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March 16, 2008

Chester Frazier

Shaun Pruitt

Brian Randle

Bruce Weber


THE MODERATOR: Again, Coach, we'll just ask for a couple of quick comments and take questions for the three players then we'll finish up with questions for yourself.
COACH WEBER: First, I just feel good about our kids and obviously we wish it would have been a more successful season. But they continued to battle and didn't quit. And even throughout today, it's a tough thing to go through four games. But they gave it their all and we finally figured it out at the end. As I said yesterday, better late than never.
Gotta give Wisconsin a lot of credit. Just reminds me a little bit of our '04-'05 team, just such a good team. They just are balanced. They have so many different weapons. They understand each other. They play off of each other. And I just wish them the best to win the Big Ten and come back and win the tournament. To me it's pretty impressive.
Bo's done a great job. I think our kids have given a great effort the entire weekend. I don't know if -- they could probably tell you if fatigue set in. I'm sure it's a little bit of a factor. I think more than anything, we went and faced a very tough team.
Our seniors, two of them are here. I thought Shaun made All-Tournament. He had very consistent effort. And Brian played with a lot of courage to come back after having the injury when a lot of people didn't think he would come back.
So appreciate -- and Chris Hicks, all those guys. So we're very proud of our guys. The way we perform at the end is the way we expect to perform.
And we've been fortunate to get to this tournament championship three times. And hopefully we can continue that. And I just -- and also our fans stuck with us all year, through a lot of tough times. And there was a lot of orange here, and they didn't have to be, especially after the year we had and so many heart-breaking losses. So I truly appreciate them for hanging in there.
Hopefully we can get this thing, take this momentum from now into the next season to have a successful year.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Coach. We'll take questions for Shaun, Brian or Chester.

Q. For all the guys, I know that you were saying that fatigue wasn't an issue. But it looked like -- were you feeling it in that second half? It looked like you were.
BRIAN RANDLE: I mean, I really don't think it did, to be honest. Like Coach said, we came up against a great team today. And they hit a bunch of tough shots. Really hit almost every shot they could. And, I mean, we fought to come back, and it just didn't go our way. So I don't know that it was fatigue. They just had a great day.

Q. Brian, it looked like you guys on offense really never got much going, except Calvin gave you a spark and a little bit of stuff in open court, but didn't look like you were getting into your sets and running a lot of your stuff early on? Was that your take on it? And can you talk about their defense and how the matchup went?
BRIAN RANDLE: They play solid and methodical. They don't do anything flashy necessarily to wow you. They wear you down and stay consistent. I think we got a little too hurried at times. And personally I did trying to do too much. And just that guy's really wanting to help not out of selfishness, just going a little too fast.
It's almost like too little too late. We tried to make a punch, and they hit back.

Q. Brian, I know this is a tough moment for you. Just talk about it a little bit. Kind of the finality, you guys got close to the NCAA, now it's not there and this being your last game barring maybe the NIT?
BRIAN RANDLE: I mean, it's tough. It's not the way I wanted to go out, obviously. We came in here feeling great. We're on the verge of winning a championship and making the NCAA and you know obviously that didn't happen. The season didn't go as expected.
But at the same time, you know, I'm proud of everybody on the team. I'm extremely proud of Shaun and Chris for their resilience they showed. Because as seniors and things not going well, it could have been easy to fall and do our own thing. But especially Chris kept everybody together. And these young guys started to buy in late.
So it's a tough day, but, at the same time, I know the future's bright for these guys and I'm still proud of everybody, including the coaching staff and the training staff and everybody.

Q. For the two seniors, could you talk about your overall career here at Illinois?
BRIAN RANDLE: Not much to say about mine. It's just been up and down. It's been tough. It's been rewarding. I've been afforded great opportunities, to play with some great teams, including this year. Just have a lot of support.
Now I have a lot of opportunities for the future and I know I'm a part of this family for life. So in terms of my basketball career, it's been hard-fought, but I wouldn't change any bit of it.
SHAUN PRUITT: I would probably say the same thing. This is a great opportunity. Great opportunity to get an education and play the sports you love and have fun doing it. So you get some wonderful experiences, get to go places you've never been before. And just do a lot of, I don't know, a lot of things that a lot of people don't get the opportunity to do.

Q. Chester, you're back next year. Could you talk a little bit about how you saw the younger guys come along this year and will this kind of finish carry over to next year?
CHESTER FRAZIER: You know, our young guys have been big for us, especially Demetri. Mike Davis has come in for spurts. Mike Tisdale. The thing -- their confidence mainly is the biggest thing coming into next year, and now they understand how hard they have to play each night. And we add a few pieces next year, and I think we'll be better.

Q. Shaun, when you look back on this game, what will you think about that maybe you guys could have done differently to make it work?
SHAUN PRUITT: I think we could have kept our poise a little bit more early. Like Brian said, I think as a team we tried to do a little too much too soon. And you can't do that versus Wisconsin. They're so disciplined and systematic that margin for error is very small; if you make mistakes, they're going to capitalize on it.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, fellas. Finish up with Coach Weber.

Q. Coach, going into this game, you know, losing twice to Wisconsin, what did you feel you guys really needed to do to beat Wisconsin?
COACH WEBER: I think some of it, you just hope they don't play well, which it doesn't happen very often. We thought if we could pressure a little bit, and we did that middle of the first half, we got after them a little bit. They turned it over a few times. And then we didn't take advantage of those opportunities.
Couple -- a missed dunk, blocked dunk, couple of layups, just against them you have to match their efficiency and their mental toughness and their discipline. And we thought of Purdue as the one team that's beaten them, they got after them. We probably don't have that capability because they have a little more quickness.
You know, if they're going to shoot like that, it's tough. I'm shocked, to be honest, it was only 50 percent. I thought it was -- to me it was like they never missed. So when they shot it, you were surprised. And then to go 9 for 18 from 3, they spread you around, you take some things away and they make 3s. I think that was kind of our thought.
You know, limit the stuff in the lane and see if they can beat us from the perimeter, you think on the third day maybe not have the legs. They stepped up and made shots.

Q. You talked about their good shooting. You guys did struggle shooting-wise. But held them to 61 points. In the tournament Purdue scored more points in the overtime, your guys' overtime win, is that roughly around where you wanted to see their point totals, was in the low 60s?
COACH WEBER: Actually, if you're going to beat them, aren't they number one in the nation I believe defensive and it's like 57, 56, so you gotta hold -- if you're going to have a chance, you have to hold them around 50, 52 because you're not going to get many more than that.
But in the first half we had those opportunities and we just didn't. You know, it should have been a two-point game. We missed the front end of a bonus. I know we haven't shot free throws, but if we were going to win, we had to be very efficient and we weren't.

Q. For a little perspective, the Big Ten regular season and conference champion's probably not going to be a No. 1 seed. I know that's a little presumptuous here until 6:00. But that does say something about college basketball at this point. Does that surprise you?
COACH WEBER: I think there's a lot of balance throughout the nation. I think Wisconsin belongs up in the top, whatever, seven, eight teams in the country.
I think all of our representatives, we're kind of hoping for five. I'm not sure. Looked like Georgia was going to win. So when we left the locker room. But I know for sure the four, I know they're all capable of Sweet 16. You get to the Sweet 16, you get an upset here or there, make a run. Even Ohio State, we talked about it this morning, with their zone is not easy to go against. Butler is a very efficient point guard. They have some other talented kids.
I think we'll surprise some people around the nation. And you know again the Badgers, if they just keep their poise, they're very solid. They guard you. And I think unless something changes or they have a real bad shooting night, which doesn't come very often, they're going to have a nice deep run into the tournament.

Q. Bruce, Illinois has been to the tournament I think nine years in a row. Hit the wall today. And now that string is over. Just talk about that. And how tough it is to do that and sort of the feelings about not getting it to that next one?
COACH WEBER: Well, you know, I'm not sure what the longest string in the country. But it's probably -- it's gotta be up there. And it's disappointing. You know, we finally figured it out at the end. I think we got some guys to buy in. Maybe the young kids got better. You know, Demetri made some major strides.
But the consistency, I think you saw today, he just didn't -- especially going against Wisconsin, you can't just be casual, because as soon as you're casual they get you.
So if, again, if, coulda, woulda, shoulda, all those things, we should be sitting there waiting to see where we're going, to be honest. I think our team was capable of that. It's a shame. But it's what it is. And we have to learn from that. And hopefully correct it and then make sure we're battling for a Big Ten title next year and getting back in the post-season.

Q. Obviously one of the tougher seasons you've had for Illinois, what have you learned this season as a coach from this experience?
COACH WEBER: You know, I've gotten lots and lots of calls from former players, Purdue, SIU, just, Coach, you're a good coach, we know, we've been through it, we've watched you, you've been part of our lives. And a lot of coaching friends. And the one thing somebody told me, you know, this will make you a better coach.
I think it makes you a better coach, a better person. You gotta learn from it. You know, I think the biggest thing you've got -- when I talk at a clinic, the first thing I say is you gotta get your kids -- it sounds simple, but they've got to buy into winning.
I don't think we did that. I gave them a T-shirt the first day in June when they came back, a workout T-shirt, and it said "team" on the front and it said "just buy in" on the back. And it probably took us till about three weeks ago until I think all of them got on the same page.
The other thing you gotta get your seniors have to have the best year of their career. Obviously when Brian came back and played well, he didn't have a great game today and then Shaun bought in, we were a much better team. Then your best players, they gotta be, your best players have to be your leaders and your hardest workers.
It's probably why we had the struggles we did. So we got -- those are things I talk about at clinics. I'm going to have to -- we're going to have to adhere to them and make sure that in the future those are the things that happen.

Q. When you talk about buying in, when Hughes hit that big shot before half to put them up, quick 10-4 start in the second half, what do you tell your team in the timeout, we're down to double-digits to a very fine ball club, is that part of the buying in program?
COACH WEBER: I think one of the things we've struggled all year is the leadership. When we hit tough times, and it seems like the last few weeks we've been able to overcome that. But this game we just couldn't find the spark. We couldn't get the shot, couldn't get the stop. Hughes' basket was huge at the end of the half, and them to come out and we don't score and they score, you know, now the doubt starts setting in.
I think we can continue to battle. They just made a lot of big shots and a lot of tough shots. And they're so methodical and they break you mentally. I mean we talked about that at halftime don't let them break you mentally. You've got to get them starting to doubt. That's why they're so good. And very, very efficient team.
THE MODERATOR: Appreciate all your time this weekend, Coach.

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