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March 6, 1998

Jim Calhoun

Khalid El-Amin

Damian Owens


Q. You took over the game. Was there a battle of attrition? Did you feel they wore down?

DAMIAN OWENS: I think they were wearing down. I think the whole team sensed that they were wearing down. We weren't playing that well, and none of us was really making shots. So I decided to take it in my own hands to create some things for me and my teammates. That was the reason for that. We did sense that. We were trying to wear them out even more as the game progressed.

Q. Looks like the past couple of games you have had trouble imposing your will on the opposing team, getting them to run and made your offense a little significant --

DAMIAN OWENS: I think tonight we came out, we missed a lot of open shots, easy shots. We forced some shots, but it was just very difficult for us to miss them shots and still try to keep our composure. We tried to break them down a little bit too much on offense, and we weren't running our stuff in the first half. In the second half, we ran our stuff, and got some easy buckets. That softened up the defense a little bit.

Q. Any concern?

KHALID EL-AMIN: Some concern right now. We just talked about it. We had to come out with more intensity and be more focused at the beginning of the game. But we can't come out tomorrow, especially against St. John's, Syracuse, play the way we played today and expect to win, because it is just not going to happen.

Q. Was there any concern when you looked up; it is midway through the first half and you guys only have 9 points and Richard Hamilton only has two.

KHALID EL-AMIN: It was some concern. But we were pretty happy, because they had 9 points also. But we were very happy in what we were doing on defense, so we are playing hard defensively. We had to execute more, and be more patient on offense.

Q. Can you talk about the games against Syracuse and St. John's this year, talk about each team.

KHALID EL-AMIN: St. John's, I mean, they are kind of like us, they are very big, kind of physical. They like to get out -- get after you. That is the typical Big East team. And, the same for Syracuse. But, I think both teams are good teams and talented teams but we are going to have to come out and play Connecticut basketball if we want to win tomorrow.

JOHN PAQUETTE: Questions for coach.

Q. Are you happy the way your team has played these two games, unhappy; what is your feeling about where you are at?

COACH CALHOUN: What is our record?

Q. 2 and 0.

COACH CALHOUN: I am happy. Are you from Connecticut? Are you sure you are not from Connecticut? Double-checking. Am I truly happy? I think defensively the things that we have done all year, we continue to do, turned them over. We helped a very good offensive team, the second best shooting team in our league certainly down and Hodgson -- between Kevin and Freeman and Rashamel Jones, we did a wonderful, wonderful job. This is the same team came out on the break against St. John's very short period of time and we are not fast-breaking, very few points there. That is a great concern of mine. Two or three flashes of real good fast-break activity and just didn't do that. Then we didn't execute in the halfcourt set - something we have obviously done well all year long. Something with the fact -- Richard is struggling, going through a shooting slump -- really they are waiting for him to make shots. We need to make shots ourselves. Only one that is initiating that is the little guy who just left. And, we need other folks to initiating some things - our big guys covering our space, and I have said all year, we need some alternative ways in which to score. If Rick is suffering with a little slump, we need to have someone else make some points for us. When you have a team -- I look up there, they have 8 points, at the ten minute mark; they are going to get 16 for the half. We are playing great D. Unfortunately, I think we had 9 at that time. So, we need to score some points and I don't really have a solution. We have gone through periods this year where we haven't scored points, and won games. We went on the road to Syracuse, won up there, very close. Lost a close game here 64-26; didn't score a lot of points again, so, we had a 3-game stretch where we didn't score points. For whatever reason, I think something has to do with Richard, but I think that is not Rick's fault. He is not making shots - I don't mean that - we need to find other ways. Jake gave 3 fouls, I thought which were fouls in which were committed for no reason, whatever, none; yet he got every rebound. When he is in the game can carve out space; in turn, he is fighting post position defensively 12 feet up and four feet outside the lane. Once again, it showed me that even though as hard as we were working defensively, we didn't do -- not flowing well offensively as well. We needed a adjustments in our post-season play. We had this a couple of times during the season where we didn't score a lot of points.

Q. Talk about Souleymane's contribution.

COACH CALHOUN: I thought he was big. I just told the kids, because I think, for whatever reason, maybe their expectation of themselves -- we really don't seem like a locker room that -- they are happy, but they aren't like they should be, you know, messing with him right now. And we want them to do that. I think right now because we have a couple of guys struggling, they are not doing that but Souleymane clearly came off the bench; gave us points; could have done that all night by a whole bunch of people. We were weren't posting the way we were supposed to. We need inside offense and like tonight, especially with the fact they are playing 3 games in three days down the stretch, Hodgson, terrific player, Clark was a warrior, wouldn't have physically been able to do anything about it yet we saw fit not to do that and we need to talk about that.

Q. Talk about Jake's foul trouble and how it is hurting your offense because maybe Souleymane is not as good a passer.

COACH CALHOUN: Much better passer than Jake.

Q. Coach, you came out in the full court press to start the game. Was that to try to force an up-tempo game or tire Rutgers out?

COACH CALHOUN: One or 10 -- our first 10 possessions - we missed layups, bobbled the ball; threw it away. We just did everything unimaginable, but we try and get pace. We had pace. We just couldn't finish the play. It is like 2 to 4 or 5 and 2, whatever the score was, it was really agonizing for us, but the pace was good - running, pressing game, in-tempo. Once again didn't offensively ever get going. Then you get into a grind game and we can win that game. We have won it against some very good teams. Only lost 4; won 28 times. Occasionally we had to grind. I didn't think we looked like ourselves ever tonight. Last night I thought we did. I thought Providence sprinted back; didn't allow us to fast-break. Tonight it was us more so. I am not -- trust me, I am not taking anything away from Rutgers.

Q. Curious, when a team gets on a run like they did for two games and you have beaten them through the season couple of times, do you get a little more angst before the game that your kids will not be taking them seriously?

COACH CALHOUN: You know, I tell a lot of the lies. I tried to tell as many good lies as I could today and just really -- the kids didn't play not very well down there. Remember the score down there was 59-44. That is the score at Rutgers. Okay. Our place, we exploded 8 -- I think 28 to 6 or something, so I had to try get my kids - not that I can respect them - but I knew three nights trying to play, trying to-- Billet who is a terrific little player and Johnson trying to play against our pressure we can wear them down. In all, the physical effort was great. Our mental effort we were skiddery on the offensive end and terrific on the defensive end. I think we set a record for lowest field goal percentage in the tournament, to be honest with you, good job defensively.

Q. Is this a team-wide thing that you need to address or is Rick--

COACH CALHOUN: Ricky is going to the hospital right now. And, you know, we need to get back to what we have done real well. It is a funny thing. It is a nebulous thing because you would have thought, that Saturday, we put 88 points on the board against a very, very good St. John's team. We would have felt good about that. There is reasons for things many times. We won't have a practice. We will have a lot of practice for next season. We need to talk about it tomorrow morning. We are going to meet after the game, quite frankly - look at a little bit of tape around 12 o'clock tonight. We are showing a little bit of this tape. We are trying to have our video guy show fast-break opportunities that were there that we didn't take opportunity of. Secondly we are going to show the fact of us not screening. I think we tried to pick out 6, 7 of those, getting ourselves playing together again mentally. Physically, I couldn't -- I thought we worked our brains out. But mentally we just weren't with things. Taking off too early for the fast-break; weren't taking off -- just not making great breaks.

Q. What is wrong with Ricky?

COACH CALHOUN: I don't know.

Q. Why is he going to the hospital?

COACH CALHOUN: Bumped his knee yesterday. He said he couldn't play in the second half because it stiffened up; then we put him in, he was limping, obviously, very noticeably. I have no idea. I think what they were probably going to do is look at the knee again. Same injury, when he went knee-to-knee last night.

Q. Do you have any insight on Rick's shooting, Jim, anything you can see?

COACH CALHOUN: I mean, I have coached too many good players that have had bad shooting performances. I think this has nothing to do with the tournament because he was 6 for 20 against St. John's when we scored 88 points.

Q. Could you speak individually about both Syracuse and St. John's?

COACH CALHOUN: No. We love to play St. John's; will be a physical game for us, I am sure, after the way we played against them. They didn't play so well against us. Obviously I can imagine they will come out, ready to go. I almost don't remember the Syracuse game except I know they are 2-3 zone, generally speaking, and we were able to run up there with a small team; get a lead and kind of hold on for very -- we play all zone up there. Something atypical. We have Freeman and, I believe, Khalid who was coming off the injury. Even though he played some, he wasn't certainly himself.

Q. You talked about other guys stepping up in scoring. Kevin took a curious two shots -- any reasons why he wasn't part of the offense?

COACH CALHOUN: You know once again, I don't think we ever really did a good job of mentally running our stuff. We kind of -- we come down to isolation plays, a few fast breaks, and we-- wasn't really happy with the execution tonight. I don't know why we did that. We played offense much like we did defense. Hard and full. And really wouldn't let them do anything, but I thought we kind of played at the same pace on offense what we did defensively. Which didn't lead to a very good game for us offensively.

Q. What does a team like Rutgers mean to a tournament like this?

COACH CALHOUN: Once again I didn't want them to win tonight but I do think that the Cinderella story is terrific. I think the two games they had against very good talented West Virginia team, I think for them, it is good for the league, it is terrific for Rutgers. I thought last night and I can't speak for them, but their wins over Georgetown and West Virginia probably are the kind of wins they need because, for Kevin, who has done a wonderful job coaching this year, I truly believe makes a statement. I think it is very good for the league. I think N. C. State was wonderful for the NCAA. I think the those stories are good. I think it is what college basketball can be and should be all about. That is why I am 100% against only 8 teams coming here, I am 100% against that.


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