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March 10, 2007

Todd Abernethy

Andy Kennedy

Clarence Sanders


THE MODERATOR: Coach, would you begin.
ANDY KENNEDY: We got beaten by a superior opponent, obviously, Florida. I love Billy's team. They're really, really playing well. And they're obviously very talented individually, but collectively, they're even more impressive. And I think that's the makings of a special group. So our hats off to them and the way they played. We had our opportunities and we certainly didn't take advantage of those.

Q. For both the players, every time you guys seem to make a run in the second half they had an edge, talk about what that was like. Just not being able to go there.
TODD ABERNETHY: It's frustrating, you know. We fought back, and I think cut it down to ten. But you know, they're one of the best teams in the nation. They kept responding. Corey Brewer was great, you know, driving and hitting some huge threes. So that's what you expect from the best team in the nation.
CLARENCE SANDERS: Like Todd said, it was real frustrating. Once we make a run, they were making runs, and we just couldn't seem to cut the lead. But I feel like we came out the second half, we played hard, and we lost them.
But we're going to keep our heads up. We accomplished a lot this year, and we're going to keep moving.

Q. Todd, you guys knew you almost had to play the perfect game probably to beat Florida. In the second half did you feel like you were in the game early on? What was it like just watching them just continue to take charge?
TODD ABERNETHY: Yeah, definitely. I felt like we were in the game, just building momentum when we cut it down to ten. Our big boys came in, stepped up, got some big rebounds. We were making some shots. But you know, they just answered back and last night we played great defense, and got stops when we needed to. But tonight, you know, when we were scraping back, we just couldn't make the defensive stops.

Q. Clarence, did you feel like the game kind of got away a little bit also at the end of the first half when they scored like seven in the last minute and a half? What did it mean to you guys to go in down 15 when you could have been 10 or 8?
CLARENCE SANDERS: We have been in that situation before. To us, we came out a little flat, little timid. We came back the second half, fought back, cut the lead down but we fell short.

Q. For both players, again, it's been talked about a lot, do you feel like now it's probably the NIT, or do you still hold out hope that maybe a slim hope, I guess?
TODD ABERNETHY: We think NIT. Tonight, you know, if we would have won, it would have been big, but...

Q. This is for both players: I'm wondering how you think of the way Florida's playing. Do you think Arkansas' got much of a chance tomorrow? How do you see that match-up?
CLARENCE SANDERS: Well, I mean like Coach said earlier, they're a superior team. If Arkansas comes in and plays their A game and come on top of their game, they've got a chance to beat them.
TODD ABERNETHY: I definitely agree, especially with Arkansas' height. Steven Hill down there will be able to probably do a good job against the big men. You know, it was a close game when Arkansas and Florida played earlier this year, so I don't expect anything different.

Q. Yesterday Florida got off to a fast start, and they did again today, too, what is it about this team that enables them to get off to such a quick start? What does that mean to you guys? Make that for Clarence.
CLARENCE SANDERS: Well, they're a fast team. We've just got to plan them, come in, and match their intensity and match their energy. We sort of did that during the second half. Like I said, we came off flat the first half, we couldn't do it the first half, but we did it in the second half though.

Q. This is for either player: What is it about Corey Brewer that makes him such a match-up nightmare for driving the lane and hitting the outside?
TODD ABERNETHY: Man, I don't know. He's really long. He's really athletic. And, you know, he showed tonight he can finish in there. He just did a great job, also, stepping out. Hitting some threes. It's really hard to stop him.

Q. For both guys: If it is NIT, chances are probably a home game. Talk about maybe the positives of coming back and playing one more game at Tad Smith.
TODD ABERNETHY: This is the first time I'll be playing in postseason, so I'm excited about that. I'm grateful for the opportunity, and, you know, we've done some big things this year at Ole Miss for the basketball program. So I think it's going to be fun being at home, hopefully. Just to see how many more wins we can get and how far we can go.
CLARENCE SANDERS: This is my first time also playing postseason. So I'm just happy to be playing at home again.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, fellas. We'll continue with questions for Coach Kennedy.

Q. Andy, how important was that series there the last minute and a half of the first half when they went on a 7-0 run?
ANDY KENNEDY: They obviously have spurtability in their ability to score so quickly. Their athleticism in the open floor is as good as we've faced all year, and I think the score, I think we had it maybe to six or to eight. We didn't finish any plays at the basket. They ran out, got in the open floor and finished the half on a very strong note. It certainly took a little wind out of our sails, and built what ended up being an insurmountable lead.

Q. Andy, I was curious, are you as resigned to an NIT fate as your players?
ANDY KENNEDY: I'm a realist. We'll play in a tournament but it won't be the four-letter one.

Q. Andy, as a coach when you're preparing for Florida, what makes it difficult? They've got so many weapons and so many matchable parts.
ANDY KENNEDY: I'll tell you this, I think Billy does a great job. Their spacing offensively, their ability to pass the ball, Joakim and Horford pass the ball so well. They're big, they've got great length. Corey Brewer, as Todd says, has the ability to slash by you. When he's making perimeter shots, as he was tonight, he's really a handful. You've got to press up on him, and his first step is like anybody in the league. Taurean Green puts the right ball in the right place at the right time. We don't even talk about Humphrey, because he's as good an open jump shooter as there is in the country. I think what separates them, quite frankly is their defense. They did it to Georgia last night, and we talked about it ad nauseam over the last 24 hours to our guys. And lo and behold they did it to us. They get you standing and you go try to create plays without moving the ball off the bounce, and you just drive right into their length and their athleticism. You have nowhere to go.
Then when you do break through, which you do at times, you're looking for somebody to jump out of the rafters and block the shot so you miss shots. Dwayne Curtis is an angle scorer, but he had six shots within four feet of the basket, and couldn't score, because I think he was so conscious of guys flying around and deflecting balls. So then we have to revert to taking contested jumpshots, and as the result, you shoot 31%, you give yourself no chance.

Q. Coach, just wondering how you see the Arkansas/Florida match-up, and the way the Gators are playing?
ANDY KENNEDY: I think they're the two most talented teams in the SEC. Arkansas certainly has the physical ability to match up, and if they come out and make shots early, it's going to be a very tightly contested game, if they make plays. You know, looking as you scout opponents, and it's frightening when you start really looking at Florida, because the deeper you get, the more disconcerted you get. You're looking for a fly in the ointment and you don't see any. They shot for the season, I think, 53% from the field. They got a little bored with us and missed some shots at the end. But they're so efficiently offensively and you have to match that or the game will get away from you. I think the key is Arkansas being efficient offensively to stay in the game. I guarantee you Florida will be.

Q. Just the first five minutes, kind of the tone they set in there, and how difficult is that to overcome? I know this is two games they've done that.
ANDY KENNEDY: You know, they press up on you, and as I said, if you don't get ball movement. We tried to emphasize making the ball change sides on the floor, strong side to weak side, weak side to strong side so we could get an angle to exploit them off the dribble.
We didn't do a very good job of moving the ball. So we ended up trying to dribble and drive and create off the bounce. We were so much smaller than them that we couldn't get the ball over the top. Once we did get some clean looks, I thought we rushed so much, because we were so far out of rhythm trying to catch up. We're looking for that mysterious eight-point shot. We couldn't seem to find it.

Q. Maybe you just answered this, but how does their defense get you standing on the perimeter like that?
ANDY KENNEDY: Pressure, you don't let easy turns of the ball, and they're able to do so because they are so long. When you talk about Brewer and Noah most especially, their length is so tremendous that, and their ability to help and recover, I think is what really is going to pose them for another long run here.

Q. Coach, earlier this week we asked you about the tournaments that you've been in, Big East, C-USA and all those, you had never been to the SEC, what are your impressions now after playing a couple of games here, and the crowd and all that stuff?
ANDY KENNEDY: I've always said, it's an honor and privilege for me to be coaching in this leg. This is the best league in the country, bar none, in all sports. And I think people that run this league are at a level all their own. So certainly I enjoyed having the opportunity to be here and to -- for these kids to come in and have an opportunity to experience some success. We won 20 games for the sixth time in the history of our 98-year program. We won the SEC West for the fourth time, so these kids have accomplished a great deal, and I'm hopeful that the performance tonight doesn't mar that at all.

Q. Andy, a lot of teams that have had the success Florida's had, they lose that hunger that second year they come back and try to defend. Talk about that aspect, and how they've handled it.
ANDY KENNEDY: I think I'm a basketball Jones, and I follow the game quite a bit. I know much was made about Florida losing some games at the end of the regular season, but now those kids know it's one and done. Their focus is certainly at a very, very high level. Billy is not going to allow them to lose focus.
As I said in my opening statement, individually they have talented players, but collectively they're a special group.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
ANDY KENNEDY: Thank you.

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