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March 24, 2007

Mario Chalmers

Bill Self

Julian Wright


THE MODERATOR: We'll open up with a statement from Coach Self.
COACH SELF: Well, obviously, you know, we're disappointed. We played a very, very good team today, a team that can win it all. I thought for the first 15 minutes we played very, very well. Missed a lot of shots, but got the ball where we wanted to get it. And then the last 25 minutes of the game, I felt like they controlled the game. Certainly, you know, we missed some bunnies, but certainly I think their presence had something to do with that.
Really proud of my team. They fought hard till the end. Just wasn't our day.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Did it get frustrating out there when the balls just wouldn't drop?
JULIAN WRIGHT: We definitely missed some easy shots. It was a little frustration at times. We still got ourselves a chance in the game. Just certain shots just weren't falling.
But, you know, it was just a tough loss. We still stayed mentally tough and just tried to give it our best.

Q. Mario, could you talk about Arron Afflalo and Darren Collison, particularly the way it looked like they were bottled up, hit some shots late on the clock?
MARIO CHALMERS: We played very good D on those shots they took. Two great players. I mean, tonight the hoop was as big as the ocean for them. They hit tough shots all night.

Q. Mario, for 15 minutes there, you were all over them, especially defensively. What was that like going off the floor at the half, being down after you played the way you had in the first half?
MARIO CHALMERS: I mean, we had a key letdown at the end of the first half. Somebody got open, hit a shot in the corner. But, I mean, other than that, I think we played good in the first half. We missed a lot of easy shots. They made a lot of easy shots. I think that's just the way the game went from there.

Q. You guys both seemed to be in a groove up in Chicago, here neither of you seemed to get on track. What was the difference this weekend for both of you?
JULIAN WRIGHT: Well, I mean, the more we advanced in the tournament, the more teams are good, you know, defensively. Sometimes we just tried to make plays. Like we say, we were missing a lot of shots we're used to taking.
When it comes down to the game, the way we play our game, our team effort, everyone needs to step up. It's not like we focus on one or two people, you know, to carry a team. We all try to do our part. Just weren't able to do enough this game.
MARIO CHALMERS: Same with Julian. I mean, we had a lot of shots in Chicago that we normally -- we made shots down in Chicago, and we took the same shots down here, they just didn't fall for us. I mean, that's just the way the game goes sometimes.

Q. Mario, the first 15 minutes or so, it seemed like you had them playing your way. Seemed like they were really rushing things offensively. Did you see a difference in the way they approached offense in the second half?
MARIO CHALMERS: Yeah, I think so. I think they did a good job of controlling the tempo. They didn't let us get off any shots. A lot of easy shots that we did take, we just missed 'em. They took the momentum from that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, fellas. Questions for Coach Self.

Q. Bill, how do you explain a day where nothing's falling like that?
COACH SELF: Well, I think -- you know, I think we got sped up. I think a lot of it was when -- you know, we were playing pretty well early, even missed a lot of good shots. I think we were up 27-21, something like that, or 29-23, I don't remember, and we didn't finish the half right.
Even as poorly as we played the last five minutes, we missed every free-throw, then we had some bad things happen. Still, if we get one stop with five seconds on the shot clock, we go in down one. Probably a little different feeling in the locker room.
Second half I thought we came out and played very well. But I thought our guards were a little careless. We overpenetrated, overbounced. Should have been driving to dish or pitch more. But, you know, the kids were trying so hard. Sometimes you can try too hard. I feel like we rushed some shots or maybe we didn't go as strong as we could with some particular shots.
They got a pretty good back line there, you know, that alters. Give them credit on a lot of 'em.

Q. At this stage, everybody is playing good defense. You play good defense, so do they. How do you explain, why is it that when UCLA plays teams, the opponents so often have a tough time making shots they normally make, including layups? It's almost a pattern.
COACH SELF: It is. Their field goal percentage defense is good. It's not great. But they're a great defensive team.
But I would say, in the NCAA tournament, in my experiences, you got to make shots. Both teams can guard. Heck, we had 17 steals and forced 25 turnovers. Both teams can guard. But you got to make shots. And they made, to be honest, probably some harder shots than we took and missed. And that's what happens.
Players really need to step up. At the end of the clock, I thought they did a real good job of scoring at the end of the clock. We cut it to five. Had momentum. Collison makes one falling down. I think he almost fell down first before he threw it in. That's the way the game goes.
There's such a fine line between having good possessions and not. You know, they ran some offense, jumped up and made them. We ran some offense, didn't jump up and make them.
But give them credit, they had a lot to do with us not making shots.

Q. I was going to ask you about the deflating effect of those baskets at the end of the shot clock, and also how much of the easy shots you missed can you attribute to youth, overanxiousness?
COACH SELF: That's what I say. I think we got sped up some. We played young when we got behind. Not young from a standpoint of defense, you know, breaking down, that kind of stuff. Not young because we're trying to make five-point plays or 10-point plays. Just young, overpenetrating, guys wanting to go do it so bad. Maybe putting themselves in positions that, you know, they're not quite as easy as what they could be.
But that's what I would probably -- I think overanxiousness, maybe a little sped up. The guys want it so bad, just like everybody does still playing. It gets down to it. Sometimes playing relaxed is the best way to shoot it. Being sped up is great on defense, but you got to be -- that's what I kept telling them, we need to flip it; you need to be sped up on defense and relaxed on offense. We just never quite got to that point.

Q. You've been this close four times now. What's going through your mind to get this close and not get there?
COACH SELF: Well, like I said, I'd much rather play in the game than not be in it. But, you know, it hurts. Every coach and their staff, they work hard. This is a hard-working profession. You put yourself in position to be in this game. You know, certainly you get this far, you have to deliver. I mean, that hasn't occurred.
But I'm not going to look and say, "Poor, pitiful me." It's not about that. It's about getting your team there. I feel bad for our guys because they've given us a great opportunity to have a great year just because of their focus, unselfishness. We got some really good, talented players. Everybody sacrificed for the good of the team, put away individual agendas. This isn't about me. It's about them.
But from my standpoint, you know, it hurts. You know, I really felt like that this was our year. I really felt like -- I'm not saying a year to win it all, but I really felt like we were the best-equipped team to make a strong run. And we did. It just wasn't good enough.

Q. You talked about how your team maybe got sped up. Did you see the flipside possibly with UCLA, that they looked like they might have been more aggressive defensively but calmer on offense, particularly in the second half?
COACH SELF: No, not really. They had 25 turnovers now. It wasn't like, you know, either team was just executing beautifully and jumping up and making a shot off offense early in the clock or anything.
I think, you know, we played underneath their traps really well early, got easy shots, so they quit doing that. We were still able to get the ball in the paint. That's how we've made a living all year long. They're a very good closeout team, their wings are long, took away some threes.
But I would say their ability to make hard shots at the end of the clock was as big a key as anything.

Q. Four or five times they hit the shot right as the shot clock is going down, how deflating is that for your guys? In the tournament, it seems like every team has a game where shots aren't falling. Is that where you showed up, in your mind?
COACH SELF: Yeah, I would say that's accurate. When you say "deflating," of course it is to an extent. But on the flipside of that, you got to be tough enough not to let that deflate you because it affects the other end. I mean, it's a long game still. You can't get deflated over one or two possessions.
But when it's 55-50, that was probably the biggest shot of the game, in my opinion. We had momentum. It kept us an arm's length away. But teams have to be tougher for it not to be so deflating. It's okay, you know, but it can't let it affect you. You got to think, "Next play."

Q. Didn't seem like the crowd got into it until about four minutes left in the first half. Do you feel like the crowd played any role?
COACH SELF: You know something, I don't think so. For the most part we've operated best under those situations. I don't think so. We've been in situations where the crowd definitely helped us, but we haven't been in very many where we felt like the crowd hurt us. And I don't think that was the case today.

Q. You said a couple times that your team played young tonight, does that surprise you or does it disappoint you?
COACH SELF: No, that's who we are. We are young. When I say "play young," we just got sped up. The longer you play the game, the slower the game becomes. I mean, every coach would tell you that. We tried to split traps. We haven't done that all year long, things like that. So that to me the guys just trying too hard. I think sometimes trying too hard is a sign of youth.

Q. Do you think Brandon Rush will be back in a Jayhawks uniform?
COACH SELF: I don't know. We haven't talked about it since the season started. If he projects out to be a high pick, then I think there's a great chance that he may want to test it. If he doesn't, I think there's a great chance he'd be back.
I'm not keeping my fingers crossed for us, for him to return, because that's a selfish thing. I told him, "Here's the deal. We're going to evaluate it and see where he stands." I do think this: I don't think he's in a hurry because he's enjoying school. But we'll talk about it the next week or so, but we haven't talked about it in a long time.

Q. There was a period in the second half where Afflalo kind of took over, made a lot of baskets. Talk about his effect on that period of the game and also just what you wanted to do to try and slow him.
COACH SELF: Well, there really wasn't anything we wanted to do differently to try to slow him except maybe trying to deny him at the end of the clock. We had our best defender on him. With five seconds on the shot clock, he jabbed, jabbed, jabbed, shot the deep three on Brandon. We didn't switch a ball screen, which we were supposed to, and he made a 17-footer.
But he's a good player. There's a reason why he's first team All-American.

Q. In that kind of game, do you try to make adjustments with the guys or do you just think they're going to slow it down, shots are going to start falling?
COACH SELF: No, we didn't -- I kept telling them that we're trying to score too fast. That wasn't going well. Sometimes when you try to score too fast, if you make sure more guys get touches, you know, a pretty good shot can become a great shot. And I thought that's what we had a lot of times, I thought we had pretty good shots. You got to get great shots.
But, you know, I tried to just keep attacking, but try to penetrate and pitch more, stretch the defense as much as possible, open up better driving lanes. But we tried to get all the way to the basket on the first side a lot of times. That's not really going to happen many times against a great defensive team.

Q. On the flipside of that, your guys playing young, could you see the effects on UCLA of a team that's been here before and had success, and some calm for that?
COACH SELF: You know, yeah, I'm sure it is. But I don't want to appear frustrated. Calm, we missed our free-throws. They didn't defend us on those. Also they made shots at the end of the shot clock. I don't think Ben ran offense for Afflalo or Collison to make a 25-footer falling down. I don't think that was in their game plan. They just had some guys step up and make some plays.
I think after they got the lead, I think they appeared too play poised. They played poised. But, you know, we still forced 25 turnovers. I don't think Ben will be excited about that. They have been there. They've done it. I think it's always easier to do it a second time if you've been there and done it before. Sometimes toughest nut to crack is that first time, too.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, coach.
COACH SELF: Thank you.

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