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March 28, 2008
COACH CALIPARI: That first half of basketball was one of the best I've been involved in as a coach. I loved our discipline. I loved the execution of the offense. I loved how unselfish they were. And more importantly I loved how they guarded, really, really guarded. We played eight guys and all eight players in that half, really I think I played nine, helped their team. And I'm just -- I was proud to be a part of it.
Q. Could you talk about your defense and what you tried to do against Neitzel tonight?
ANTONIO ANDERSON: Coach got us ready and we were ready for him and we knew he comes off a lot of screens, so I had the guys helping me. We had some guys pressuring the ball, Derrick and Andrei, and I was just trying my hardest not to let him catch it. It wasn't just me, but all of the guys on my team. Andrei got him great as well and Derrick got him great as well. Everybody contributed and did what we could to get us a W.
Q. Have you ever been a part of a better first half of basketball than you guys played tonight?
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: No, not at all, because Michigan State is a really good team. I mean, they are really good, and there's nothing bad -- don't say nothing bad about them. We just played really good basketball in the first half, that's all it was.
I haven't been involved in a first half like this anywhere, high school, anywhere. We really played out of our minds tonight.
Q. For the team to shoot 62 percent in the first half, normally it takes you a while to get going on your stroke, but tonight it started out from the beginning, just talk about that.
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: Guys just came in focused. We had our mind-set before the game to go out and be aggressive, and that's what guys did. We made shots, everybody. I don't think we did that all we're. Guys just came out aggressive, that was the main thing, and got offensive rebounds and those things.
Q. There seemed to be coming into this game sort of a sense that you guys were for whatever reason sort of more vulnerable an the other really good teams in the tournament, did you sense that, too, and do you use that as motivation for tonight at all?
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: Not at all. We just came in and played Memphis basketball. Every game we're the underdog for some reason, and we're used to that. We used to use it for motivation and now it's just getting old. We're going out to play now, that's all it is. We don't listen to what people are saying about us, because we're creating our own happiness. We don't listen to negativity. So we are just going to play now.
Q. They didn't have a rebound for the first five minutes of the game. It was 22-6 at halftime. How did you do it? How did you keep them off the boards? They are obviously one of the better rebounding teams in the country.
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: You just had to fight for position, that was the biggest thing, fight with them. We used our length and athleticism to get over the hump with them. They are a great team and have some physical guys down low, but we just out-fouled them in the first half.
ANTONIO ANDERSON: Coming into the game, watching film. We knew they were a great rebounding team. You know, Coach put the game plan down to all five guys have to rebound, and we can't just depend on Rob and Joey, so Chris and Derrick put our nose in there where we could just to try to help them guys out.
Q. Could you tell right away you were just quicker? You seemed quicker offensively, quicker with the ball, could you tell pretty early in the game that was going to be the difference?
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: We wanted to get out and run and we didn't want to play in the halfcourt and we didn't want to change our game at all, and our game is fast-paced because we are pretty athletic. That's all we wanted to do. We emphasized get up the court and sprint up the court and that's all we did. We got a couple easy baskets from running, and that's our game, so we try to stick to it.
Q. They tried to start fouling you guys with about five minutes to go. How did you think you guys approached that situation?
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: Going into the game, all they were saying, we don't think they can make them, we don't think they can make them, and we were making them.
I think we shot like 75 percent from the line today. So we want to know if we can't make them; we just wanted to prove that we could make them, and we did, make them.
Q. How fun is this for you?
ANTONIO ANDERSON: It feels good. It's our third straight Elite 8. Those past two years are put behind us, and we're looking forward to the game Sunday, but we can't worry about that right now. We're playing a great Texas team on Sunday and now it's time to go back to work and get ready for practice tomorrow and get back to what we're used to doing.
Q. How do you feel like you're better prepared for Sunday than you might have been two years ago against UCLA or last year against Ohio State?
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: We are more experienced. Our first year against UCLA, we were freshmen playing a lot of minutes and not used to the environment and didn't know what an NCAA Tournament is like.
Now we are juniors, and we have a lot of experience, and obviously Derrick isn't really a freshman, so I think experience is the key for us. Antonio said, we have been to three straight Elite 8s, and we have the same team.
Q. I was wondering, you were telling everybody that you were an underdog and nobody expected you to win; after that first half, can anybody believe you now?
COACH CALIPARI: It's not what I said. Everybody picked us to lose. We were the upset special, I mean, that was us. (Chuckling).
You know, we were going to get out-played, out-coached, out hustled, out-skilled, out this, out that, and we can't shoot free throws, and that's all we hear. I'm not saying it. I believe in this team I'm coaching. I trust them. I have a lot of faith in them. I just don't know how good we are, but I think we're pretty good.
Q. It looked like Derrick had a cut. Can you talk about where that was, when it happened?
COACH CALIPARI: He got hit on that soft part of his eye, his eyelid, and it got cut, and they were trying to -- he didn't want to get it stitched. He's not real good with needles, so he didn't want to get it stitched, and they had to try to glue it, and that's what took so long.
But I was ready to leave the court and run up and get him myself, just so you know. I sent three coaches and finally said, if he doesn't comeback here in four minutes -- you know, he's just a special player, special kid. You know, he just has a will to win, and now, you know, he's out here with a team that he can lead.
And what I keep saying to him, the more you do, Derrick, the more you run this, the less I can do, and that's the way I want it. He's pretty darned good. But I think he'll be fine. I went and looked at him before I came here. So they are going to glue him up and I think he'll be all right.
Q. You're up 30 at the halftime, what do you tell your team in the locker room?
COACH CALIPARI: Can we go 20 more minutes the first five minutes, let's go, and we did. The first five minute s is what we wanted, and we kind of let go.
But part of it was, Michigan State is a prideful team with one of the best coaches in the history of the game. They weren't just going to sit there and not play. And they played. And they fouled, they did some stuff to try to see if we would panic, get it to 15, 16, did some things, made me call some time outs to settle my own team down.
But we did what we had to. Chris Douglas, and Joey, who played so well, and then kind of went into a little bit of a funk finished the game strong. But I love what Antonio Anderson did, but Andre Allen, and he, both guarded Drew in the first half. So we went big, and then we went mush-mouth so, we had two different kind of guys guarding him. I loved what Joey did and the way we rebounded the ball and wk went in and played well off the bench. Tim Floyd called me today and said, tell Willie he's making me proud because he's the one that said he's going to be the key to how you guys finish, and he's right. He's been making Tim look smart.
Q. After the game you talked to Tom for an extra minute more than normal. What did you say to him?
COACH CALIPARI: I just told him, "You had an unbelievable year."
And he said, "Well, I hope we fouled you enough to prove that you can shoot free throws." That's what he said to me. He's a special guy, good coach and a special friend. I talk to about 15 coaches throughout the year and I talk to -- once every week, once every two week, once every three weeks, depends who it is, and he's just one of those guys that I've gotten pretty close with and he's a guy I respect. I respect how he does his job and how he runs the program, and I can learn from him. That's why I stay in touch with guys like that. I want to continue to learn and grow, and he's one of the best.
Q. Warren and Neitzel were both shutout at halftime. Did you build your defensive game plan around stopping those two and how did that develop?
COACH CALIPARI: No. There was a couple of things that we were going to try to do. One is we were not going to leave thinking big men to help on Drew and to help on Morgan, we were not doing it. Because if you do that, then they get 15, 16 points, and it's hard to hold them down; they are scoring.
We were going to say, they are going to make tough shots on it, and when they contest it, we are going to fly and then dribble-drive to where they were going to guard us and there was no backing up.
We were going to trap a little bit to pick up the pace, but we didn't have to, so we just stuck with what we were doing. But Morgan was a matchup with Chris, and Chris was challenged by it.
Q. Can we just get some thoughts on Sunday's matchup?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, I don't have a whole lot of thoughts yet. It's another game I'm hating to play because Rick and I are friends. This building, I'd just assume play it in Austin. Maybe if they give us a few thousand seats, maybe we can move the game there.
Rick, you think about the job he did, he took a team that totally changed and went from focusing on one guy with the other guys doing their job, and he flips them over and they play a perimeter game. You've got to be kidding me. Shows how good he is.
And his team, he's got three or four other guys that absolutely fit their role as well as any in the country; to go offensive rebound. What I saw against Stanford a little bit in the first half is they get six offensive rebounds, which gave them a nine-point lead, and it was just guys hustling.
When you look at Rick's teams historically, they always defend. They play really, really hard. Offensively, it depends on his personnel. But they are good. We're happy we're still playing.
Q. Being the No. 1 seed, what are your thoughts of playing Texas in Texas?
COACH CALIPARI: We've done it before, we've played San Antonio in San Antonio and now Texas down here. I'll say in most cases, the pressure shifts to Texas, and it shifts like it did, Texas A&M, because now in fronts of 35,000 fans, they have a marked advantage. And we know that. They know that.
I can't imagine we are not going to be picked to lose. We have been picked to lose since we started this tournament. So again, we're just going to go out and play. My kids really -- you know, it's not like I've got to use all that kind of stuff. But you know, I think it kind of shifts to Texas; that they are at home for a bid to the Final Four on their home court.
I don't know, you know, it is what it is. We will show up and play the game and see what happens.
Q. Talk about those two guards you're going to have to deal with tomorrow?
COACH CALIPARI: Who? Who?
Q. They can shoot the 3 --
COACH CALIPARI: Who? You trying to make me sick before I go to bed tonight? I don't know what you do. You're not going to just shut them out it. Just won't happen. It's just they dominate the game, or do you do things to try to make it a little harder; but even if it is, I see fadeaway jumpers, I see 3s that go through the rafters first. I'm seeing, you know, unbelievable hook drives, reverse layups in traffic on seven-foot guys. They are really good.
But their team has great role players who let those two do what they do, and that's special. My hat's off to all those guys. And I'm proud of my guys for the same reason. I mean, we've got guys on our bench, Allen went in, Kemp went in, Taggart went in, and they are good basketball players, but they accept that they have got to come off the bench for my team. Jeff Robinson is another one. We both have teams like that.
Q. After all the talk before the game this week on your foul shooting, do you feel a bit of vindication?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, but I just keep saying, I never worried about it. We'll make the ones we're supposed to.
Now, there may be games left in this tournament that are decided by the free throws, and we may be in one of them, but we may not be. It may be North Carolina.
This stuff now, it's on. I mean, for these young players, to have to go up there, and it's one and done, you fall off a cliff if you lose, percentages don't matter now. You know what matters? The mental toughness of your team. Percentages don't matter. Well, he's a 90 percent shooter; yeah, and he's scared to death, his knees are knocking, look at him.
Or, he's a 50 percent shooter, but he thinks he's making it; look at him. I've always had mentally tough teams whether it was UMASS or here. Our record the last three years has been pretty good with bad free throw shooting teams, I would say, but you know, I don't know where all of a sudden it was like one person said it and another person said it and another and another. All of a sudden it was like a snowball, and then Dick V. thinks it's the greatest thing and it's even worse when he says it.
We are just playing ball. If we make free throws, if we don't make free throws; as long as we defends and rebound and do all the other stuff, we'll be fine.
Q. I read that you just rolled the ball out differently; was it different?
COACH CALIPARI: Somebody told me there were some things that were written that way. I'm not going to defend any of that stuff and now we do our job and all that. It's kind of interesting how people will put a spin on this and that and how we do things or how I do it.
But at the end of the day, we've graduated 15 of our last 17 players, or 15 of our last 17. We have won a lot of basketball games. Our players are getting better. We are doing it in the NCAA Tournament.
Other than trying to win every game, I mean, we are just trying to do the best we can with our players. And that means on the court and off the court. Doesn't mean they never get in trouble. They do dumb things, like my own children, dumb. If we need an intervention, we've had them; you're off the team.
But the reality of it is, got good kids that are playing hard that are coachable. I've got a great staff that is preparing our team and teaching and helping because it's not just me. John, Kellogg, Chuck, Martin, they have all done great jobs, Tyrone Weeks, they have done great jobs, Rod Strickland of helping me coach this team. If people think we do a good job, great. If they don't think we do a good job, that's fine, too. I don't control that.
End of FastScripts