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April 3, 2008

Jamar Butler

Kosta Koufos

Thad Matta


Q. You know, considering that the first half -- one thing this team is known for, not being out-toughed, and particularly in the first half, you were out-toughed, talk about that.
COACH THAD MATTA: Well, that was the gist of what we talked about at halftime, because you know, they came at us to start the first half, and they stuck it right to us and we took the time-out there with 17 minutes to go, and calmly talked to them about a couple things that we needed to do better, and all of a sudden we're up by one at the first media time-out.
You know, I give UMASS credit. They were coming at us, which is the way they play. You know, the big thing for us that we talked about at halftime was, number one, we had to be tougher. We had to get back, set our defense. We had 11 turnovers at halftime and we were shooting 48 percent. I felt good with the shots we were getting but a lot of it was just taking care of it.
That last seven minutes, that was some of the fastest basketball I had ever seen. I was having the time of my life as a coach watching that, and our guys did a great job of finishing strong. I think our conditioning and strength training that they do, really 365 days a year, paid off for us.

Q. Kosta, was it a matter of playing more around the basket to get yourself going?
KOSTA KOUFOS: I just had to play patient. The first half I played within myself and you know, we just talked during halftime and we just had to be more patient with the ball.

Q. After getting to the title game in the NCAA, did that experience translate tonight?
JAMAR BUTLER: Just happy to come out on top with a win, my last game of my career at the Garden where it started this year. Proud of my teammates, coaches, and just happy right now.

Q. After Milligan got his third foul early in the second half, I think you started that half 11-2, did you make it a point to maybe attack a little more either passing it in or driving it in?
COACH THAD MATTA: That was the thing, in the first half, we were very timid inside. I would think they were fourth in the country in blocked shots coming in. You know, we talked to these guys about, you know, being stronger and going through them and being more ready down there when you caught the ball.
We wanted to get on the attack mode. When you play a team like this and they take a lot of chances, the one thing we felt was we had to drive, and I thought Jamar had a couple great penetrations and all of the sudden he started finding these guys and they were finishing down around the basket and it really opened things up for us.

Q. Do you feel like you absorbed their best punches in the first half, and talk about Evan hitting three 3s; he had not hit one in a month?
COACH THAD MATTA: Yeah, since Indiana, we had talked about that as a staff.

Q. You knew the court was going to be a little open tonight.
COACH THAD MATTA: Yeah, we talked at halftime, as coaches, we said, "wow, if they can play better than this" -- because we were fortunate to knock those three 3s down, because we could have been down big.
The biggest thing was regaining our composure and our concentration and coming out in the 11-2 run, you know, I thought that was big to come out and try to win that first four-minute war there.

Q. It had mentioned how frenetic those last seven minutes were; what were those like for the finest seven minutes of your career?
JAMAR BUTLER: It was tough, it seemed like they had six guards out there. They had their press coming at us and once we broke out, I think we were fine on the open floor and I think we made great plays.

Q. Is that the best-tasting Coke you've had all year?
COACH THAD MATTA: You know, it is, believe it or not. For this win tonight and for these guys, you think about Jamar, Matt, Othello and David and Danny and Mark, they have had an opportunity and I think you go back to what this program lost, I think Jamar was our leading scorer, and he was the fifth or sixth leading scorer coming back from last year's team.
You know, we knew there were going to be some growing pains as we went through the season, especially with the schedule we were going to play. To watch them come together and gel and play team basketball, very, very proud of them and very gratifying.
I think we talked after the game, you know, we've got to really sit down and evaluate the season and look at all the things that we can get better at as coaches, as players, all the way across the board, and continue to go.
But I think it says a lot about our program and the job that these kids have done.

Q. What made it possible to score the way you guys did in this tournament?
COACH THAD MATTA: I guess the selection committee did a heck of a job getting us against teams that played that way. To me, that's how we would like to play all the time, up-and-down like that. You know, it's just there's a lot of possessions in those games, and even going back to the other night, I think the other night may have been the highest possession, we had 92 possessions against Ole Miss. I don't know what we were at tonight yet, but that was -- and then give UMASS credit from the standpoint, that's how they like to play.
I mean, my gosh, were they -- they are a great basketball team.

Q. Did you ever get the feeling in the first half when you were trying to play with them that they got you going -- you want to play fast but it looks like they got you going too fast.
COACH THAD MATTA: Yeah, we talked about that at halftime. Let's play fast but under control.
You know, the turnovers we had in the first half, I felt like were in the 3-on-2s, the 4-on-3s and converting those was going to be one of the major things we needed to do.
Like I said, I felt like in our offense, if we could get up I felt like we could get -- not just about anything we wanted but the 48 percent, we felt good about that. The other thing was rebounding; we tried to employ a new technique tonight, not let them get an offensive rebound and guard them again and we started seeing more and more teams do that across college basketball. That may be a Madison Square Garden record, 30 offensive rebounds and you guys were all patting me on the back for 20 the other night.

Q. Not a point of emphasis like it was for Mississippi.
COACH THAD MATTA: Yeah, so many things that I've got to emphasize. (Laughter).

Q. Would you have watched the Final Four this weekend anyway?
COACH THAD MATTA: Kind of a sore loser. I think I'll watch just because I think you've got four great teams in there.

Q. Does this make it easier to watch?
COACH THAD MATTA: It does. It does, yeah. But I don't know what I'm going to do. I know I'm going to rest.

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