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March 21, 2009

Jeff Adrien

Jim Calhoun

A.J. Price


Connecticut – 92
Texas A&M - 66

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Connecticut student-athletes and Coach Calhoun. Coach, we'll ask you to make an opening statement.
COACH CALHOUN: Well, the first thing I want to say, coming into the game, we had seen Texas A&M who had won I believe eight out of the last nine. Beat Texas, beat Missouri. Quite frankly, just swallowed up a really, really good BYU team. We obviously had great concerns.
But we felt we had a good approach. We tried to cut them off early and high. Put more ball pressure on them. Guys scored two points, Austrie becomes a very valuable guy for everybody on our team. Then Stanley Robinson, Carter is a terrific player, I see he's 3-13. Terrific defense. And then on the offensive end, they long hedged, doubled our pick-and-roll, which left Jeff at the foul line. Jeff was just magnificent in burning those.
Obviously, I think the 27 points and the 8 assists for A.J. was in that special category of players that we've had who in a big-time game make big-time plays. He was absolutely special for us.
I thought really part of the key when we got in foul trouble, and we used Stanley Robinson and Gavin, we actually gained a little bit during that period of time. As Jeff said, they held the fort.
These two guys, 17 wins a couple years ago, at Connecticut, that's not a great thing to be sometimes. Not anytime, as a matter of fact. For them to now be in the Sweet-16, where they belong, in my opinion, and have had just a wonderful season. You know, they've responded back. You know, last two games, you know, with Stanley's help now, we have another option to go with Jeff and go with -- with A.J. Price. And, clearly, Sticks gives us that other guy. Couldn't be happier the way we played defense. Even though we scored 92, our defense was very impressive, which gave us great offense. Got the ball up the court.
I know Jeff has been begging, he had a great game against Notre Dame, kind of begging for that breakout game. He was so important for us, he really was. Jeff, he's been our rock, so important for us. He was just really, really terrific tonight. So between the two of them, they were just really special.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for the student-athletes.

Q. A.J., how important was it not just to win these games but win them emphatically, like you guys did?
A.J. PRICE: I think it was kind of important. It wasn't our goal coming into the tournament. You know, win by a big margin. We just wanted to come in and play to the best of our ability. We did that these first two games and hopefully we can continue that throughout this tournament.

Q. A.J., a lot of people questioned whether or not you deserved a 1 seed. There were thoughts about that at the beginning of this. Winning the way you have, do you think there's a message being sent? Were you playing with a bit of a chip on your shoulder?
A.J. PRICE: Well, this should be a message sent, showing we are a good team. We've had a great year thus far. Throughout the year we've proved that we are a good team. For anyone to question we were a No. 1 seed, I think we answered those questions by playing hard and showing people that we can beat good teams.
We've beaten them impressively. But, like I said, it wasn't our goal to come in and try to blow teams out or show anybody up. We just wanted to come out and play as best as we could play, and we've done that these first two games.

Q. A.J., you're playing with a great deal of confidence. Can you tell us what your mindset is like when you have the ball? And your comfort on the big stage this time of year?
A.J. PRICE: Yeah, I am playing with confidence right now. I feel like I'm a good shooter. I've put in enough work that I feel like I'm gonna make shots during the game. And that's just coming with our swagger, a certain swagger that we talk about as a team. It starts with the point guard, and I think I bring that. It trickles down through our whole team. We are playing with that built up confidence.
You know, big-time players step up in big-time games, big-time moments. Jeff Adrien, myself today, we both played very big today in a big-time game.

Q. Much has been set about the Big East in this tournament. What makes the Big East such a physical conference with the way you play?
JEFF ADRIEN: There's no other league in the country like the Big East. We just go out there every game and try to take each other's heads off. I'm for real when I say that. You see Villanova playing UCLA before. It's nothing new. It seemed like UCLA wasn't ready for that game.
You know, I think really our conference just prepares us to play games like this where the physical game, it's nothing to us. It doesn't really match up to what we've been through during the year.
A.J. PRICE: I think we just have a balance throughout the whole conference of teams that can do a lot of different things and play a lot of different styles of basketball. You know, some conferences like to slow it up, play more physical game. Other conferences are fast-break conferences.
Big East, we have a good combination of both. I think we shown that throughout this tournament.

Q. Jeff, how important was it for you to get off to such a good start? Were you surprised they kept leaving you open in the same spot?
JEFF ADRIEN: It was very important. You know, it was something we've been talking about coaching staff and myself, just to get me going a little bit. Guys found me early. I was very surprised after I hit the first couple jump shots, they was leaving me that open. I just kept shooting and I was feeling good.

Q. AJ, by far your most enthusiastic and loud fan in your stands is your mother. You always have a crew of family and friends. What is that like for you?
A.J. PRICE: It kind of feels like my childhood days, you know. My mother's been around since I started playing basketball. She's been doing the same thing since I was 12 years old at all my games, leading the chants, having the fan base just riled up and things like that. So it feels good.
You know, it makes me happy to see her happy. Make my family proud, as well.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys. We'll continue with questions for Coach Calhoun.

Q. Can you talk about how proud you are of these guys to be able to do what they did with you being hospitalized, all that surrounded that, the preparation that went into it?
COACH CALHOUN: Well, I mean, I had an awful lot of pressure after what George did the other day. So I was hoping that we'd score and play defense.
But, no, after we lost to Syracuse in that six-overtime game, we tried to simplify everything. Doesn't mean we eliminate a lot of things. We get back to what we do well. We were playing pick-and-rolls a little different, doing different kind of things. We're doing that more because we really needed, we thought, to play much better defense without Jerome Dyson, who has been so valuable for us in the first 24 games.
But I think that Stanley has now become a factor offensively. Every time you have more options when you get foul trouble, he's not taking the place, we'd like to have them both, but that's helped us alleviate a lot of our problems, at least in these two particular games.
I couldn't be happier for a group of kids. We've had some incredibly talented kids playing at UConn. This is a talented group. A great chance for A.J. People questioned me, Do you still think he has his quickness? The best way right now is probably ask Texas A&M, who by the way is a very, very good basketball team. We just took them out of everything they did. We worked so hard on every one of their sets, getting through and getting extra help. I thought we hedged very well. We covered very well. Hasheem didn't have a particularly good game. Yet we were still able to put an impressive performance against a very good basketball team.
Mark does a great job with them. I thought we just locked them up early defensively and made the game so much more comfortable for us to play when we had no fear that they were going to score 'a ton of points' with any shot duration.

Q. You're starting to play with a full deck offensively. Can you tell us how that changes a team?
COACH CALHOUN: Well, I think if you work hard enough, and the kids still don't get Stanley enough on the curl cut, because when he gets the ball, he's relentless in and around that lane. We've got to develop that more. They had that, for example, in certain ways where Jerome got the ball. So we're trying to make him somewhat that piece. We're trying to obviously take advantage of the quickness going to the hole of Kemba, and it's taking time.
Are we there? Well, the good news is we've got games more to find that out. But for this team to get to the Sweet-16, frankly, with the kind of season. The reason we're a No. 1 seed is based on the body of our work. It goes back to Gonzaga. It goes back to every single thing we do. I would not have been a coach who complained because we lost one of the best players in the league. And yet we've been able to rebound and now win some basketball games, certainly impressively without him. Chattanooga is a good team, I really like Texas A&M. We were able to lock them up. I think Mark mentioned how many times got to the foul line, we tried to attack them as much as we possibly could, their big guys, guards particularly. We got a special performance out of Jeffrey and A.J., was special. We're talking so much about Hasheem, and yet I normally wouldn't think we could do what we did without Hasheem being a dominant force. He still is a factor around the rim. People miss shots. But tonight he was not the kind of factor he's been for most of the season. Yet we came away with a very, very impressive win. I'm proud of them, very happy for them, and can't wait quite frankly to go out and play now in the Sweet-16.

Q. You mentioned the other day the '06 team started thinking about other things. Losing Jerome, what happened with you the other day, can the reverse work for this team, that their focus becomes honed because of other things that have gone on?
COACH CALHOUN: It's a terrific evaluation 'cause I think this particular team, because they kind of hold onto each other, they've kind of been said, You aren't like some of the other teams. But they are. They're really good. When you win 29 basketball games and lose 4, and you had one of your best players go down seven or eight games before then, they're good. We're really good.
Are we special yet? No. Couple more wins from that. There's no guarantees in this deal. But we played two very impressive games. I know, once again, particularly defensively, we've played very, very good basketball. We gave up 25% first game against Chattanooga. Today in the first half, when it really counted, gave up 35%. Our defense has still been constant for us. We cleaned up the rebounds where they had a lot of offensive rebounds in the first half, they had two the second half. We were harping on the kids about that. I thought we played great defense. We flowed the ball offensively. When A.J. gets going like that, I mean, it puts a lot of pressure object a team because we have some big kids that can finish plays. Gavin Edwards was there to do that today. This is kind of a nice moment for me. As I said, this team brought me a great deal of joy.
I truly believe that they're really, really focused on being the best they can be. I told them that, you know, you're 40 minutes away from Phoenix. That's all you are. Take us a little longer to get there next week. But you're 40 minutes away. What you need to do is do the same things you did against Chattanooga, just do them a little quicker, a little better, and we're going to be just fine. And quite frankly, we played pick-and-rolls, all the other various things we had to face, the exact same way.

Q. You mentioned you were glad these guys were back in the Sweet-16 where they belonged. A.J. talked about swagger. How much do you think this teams that served notice in this tournament that UConn is back, given the last couple years?
COACH CALHOUN: You know, five years ago we won a national championship, 2006, we were No. 1 team in the country. So it isn't like we've disappeared from the face of the earth. But you're right. Being a national player that someone could get to Detroit, you know, you have to think that we started off that way very well. Nevertheless, we think we're a national program. We think that we're going to be there every year and we aspire to do that.
Right now this group that we say hasn't done all that much, you know, has won, if my math is any good, I think they've won 53 games in two years. I don't know if most schools think that's pretty good or not. But, you know, that's not bad. That's not bad. And remember, we're the team that went to Louisville, when we were whole, and that's the biggest adjustment we've had to make. We went to Louisville and won by 17. Went to West Virginia and won there. Notre Dame, broke their 45-game winning streak when they were playing very well. Won there. This team has lost one road game all year. It's been a very gritty group. I think the observation you had very simply is that they really seem to have now turned the focus. They put aside what happened when Pittsburgh beat us fair and square, then we had the marathon against Syracuse. We've been able to bounce back with more focus. You don't know what that's going to do to a team. We seem to be more focused in doing the small things that may have cost us the six overtime game. You're on a tightrope, a 40-minute season. I'm proud, happy, and it's great to see some of the other teams play so well in our league. It's nice to be 16 again.

Q. How did you feel out there? You've been in the hospital. Seemed like you were back to doing your thing on the sideline.
COACH CALHOUN: Well, you know, I think I was my usual. I yelled a couple things out (laughter). My wife will tell me about them later.
But our kids were playing so well, a lot of it took encouragement. I explained to them one time we were the ones who were 80 and they were the ones that were 62. We just had a little problem with that. We played so well. It was not a game where I had to get them going. They were very focused on their own. They came in really with a purpose. I don't think it's a chip, but it's a purpose, no question. They feel, people say, Connecticut got in because of what they did all year.
You're a hundred percent right. I'm the first one to admit that. And they're not quite the same team. A hundred percent right on that. But maybe, just maybe, we can be as good a team, 'cause we during the season have been really good. The last two games we've been pretty good in those games, too.

Q. Is there anything you will look at over the next four days and say, "That's got to be better?
COACH CALHOUN: I think there will be a lot of things. Regardless of the circumstances, you keep stepping up in class. The reason you keep stepping up in class doesn't always have to do with the opponent that you face. It has to do with the situation. They've won two games, feel very good about themselves, have a swagger, regardless of what happened beforehand, and are probably very, very good.
So anybody who advances goes back to the campus, is praised and feels very good about itself. So now you have to step up in class. I still remember back in '99 when we faced an Iowa team that -- a team we thought we could out-quick. We were very fortunate to beat them. We faced Gonzaga for the ultimate game in the round of eight and got to the Final Four. I think my point is, you keep stepping up in class. It's obviously a reflection of the team whose are playing well at this particular time. But I still think it's a reflection of the tournament. The tournament, it feeds you. It's a self-fulfilling kind of thing where it feeds you and makes you feel better about yourself. Therefore, generally speaking, you have the ability to play better.

Q. I think you said Wednesday that you were going to have a heart to heart talk with Jeff Adrien, things happened Wednesday night into Thursday, so you probably didn't. Have you talked to him since heart to heart?
COACH CALHOUN: Yeah. Jeff is a terrific player. He just wasn't doing all the things that we felt he was capable of. I think today, which helped us quite frankly, and a lot of teams it wouldn't help, when they double-teamed the pick-and-roll, he rolled back to the foul line. We told him they elongate that hedge, get the ball out of A.J.'s hands. After he made two or three of those jump shots, his whole game was entirely different. But we had talked about that, that this could be the kind of game. They're going to elongate that, slip that, get to the foul line. You're going to find yourself wide open.

Q. With Stanley, after everything he went to to get back, do you feel he's coming into his own again?
COACH CALHOUN: A, I think so. And, B, tomorrow at mass I'll pray so.
I mean, I just think that he's put together a 28, a 24, now not only a good offensive performance, but a great, offensive performance. Carter can play. We looked at enough tape of Carter, Blaney told me, he's Sam Young like in the sense he can make threes and do things. He was 3-13 today. Obviously we did a great, great job. 1-6 from three. Stanley was just great on him. That's why I wanted to keep him in the game as long as we possibly could.
Yes, he could fill that void. When a coach goes into a game, he wants as many options as he possibly can have because somebody gets in foul trouble, someone isn't having a particularly good game. The more guys that can step up for you, the better chance you have of winning. As I said, I thought a key period, granted the key period is the open part of the game, we played great defense. The second key period, could have got down 13-12, when we had both Jeff and Hasheem sitting where I didn't want them to sit - beside me - which they didn't want either. We had to go small a little bit with Gavin and with Stanley Robinson at the four spot. Yet we were able to do that.
Once again, Texas A&M is a good team. I can see why they won their tournament. They have very good players. By the way, we also got them in foul trouble. You didn't see the true Texas A&M team. Without question, Coach Turgeon is one of those young rising guys. Just look at his record back at Wichita and so on. They're well-coached. They get in foul trouble tonight and they face a team that really had good focus and purpose tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

End of FastScripts

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