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March 16, 2007
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and have an opening statement by Coach Barnes and then take questions from the student-athletes, A.J. Abrams and Kevin Durant. Coach?
COACH RICK BARNES: Hard fought game. We felt coming in that if we could really try to -- we wanted to pack our defense back in there as much as we could and force as many perimeter shots and I thought for the most part that with we got great play from a lot of different guys tonight.
Connor Atchley and Justin Mason were great for what we needed. And at the end these three guys they took over for us on the offensive end, made some plays and found a way. It was hard fought. I thought we were a little bit jumpy to start with, which you kind of expect that this time of year. But once we settled in about 10 minutes I thought that the way we ended the half offensively I thought the second half we would come out and continue that. And I thought we did a pretty good job with it.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it to questions for text student-athletes and we'll ask you to raise your hand.
Q. Question for Kevin, please. How did they defend you differently in the second half and how did you adjust?
KEVIN DURANT: They did a great job of denying me the ball. When I got the ball in the post they sent two or three guys at me. But I gave the ball up to my teammates and they made plays as well and I got to the free throw line and hit my free throws.
Q. Kevin, there were a lot of times that you didn't touch the ball at all. When you got the ball was your mentality just that you need to score and you need to get to the line? Because it was such a close game?
KEVIN DURANT: I just wanted to keep being aggressive. My teammates did a great job of getting to the basket and making big time plays. I really don't have to have the ball every possession, my teammates do a great job.
Q. Kevin, D.J. this was your first NCAA tournament experience. What was the difference at this level? Did you notice the difference tonight?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: Not really. It kind of felt the same. Even though we know that this is a big time game and the winner stays, loser goes home. So we played like we were playing any other game and we played like it was your last game.
Q. Kevin, when they teams defend you like that, inside, double or triple, are you better off popping out and trying to get the ball away from the basket and making a move?
KEVIN DURANT: When teams double, triple me, I just pass it to the wide open man. And they hit the shots. Really, I really like getting double and triple teamed because my teammates do a great job of hitting shots and going to the basket and the free throw line.
Q. D.J. talk about the problems you had against their press. Even though you got some good layups off of it second half.
D.J. AUGUSTIN: Yeah, we didn't take care of the ball a couple of times. And we got some turnovers. But we made a good adjustment and we started playing from there and we kept control of the ball and the game.
Q. For all the guys, is this the kind of game you expected?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: Yeah, we knew they was going to press the whole game and trap. So we was prepared for that. Coach got us ready for that. We knew we had to box out and rebound. That was the biggest thing. That's why where the game was won.
A.J. ABRAMS: Yeah, it was pretty much what we expected. They're a good team, an older team. So they were going to come in and try to impose their will on us. That was the biggest adjustment that we were going to have to make. So I think we came in with the right mindset that we had to block out and run. I think we did a good job of that.
KEVIN DURANT: Yeah, this team was very experienced. They are a great rebounding team so all we had to do was box out and make shots. But they did a great job today and it was a hard fought game for us.
Q. You guys were talking about a defending Justin Hawkins yesterday. But they brought some other weapons out there. Can you talk about that a little bit?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: They had a great team. Everybody could play. It wasn't like one guy was going to do all the work. We knew we had to play everybody with a different strategy and we had to box out and rebound.
Q. Kevin, can you talk about with how difficult it was to get points down low, can you talk about your mindset at the free throw line? You talked all season about how there are games where you know you're going to need them?
KEVIN DURANT: Well, like coach said, we was down a couple points and if I was getting to the line I just wanted to hit them for my team. So every time I got to the line I just had the mindset that I want to go up a couple points, five or six points and hit them.
Q. Kevin, what was the deal with the free throws? You missed one tonight. Anybody give you a hard time?
KEVIN DURANT: Man, I didn't follow through all the way. So Coach Matt gave me a hard time. But I only missed one, so it was all good.
Q. What would you say is the key to your victory tonight?
KEVIN DURANT: We rebounded well at the end of the game. We got some key stops. We hit our free throws.
D.J. AUGUSTIN: Like Kevin said, rebounding, that was the key thing. We just played hard. We defended well. Like I said, rebounding was the biggest part.
Q. D.J. did you guys feel jittery at the beginning?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: Not really. We just came out like we usually do and we played. We just tried to try to run our offense and do what we do best and run in transition.
Q. Rick, can you talk about Connor, Connor's performance?
THE MODERATOR: Let's do athletes first. Student-athletes first.
COACH RICK BARNES: I can answer if you want to do athletes.
Q. I was wondering if any of the guys could talk about Damion James game. He got those early fouls and missed a couple layups and speak to his frustration.
KEVIN DURANT: Everybody missed some easy tip-ins, but Damion, we just had to keep encouraging him like you said and when we needed him he got some big time rebounds and got some stops and he played well and defense and on offense. But everybody missed a few. So we just tried to tell him, don't worry about it.
Q. A.J. can you talk about Connor and what he brought?
A.J. ABRAMS: He played great tonight. He came in and got some key rebounds for us. He played his role to the T. He came in set screens, got other guys open, and he rebounded and got some offensive put backs and I think that's what we need from him.
Q. I was wondering if all three of you or two of you at least, did you feel like you played at a level or a standard where you could advance deep in this tournament maybe win it? Did you play lake that tonight?
A.J. ABRAMS: Like coach said, we came out a little jittery. I thought that was an expected from us. But once we settled in I think that we showed at times that we could compete with anybody in the country and make a deep run.
D.J. AUGUSTIN: A.J. said we can compete with anybody in the country. We just come out and play hard, play defense and rebound. That's what we do. We can play with anybody.
Q. Question for D.J., A.J., and Kevin. Outside of the game it looks like you guys are going to be here for a couple days. Anything that you may have wanted to do down time wise in the next couple days?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: Really I think that everybody is probably going to get some rest. Get off their feet. Just get some rest. That's the best thing to do. Prepare for the next game.
A.J. ABRAMS: Yeah, I probably will be sleeping most of the time. They pretty much know if we're not playing basketball right now or school, I'm asleep. So that's what I'll be doing.
KEVIN DURANT: Yeah, just like A.J. just said, man, go to sleep. We don't get that much sleep as it is. Just resting and getting prepared for our next game.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Thanks, gentlemen. Let's take questions now for Coach Barnes.
Q. Connor, just talk about his performance inside the blocks and the key plays.
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, this time of year it's never going to be easy. Going into a game and I told the team before the game I said now look I don't know how we're going to play on the offensive end we never know that. But if we will defend and rebound we'll find a way to generate enough points.
It wasn't a, by any means as fluid as we would like it to be on the offensive end but in a game like that it's not going to be because of the pressure and all that. But the fact is that Connor when Damion got in foul trouble came in and did a great job and did a great job screening, what he and Justin I mean both of them and we knew going in what they were going to try to do and they did exactly what we thought. They were going to try to put the ball on the blocks and challenge us there all night long. And when you think about it, they shoot 40 percent and some of those came late there, but when and Connor was down there most of the time doing it. But he got help. But Justin was great. He was really good on the defensive end. About we needed more guys to handle the ball. And Connor actually he did a pretty good job considering he hasn't handled it very much against the pressure. But he and Justin were great tonight. Both of them.
Q. You said when Damion is good you guys are really good so for you to overcome him getting in foul trouble, no 3-pointers from Kevin, that's not bad with a bunch of freshman your first round?
COACH RICK BARNES: Again I didn't think it was going to be easy. One, they're a hard group of guys for us to play, because they're long, athletic, they obviously have experience, maybe, I don't know if any, either one of the teams had any quote unquote NCAA experience, but once the game gets going and you get going, and you settle in and play and I thought our team showed a lot when we got the lead and then when they dropped a couple bombs there now that they were great shots and then but once they took the lead we came back and got control of the game. And finished it out really well.
It's not going, it's not supposed to be easy. And we knew it would be a tough matchup. And but the one thing that we felt coming in we would have to get play from not just one guy and that was kind of our theme coming in here too that they had said we were a one man team and Justin I thought stepped up to that and Connor and again Damion got off to a tough start missing some shots and then the foul trouble. But we were able to work through it.
Q. When Kevin gets as much attention as he does, how do you keep him from getting frustrated, as good as he is a freshman in his first NCAA tournament?
COACH RICK BARNES: Well again I thought that he was a little jumpy. Again they do a good job with their length pressuring, going out there playing him. But tonight I only talked to him more about I told him to let it come to him, I said, you don't have to force anything, just be strong on the ball. If they're going to keep doing it you're going to get to the foul line which he did. I said whatever you do don't just settle for 3-pointers and I said keep driving the ball and you'll get the calls because officiating did a great job with it. And he stayed with that and I just told him on the defensive end he needed to help us a little bit more and he was good defensively because we backed him off and kept him kind of in the middle of the lane and he's a presence when he does that.
Q. Can you talk a little bit how D.J. and A.J. controlled the tempo and got their points offensively?
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, again, we wanted, I still want A.J., when people are working, you guys are asking questions about how they played Kevin, they really went after D.J. more than they went after Kevin in terms of always coming down the floor trying to get the ball out of his hand and when that happens A.J. has got to really come up and handle the ball. But then we don't have a probably throwing the ball back to Kevin Durant in the open court. But D.J. and I do believe this, when D.J. and A.J. are really playing and working together, I do think it's a back court that's hard to deal with because of the fact they can both shoot it. They both obviously can make plays with the ball in their hand.
D.J., again he's played more minutes than anybody. And he had to really work to just to be involved because they were trying to take him out. But he stayed with it and at the end of the game again he controlled it for us.
Q. Rick, you mentioned the press and you knew they were going to press you, do you feel like that was kind of a Washington, had some problem with it, got some easy layups off of it and do you think Sunday you'll see more of that?
COACH RICK BARNES: I don't know. Again they do press and again there's -- we turned it over some. We got something out of it too. I'm not sure whether it was one way or the other. I still look at it we had 15 turnovers and Kevin had five, but all that wasn't against the press, some of it was when he had the ball and in the scoring area and he turned and so you think about it we were pressed all night long and I can tell you right now three of those turnovers didn't occur against a press so 12 turnovers and I'm not sure where the other ones came right off the top of my head, but again what the press does too sometimes it keeps you from getting into a flow which we early we weren't flowing, we were coming down and I thought we should have attacked early and we were stop stopped and let them settle in and then we would have to get going again where I wish we would just flow more. I kept talking to them just flow into our offense and but overall again, we shoot 49 percent, they shoot 40, and we don't have a great day from behind the arc, but again, I just think that it was going to be a heart fought game and it played pretty much like we thought it would play.
Q. The free throws is kind of a luxury for y'all. Y'all are very good from the line. Did you get on Kevin for missing that one?
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, we expect him to make them all. You know. But you think about it, and you look at it, I mean the guys that shoot them are guys that at one point in time this year knock on wood all those guys were over 85 percent. I don't know what they ended up doing, but we want the guys -- I was proud of Justin stepping up there too. I thought his two were big at that time. He did that. But again we some nights we have had nights where we made it like this other nights we have had games where we just it goes the other way. But that's how it all works out I guess but again overall I think that coming into this situation with this guy, or this group of guys, I think that again because we knew it was going to be a hard fought physical game and it was. Thought we responded to it pretty well.
Q. Talk about a little bit more about how Justin contributed defensively.
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, you know, after Craig played so well in the Big-12 tournament and I actually sit down with Justin after that and just he and I and watched the game tape of him. And I told him I said you know you're not the player, you're not playing the player that you can be. I said I'm not sure why you're deferring right here. And we talked for a long time. I guess we spent a couple hours together.
Then we talked about a lot of different things. But I told him today coming in that we thought obviously that Justin hawk was a big key and we said hey, you we want you just to stay in front of him, make him work for everything he gets. We're going to let him shoot jump shots. Let him shoot anything outside of 15 feet. Just get a hand up but try to keep him from getting to the rim. But Justin came back and he's been terrific after that. He's great in practice, and I do think he was banged up a little bit and the time off helped him. You go back early in the year Justin was one of the guys and I told you guys many times that followed us, that he made us go early. And I thought what he did tonight was huge. Especially with Damion getting into foul trouble that he did.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you, coach.
COACH RICK BARNES: Thank you.
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