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April 5, 2008
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
THE MODERATOR: Coach, if you could just start us off with a little overview on the game tonight.
COACH SELF: Well, you know, it was three different games. First game we were great. Second game, we weren't very good and they were great. The last game, you know, obviously we played super down the stretch.
But, you know, our guys were in attack mode right from the outset and I thought we just did a really good job of being the aggressor early, which set the tone for the game.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Could you tell they really were pretty intimidated early by the kind of defense you were playing?
BRANDON RUSH: I don't think they was intimidated. I think we just pressed it a lot and we made Tyler work for his buckets. That's what we did, made them earn they points.
DARNELL JACKSON: Yeah, that's basically what we tried to do, especially when Lawson was coming off the ball screens, just try to make them change directions. When they guards got open lanes, make sure the big guys stepped over. Cole got some big blocked shots. Shady, Sasha, couple guys took some big charges for us today.
COLE ALDRICH: It was definitely a team effort because, you know, it wasn't just one guy who just, you know, came out and stopped 'em. Everybody just said, you know, we're gonna put 'em down, you know. We really tried to get them out of their comfort zone, just play whole team defense.
Q. Cole, could you talk specifically about your defense you had on Tyler Hansbrough tonight.
COLE ALDRICH: It wasn't just mine. I mean, Darnell and Sasha, Shady all helped out. It was a whole team effort because you can't guard him one-on-one. He's just way too good. He hit the offensive board really hard. It's just so tenacious on both ends of the floor.
Q. Can you talk a bit about what this means to you, making it to the championship game.
BRANDON RUSH: It definitely feels good because we was the underdog the whole game, so we just came out and just applied pressure to them. We got up and did some big things.
DARNELL JACKSON: Since the tournament started, a lot of guys been talking about this. And Coach Self, he's been doing a great job, been helping us to stay focused and telling us not to be satisfied.
We've been playing so hard as a team, and together, and not playing selfish, now we got an opportunity to make history at Kansas.
COLE ALDRICH: You know, that was our ultimate goal at the beginning of the season, was to be playing for a national title. You know, we're doing it. I don't have any words to describe it because it's an unbelievable feeling. Because, you know, the seniors on our team have just done it all for us young guys. You know, they've shown us the way. And, you know, it's just great to be part of this team.
Q. That first 15 minutes was pretty incredible for Kansas. Is that the best stretch of play you've ever been a part of?
BRANDON RUSH: We definitely played the best basketball we played in the first half, with that first 15 minutes. We got out, we got some easy baskets, we made them work on the defensive end. We out rebounded them in the first half, too.
DARNELL JACKSON: Yeah, we was great. We were moving the ball, making extra passes. Guys was getting layups in transition. We were just running the floor.
But after that first 15 minutes, guys was getting so left and right, everybody was just gasping for air because the game was so intense. North Carolina, they played great. Them guys kept fighting. You could see it, they didn't want to give up. They didn't do that at all.
Q. After you had repelled their run, you looked up at the crowd at one point and smiled. Were you looking at any one particular person? If you don't have the knee injury, you're probably not here, so what does this all mean to you?
BRANDON RUSH: It definitely means the world to me. This is one of my goals since I been back at Kansas, during my whole rehabbing thing. I was looking at my mama 'cause I think she was so proud of me. She was just smiling back at me. Her and my grandma.
Q. This is the matchup that many people did not expect Monday night. Did you expect this matchup Monday night?
BRANDON RUSH: Yeah, I definitely expected this matchup because Memphis is a great school. They got a great team. They get up and down the floor like North Carolina do and like we do. Yeah, I definitely expected this big time. I know we was going to come through at the end with North Carolina.
DARNELL JACKSON: Before we even thought we were going to play North Carolina, Russell told me one day they showed a highlight of North Carolina. He said, I want to play North Carolina. And now we got the opportunity to do that. I know there's a lot of people out there that was doubting we couldn't beat them guys. They're just some guys in a North Carolina jersey. And we're the same. We represent Kansas and they represent North Carolina. We both went out there and we showed the right moxy and sportsmanship to play as a team and we won the game.
Q. Not to harp on the first 15 minutes, but this is a game between two No. 1 seeds. When you look up at the scoreboard and you see 28-10 or 40-12, is it a little bit astonishing to you that you have put that much distance between you and them?
DARNELL JACKSON: Yeah, I think so. Sometimes when we're up a lot on teams and guys keep looking up at the scoreboard, can't believe we're up that much, then that -- we can't do that because sometimes guys get satisfied. You can see the last four minutes, we went brain-dead for a little bit. We just lost focus. North Carolina went on a transition break and they were making layups, getting three-point plays.
We just came out of that, Sherron made a big play for us at the end of the half.
Q. Considering that you were up by 28, was it a shock to you that they cut the lead to four points and how did they manage to do that?
DARNELL JACKSON: Well, like I said, they just kept fighting and we made a lot of mental mistakes. The big guys, we got tired a little bit, weren't getting back on defense, trying to stop Lawson from getting in the lane.
But after that, we just -- a lot of guys, we just hooked up and guys was making unbelievable plays for us, knocking down sides, getting three-point plays. Especially Brandon, he played great today. He was unbelievable.
Q. Brandon, can you talk about when they cut the lead to four, what was going through your mind. Looked like you were tired. How confident were you still at that point?
BRANDON RUSH: We was definitely still confident. I knew somebody was going to step up and make a play. Sherron came through with that big three to put us up seven. We made some runs. From that point, we went on a 13-0 run.
Q. Is it almost easier to take the floor tonight against Carolina in this circumstance than last week when all the pressure was on against a great underdog that America had begun to love?
DARNELL JACKSON: Can you repeat that, please?
BRANDON RUSH: I didn't hear you.
Q. Was it easier to play tonight than it was against Davidson with the pressure you had to face to beat them?
BRANDON RUSH: Yeah, I think the pressure was off of us big time. Against that Davidson game, we was a little uptight a little bit. We just didn't play our type of game.
But tonight we came out, we ran up and down the floor with North Carolina. We just played our type of game.
Q. What is going to be the key to victory? Do you slow it down, try do run with them?
DARNELL JACKSON: No, I don't think we're going to change anything we do. We've been doing the same thing as a team to help us win. I don't think we should change our game plan just to try to win a game. We just gonna keep playing, keep playing as a team, keep playing unselfish and great things will happen. We've been doing it for so long.
Q. Cole, you played against the national Player of the Year who apparently has tried harder than anyone to play this game. Was there a moment in the first half where you thought you were at least his equal, when you were blocking shots, active around the basket?
COLE ALDRICH: I just knew coming into the game that it was going to be tough going against him. Being the AP Player of the Year, he's obviously good. He's got tenacious abilities that will, you know, go out to the wire because he's going after every rebound, whether it be right in front of him or 15 feet away from him. He's going to try to get every rebound. I just tried to match that, match his intensity.
You know, when a few guys got in foul trouble, I just had to come in and just, you know, play some defense. I got some good help with Shady and Sasha and Darnell trapping in the post on that.
Q. Brandon, what do you feel was the difference with, what you as a team did differently, between the first and second half, what North Carolina did differently between the first half and the beginning of the second half?
BRANDON RUSH: I think they just made some plays in the second half. They got on a roll when they made some shots they was missing in the first half. Then we was making some stupid mistakes on our end, turn the ball over, shooting stupid shots. We managed to just come up with the win.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, gentlemen.
DARNELL JACKSON: Tenacious (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions for Coach Self.
Q. Your body language was a little bit different tonight versus what it was just a few days ago against Davidson at the end. How were you feeling when you did put them away, knew you were going to the championship game?
COACH SELF: Well, you know, obviously I felt great. I still do. That was an unbelievable performance by -- you know, it wasn't just the starting five. There were eight guys that played at a very, very high level for the first 15 minutes of the game. I mean, that was a pleasure for me to watch. I mean, we were making shots. But also we missed some layups. We had some things not good our way, playing out of foul trouble, all those things. Still to play like that early was, you know, unbelievable.
And then as good as we played early, we played about that poorly in the middle. You know, their best offense the second half was our offense 'cause we just turned it over and let 'em go get easy baskets. Our whole game plan for them, and this is so simplistic, is four passes, one shot. Four passes, one shot. If we could make them make four passes, that means we've taken them out of transition and there won't be as much rotation rebounding and we have a better chance to, you know, hold them to one shot.
You know, they're a fabulous rebounding team. But our guys, you know, went after the ball hard and we got some easy -- it was so important for us to get a couple easy baskets early, you know, got some high-lows. Sometimes when you make a layup, it takes the lid off, so to speak.
But, you know, that's about as good as I've seen - from us.
Q. Is that the best 15 minutes of play you've ever seen? Did your team have a bit of an emotional advantage maybe over North Carolina just because this game was so significant for your fan base, maybe they got a little caught up in that?
COACH SELF: No, no. First question. Best 15 I've ever had anybody play because you're playing against the No. 1 seed in the tournament on the biggest stage.
I never once talked to our guys about them playing against Roy Williams, never once. I never once talked about what a big game it was for our fans. Never once. They may read into it.
But, you know, I really believe this, and our players have done a good job with this. When you're in the eye of the storm, you don't know what's going on around you. Our players don't know how our fans feel, to the extent that they feel. Hopefully for everybody's sake, you know, that's over, that's done, and we can all move forward and everything.
So that was not motivation for our guys playing against Coach Williams. The motivation was our players playing against the overall No. 1 seed and playing against an unbelievable team and program, one which, you know, emulates excellence year in and year out. And in order to, you know, be the best, you've got to beat programs like Carolina. That was our guys' motivation. It didn't have anything to do with who used to coach at Kansas.
Q. What are you telling your guys as they start to cut into that big lead?
COACH SELF: Well, you know, after I chewed on 'em the first half of the timeout, basically I told them, and I mean this, you know, we knew Carolina was going to make a run. They started making the same shot they missed, like Brandon was saying. Then we played poorly for a stretch. But we knew they were going to make a run.
My focus was, and I told them, I said, Hey, guys, if I told you before the game we're going to be up 9 with 10 left, would we have taken that? If I told you before the game we were going to be up five or four at the under-eight timeout, would we have taken that? Of course, we would have. Momentum just switched jerseys.
I always tell our guys, When the game is on the line, that's when players make plays. And we had some guys step up and make some plays. They had the play-makers the first 12 minutes of the second half, then we had the play-makers the last 8.
Q. Did you expect Cole to play as much in the first half? There at the end, Sherron hit the three-pointer off the dribble. Was that a good shot?
COACH SELF: It went in (smiling).
You know, we were laboring offensively. I don't know if it was a good shot or not because we didn't shoot the three ball well at all, at least from my vantage point. I don't know what we ended up the second half. That's not any good.
You know, we wanted to attack the basket and get the ball inside to our bigs. But he was open. He's a clutch player. Sherron labored. Sherron played well. He was aggressive. But he had seven turnovers, didn't play his best. But he made -- certainly made some plays down the stretch.
But, you know, to be honest with you, that game was kind of like -- I don't think I had much control from the sideline, you know. We were shooting -- clipping off bad shots when we had the lead. We were rushing. And it wasn't because I was telling them to do that. If anything, I would like for them to exercise a little bit more patience.
Those guys were so geeked up, they were playing so hard, having so much fun, you almost didn't want to, you know, corral that because they were just playing to win.
I thought that was one good thing that we did. We never played not to lose, we played to win down the stretch.
Q. What about Cole?
COACH SELF: I didn't expect him to play that much. I didn't expect Darnell and Sasha to get two fouls right off the bat. I didn't expect Sasha to get two fouls in two minutes. But it's probably a good thing that things played out the way they did because Cole was unbelievable. He was as good an inside performer as we had tonight.
Q. As that first 15 minutes was unfolding, did you ever think the Final Four is not supposed to be this way?
COACH SELF: No, no. I never relaxed at all. I was, you know, happy that we had a big lead at halftime, but very disappointed on how we ended the half.
But, you know, I kept thinking -- you know, I kept telling our guys, Things are going our way, we have to extend it. We need to keep the foot on the pedal. We have to extend it. Never once did I think about it's comfortable, because I knew it wasn't gonna be. They're too good.
Q. With what you said about the defense, four passes and a shot, et cetera, did you ever think going into a game that you would hold a team averaging almost 90 points a game to, I think it was 66?
COACH SELF: I have a lot of confidence in our defense. I thought that we could not stop Carolina, but I thought we could slow them down. I didn't think they would get their average. But I didn't -- also thought that we were going to have to score ours to win.
You know, we're fortunate. They missed some shots and all those things. But I thought to start the game, I felt like that, you know, instead of having 10 hands out there, it felt like we had 14 or 16. I mean, guys were all after every ball. You know, guys would make a move and they'd reverse pivot, there's two hands waiting for them right there. I just felt like we were so active defensively that it, I don't want to say put them on their heels, but really gave us confidence to get in the attack mode.
You know, I thought our rotations and how we guarded the first half was about as good as we'd done all year.
Q. In the course of a week, you've gone to your first Final Four, gotten past your Elite for the first time, and you've confronted Roy Williams. Have you ever had a better week in coaching?
COACH SELF: No, no, no. No better week (smiling). But it's not because of Roy. That doesn't have anything to do with it. I've said that. I've said that many times, and people don't buy into it.
There is no jealousy, no animosity between Coach Williams and myself, at least on this end. And I have never this entire week, Look, we need to do this because this would be better for me with our fan base or anything like that. It wouldn't have made any difference who was on the other bench.
To everybody else, it's a big deal. That's not a big deal. But this has been a remarkable week, and hopefully it can continue for, you know, make it a remarkable nine or 10 days.
Q. One of the last things you said Tuesday at your press conference was, Don't forget about Cole. Why did you say that? Was there a moment in the first half where he faced up against the big guy, was at least his equal?
COACH SELF: You know, in my opinion, he tried to get crazy with the dunk. He should have finished that if he just tried to dunk it normal, but he tried to get cute with that.
But he was the best player on the floor for three or four minutes, at least from my perspective. That's not taking anything away from anybody else because, you know, the one thing that Cole did, playing out of foul trouble, he defended Tyler well, but didn't stop him like he said. Maybe slowed him down a little bit, but didn't stop him.
But he got -- he can really rebound the ball. He got rebounds in traffic with two hands, which I thought was very impressive.
Q. Could you talk about the collective defensive effort you had on Tyler, taking three or four guys on him.
COACH SELF: It wasn't too good. He got 17 and 9. But we did guard. We did guard. I think he is so good at creating contact after he catches it by spinning and those sorts of things. But we didn't let him, except for two or three times, split the trap. We made him score over us as opposed to giving him an angle. We thought that was a big key because, you know, he's so good at drawing contact.
The other thing that we really did, you know, even though he shot six free throws, if you told me before the game he'd shoot six free throws, I'd sell out for that because he's the type of guy that can shoot 12 or 14 just as easy.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH SELF: Thank you.
End of FastScripts