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March 28, 2006

Renaldo Balkman

Tarence Kinsey

Dave Odom

Brandon Wallace


Q. Renaldo, what was that like?
RENALDO BALKMAN: I loved it, man. I went out there and played my best basketball and I had my teammates behind me and we played together and we played hard.
Q. Did you expect to have that many relatively easy shots? It's easy for me to say.
RENALDO BALKMAN: We just came out there and played basketball, man. I mean, I had a lot of easy shots, but, hey, we played the best basketball tonight we played in a long time.
Q. Do you guys remember a game where you had as many dunks as you did tonight?
TARENCE KINSEY: I think it was at Hardwood Hoopla that we had in the practice facility (laughter).
Q. Can you talk about being one game from repeating?
BRANDON WALLACE: It feels good. This is what we planned to do when we came up here, just handling business and if we take a business approach to it we should be fine, just go back and get some rest.
Q. Tarence, you guys have not been playing at this pace. You scored 32 first half points, why was this pace so good for you tonight?
TARENCE KINSEY: Louisville, also, they played at a fast pace, it was a lot of run-outs. Renaldo did a great job rebounding the ball. I think that's what really got us extra shot attempts. And also I think some of the put-backs Brandon got off the glass increased that, also.
Q. Are you surprised it looked so easy out there tonight?
RENALDO BALKMAN: No, we weren't surprised. The game is a game. We just went out there and played as hard as we can. It was another game we played and came out what win.
Q. You beat a team that was in the Final Four last year, they are a national program, you look at this as kind of a statement game for you guys even though you are in the NIT, not the NCAA, is this a game where people will stand up and recognize you a little bit?
BRANDON WALLACE: Hopefully they recognize what we did during the season, we beat Florida twice, Kentucky. We play hard and we can play with anybody in the country.
Q. Are you guys looking ahead now to play Michigan on Thursday night; what do you know about them and did you see them play tonight at all.
TARENCE KINSEY: Right now we don't know anything. At 11 o'clock coach said we have all the game footage we need. The thing we need to concentrate on is go to the hotel, get ready to go to sleep, get ready for practice tomorrow and we'll be ready come Thursday night?
DAVE ODOM: I really think the key to the game was the first time-out. We were down 11-2, very similar to our Florida championship game, we didn't start well. This was a little bit different. It was -- they started so fast, and when you haven't seen a team in the flesh like we had not seen Louisville, seen them on tape but until you really get a chance to for instance, Taquan Dean, see how far out he shoots the ball and how well he shoots the ball when he's open, you don't have a sense for how far out you have to guard him.
The score is 11-2 and honestly, I was not worried at that time. I wanted to call a time-out. I wanted to remind our team that the thing we had to impart right then was keep your poise, keep your composure and keep playing. You have to move your defense out, Taquan Dean, (Terrence) Williams, these other guys can really shoot the ball. They like a lot of room to shoot it and they shoot it deep. If we can drive them inside it deep, make some plays maybe we can knock the ball loose a little bit and we get going ourselves.
Tarence promptly answered the call, a couple of back-to-back jumpers brought it up to 11-7 and we seemed to settle down after that. Our defense took over and we started blocking shots, Renaldo got loose. Brandon I thought was exceptional tonight. Tre' Kelly did not have double figures tonight but I don't know that I've seen him play a better floor game than he played tonight. We turned the ball over seven times, which, again, is I think -- well, I've got to tell you, that's something that we really do emphasize. Three games going now, we've turned it over 8-7-7, a total of 22 times in three games. As much as anything other than the wins themselves, I'm very, very proud of that and I think that keeps us in games.
We get to halftime, we've got a lead, there's not a better coach in the country than Rick Pitino at coaching his team from behind. He's great in front and great from behind, but the stories and annals of his career of full of comeback victories. I can still see the one at LSU when he was at Kentucky and they were down by 140 points with five seconds and they came back, I couldn't believe that (laughter). But I kept telling our team, they will not quit, we must not, so you have to play the game for 40 minutes. I was very concerned in about the first six minutes of the second half because it looked like our team had settled into "we will trade baskets with them the rest of the game," and that is not us. We called our attention, the team's attention to you've got to play defense and you've got to shut them out on the other end. They were just getting to the basket too easily on us. I thought our defense settled down and when that started settling down, we kept the lead, got it up to 16 and they had to come after us. We were able to break them down off the dribble and we got some loose balls on the other end, kept rebounding the basketball, made shots and we were able to finish it up.
I knew if we could get into the five-minute mark beyond, below the five-minute mark with a double-figure lead, the way we were handling the ball, I felt like we would be okay, and we did. You know, you look at our guys individually right now, they are having a great time, and when you win, you do have a great time. When you shoot the ball well, you look good. You can smile. Those kind of things happen more easily.
Still, I just told a team for the first time this year, we now know how long the season is going to last. We've got two more days, we've got one game, and we've got two practices. We now know that. That's how long Tarence and Rocky have as Gamecocks, official Gamecocks, that's how long our whole team has as a team, and we're going to stick together, we're going to play it out. We've come too far to turn back now. We understand that we're playing an excellent basketball team coached by Tommy Amaker who I have a great deal of respect for, as a person, human being and certainly as a basketball coach.
I have yet to see their team bounce a ball. I don't know a thing about them. I'll know all I need to know by 11 o'clock tomorrow morning but what I do know is that they had a great start, 16-3. They lost a number of players by injuries, barely missed the NCAA Tournament, had the injured players back, have recovered, won four straight NIT and I'm sure they are looking forward to a great game on Thursday night, as they should. I hope that our team will get enough rest between now and then. They certainly have an advantage in terms of depth. I doubt, seriously, unless it turned into a foul situation, that fatigue would have any bearing at all on that game. I mean, as a 20-year-old young man, I mean, one game, I mean, it's not going to happen. Our legs will be fine and our will will be strong, and we will play hard. I cannot guarantee we will play hard, but I guarantee they will play hard and without fatigue. Looking forward to playing an excellent, excellent Michigan team.
Q. Can you just talk about Brandon and Balkman's blocks? It seemed like that really impacted Louisville and maybe even realizing how quickly those guys could get up.
DAVE ODOM: I mentioned, I said, you don't know a team until you see them in the flesh. That game reminded me a little bit of our Maryland semi-final a year ago. Maryland is typically one of the most athletic teams in the country. After the game, Gary Williams in the hotel said to me, "I cannot believe how quick and how good of athletes your guys are." I don't know that Rick would say that to me, but (Juan) Palacios might, our guys are quick off their feet and they do have speed.
When the floor is broken and strength is not a factor, then speed and quickness takes over. That's when Brandon and Renaldo are at their best, on both ends of the court. They block shots better that way and they score better the other way. I thought we attacked their zone extremely well. We were able to get the ball, unlike we did against Florida, we were able to get the ball to the high post and then below for several layups and I was very, very pleased with that.
Q. We were commenting on what a familiar face you've become in this tournament up here. Talk about getting back to The Finals the second straight year and having an opportunity to be only the second team to win it back-to-back?
DAVE ODOM: Well, that would certainly be truly a great honor, a great honor, tremendous honor for our team, for our school, for our state. Absolutely a great honor.
Certainly, I would join in that. I would just -- I know how hard our players worked, I know how many difficult days they had back in January and February, one-point losses, losses less than five points, just put it that way. I will tell you, our team played well all year. They just didn't find the key to unlock what you would call winning. We were close, but no cigar, so to speak.
You know, so to get back here, and play in the world's greatest arena, this late in the season, for a university and a team who have a great deal of pride, it means an awful lot. It means a lot to be in the game. It means even more to win it.
Q. Were you comfortable with the pace all night?
DAVE ODOM: Yeah, I was. After we calmed them down that first time-out, I really was. I thought Tre' Kelly had a wonderful handle on the game, I really did. If he's got a handle on the game, if he's managing the game, you know, between he and I, we were able to do that, and he kept our team in offense. We're pretty good when we get in offense. Right now, we're able to get in there pretty good. We've got enough things that if they take away one, we can do another.
Q. How about the number of dunks and relatively easy baskets?
DAVE ODOM: Again, I'm saying this the right way, not criticizing, Louisville's style creates that kind of thing. They are a high-volume, possession team. They like a large number of possessions. And when you do that, you create almost three-on-twos on each end. They are very comfortable. They play like that every night. That's Rick's style. It's almost -- and I know he would never say this -- but it's almost like "I'll give you a shot, if you give me a shot, I hope I get the last one." It's not like they don't play defense, they do, they play great defense. But because they extend the floor defensively so much, if you have good ball handlers and if they are not afraid of the press and if you can get through that front line, you have some openings on the back line and that's what happens. When you have a ball handler like Tre' Kelly who is not afraid, and you've got shooters like Kinsey, guys like Rocky, and gap rebounders and guys that can get to the board like Renaldo and Brandon, then you can bring a shooter or two off the bench, you've got a chance.
So the number of dunks, I doubt seriously that Rick would worry about that, because that creates pace. It creates tempo.
Now, he looks at it the end of the game, he's going to see we scored on 60 percent of our shots. He's not going to like that. Then he's going to look straight at the turnover column and see seven, and he's going to understand, because if he doesn't turn us over 17 times, we're going to get ten dunks; we are. You can't have it both ways. Tonight, we won that battle.

End of FastScripts...

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