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March 22, 2007

Mario Chalmers

Brandon Rush

Bill Self


THE MODERATOR: We'll start with an opening statement from Coach Self, then open it up to the student-athletes.
COACH SELF: I thought the game went exactly as the coaches thought it would. It was a grind-it-out game. We were very fortunate to win. We played a very well-coached, tough basketball team that can play with anybody anywhere.
We feel very fortunate tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Mario, can you tell us what it's like to face that defense.
MARIO CHALMERS: I mean, they got a great defensive team. It was very tough for us tonight to get into a good rhythm and get easy looks.
I mean, they're a great defensive team.

Q. Brandon, you didn't shoot a three tonight, can you talk a little about that. What was going through your mind toward the end when you took over offensively?
BRANDON RUSH: The reason I didn't grab -- the reason I didn't shoot a three tonight is because they played the three-point line pretty good. They got up on us sometimes. At the end of the game, we ran a new play that we put in and it started to work. Led on from there.

Q. Can you tell us about the play, what the concept was with it, the new play, Brandon?
BRANDON RUSH: The new play? It was just give it to the guard, let 'em try to penetrate or pitch ahead to our big guy, posting up. Went on from there.
If you get the chance, just pull up sometimes.

Q. Guys, were you at all upset about everybody talking about their defense, kind of overlooking your own defensive play?
MARIO CHALMERS: Yeah, we was. We felt like we was a very good defensive team, too. I mean, that's what all the talk was, their defense matching up with our offense. I think they did an excellent job of matching up with our offense. I think our defense did an excellent job of matching up with them.
When we came into the game, we knew it was going to be a defensive match-up. We both fought hard and was fortunate enough to come out with the victory.
BRANDON RUSH: Same thing as Mario said, they're a great defensive team. We tried to match their defense with our offense, tried to play to our strength by eliminating Jamaal Tatum from touching the ball.

Q. Do you breathe a sigh of relief after a game like that, to get out of there with a win?
BRANDON RUSH: Yeah, I feel very proud on how we played tonight. Did some things we need to buckle on. Still came out with the win. We feel pretty good with how we played.

Q. Mario, what impact did Darrell and Darnell have coming off the bench, especially early in the second half against their big men?
MARIO CHALMERS: I mean, they had a great impact. I mean, they came in, gave us some great minutes. We knew Sasha was going to have a hard time in this game because they were just so little and so fast. Shady and Darnell, they both came in, gave us some great minutes, and did some great things for the team. Came in, contributed key minutes.

Q. Being that you have won a lot of games that were high-scoring, what do you think it says about your team that you can play a game that's not usually your style and still prevail?
MARIO CHALMERS: I think that shows, I mean, whatever the circumstance is, we can adjust. I think tonight was just proof of that. Even though we like to play an up-tempo game, try to get into the 80s and stuff like that, we can slow it down and we can take our time and slow it down with the best of 'em.
BRANDON RUSH: Like Mario said, same thing. It was a grind-out game; they fought hard on defense, didn't let us get anything going. We tried to slow it down. We had to slow it down because of their defensive pressure, just try to get easy baskets, try to run out.

Q. Brandon, can you talk about what was going through your mind down the stretch with your season on the line?
BRANDON RUSH: Somebody had to step up and make a big play, and I'm glad I did for a little bit. Mario made a couple good plays, and Russell did. It was just in our mind, somebody had to step up and make a big play.

Q. Both players, pretty rough at the line, but you shot pretty close to 60% from the field, can you comment on that.
BRANDON RUSH: Yeah, I know we shot pretty rough from the line, free-throw line, 10 for 19. We need to get in here and practice some more on our free-throws.
Other than that, we had the defensive pressure.
MARIO CHALMERS: Basically what Brandon said. I mean, we struggled from the line tonight. We struggled from the field a little bit, but it didn't look like that because the shots we did take, we was making 'em.
I mean, their defense was great. I think that's what made us take hard shots, but we was hitting 'em.

Q. Usually when you hit your first six shots, I imagine you take more than six shots. Tonight was the six shots because you were unselfish or their defense or maybe both?
BRANDON RUSH: Maybe both. It was a lot of open shots that I looked off and passed off to another teammate for an open shot or layup.
My mind, I was still aggressive a little bit in the first half, laid back for a little bit, let everybody else take some open shots.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, fellas. Congratulations.
BRANDON RUSH: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for Coach Self.

Q. Bill, I caught your opening comment. You said the game went exactly as the coaches thought it would. It seemed like it wasn't until the five-minute mark that your players understood how to beat this team.
COACH SELF: I don't want to say "didn't understand." But I think when coaches are selling something and players are watching on tape, when you have a confident bunch, they're still saying, Yeah, but, hey, we guard, too. The whole deal is, Yeah, they got to score on us, too. Defensively our numbers are probably about as good as anybody's.
But this is a different type of defense. This is a swarming defense that I really felt like we were going to struggle running offense, and the best thing to do was put your head down and drive it. I thought we actually did a good job with that late, and we could have done a better job early but we just turned the ball over. We had some players play out of character I think the first 25 or 30 minutes.
I thought it would be the first one to 60 wins. That's what I thought today. I was thinking about the game. I said, first one to 60 would probably end up winning this game. We had to shoot 62% to score 61. That doesn't happen very often. We did some good things offensively, we did some really poor things offensively. We didn't rebound the ball very well.
We knew long shots, long rebounds, they were scrappers, they would run them down. That's kind of how the game went.
If I could say one other thing: To beat Southern Illinois, you can't run plays, you got to have players to make plays. I thought that that was what really helped us, we had some players step up and make plays.

Q. Bill, what did you say to Chris Lowery at the end of the game when you were shaking hands? When did you know you had this one locked up?
COACH SELF: When the last three-point shot from three-quarter court was off the mark. We did make it hard on ourselves because we missed our free-throws, we had some clutch players shooting a good portion of them.
I said to Chris after the game, "You're as good as anybody we played. Your team is great. You do a great job coaching 'em." If there's ever anything I can do to help, I'm a fan, so I'd certainly do that if there's ever anything I could do for him. He coaches -- they play a way that if you're really into guarding and understanding defensive philosophies and principles, man-to-man, that you admire from afar. I certainly admire how their team played and competed.

Q. How would you describe those last 24, 25 seconds after Brandon made that shot? Seemed like the game could have went either way. Would you say SIU either beat themselves or the Jayhawks?
COACH SELF: No, no, no. After Brandon made the shot, if I'm not mistaken, we went up three. That's the biggest possession we had this year on offense. We score, go up three. We were what we call switching five, which is all ball screens, you switch. We had to defend the three.
Basically we were able to do that.
But, no, Southern Illinois -- this is not one of those games where anyone should say a team lost. This was a game that was a really good game, a typical NCAA tournament game that came down to one possession, and we were fortunate enough to make a play.

Q. Can you talk a little about Brandon's game. Didn't shoot a three, 6 for 6, passed up some open looks. What did you think overall? Talk about him down the stretch.
COACH SELF: I'll be honest, overall I didn't think he was very aggressive until down the stretch. For whatever reason, and this was going to be a game that we weren't going to get a ton of wide-open perimeter looks, and our best offense was going to be drive it. He bought into that.
The way they played early, their helper on defense was Russell's man. So Russell could get the look, and everybody else played to Mario and played to Brandon. Russell got four wide-open looks to start the game from behind the arc. They didn't really let anybody else have an open look. We could have taken four or five, but maybe guys weren't feeling confident enough to do it because, hey, when they're running around and you're turning it over, the coach is on your butt, that kind of stuff, sometimes you just don't rise up and shoot it like you would if things were going your way. I think that has a little bit to do with it, too.

Q. Were Arthur and Jackson able to take advantage of the fact they weren't quite as deep up front as you guys were? Seemed like their activity made a difference?
COACH SELF: I thought Shady and Darnell both played great. It's hard game for Sasha to play. Julian wasn't a factor like he normally would be a factor. So it was up to those two. Those were our two best post guys without question. There are many times that they are, they have to step up and play and make plays. Other than Darnell, you know, trying to take a charge and flopping the one possession, I thought his defense was great. I thought Shady gave us some offense and made some big plays. I thought his defense was really good, other than fouling.
But, you know, we played nine tonight; we usually only play eight. One unsung hero was Rodrick Stewart. Rodrick gave us some good minutes tonight and was a factor in us winning.

Q. As much as you prepare for someone like Southern Illinois, as much as you show your players film, do you feel like your guys came out prepared for it? Was it an adjustment?
COACH SELF: No, we were prepared. We played on Sunday, we're off on Monday, practice one day Tuesday, practice an hour yesterday. You just don't say, okay. We put in a new wrinkle that usually coaches don't like to do if they only have two days to work on it. But it kind of saved us, to be honest with you.
We knew this was going to be the way the game was. Whoever plays Southern is not going to look good offensively. Whoever plays 'em. Doesn't make any difference who they're playing. What you have to do is make sure that you defend them because everybody gets so hung up on attacking them, you got to make sure you don't let them score easy.
For the most part, we did a good job. They scored majority of their easy points when we get and rebound, an outlet and throw it to them, or Darnell falls down and gives them a layup. We had some fortunate things happen. But our players were bought in. Just because it's Southern Illinois and they're from the Valley, there's not much difference in the talent. I do think we have great talent. There's not much difference in the level of ball that both teams were playing at.
You know, I can't -- we were prepared. They just were pretty good, too.

Q. Maybe that's the overall theme here. Are you happy with the way you played? It's kind of hard to tell,
COACH SELF: Yeah, I'm happy. We're playing on Saturday. I'm very happy. Did we play great? No. You're not going to play great. I don't know if I can drive a point home. You're not going to look good all the time playing Southern Illinois.
Yeah, I'm happy. I thought we showed toughness. I thought we did a lot of good things. I'm disappointed some guys didn't handle the heat as well as what I thought they could. When the game was on the line, we handled it well.

Q. Just talk about Brandon down the stretch, stepping up at the end.
COACH SELF: We said all along that -- we watched a lot of tape. The one thing that was a potential positive for us was that they are short, as far as standing height on the perimeter. So you're 6'1", 6'1", six foot, whatever, we have a 6'6" athlete. Instead of running plays, figure out a way to get him to the middle of the paint where he can just jump up over and get a shot, elevate, get a shot off. He did a real good job of doing that because, you know, he's bigger than those guys. That was very important.
But Brandon played well. He wasn't great. Nobody was great. But collectively we were pretty tough.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH SELF: All right. Thanks.

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