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March 13, 2008

Mike Conley, Jr.

Mark Gottfried

Richard Hendrix

Mykal Riley


THE MODERATOR: We're ready to continue on with Alabama. We'll ask coach Gottfried for some overall thoughts on the game, then we'll go to questions for the two student athletes.
COACH GOTTFRIED: Let me say, first of all, I thought -- I'm really happy it was a good team win. A lot of guys contributed in a lot of different ways. Defensively especially, I thought some guys stepped up and made some great defensive plays in the first half. I thought the first half was a terrific half of basketball obviously. And you knew they were going to make a run, make some shots. I didn't know they'd make that many, make that kind of run. But our guys did a great job of keeping their poise, not losing their poise, but obviously we're excited about winning and we hope we can stay here in Atlanta for a long time.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the athletes.

Q. Could you talk about how good you felt shooting the ball tonight, and in particular how did you get open for those threes late in the game and how big did you feel like those shots were?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: They was real big. It was a screen, you know, coming off the left side or whatever, and I was open. Yamene fouled me or whatever, but it was real big to shoot those threes and make it.

Q. For Richard, when they were able to cut the lead down from 55 to 30, they got it down to about six points. Was there ever any nervousness, any concern? What was the attitude of the team in the huddle and you on the floor?
RICHARD HENDRIX: I think the attitude was just trying to protect the lead and playing to win instead of playing not to lose. We had to make adjustments and get a run of our own and just close the game out instead of worrying about them making their run. We just had to do what we had to do.

Q. It seemed like your blocked shot down there on Speights was one of the big plays that led to Mykal hitting a three at the other end. Just sort of talk about that play and then your defense as a whole?
RICHARD HENDRIX: I just saw them going down the lane and it looked like he had a wipe-open lay-up and I gave it all I had and stretched out and I got a piece of it. Mykal knocked down the shot and that was a big momentum swing for us.
THE MODERATOR: Fellows we'll excuse you. You can return to the locker room.

Q. I know this probably sounds crazy in a way, but how difficult is it to play when you have a big lead like that early and maintain that intensity throughout the game?
COACH GOTTFRIED: Well, it's actually -- you get in a tricky spot there because you want your team to stay aggressive but you don't want to take quick shots and play into their hands. I think Richard made a good point. I think we were right, we were stretched there in the second half where we were kind of holding on rather than playing basketball. We had a couple timeouts there where we were able to just kind of mentally challenge them a little bit, that we've got to keep playing.
I thought Riley's three there -- we got stuck on 55, 56 it seemed to me there for a long time, couldn't get off of that. I think when he hit a three there, one of those threes, I know it kind of gave us some oxygen back in the tank where we could stretch it out a little bit more. You've got a big lead, you want to keep pushing ahead, you try to play it smart, we ended up turning the ball over too much in the second half, but we had some poise down the stretch.

Q. You said you expected Florida to make a run but not quite the kind of run they did. Just talk about that stretch for you and what you were thinking to maybe stop that thing.
COACH GOTTFRIED: Well, they were shooting the ball well, and we had some breakdowns defensively that we did not have -- first half we guarded them really well. I think our guys, everything they tried to run we did a great job. Second half I thought defensively, we just -- mentally we just seemed just a little bit lost on a few trips, which led to penetration, which led to a three. They were knocking them down.
I still felt like we were always in good shape. I didn't fear at any point that all of a sudden the game is turning against us. Like I said, we got stuck on in that 55, 56 range and then Riley hit a big three. That one kind of -- I think just our whole team, it kind of energized us again because we had a long stretch where we didn't make a basket. We had a lot of turnovers. I think our guys did a great job regrouping after that run and then finishing strong.

Q. You guys now get Mississippi State. How big of a factor is it to now allow Varnado to control the paint on the defensive end?
COACH GOTTFRIED: Let me say this about Mississippi State. I think they're really, really good. I've said that many times. I think that they have a lot of ingredients. They've got a point guard that's stronger than any point guard in the country, great shooters in Hansbrough and Stuart, got a phenomenal post player in Rose, and then you've got the best shock blocker in the nation. They've got all the parts. We've played them tough this year twice, haven't been able to beat them. But we just have to be ready to play again like we were today.

Q. The start of the game I thought your guards, just a lot of energy with Hillman and Hollinger just flat up and down the floor. How did you get that out of them for this game?
COACH GOTTFRIED: Well, there wasn't any magic dust we put on them. If we did we would have used it a few times this year. I thought our guys the last couple days did a great job in practice of really focusing in to what Florida was going to run. We made a lot of shots, which was big. But we also defended them well. They didn't score very much early. So I thought just from a team perspective, we had a great approach to the game.
I think we've -- for our team this year, we've had a lot of struggles, but one thing that we've never done is really fold the tent or pout or really get down. I mean, we've stayed positive, positive with one another. We had two great days, Monday and Tuesday, before we came yesterday. So I just think all those kind of things helped us a little bit.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

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