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March 13, 2008

DeJuan Blair

Jamie Dixon

Ronald Ramon

Sam Young


COACH DIXON: I know you want to talk to these guys, they made all the plays. It's a great win for us. Played hard. Thought we battled through some things. We had the foul trouble early. Got performances by everybody. Bradley Wanamaker gave us great minutes, Tyrell Biggs, Gilbert Brown, and our bench was terrific for us, and that was big. Proud of them.
Battle through against a very good team, and made plays all the way through. And we defended well. And like I said, our defense has been getting better and better since we've been back to somewhat good health besides the three guys that are out for the year. But we're getting better and better for practice. We've really looked at these last four games in this tournament for us to be ourselves, be the team that we can be, and that's what we're becoming. So proud of these guys, every one of them. They just, they battled. That's really the best way to sum it up.

Q. From the first game you played them, it looked like you double-teamed Padgett a lot more. What kind of adjustments did you make defensively from the first time?
COACH DIXON: We made a lot of adjustments, actually. To be honest, these guys won this game. I felt like I didn't do a good job coaching the last game. So I lost the last game, these guys won this game.
We made some adjustments, we had to shut down Padgett. But we held them to 37%, they know the numbers. I asked them what the game was, I asked them the numbers and they knew exactly what they were. We held them at 37%. What did they shoot last time, guys?
COACH DIXON: 57%. So we knew exactly. As soon as they got off the floor they wanted to know.
So they battled. They contested shots and they're just getting better. It's a young group that keeps getting better.

Q. Last night you predicted that DeJuan would bounce back with a big game. Can you talk about what he did and the way he came back.
COACH DIXON: You're playing against one of the best players in the country right there in Padgett. I have tremendous confidence in him, I've always had. And he got in some foul trouble, got double-teamed. There's some things he's going to get used to, and it's happening more and more the better and better he gets. He just got some foul trouble. But again, 16 points, 8 rebounds against two of the best big guys in the country says a lot about him.
I thought his defense was very good. I thought Sam helped him out in a lot of ways, too, defensively. And I can't say enough about Sam, too. Sam is just getting smarter and smarter on the floor. He's kind of become really our general out there as far as what we're doing defensively. Recognizing things, and it's just talk about being most improved. They talk about a shot, I'm talking about how much smarter and aware, and how the guys are just feeding off of his knowledge.

Q. If you go by seeds, this technically goes down as an upset. But is that an unfair characterization considering what this league is like?
COACH DIXON: I think with our team it's probably -- I don't think anybody really knew what to make of our team with all the injuries. This is a team that had to change in midstream three, four times in what they were doing. We're finding ourselves. I think we're on our way. We have, and we're just getting better and better.
But these guys are the guys that made the plays, so you need to talk to them about what they did. But we're getting better. And it's because we've got seniors like Keith (Benjamin) and Ronald, and these guys are just getting better and better here, too. Inside DeJuan and Sam on the defensive men.

Q. You talked about it yesterday, and you saw the team coming together, when did that happen?
COACH DIXON: No, this is just about being able to practice. We weren't able to practice for a number of days with our injuries. Levance (Fields) wasn't practicing. This past week before our DePaul game he was able to practice for the first time. We had three good practices. We got after it. We did the things we do. More drills, blockout drills. The aggression and physicality that we usually have. And that's been coming. We just haven't been able to do it. And when we did, I felt this thing would be going our way and you'd see this team coming into their own and just getting better. Teams get better. Certain teams get better at different times of the year.
This one because of the injuries that really no one can really compare it to someone else. You lose four guys for nearly a year, we're finding ourselves and our freshmen are getting better. But again, these are the guys that made the plays, so ask them the questions.

Q. Levance is coming back, battling that pressure up and down the floor all night long, you've got any concern about how much legs he'll have left for tomorrow?
COACH DIXON: For a normal guy, but with his heart and his competitiveness, he's going to battle through it. We've got Ronald, too, as well. So all of our guys handle the ball. We're a low-turnover team. We had a few more than we'd normally like to. But we'll be ready. We'll be ready. We won't come out tired. We'll be ready.

Q. Sam, talk about your instincts during the game, when you decided that you had to defend better and rebound more and stuff like that. Talk about that.
SAM YOUNG: In the first five or ten minutes of the game I realized that my shot wasn't falling as much as I would like it to. I figured if I'm out there on the court, I have to do something else. I have to still contribute defensively, just making sure I'm in the right spot as far as making sure my team is in the right spot. Get rebounds, block shots.

Q. Ronald, in overtime it was a two-point game, and you drove into the lane, clock was running down and you had a bunch of 6'11" guys in front, can you talk about that lay-up you made.
RONALD RAMON: I was just trying to make a play. We came down to it, DeJuan had the ball on top of the key, and it was the nine, we ran the play a few times and they adjusted. So I tried to back cut. DeJuan made a great pass. Guys were in the paint, trying to dig the ball. So the ball got loose, and they were all trying to go for the ball once I got it. So wide open lay-up, and I just went for it.

Q. DeJuan, they had a lot of lay-ups and dunks in the first half. What did you do better in the second half to cut that off?
DEJUAN BLAIR: We adjusted to it. Coach did an excellent job seeing what they were doing. They were slipping the screen. So Sam and Terrell did an excellent job just handling the slip-ins. Our help side was better. And the guards did an excellent job being in the gaps, helping out on the slips, so we did an excellent job on that. That was coaching.

Q. DeJuan, what did your coach say to you after your performance last night?
DEJUAN BLAIR: He just said to keep my head up. That was a tough game yesterday for me. He just said, "It's over. That was yesterday. Worry about tomorrow." So I just went in my room and just thought about it, thought about what I did wrong, what could I do better tomorrow. And I adjusted to everything I did. So my shots were better. Took my time being patient in the post.
My coach had a lot of confidence in me, bringing me the ball, so I just handled it very well. Kept my head up. Everybody, all my teammates, my mother and my father called me. Got a lot of calls from back home. I'm going to have games like that. Everybody has (bad) games. But luckily we're in the tournament, and we get to have another day to redeem yourself. So I think I did an excellent job at that and get ready for tomorrow.

Q. Ronald, the first time you guys played Louisville, Edgar Sosa had a big game. What changed in the past couple of weeks that limited him today?
RONALD RAMON: I think it was just about team defense. We talked about being in the gaps, making sure we saw the ball screen pretty well coming down screens. So we tried to readjust to some of the things they did to us in the first game. Being able to practice and going through their plays a few times. We were able to come out and adjust to it.

Q. Ronald, you've been to the semifinals a couple times in the past few years, what have you learned in the past that you'll expect for tomorrow night?
RONALD RAMON: Play hard. We've just got to come out and play as a team. This game's going to be behind us in another five minutes. We've just got to get ready for tomorrow. Watch, see who we're going to play, and mentally just get focused. Come out with the same intensity and same mentality about playing defense.

Q. Ronald, Coach talked about how the team is coming into its own now that it's getting healthy. For you and players on the court, how different does it feel now than maybe in January or February?
RONALD RAMON: It was different just because guys weren't able to get after it. Practice is where it starts. We weren't able to compete, we weren't able to go after each other, do the aggressive drills as we call them. But now that guys are healthy, we're able to go five-on-five, get after it, making each other better in practice, and I think that's where it starts. Now we'll be going on the court and playing games, the chemistry's there and we know what we have to do to win games.

Q. You guys played Duke back here in December, how much of that benefited you guys playing them prior to this tournament?
SAM YOUNG: It helped us a lot. Most teams probably play here once, we played here twice. We always play, we always have good games. We always play pretty decent here. As I said, this is our home away from home. So I just feed off the energy that the New York guys bring.

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