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March 8, 2007

Tom Crean

Dominic James


TOM CREAN: First off, it's the most unbelievable venue you could ever possibly be in to play basketball during the season. The BIG EAST Conference does such an incredible job of putting together such a first-class operation. We're proud to be a part of the league. We're proud to be in games like this. We fell a little bit short. I don't think there's any question that our short bench caught up with us a little bit.
We didn't have the same buzz defensively in the second half that we needed, and we'll give great credit to Pittsburgh because they played outstanding the entire night and made a lot of big shots. When Fields made a 27-footer off the backboard, it started to feel like it just wasn't our night, even though, to me, even though we continued to play very hard.
But now we regroup and we go home and get ready for Selection Sunday, and we anxiously anticipate the return of Jerel McNeal back to our team on the floor, get him out of that assistant coaching role, and we'll go home and get better and look forward to next week.

Q. Gray had 16 and 18 in the first two games when you played them and beat them; he had 22 tonight. Do you think his contribution was more significant in their producing a win this time?
TOM CREAN: He's been great every night we've played them, tonight and this year. The thing about him that separates him from so many players in the country is the way he makes everybody better. There cannot be a better passing big man -- I haven't seen him, maybe there is somewhere, but I haven't seen it. And he's so strong, if he gets any position inside, it's so hard to guard him. And he was catching the ball so deep, we could not get the ball down or out of his hands or put some pressure on him.
What we said last year, what he does better than anybody is pass the ball around and follow his own shot and he did that tonight. He's been a contributing factor in all of their games with Pittsburgh and tonight he got the win; they got the win.

Q. What do you think as a player you can learn the most from this game tonight heading into the tournament in?
DOMINIC JAMES: You know, we had the right energy coming out in the ballgame and things like that. But our second half -- in the second half we didn't come out with the right mentality. We didn't have enough energy coming out and we wasn't sharp, and that's the way that you have to be. You know, we came in after the half down three and we came back out, and our energy just wasn't there. That's one thing that we've got to be aware of and focus on as the tournament comes is when that first half is over, you've got to come back with the same energy level.
With this type of team, you have to have a high energy level for this team to be successful. That's the way that we play. We have high intensity on defense and play well together on offense.

Q. They made more free throws than your whole team attempted; do you feel the game was won or lost at the free throw line?
TOM CREAN: Most games usually are. At halftime the foul shots were 16-3, and in a physical aggressive game, that's a tough pill to swallow. That's the way it was and that's the way the game was called and just deal with it.
There's no way we got a little shorthanded, and when you take a player like Jerel McNeal out of our lineup that can get to the rim and create so much for himself and for others, that hurts your belly a little bit to get to the line. But that's why we want to go home, regroup, hope to have him back next week, and let's see what happens.
But they stepped up. We missed two free throws the entire night; that's what it was?

Q. 17 for 19.
TOM CREAN: And they shot 41. It's a tough number, it's a tough number this time of year. But they earned them and that's the way it is.

Q. Talk about the play of Fitzgerald.
TOM CREAN: Sure, nobody on our team was shocked. We love Danny. He had some big games for us last year. He continues to get better all the time. He can make shots and he can make others better. He's driving the ball well, and he usually draws a very tough assignment defensively.
Of course, there's not many players in the BIG EAST that are not a tough assignment when you're divvying up responsibilities. But we're proud of the way he's getting better. He's been a serious contributor, significant contributor for us all year.

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