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March 22, 2007

Arron Afflalo

Ben Howland

Josh Shipp


THE MODERATOR: Coach Howland, opening statement.
COACH HOWLAND: Obviously we're very excited to have won tonight. There was an outstanding team in the University of Pittsburgh that we played tonight. Really thought our defense again was outstanding. To hold them to 36%, and particularly to out-board them. They had nine games in a row where they out-boarded their opponent. We knew that was key for us tonight. If we were going to win the game, we had to do the job on the boards.
I thought that our trapping of the post was very effective with Gray. He's an outstanding, great player. He was real focused for us coming in tonight. We knew we couldn't handle him one-on-one. He's just too big and too good. But, again, those doubles come really quick with the kind of athletes that we have on our team.
I thought James Keith's minutes were outstanding for us tonight. Of course, these two right here both had terrific games for us. Played a lot of minutes, I mean, I keep playing them a lot of minutes. It's just the way it is. I know they don't mind. It's fun to be out there. It's great to be alive. Now we get ready for the next one. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Take questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Josh, you got those threes going in the second half, pretty much picked you guys up, want to comment on that?
JOSH SHIPP: I mean, on any given night, anybody can start hitting threes. We're confident in everybody's abilities. Tonight fortunately a couple went down for me.

Q. Any sense of de'ja vu from the Indiana game? Seems like you were dominating, but another team was hanging around with you.
ARRON AFFLALO: Yeah, we never really pulled away. That team kept competing. You could hear the coaching staff encouraging them, allowing them to keep competing. They did a great job of staying in the game.
We were very fortunate tonight.

Q. Can you tell us what you were thinking about when they got the three consecutive three-pointers on those three possessions late?
ARRON AFFLALO: Pretty much we just wanted to make some adjustments. We were very aware that Fields and Ramon could shoot threes. That was one of our key focuses throughout our walk-throughs and practices, to limit those guys' three-point shots and force them to put the ball on the ground. We just had to make that adjustment, but they still made some tough shots.

Q. Now that you've played this game, was it pretty much what you expected in terms of the similarities and the feel of going against a team that does a lot of the same things you do?
ARRON AFFLALO: There are a few instances, yeah, where I recognized the play calls and the motion that they were running. For defensive purposes, it seemed a little easier for us to get in a rhythm defensively and buckle down a little bit. I think that worked to our advantage a little bit.
But they probably could say the same.
JOSH SHIPP: We definitely saw similarities out there tonight. They played a couple new plays. Likewise for us. Overall, the effort and the intensity, it was definitely a war like we thought it would be.

Q. Have you seen anything on Kansas from watching TV this season? What do you know about the Jayhawks right now?
ARRON AFFLALO: We've watched them all year long, from their win over Florida to now. That team's very competitive, very fiery, got a lot of talents, a lot of elite-level athletes. We're going to have to do our best job to try to contain them and negate the athleticism a little bit, just play tough.
JOSH SHIPP: I don't watch too much TV. I do my studying (smiling).
No, I've seen them play a little bit every now and then. But like Arron said, we saw the Florida game. Definitely a great team. They have great players. It's going to be another war out there.

Q. Arron, can you comment on Lorenzo's modest play on Aaron Gray. There were some double-teams on him, he was pretty much the focal point on defense?
ARRON AFFLALO: He had to be one of our most valuable players of the game today for what he did offensively and defensively. For the type of battling he had to go through down there in the post, trying to contain him, who Aaron Gray is, not only big and physical, but he's skilled as well. He displayed a lot of mental toughness tonight. He produced on both ends of the floor. It was definitely a positive for him tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, fellas. Questions for Coach Howland.

Q. How important was your defensive effort tonight? Did you accomplish everything you wanted to do?
COACH HOWLAND: When we hold a team to below 40%, we outboard them, usually we're going to have a good chance to win. So our defense was spectacular tonight I thought. It had to be or we weren't going to win this game. We've played good defense now our last three games in a row. I really credit our guys, just great preparation, how focused they are, the heart, intensity they just play on every possession.
You know, we can be a little tougher on ourselves there. Arron misses that hanging, leaping, leaning layup to go up 14 instead of pulling it out. It's one of those, if he makes it, it's great; if he misses then all of a sudden we have to make foul shots.
I thought our foul shooting in this game was really good. These are two teams that were below 70% from the foul line on the year, but we've had good focus. 23 for 26, that's pretty darn good. Lorenzo Mata has been shooting great in practice. He made his today. That was big for us, to make those foul shots down the stretch.

Q. Could you talk about the effort that Lorenzo gave you tonight.
COACH HOWLAND: I thought Lorenzo was fantastic tonight, not only in his just standing up to Aaron Gray, who is a great player, just such a big body, so hard. There's no way we could handle him one-on-one. He'd kill most teams. The only teams that are going to be able to handle him would be a guy like Georgetown, in terms of being able to play him one-on-one who is 7'2" of equal size.
But Lorenzo is rebounding. I thought he did a great job of changing some shots, but his hedging of screens. We had a couple turnovers.
Again, this Pitt team doesn't turn the ball over. They only had 10 turnovers tonight. We had a couple that went right through our hands where we probably could have had maybe 12 or 13. But we played great defense on a team that is top five in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio. An outstanding team, very well-coached obviously. We're just excited to get out of here with a win today.

Q. What was the feeling and the emotion of playing against your old team and a lot of people you're familiar with?
COACH HOWLAND: It's funny, before the game, it was surreal from the standpoint, our locker rooms are right across from each other, so out there I see Brandon Knight. Let me tell you something, neither I am sitting here right now, nor is Jamie, the head coach of the University of Pittsburgh, without Brandin Knight, All-American point guard, when we really turned that program around seven years ago, his sophomore campaign. I think about Julius Page and Jaron Brown.
So it is emotional for me, yeah, because it is a players' game. It's all about -- I mean, the relationship, I love those kids. Neither Jamie or I would be where we are without the players. It's about the players. Tony Salisi, our trainer, one of my closest friends, when I was a coach at Pitt, it's always the same routine, he works stretching everybody, does everything. When everybody goes out to warm up, he takes a shower. I'm used to those four years, Tony being in the shower, I'm in there, my knots in my stomach.
I walk across the room today, there's Tony taking a shower. I said, "Tony, just like old times. Here you are taking a shower." I'm sitting here sick to my gut using the restroom, because I wanted to use the restroom out there. Dan Turbevich, our equipment manager that's there. Just thinking about all the people. My wife, Meredith, saw the Barrells today. Just a lot of close friends that were here today.
I hope we never have to play again. You know, probably will have to at some point, assuming we can both get back in the tournament here again in the near future.

Q. How critical was it that you got through that stretch in the first half when you had both your big starters?
COACH HOWLAND: James Keefe's minutes, I mentioned that in my statement, he did play 10 minutes in the first half. James Keefe gave us solid, solid play today. I think he's played 10 minutes in a game probably three times since January, but yet he's getting better. I'm excited because this kid has been getting thrown around a little bit. He got back in the weight room. He really wants to be a player. He's a great kid. He went out there and battled and did a great job for us in the first half and made some big plays.
Ryan Wright came in and gave us solid minutes. Obviously Alfred had to play a lot of minutes. It helped us, we were up six with those guys basically fresh in the second half, Lorenzo only played eight minutes in the first half and Luc only four.

Q. When they got three three-pointers on consecutive possessions late in the game, did you experience any anxiety at that point?
COACH HOWLAND: You don't know my deceased father very well, unfortunately. But, yeah (laughter).
Anxiety is something that you feel during these games. Before the game. Actually during the game, not really, we're just coaching. It's funny you ask that.
We, again, had the chance to go up 14 about 2:50 to go on a fast break. You got to take that and, also it's 12, they come down, hit a three. We had that happen with Indiana. But our guys are tough. They made their foul shots. I'm confident. I really believe in our team. I believe in our players. Those kids are very, very tough-minded and outstanding in terms of their abilities.

Q. This game coming up Saturday with Kansas, how do you see that overall?
COACH HOWLAND: They're the hottest team in the country. They haven't lost since February 3rd. That I do know, that was the last time they've lost a game, to a great Texas A&M team. They won their conference. They won their conference tournament. They're as talented as anybody in the country. I mean, you look at their overall talent, it's absolutely incredible. You're talking about the point guard from Chicago is a great player. I mean, I catch their games once in a while just casually watching when I'm flipping around, can't sleep at night. I've seen them play.
You look at their talent level, I mean, you go from -- what is the kid's name from Chicago? Collins. Great year. Russell Robinson, Rush, Chalmers, the kid out of Texas, the freshman kid, he's incredible, Kaun. They have really good personnel and an outstanding coach, great defensive team that battles and fights you on every possession.
It's going to be a really difficult challenge for us, tough match-up. When you look at them, they're probably -- I would say them and Texas A&M, as you look at it, are the best two teams we played this year.

Q. Mata's ability to not get that third foul. He got the second foul quickly, third doesn't come till 30 seconds left in the game.
COACH HOWLAND: I left him in with two fouls for about three minutes. I tell you, I'm just so proud of Lorenzo, how he's improved as a player. He, Josh and Arron, along with Jordan Farmar were the four recruits we started this program with, in terms of when I took over. Just to see his improvement, his toughness. I couldn't be prouder for a kid. Lorenzo is just a great person and battles so much, really showed a lot of toughness today to be able to take on Aaron Gray, who is a great player, very physical player.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

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