearly, those teams play a little bit looser. Some of the games I saw last night, I didn't recognize the teams. Just wonderful. I think, by the way, that is what tournament play all about. I heard someone say we should get 8 teams only. I am 100% against that. I think last night is a true indication of what teams' field can do. Watching the Villanova game and watching Ralph and Steve and how difficult it was. Bottom line is everybody is playing from different positions at this time of year. We are playing in a position where we are going into the NCAA tournament. Clearly we want to get better, learn some things from here. Obviously since it is our neighborhood we would like to go home with the trophy if that is possible.

Q. How nice does it feel to be free of the bubble? Do you feel for those teams that are on the bubble right now?

COACH CALHOUN: Well, yeah, I do. There is no question, the bus ride down here is entirely different if you know you need a couple. I don't think anybody can be less than candid if you didn't say that. But I don't think it allows you anything -- I thought early it was Providence and us trying to get ourselves playing in tournament-play. Once again, this team is young and in a lot of different ways, yet it shows old down the stretch; knows how to win, which is very, very important. I think Rich and some of those guys were in situations last year, we were down in NIT games in Nebraska by 12 and turned it around by 14 points. Point being clearly, I think that it is a difficult situation. You have to tee it up here and all of a sudden know you need a win. Once again, I think -- you get a team that is five games under 500, their only shot is just to play well initially; if they win it, they win it. They don't want their season to end. That is a very dangerous difficult opponent.

Q. Plans for Sunday?

COACH CALHOUN: I don't know whether we are going back to Connecticut yet. First half I was thinking about what I was going to do tonight back in Connecticut in the first half


Q. Hamilton, what did you feel about this game? Did you feel like you were in deep trouble in this game or that you'd get a handle on it; what was Providence giving you --

RICHARD HAMILTON: They come out and play hard for 40 minutes. That is the biggest things they do. And like coach said, they got great guard play. They got the kind of guards who really want to play defense and really try to get up in your chest, things like that. That is when you really got to be a player, that is when you have got to take your time. Coach told us play with poise, take your time. I think that is what we did in the second half.

Q. Khalid, you guys seem to have a little trouble with the tempo in the first half, second half, was it just a little -- seemed like you were trying to create some stuff?

KHALID EL-AMIN: We slowed down on the offense. That is the big thing in the first half that we didn't do. Providence guards, they really got us to go fast instead of us taking our time and running offense. We just ran our stuff in the second half and we got easier buckets. I think that was very easy to tell.

Q. Guys, talk about the defense you played on Thomas down the stretch seemed like Kevin and Rash did --

RICHARD HAMILTON: We tried to play that type of defense the whole game. In stretches, we did great. We were trying to double him every time he put it down and make the other players play without it in his hands. That was our biggest strategy, get it out of his hands; let him touch it as less as possible.

Q. I was wondering how the coach was able to motivate you guys knowing that you have the NCAA bid.

KHALID EL-AMIN: See, it's either put-up or shut-up. You have got to get motivated - it is either put-up or shut-up, win or go home, and I think we are not ready to go home yet. I think we have been practicing running hills and we don't want to do that.

Q. You are still a freshman, first Big East tournament. How do you feel? You know, how has your game progressed this season?

KHALID EL-AMIN: It has progressed greatly. I mean, I am better at all aspects of my game, and as far as my first Big East tournament, I am very excited about playing. I am ready to play tomorrow night already. And, I am just happy to be here. It is a chance in a lifetime thing and you are not going to go through this many times in your life so you have to make the most of it right now.

Q. Richard, last year you guys came into the Big East tournament more or less middle of the pack, bottom of the pack, and this year, you are the favorites. Talk about the difference in mentalities coming in?

RICHARD HAMILTON: I think we all owe the credit Coach Calhoun. I don't see too many coaches in college basketball to add two, three players and come from the bottom of the league to the top of the league and being number 6 in the country. I don't take none of the credit. I know Khalid takes none of the credit. I think all the credit goes to coach. Waking up at 5 in the morning.

Q. Richard, your coach mentioned about just the type of play you saw from the lower seeds yesterday in the tournament. Were you concerned about the tempo and the type of play that Providence was bringing to you?

KHALID EL-AMIN: I think that always concerns you especially as a player and also as a coach you get concerned but you know you have to go out and execute. The post-season, this is when -- the time you have to execute the best and I think it was just a matter going out and executing. I think we did a better job of executing in the second half; that is why we are able to pull out the victory.


End of FastScripts....

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