March 29, 1996
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY
Q. Tony, I was wondering, teams have different styles, and I was wondering what you think makes those guards so good. They seem to have a good chemistry.
TONY DELK: I think they're mentally tough. They've been in close games, and even when they played us, our press wasn't a factor, they really handled it. Those guards have been against a lot of great guards and they've done a great job.
Q. How do you guys plan to defense Camby this time? Anything differently than last time?
MARK POPE: I'm not sure that we even know what we're going to do. He's the best player in America. If any of you have advice for us, if you meet us out here afterwards that would be great.
Q. Walter, along those lines, what does Camby do that will make it more difficult to defense him perhaps the way you did Duncan last game?
WALTER McCARTY: Camby is up on the floor. You have to be looking to do a lot of different things. It's going to be interesting to see how we try to contain him.
Q. Tony, like you were saying, if the press wasn't that much of a factor last time what do you do this time to try to harass their guards?
TONY DELK: We're not going to give you our game plan. It will be something different tomorrow. We have to go out there and play 40 minutes. And pretty much I think they have to prepare what we throw at them. But hopefully we can try to tie those guys down.
Q. This is for any and all the players. Since there were such high expectations for your team, does that affect your enthusiasm for being here? Can you just -- is there a delicate balance between enjoying the experience and concentrating on a new game?
WALTER McCARTY: We're going to enjoy this while we're here. We have high expectations for ourselves from being around each other and know what we're capable of doing. The coach tells us to live in the precious present. We want to enjoy it. We're here, we're having a lot of fun. We're also getting some work done, but at the same time we're having a lot of fun.
Q. Mark, could you talk a little bit about what the expectations of your fans? Seems like most fans are happy with getting to the Final Four. But your fans talk about the National Championship being the only acceptable conclusion to the season.
MARK POPE: I think our fans would be the first to step up and say they're absolutely nuts. I think everything that goes with it, whether it's expectations or whatever, they take it to the extreme limit. And they're proud of that. And we love it. So we're really fortunate.
Q. For Mark and for Tony, can you talk about being a large favorite against the team that beat you early in the year and what's different now? Why are you such a large favorite?
TONY DELK: I don't see it as a favorite. They beat us. They're No. 1, and so therefore they should be the favorites.
MARK POPE: I guess they had other betting lines and that. But I think gambling is like politics, I do not understand it. It doesn't make any sense. They beat us, they beat everyone they played. They've proven that they're a great team. We're going to come in and try to battle and compete.
Q. Walter, could you expound a little bit on the concept of precious present, what that means, what the coach tells you and how you actually live that way?
WALTER McCARTY: Not looking back on the games and the past or not trying to look at anything in the future, just take it day-by-day and enjoying it. We're three seniors, this is going to be our last time here, and there are other players on the team. We're taking every day, taking this experience and just enjoying it while we're here. This is our last experience for this in college basketball, we're just real fortunate to be this far and have the type of players on this team. So like Coach said we're fortunate and we want to make this last as long as possible.
Q. Mark, could you address the issue of if you win Saturday, do you have to account somehow for the fact that you have another game? Are the emotions that you guys are investing in this game possibly going to be overwhelming?
MARK POPE: You know, I honestly haven't thought past the game we have Saturday. And if we do, we won't have anything to think about besides feeling bad. I think that something that we've been pretty successful at this year is staying focused on what's at hand, like Walter talked about, the precious present. And in order to be successful this weekend that's definitely one of the many things we'll have to be successful at doing.
Q. Somewhat along those lines, I wonder if any of you could address that perception that this game against UMass is the National Championship, even though it's in the semifinals?
TONY DELK: I don't think we said that. I think people are building the game to be as big as that. But like we said, we take it one game at a time. We know if we beat them we have another game, and our work is not finished. We don't put too much emphasis on it being billed as a National Championship game.
Q. Have you guys watched the tape of the original UMass game and if you have, when was the most recent time? And how would you say you have guys have changed as a team from that game?
TONY DELK: That was the game earlier in the season. And it was their first game and it was our second game. So you have two teams that have gotten a lot better. So you really can't just look at that tape and take much from it, because like I say, I was playing the point guard and everyone was out of position, and we were trying to get our rotation down at that time. And they've gotten a lot better, because they played a tough schedule. So it's going to be a good game, because you never know what to expect out of each team.
Q. Tony and Mark. The coach said after the Mississippi State game that it was good that you lost the game. How do you feel in retrospect about losing that game?
TONY DELK: I thought it personally helped us come together more as a team. That was a big loss, but it was better for it to happen then than for it to happen now, because we played -- we didn't play good team ball. And that was our goal going into the game. Whenever we play as a team, that's when we usually win. We didn't in that game. We took a lot of bad shots. We played hard but kind of shot ourself out of that game.
MARK POPE: That loss really hurts me, and I think it hurts us as a team. That was the SEC Championship. And it was one of the three goals that we set for ourself every year. And it was very disappointing. Hopefully since then we've been able to make it into a positive. I guess we'll see if we've been able to do that or not.
Q. Tony, are you saying that you all did not watch the tape of the first game?
TONY DELK: I didn't say that. Of course we looked at it. You had a lot of mistakes. And you want to try to correct them. But you can't take too much from that game, but that was early in the season. Yes, we did watch it. And we will try not to make those mistakes again.
Q. Tony, I think you mentioned a little while ago that you just have to see how it goes, but you hope you can wear them down with your numbers and your press. Last game that really wasn't a factor and Coach Pitino was talking through the tournament that he doesn't think that has much of an effect with all the stops in the NCAA TV games. Can you talk about that? Do you feel less fatigued because of all the stops in the tournament games? And how do you think that might affect the opponent?
TONY DELK: It probably will play in their favor, but also it plays in our favor. Because it gives us an opportunity to get a break in between. You have two teams that can be extremely hard. And also most times it will give them free time and time to relax. But we're still going to apply the pressure, regardless.
Q. For all the players, are you happy it's UMass?
WALTER McCARTY: We're just happy to be here. We don't care who we play, or what the uniform says. We want to go up and play up to a standard, and just play up to our level of play, like we do every game. And we're successful in doing that, and going out there and playing our solid play.
MARK POPE: I guess I don't really -- it's kind of irrelevant for us to think about if it were anyone else. We're playing UMass and we better be excited about it.
Q. Walter just used the phrase "our style of play". In case this game for whatever reason becomes a tempo that Kentucky supposedly doesn't like, if it is more of a half court kind of thing, does that throw it maybe on Mark and Walter, if it's down on the blocks game, does that put more responsibility on your shoulders?
WALTER McCARTY: I don't know about that. We have numbers, we can play a lot of people and work people down. We're very capable of playing a half court game, we did against Virginia Tech., we're very much capable. We have an offense to play in the half court game. It's not that we like it. But the fast break kind of game plays more to our talent and the individuals we have on the team. It lets us get out and do a lot of things we're capable of doing. We're not afraid of half court game, we're very capable of doing that.
Q. Walter, can you talk about Antoine's development from the beginning until now, how he's progressed?
WALTER McCARTY: Antoine, he's really a big key to this team. Just to be a sophomore he really steps up his play. He really plays like he's a senior right now. He's taken a lot of responsibilities, been a leader on and off the court. And in the game he's just been a great, great force for us. He's able to take his man inside, outside. He passes the ball great. Just like Coach says, when he comes to play and he plays like Magic this team is successful, if not, our team is not doing good. When he's out doing a lot of different things, playing a lot of positions, he's really successful.
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