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March 19, 2009
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
MEMPHIS Â– 81
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE - 70
COACH CALIPARI: First of all, you know, my hat is off to Northridge. They were not intimidated. They did not back down. As a matter of fact, we had to turn the press back.
They played us like teams in our league play us, which is they're not afraid, they battle, they go at us and they were not going away.
My hat is off -- I thought that, obviously Roburt Sallie just played so well, you know, really the way he's capable of playing. Just so you know, you don't expect much from Roburt in a morning game like this, but today he had it.
Then I thought Antonio two, three buckets. It's a gut game for us. We've had many of these over the last 61 that we had to gut it out and make plays down the stretch and we did it again. So, in that regard, it was a good game for us to have to open up this tournament.
Just about every tournament we start this is -- first games are hard. They're all hard to be honest with you.
KEVIN KLINTWORTH: Questions for student athletes only at this time.
Q. For any of the players, can you talk about the zone that they started with, were you surprised by that and it seemed to fluster you guys a little bit?
ANTONIO ANDERSON: We weren't surprised. Coach prepared us. We knew that they played like an extensive zone. We had to be aggressive. We were a little bit tentative in the beginning. Coach kept telling us attack, attack, attack. Once we started attacking the zone we started to find Roburt and opened it up for us.
Q. Start with you Roburt, you hit those first, four, five, just talk about when you started feeling it and could you imagine having a game from Memphis like this today?
ROBURT SALLIE: No, I didn't. I think I hit my first four and then I actually missed two after that and Coach just kept saying shoot the ball and, you know, they kept leaving me open. I got a lot of open looks today and I just hit the shots.
Q. Roburt, have you ever heard of Larry Kenon?
ROBURT SALLIE: No, I haven't.
Q. You knocked him out of the record books for all time leading score in a NCAA tournament game for the University of Memphis. Your reaction.
ROBURT SALLIE: Just excited. That's something that I don't think my teammates would ever expect me to break a record like that. I'm just a shooter. I just was hitting shots today. I just found out I made ten 3-pointers. I don't think I've ever done that before. That's also a record for me.
Q. Antonio, nine games Roburt didn't even score. Why would you believe he could pull off 35?
ANTONIO ANDERSON: You know what, I knew Rob had it in him all along, all. All during the year I tell him to shoot the ball, shoot the ball. He's a little hesitant.
I go back to prep school with him. We told Coach we know this guy. Rob besides him scoring, he does other things for us like defend and rebounds extremely well. He's one of our best rebounders.
He does that, everything else opens up for him. He was confident today and he was just knocking them down. I knew he had it in him all along. Just a point of him being real aggressive and shooting the ball when he's open. He did that today.
Q. Roburt, Coach mentioned that maybe a morning game might not be the one for you to break out in. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
ROBURT SALLIE: I think my stats for morning games, I think I had like a total of 13 points in four games. You know, Coach, gets on me at times because I don't come to play sometimes in the morning games but I think today, you know, tournament, my preparation was -- I just stayed awake and stayed focused the whole morning. It paid off.
Q. This is a question for Dozier and Anderson. When you see Sallie like going off the hook, I mean here's a guy who averaged four and a half points coming into the game, 13 was his season high. He goes for 35. What are you thinking when you see this development?
ROBERT DOZIER: I saw him perform in prep school. He's won games where he's hit six, seven 3s and plays great defense. It was just a matter of him being aggressive and shooting the shot. You know, not so much that he can't do it. I mean that's what I expect from him, if he gets irrelevant going.
ANTONIO ANDERSON: I just felt he was making them, I said, "Yes." That's all that was going through my mind. Just kept thinking about letting the coach believe enough to go recruit him, me and Rob. It's just us trusting him and one another and knowing what he's capable of and he goes for 15 straight 3s in practice on a daily basis so we know he's capable of making shots.
Q. Can you talk about your -- beautiful quick release. Have you been working on it? Where did it come from?
ROBURT SALLIE: Something natural. We shoot a lot in practice. The other day Coach was behind me and he said make ten straight. Actually how many did I make, 14?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: 14.
ROBURT SALLIE: That's just something I try to keep my form and today I was just hitting shots.
Q. Were the 14 all 3-pointers?
ROBURT SALLIE: Yes.
Q. Now, admit to it me now, any of you guys, when did you feel scared when they were making those -- under the basket sweeping underneath hooks or the 3s? Tell me when you really -- I heard -- saw you Robert come out of the huddle same, "Damn." Tell me how scared you were.
ANTONIO ANDERSON: We were never scared. Scared is never in our minds. That's never a problem for us. Coach told us they're very talented, they're capable of beating us and we got to be ready to play. They came out and made some shots and that's what they do.
We watched them. Scared is never a problem for us. We just knew we had to come together and play with each other and we'll be fine. That's what we did.
Q. Robert Dozier and Antonio, how did you guys end up in so much foul trouble in the first half? What was happening out there and how much did that affect the way the first half went?
ROBERT DOZIER: We just were getting caught off guard. It was like a step or two ahead of a couple guys out there and we just -- in that second half, the latter part, like the last eight minutes we did a better job of talking to each other, getting over screens and fighting and getting better position. It worked out for us.
Q. Antonio, couple days ago you guys said you didn't know that much about Cal State Northridge. What did you learn about that team after today?
ANTONIO ANDERSON: Very scrappy. They have a lot of heart. Every player came off the bench played extremely hard. They all were talking, they rebounded, they defended. Very fast. They are fast. They have heart. They weren't afraid, didn't back down. They came right at us and punched out in the mouth.
Q. Tell us again about your name, where does the U come from, Roburt?
ROBURT SALLIE: Something my mom just gave me, my uniqueness. I don't know. That's it. That's pretty much.
KEVIN KLINTWORTH: Last two questions. Everyone okay? Thanks guy.
Questions for Coach Calipari.
Q. What were you saying yesterday about you never use your timeouts, you were spending them today, weren't you?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: How many did I have left? I think I had two left.
Q. That's a lot for you.
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: That is a lot for me. When they went up six, I looked at it and said, I better talk to these young men right here. I was proud of us in the first half with all the foul trouble, how the heck we stayed in the game. I told them at halftime we're up three and we had three players sitting out.
I thought Pierre Niles did a great job of holding the fort down and doing well. We just had a lot of guys play skittish today.
Now, I can't remember back the last year when we played Texas Arlington but I think it was very similar. As a matter of fact, we played Mississippi State and we had a couple guys and kind of got going.
I didn't think Tyreke was particularly good today. He was okay but he wasn't as good as he been playing and mostly defensively.
Robert Dozier wasn't as good as he's played. But I thought Shawn Taggart, I thought Antonio made plays and Roburt Sallie made plays and get out with a W.
At this time of the year you just try to march on to the next game. I'll watch this tape when I get back at the hotel and try to figure out what in the world did they do to us. But I'll tell you, my hat is off to them. They had a great game plan, what they wanted to do and we had to have a guy get 35 for us to win the game.
Q. Were you surprised, especially Antonio and Robert coming out of the blocks, real sluggishness, lack of energy. Did that surprise you from the seniors?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: I called it arrogance at halftime. My job is to have the swagger role but I've got to be on top of the arrogance, because arrogance comes to slippage cool. You want to be cool, versus really aggressive and tough.
So the swagger for us went to a little bit of arrogance. I think this game like Antonio said, they punched us in the mouth and maybe brought us back to earth.
You know, I was surprised. I mean we had a couple players, Doneal Mack, I wish they wouldn't have put the picture in there. He's better than that. He was like just -- he was just out there and -- we have enough guys. Wesley Witherspoon struggled as a freshman but we have enough guys that we can go to if it happens.
Q. John, you've seen zones and all kinds of zones. How did they make you completely a jump shooting team for 32 minutes?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: We were trying to do everything we could to throw it inside. But I think on the perimeter what we were doing, we're holding the ball and instead of swing, swing, drive or post, we're swing, swing hold the ball, reset the defense, distribute again and as the game is going on you're seeing it every timeout.
We couldn't get them to keep the ball movement and look for post-ups as we go, but again, I'll watch the tape and see what was there.
Like I said, that was Northridge more than it was us. We played against every zone, played against them all, sagging man and all that stuff and again, if you look at the stats, you understand outside of Roburt Sallie we're 1 of 13 from the tree. We're 1 for 13 from the three.
Exactly what we talked about. Normally we've been a good free throw shooting team. We didn't make them. A little bit of skittishness, I guess.
Q. Coach, you mentioned Northridge played you like other teams in your conference. Could you elaborate on that a little bit and what do you say to people who suggest that maybe your conference, caliber of competition at least this year might not have prepared you for the tournament as well as, say, Big East or ACC teams?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: We'll find out if that's true, won't we? Right now, we're still marching on. I would tell you UTEP did this to us, had their chances to beat us, Tulsa did it to us down there, had their chances to beat us.
You had UAB did stuff in the zone and different things like this team had done it, and in all those cases, we found a way to win. But there are people in our league -- Central Florida played us great and did a lot of zone and mixing it up and doing stuff.
Our league has -- we had 7 teams in the top 100, we had two in the top 50 and you know really had a couple losses within our league, non-conference that could have put us in a better position than we were in.
But our league is way better than everybody gives it credit. A lot of times it's to minimize what we've done. It kind of works against our league. It's unfortunate because it really shouldn't be but UTEP won their game won their game and UAB, they've got Notre Dame, tie ballgame with seven and a half minutes to go.
This is the game our league has got to win now and we lose it. We have so many of those kind of games that we got to get over the hump within our league including us. We lost to Syracuse, Georgetown in overtime. Xavier beats us all one, two bucket games. We did the same thing.
KEVIN KLINTWORTH: Last two questions.
Q. Coach, how does Roburt Sallie go from being in your doghouse early in the season to basically saving the season?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: Well, what he's doing is he's, one, listening and trying to play the way we play because if you don't guard, you cannot get on the floor for us. And then the other thing is, you really got to play at a high intensity level every possession.
Our motto, "Every Player, Every Possession". He wasn't used to that. He was more like, you know, a rec league, I'll play when it feel like it. I'll get it going at some point.
It took him time to figure out. He's been great the last three weeks. It's a hard thing. It's like Wesley Witherspoon going through the same thing. You know, you play high school, you don't understand.
Tyreke Evans went through the same thing. Every possession matters especially this time of year. You can't give up on a possession. You can't say I got screened oh, my fault.
You can't walk out of a timeout not listening to what we're trying to do, we go to the wrong spot, say it's my fault, not now.
So to play at the level that we play basketball -- and I call it "rarefied air", we just won more games. These seniors have won more games than any players in the history of college basketball.
You know what's great about it, they're going to graduate in May, in four years on time, all three seniors. And so not only are they winning and battling and they're up against it, they're graduating on time.
That will put us at 19 out of 22 seniors who will graduate from our program, 19 of our last 22.
Kind of unique because you wouldn't think that.
KEVIN KLINTWORTH: Last question.
Q. Coach, just wonder what you thought about the atmosphere here today. Seems like you had a lot of fans.
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: The other fans I think, you know, they want to see that upset, that 15/2 go down. Anymore 15s playing? The 15/2, there's been four, five of those.
I think all of us -- Antonio is right. I had said in the huddle, "We've been in these games before. We've been here. Just go make plays. We've been here. We've got to guard pick and roll better. We've been here. Be aggressive. Keep into the gaps of the zone. We're fine. We've been here."
Again, I was disappointed in how we started the game. I had to sit one guy out, I had to sit another guy out. I'm like, "Come on." We went to the bench a little bit. We were just juggling trying to figure out who are the five, who are the five that are going to win this game. That's what I was doing.
KEVIN KLINTWORTH: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts