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March 23, 2008
LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS
THE MODERATOR: Opening comment, Coach, please.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, it was a great effort. My hat is off to Mississippi State. You figure we got them down 13, 14, 12, whatever it was, they start going away, and they just come right back at us and never stopped. Tie up the game, battled right down to the second when we were up, and you think it's over, and Gordon makes a 3.
Just battled us. What I'm taking great pride in, we won it with a free throw, Chris's free throw. So all that stuff about our free throw shooting now goes out the window, I guess. (Laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the players, please.
Q. Guys, is there some concern or some nervousness when you do get to the line that you guys shot under 50 percent from the foul line today in pretty big game?
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: No. There isn't any nervousness at all because yesterday we shot over 70 percent. I mean, we just have to be consistent. But I feel very comfortable in my teammates at the line. We don't get nervous. We just have to get more consistent when we get to the line, because yesterday we shot it very well from the line. Just -- it's all mental.
THE MODERATOR: Other questions? Far side of the room.
Q. Chris or any of you guys that want to comment just on the play of Dorsey today?
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: He was definitely the focal point, animal. When he plays like that, our team is so much better, so much better. I mean, you really can't explain it. He was everywhere. He was helping everybody. He was great today.
Q. Was it as rough out there as it looked from the stands? Looked like that was their game plan to hack you guys every chance they got.
DERRICK ROSE: It was real rough when we first got out there. That was their whole game plan. We just tried to fight it through and come together as a team, because they are a very good team. Everybody on their team rose. It's hard playing against teams like that. So we just tried to come together.
THE MODERATOR: Other questions?
Q. Chris, just talk about this is another Southeastern Conference team that you played. Just kind of compare Mississippi State maybe to Tennessee.
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: They have totally different styles because Tennessee pressed. They play a much faster game. Mississippi really slows it down, uses ball screens trying to control the game. They don't really play alike at all.
Q. For any of the players, when you got up 13 early in the second half, did you think they might go away?
ANTONIO ANDERSON: No, not at all. In this type of tournament, nobody goes away they're going to fight until the buzzer goes off. We knew that. Coach told us that before the game. So we knew that lead to easily be -- they could have came back very easily. We went out there and tried to stick to our game plan and talk amongst each other and try the slow them down a little bit. That's all what we try to do.
THE MODERATOR: Anyone else have a question for the players?
Q. Chris, can you talk about yesterday it was discussed a little bit that maybe you guys hadn't been tested down the stretch and also maybe Mississippi State was a little bit more in tune with the physical kind of nature by being an SEC team. Did you guys dispel both those notions today, do you think?
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: I felt we executed great down the stretch. Every game we played this year close, I think we did a great job of executing, and that's that it was tonight. When we got up 6, we tried to keep the lead and execute our plays in our offense.
So I really don't think there's anything about us closing the game out.
Q. For Chris or Derrick, what do you think the difference in the game was tonight?
DERRICK ROSE: Really, us just being aggressive out there, just coming up with big plays, getting big rebounds that we needed, and just us executing because that's what we needed, and I'll say that's it.
Q. I was wondering what role the fans play in the momentum of your game and how it impacts what y'all do, if at all? Any player can answer.
ANTONIO ANDERSON: I feel the fans play a huge impact in today's game and the game on Friday. They came out, took the drive and came down to support us, and it was extremely loud. We felt that we were playing back at the Fed Ex Forum all over again. So much energy in the building. Whenever they felt we were down, they tried to pick us up. We're thankful we have those type of fans.
Q. Can one of you guys comment on Willie Kemp came off the bench with four huge 3s.
DERRICK ROSE: Willie, that's big. Willie, that was a huge -- that was some huge plays that he was doing. He wasn't only just shooting, playing defense, too, so we can credit him on defense, but that's what he's out there for, just to shoot the ball, no pump fakes, no nothing, just shoot and play defense. That's what we thank him for.
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: We're lucky we had Willie today. Without him we would have lost this game. He was huge. He opened the game up for us. I mean not with just the 3s. He was getting the balls, running the offense. He played a huge role. Like I say, without Willie, we wouldn't have won this game.
Q. The game was tied at 52. Dozier hit back to back inside shots. Can you talk about that little series right there and his play?
ANTONIO ANDERSON: Well, he was struggling a little bit. We've been trying to pick him up. He knew we needed him to win this game, him and Joey. Rob came out in the second half and was a monster that we're used to seeing in practice and games all year long. So Rob came in and grabbed some tough rebounds and tough put backs. He just did things he needed to do. That's what we need out of Rob. He's just a big part of this team. He played it tonight. Rob.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for the players? Gentlemen, thank you very much. Good luck as you move on the Houston.
Questions now for John.
Q. Coach, I know that you're always very active above the rim on the defensive end, but you equalled a season high with 11 blocked shots. Joey was one off of his career high. I wonder if going against the nation's individual leader maybe gave you a little incentive to some of your big guys?
COACH CALIPARI: It did. I mean, they heard some of the comments, and we've been on the other side of that one there, David and Goliath story. They heard some of the comments. They were ready to go in and say, "Hey, we're pretty good, too."
Joey was just a monster today. What they said, the thing that won the game for us was our bench in the first half recreating a gap and Robert Dozier showing the post presence that we saw all of last year in the post-season. That's what he was. What you saw right there -- saw him fumbling a little bit. Those five, six minutes, that's what he is. It makes us just a different team.
Q. John, how big were the offensive rebounds for you guys in this game?
COACH CALIPARI: Our goal was 15. I said if we can get 15 offensive rebounds, we'll win the game. As fast as we play, we had five turnovers. We must not be playing fast enough when you have five. We had one turnover at halftime, and, you know, they are a great defensive team. They create havoc. They play a great zone.
And the other thing we said going in, we're not -- we wanted to shoot between 20 and 24 3s. That was our goal. We felt if we shot 35 or 40 3s, we're losing the game.
I think that screwed us up a little bit early if you watched where we were like not knowing when to go, when to shoot. And when I went to the bench, those guys played a loose serve game. We only shot 16 3s. They play season. We wanted to go inside anyway. We wanted to get that ball in that lane and own the post and really proud of our guys.
Q. For those of us who don't see you guys all the time, is this pretty typical of what Joey can do, or did he step it up an extra notch today?
COACH CALIPARI: That's Joey Dorsey when he's right. That's what he is. He's not always right, but when he is right, that's what he is. That's what he's capable of, but it's hard to be consistent like that because it's really, really hard what he does. It's really physical. It's body to body.
You have to be in great shape and mentally you're getting fouled. They started fouling intentionally. So we've -- what would happen if I just told him to run real fast like you're being chased and the guy tried to foul him and grab him? Just run around the court like real fast, don't let him grab you. Wouldn't that be funny? I'm doing that next game they try to foul him. Crazy. (Laughter).
The guy is chasing him. You know how you play tag, run from him. I wonder if that would be intentional foul? But he was good today. I don't know why I even said that stuff. It was in my mind. (Laughter).
Q. You've played two games into this so far. What are maybe some of the areas of concern that you're hoping to address when you finally get a chance to get the team back and practice with them?
COACH CALIPARI: The physical play that first game really bothered me. The guys told me I was too uptight that game. They came at me and said, "Coach, you're like uptight."
I said, "Yeah. We didn't want to be the first one to lose to a 16. You're right, I was uptight."
But we didn't do body to body, and we probably won't this week. Going against a team like Michigan State at this time of the year, I just don't go body-to-body stuff, and it hurts you some if the other team comes in and just starts throwing things around, and it happened to us that first game.
I thought we battled good today. There were a couple plays they posted easily. But the reality of it is I thought we battled.
You know, I would tell you that things for our team, Joey performing like he did, our bench playing like they did and if we make a few more shots, maybe couple more 3s or a few more free throws, then this is a different kind of ball. You know what I'm saying?
I just would hope we shoot a little bit better than we shot, and we're a team that shoots, you know, 37 percent from the 3 and probably 47 percent from the floor. We were a little bit under that, and we were 10 percent under our free throw shoot than we normally are.
Just like most games we made more free throws than they did. So we beat them at the free throw line.
Q. John, I know you made light of the free throw shooting when you first got in, and you addressed it a little bit right there. What was going through your head in the final seconds when those misses were allowing them to keep close?
COACH CALIPARI: I was mad Derrick didn't go get the ball. Go get the ball. Make them foul you. We ran a play. There was no reason for Antonio to have the ball. Even though I have confidence in him, you want Derrick or Chris with the ball.
I have a lot of confidence with Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart. The best thing that happened to us was Billy Packer coming in and watching our team play. He specifically did one of our games so he could watch us. His comment was, "They're fine with their free throw shooting. As a matter of fact, I think they'll shoot 70 percent because mechanically there's nothing wrong. It's all between their ears.
He's a guy been around the sport for 45 years and age him. He's just seen it all. I believe the same thing. We lightened up on free throw shooting. We've shot it better in our league tournament. We shot 75 percent in the NCAA. The free throws we need to make, we'll make. I've got absolutely no issues. There are three, four other issues I worry about. It's not free throw shooting.
Q. When was the last time you've had a game where your three big guys with four fouls, that must have been pretty nerve wracking, especially Tag so early in the second half with four.
COACH CALIPARI: We tried to rotate them and figure out who we wanted the end. Dozier went in and played out of his mind. Tag went back in and he played well. You know, Chris's heel was bothering him, as you could see today. We've got to get this thing right. We out-rebounded a good rebounding team by 8 rebounds, and they got a bunch of them at the end of the game.
Like I said, there was a lot of stuff I was pleased with. When you see 19 assists and 5 turnovers and 11 blocks, you're really happy. Offensively I thought we -- the greatest thing was it was a grind-it-out kind of game, and I think people don't think we can play that way, but we still have that. Even though we play wide open and we have the dribble drive motion, we also have the other stuff that we grind it out. And, you know, we know this team does it, and we knew Pitt would do it.
Michigan State is going to do it. We want to play faster and open up the court, but however we got to play, we'll play.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions?
Q. Any status update on an Andre Allen who went out early?
COACH CALIPARI: Didn't talk to him after that, but he had ice on his shoulder. He's a tough -- he's just -- his ankle is out. Now his shoulder is out. I'll tell you this. If I need to have someone come up with the ball, I'm putting him in the game. He said, "I'll guard Gordon, let me guard him." That's how confident this kid is in himself. What he did to throw his body into that pack to make sure he got fouled because it was a shot blocker was tremendous. Gave their center one more foul.
Q. Coach, when Dorsey was at the line late in the game, what was the issue up in the stands? What did you see up there?
COACH CALIPARI: Waiving the curtains to open them up so the light could come in. The old curtain wave move. Hadn't seen that in awhile. (Laughter).
Q. The players already talked about Willie Kemp's roll. Can you talk about Willie.
COACH CALIPARI: I love him. He's so ready to play. In the NCAA Tournament last year he was one of our better players, and I expect the same out of him. What I've told our bench, "Prepare for that moment. I may not play you one game. It may be the next game, but prepare for that moment that you make history. Antonio or Andre Allen, Doneal Mack going in and making the 3, we're up 9. Jeff Robinson has gotten opportunities now in the NCAA Tournament as a freshman.
Willie, obviously and Shawn Tag. The thing that sets us apart at times when our bench is good, we have five players on that bench that all have scored 20 points at some point this season. They scored a 20-point game. They walk in the game, knowing I can get 20. As a matter of fact, we cut out those tapes for them of that specific game. Some of them have more than one game.
You're capable of getting 20. Prepare for greatness. Prepare for that moment, and the only other thing I've been on my team about, Expect good things. Don't wait for bad things to happen. Expect good things.
I love the frame of mind they're in. You know, we may not be the best team. We may be one of them. We may into not be anywhere near it, but I like the mental attitude of my team. They're having fun playing. They competed today against a good team and physical team and we march on.
Q. Coach, you mentioned the grind-it-out game. In your first game you had a physical game that maybe was surprisingly physical. This game was anticipated as being a physical game.
Looking now to the Houston Regional, going on to Houston, were these two types of games kind of -- will that help your team?
COACH CALIPARI: No question. No question. Tom Izzo and are good friends. We'll probably have football practice this week. They'll have helmets and pads and then come and play us down in Houston. I'm going to have to do the same thing. I've got to get Tom West to get out the pads and helmets for my guys this week.
Every game you play, there's something good you can take out of it. And that first game, what Arlington did, Texas-Arlington to physically go at us the way they did kind of stunned me and our staff. We got some issues here. But I thought today we fought against a team they won their division of the SEC and won a lot of games. Terrific First Team All Conference players from the SEC and, you know, they're good. We battled them. I love what I saw.
THE MODERATOR: That's going to wrap up this session, guys. Coach, appreciate it very much. Best of luck as you move on to Texas.
End of FastScripts