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March 21, 2008

Wink Adams

Lon Kruger

Rene Rougeau

Curtis Terry


THE MODERATOR: We'll go right to questions.

Q. René, can you talk about your rise in this program from coming in not having any other scholarship offers to a guy who comes in, gets in the starting lineup, now has a double-double in an NCAA tournament game, just a little bit about the process and what it's meant to you and what it took to get to where you are.
RENÉ ROUGEAU: First of all, just the coaching staff, Lon Kruger gave me an opportunity to play and then redshirted my freshman year. Coach really believed by my junior year he was going to see a lot of good things out of me.
So just working with the assistant coaches a lot. They really pushed me and lifting a lot of weights and trying to add more weight. And then just staying patient.
Although, when I was a freshman and ready to play I wasn't getting that much playing time, but I was definitely patient. I knew my time would come. I'm just thankful it's happening now and the coaches have a lot of faith in me, especially my teammates.

Q. Has Coach Kruger talked to you guys at all about his history, being a K State guy and what it's going to mean to go up against Kansas tomorrow and maybe the K State fans will be cheering for you guys in the crowd instead of Kansas.
WINK ADAMS: We haven't really talked about it like that. But we know -- he's a big K State fan. He's part of the alumni. But he has respect for the KU basketball team, and a great basketball team, one of the best in the country. We know it's going to be a fight. We just want to go in and play our game.

Q. Wonder if you guys mention Larry Johnson hanging around the program a little more, the fact that he's put a stamp of approval on Lon and the job he's done?
RENÉ ROUGEAU: You know, it's always great for the alumni to come back, especially those guys that won the championship. Hopefully we can kind of playoff of them. They definitely give us a lot to play for and we definitely look up to those guys. They played so great. A lot of intensity, with a lot of pride for the program. We're glad he's coming around a lot more. Hopefully a lot more alumni will come out.
WINK ADAMS: I mean, I think it's always good to -- like René said, have alumni come back. And Larry Johnson, to me, he's one of the best players to come through UNLV. For him to be out there in the stands and talking to us and kind of giving us pointers on how he played and the standpoint of Coach Kruger, it's always good and boosts your confidence, gives you extra motivation.
CURTIS TERRY: Well, obviously it's very important to us to be able to have interaction with these guys with Larry Johnson and Greg Anthony and all the former players that have came back to UNLV and spent time at practice, hanging around with us, just being able to conversate with these guys.
We're trying to rebuild the program and do the things they did in the late '80s and early '90s to get UNLV back to the national stage. And the last couple of years since the coaching staff has been here, we've definitely done that and getting back to the tournament doesn't hurt.
A matchup with one of the top programs in the country coming up Saturday will definitely give us more to shoot for and is a great opportunity for UNLV basketball.

Q. Wink, you said earlier this year when you heard that René was a walk-on you said to yourself he's got to be one of the best walk-ons in the country. Can you and Curtis talk about what he's meant to this team and kind of his development?
WINK ADAMS: Since I stepped before the campus, I've seen him play, high energy player. He dunks the ball, he guards everybody. I never seen nobody who can guard, come out and guard me and then go back and guard against Al and Joe. He's a player who can do so much on the court.
When I found out he was a walk-on, it was kind of surprising to me because most walk-ons is not that good, and when I seen him play, it was amazing. I just couldn't believe that this guy wasn't on scholarship.
To me I think he's one of the best walk-ons.
CURTIS TERRY: I think René is one of our biggest assets to our team. The energy and desire motivation that he brings every day in practice. Since me and him came in the first year in 2004, and he's the same type of player he was then. He's not doing anything different. He's definitely matured and growed and he's learned how to become a factor on the court and it's all about hustle and hard work and he brings it every day. Doesn't take a play off.
We definitely wouldn't be here right now if we don't have René because every team needs a guy like René that will step out and do whatever it takes, as him being only six-seven and guarding big guys and seven-footers and also going out and guarding guards, he definitely has it tough.

Q. René, talk about Kansas's big guys inside and how tough a challenge that's going to be to box those guys out and defend them?
RENÉ ROUGEAU: Definitely going to be a battle all night. So we definitely knew coming into the tournament if we want to go farther, we're going to have to play someone big, whether it's Georgetown, whoever it is.
So we get Kansas now, so this is the opportunity we've been waiting for. Me and Wink were talking in our hotel room saying this is like the biggest games in our lives playing like the No. 1 team in the country. They've been so good all year and we're definitely looking forward to it. Really going to have to box out and each possession is going to matter to us.
I'm sure Joe, Troy, Matt and myself will be up for the occasion and really looking forward to getting after these guys.

Q. One of the things that always kind of comes up with you guys is you guys have a very limited bench. The team has 10 people on the roster. And Kansas was able to put eight people with more than 10 minutes of playing time. Is there any worry about what all the different lineups they can throw at you or getting fatigued on your team?
RENÉ ROUGEAU: You know, of course. Kansas has so many different weapons. They definitely have a lot of guys coming off the bench. The last game, our bench, they played excellent. That was probably the best I've ever played. I was real proud of them.
So I'm sure they're definitely going to want to come with it too. Coach said everybody is going to be ready to play. I feel good about those guys coming into the game being real productive.

Q. Are you guys sharing the stories of anybody else about trying to be the David again, trying to repeat against Wisconsin?
CURTIS TERRY: Definitely our experience last year is definitely something we can look back on and draw motivation from that. But everybody knows we're a new team. We lost a lot of people. And we're doing things our own way now and just having fun going out there and playing basketball and being successful.
Like René said, this is a great opportunity for our basketball program and for us this season to go out there and play a team like Kansas, which is one of the top programs in the country year in year out and is having a great year this year.
So we've got to line up and let the pieces fall where they may and just play basketball.

Q. Curtis, you're roommates with Scott Hoffman. What is his mentality for this game having his parents be alumni of a different university?
CURTIS TERRY: He's loving it. He's having a lot of fun with it. He's definitely excited being his parents are K State alumni. Him growing up in Kansas and being a K State fan and Wildcat his whole life, he's getting us ready.
I know he's going to make sure we're all ready to go and put our best foot forward to play these guys. Just going to take a total team effort and hopefully we do the things we need to do and be successful and be aggressive offensively and defensively and give these guys a good fight and see what happens.
We now have the head coach of UNLV, Lon Kruger. We'll have him open up with an opening statement about getting into the second round, then go to questions.
COACH KRUGER: Really happy for our guys. I thought on the year they've played really hard and unselfishly, and I think very deserving to get to not only the tournament but the second round. So very happy for them.
Sometimes maybe you have to be careful what you wish for, because Kansas is so good and so athletic and sometimes you get a talented team like that and they lean on their talent.
But with KU they also play extremely hard very unselfishly and with all of Bill's teams, they're very organized and get exactly what they want. Our guys are looking forward to it. The challenge is great. Any time you have an 8-1 matchup, you expect that. That will be the case tomorrow.
But our guys still look forward to it and anxious to go.

Q. You don't exactly look like the guy that would be having to have a quadruple bypass. Could you take us through that a little bit? Was it a test that cropped up that showed you had some trouble, and what the whole situation was like?
COACH KRUGER: In July every year doc Joe Johnson, our team doctor, family doctor, has us do a stress test, just routine annual thing. And they didn't like quite the way it finished up and didn't think anything of it. They said, let's do one more test. We did.
Then the angiogram and sitting there maybe expecting a need for an angioplasty, get back to the office the next day. I'm sitting there with the doctor watching it. He said, there's a blockage and there's another. There were six blockages. We went in that was Tuesday afternoon and did the surgery on Thursday and doctors were great and everything worked out fine.
No symptoms going in. No damage at all. And haven't had any pain since. So they must have done a good job. So feel very blessed by it, fortunate to catch it when we did.

Q. Can you just talk about your relationship with Bill Self, him having followed you at Illinois. Did you guys trade notes, trade thoughts on things during that transition, and just your thoughts on him as a coach?
COACH KRUGER: Bill's been a good friend, as the coaching fraternity goes. He and his wife Cindy are terrific. They followed us to Illinois and took that way higher when he got there. And he did a great job. He's done a great job wherever he's been. His teams play so hard, very unselfish, again, and just do a great job.
Bill's just terrific in every way.

Q. Clearly your roster isn't the tallest in the country, and you'll be facing a pretty big team tomorrow, yet defensively you've played very well this year. What are some of the principles and how do you make up for some of the mismatches and still find a way to stop people?
COACH KRUGER: I think our guys recognized early that our identity needed to start on the defensive end. They bought into it and accepted it and took pride in it.
We've met the ball early and starting position has always been important to us. Our guys have done a pretty good job with that, not only on the perimeter but also in the post.
But Kansas is a little different animal. They're bigger and more athletic and deeper than most teams in the country.
So our guys have done a good job, and, again, they look forward to this challenge, but, again, it's going to be a big test from the start.

Q. Lon, how much did you really look into, investigate the UNLV program and the outside influences surrounding it before you took the job, and how much of a factor was that in taking it?
COACH KRUGER: Initially, we were in Arizona watching Kevin play at the time. And athletic director called and inquired if we would be interested or not. Really didn't think so. At that point didn't know a lot about the program. Always enjoyed visiting Vegas and being there for coaching meetings and all that. But didn't know too much about it.
Then former AD Brad Rothermel called and said -- I had known Brad for back in the early '70s when I was a player at Kansas State, assistant AD there. I've known Brad for 30 years. And he said you know the timing might be pretty good. You might want to take a better look at it.
So we did. My wife and I went up. We really enjoyed the energy of the city and all the enthusiasm around the program. And looked into it a little bit more and thought it would be good.
So that's kind of how all that happened.

Q. After all those years at Kansas State, when you see Kansas on the schedule now do any of the old emotions pop up or what are your thoughts when you see the Jayhawks come up as a Wildcat?
COACH KRUGER: A little bit. Great respect for the program. Of course as a Wildcat you never want them to win. So that doesn't change in that way a lot of respect for Bill and what he does. But still as it relates to K State you've got those feelings forever once you're one side or the other, I think.
But, again, just a terrific, terrific team. They do so many things well and, again, we know how tough that will be.

Q. Going along those same lines, you are going to be playing in front of a lot of K State fans tomorrow. Is there an idea maybe this being a more neutral court game as opposed to an advantage for Kansas maybe?
COACH KRUGER: We would hope that would be the case. I'm not sure how it will play out. But it may depend if K State wins that first one or not. They'd probably like to get KU out of the bracket more than they'd like to cheer for us perhaps. But it could unfold that way, but Kansas is going to have a good crowd, no question about that. We understand it's a little bit of a road-like atmosphere.
Again, that's the way when you earn a 1 seed, you deserve that.

Q. Can you talk some about your personal experiences against the University of Kansas as a player, as a coach?
COACH KRUGER: That goes back quite a ways. When I was a player, it was always really hotly contested and really an intense rivalry with Coach Hartman and Coach Owens going back and forth with each other, and some great, great battles. No question about that.
The atmosphere always was terrific. Just as you would expect a rivalry to be. As a coach, we won a few times but not too many. We won -- in fact, we contributed to that long streak in Manhattan. We did win a couple times in Lawrence and a couple times maybe in the tournament, in the Big 8 tournament. But not in Manhattan. So we contributed to that for sure.
So, again, they've been good for a long time.

Q. Sorry to continue the old K State theme. Back in '88, so much was being made this being the 20th anniversary of Kansas's national championship team, but you guys had a heck of a team that year, too, can you just go back to that season and how good was that team? Was that the best team you coached at K State and what made that team so good?
COACH KRUGER: I think it probably was the best team. And I don't mind at all reliving those memories, maybe that one game perhaps. But Mitch Richmond at the core of everything, Steve Henson was the point guard, Will Scott, Charlie Bledsoe, Ron Meyer, Mark Dobbins, goes down the list a long ways of really good players.
And they were fun to work with because they understood what they needed to do to be effective and a lot of that started with getting Mitch the ball and playing off of that. Beating Kansas prior to the elite game, beating Kansas three weeks earlier in the Big 8 tournament pretty soundly, in fact. They were kind of down and out. They got a little bit of a roll and Manning stepped it up and he was a terrific player.
They made runs at the championship. But the Elite Eight game was a pretty good game. Seemed K State had control most of the way we couldn't quite get over the hump. But again Kansas did a great job and went on to the championship.

Q. Lon, you mentioned that the players at the beginning of the year bought into the idea of defense first. But you had some roster changes as the year went on and everything. Was there a point in time where you really felt like, okay, everything is kind of clicking and we've got things in place and that you felt the team was really kind of on a roll?
COACH KRUGER: It's been consistent from the beginning. Never really had any stretches where lost a lot of games in a row or anything like that. We had some changes. But that never really was a distraction to this group. This group's been focused all along thinking they could get good things done and making progress consistently.
We got pounded two or three times during the year on the road, yet they bounced back and focused on the next ball game each time and did a really good job of understanding that, hey, whatever happens today we always gotta focus on getting ready for tomorrow and the next ball game.
And I think that goes to the leadership of the seniors, Curtis Terry, Bailey has done a really good job at that. Wink Adams and René Rougeau and Joe Darger are guys that understand priorities and they've done a good job of getting ready for the next ball game each time.
They've from day one expected good things to happen. I think a lot of that came as a result of experiencing last year. Most of these guys were on the team last year even in much less of a role perhaps in terms of minutes and points and shot attempts and all that. But that was a big part of their expectations going into this year.

Q. To go along with the final part of that answer, how much confidence does it give players even if they didn't play a huge role minutes-wise on a team that went to the Sweet 16 last year heading into the tournament this year?
COACH KRUGER: I think it changes from player to player, team to team. But I think for our guys it gave them a lot of confidence. I really think it did. Curtis Terry is a guy that has confidence in what he can do. René Rougeau has confidence. Wink has confidence. These are confident type of players. I think because of that experience last year, that gave them the ability to step up and set the tone from the beginning for the younger guys with this team.

Q. When you look at the Bailey story for as many as years as you've been coaching, have you ever dealt with something like that? Do you see that as something you use in the future as inspiration for people?
COACH KRUGER: Really haven't dealt with anything like quite to that extreme. It's a great story what Corey has been able to do in terms of bouncing back and getting back into school and now earning a degree this summer coming up.
It's confidence. It's self-esteem, just the way he carries himself and greets people and walks around campus. Today, from two years ago, is just remarkably different. And that's really good to see. Corey now will go on and do terrific in whatever he does and hopefully play basketball somewhere next year, but just a real good story.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

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