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March 28, 2009
Connecticut Â– 82
Missouri - 75
THE MODERATOR: We have been joined by Coach Anderson and the Missouri student-athletes. Again, we'll ask Coach for a few opening comments on the ball game, go to questions for the student-athletes, and then questions for Coach.
COACH ANDERSON: Obviously I hurt for our guys. I thought I could get them to that magical place, and we just came up probably a couple of buckets, a stop here, a stop there. Maybe we just ran out of time, a couple minutes.
Hats off to Connecticut and congratulations to them as they get ready to move on to the Final Four. They are a great basketball team. I thought our guys came out with the understanding and mind-set that we wanted to certainly try to survive and advance. But credit to them.
But I tell you what, if our guys came with what they came, they went out the same way they came in to this season. They came in fighting, scratching and clawing, and if you are going to go out, that's the way you want to go out, fighting, scratching and clawing, giving yourself a chance.
Q. Matt, Leo and DeMarre in particular, toward the end of the game, you guys were on the bench as the reserves were coming back. How difficult was it to sit there?
MATT LAWRENCE: It wasn't difficult at all. They were playing great basketball, and they got us back in the game. They were getting stops on defense so they should have been out there.
LEO LYONS: Same thing he said. Those guys deserved to be out there. We are not that type of team to just force something. The guys who were sitting on the bench didn't have it going and they did. Plain and simple.
DEMARRE CARROLL: The same thing Leo said. Our bench has been our key all year. They really stepped up tonight. They were playing some better basketball tonight. Give credit to them guys. They really came out and played tonight.
Q. DeMarre, can you talk a little bit about the start. Connecticut seemed like they hit you in the mouth in the first five minutes of the game.
DEMARRE CARROLL: Yeah, they came out, threw the first punch, and we tried to throw a punch back but we just couldn't get over that hump. We tied the game plenty of times but we just couldn't get over that hump. Give credit to Connecticut. They got some great guys. Hasheem Thabeet, he really made a difference in the lane.
We just couldn't get over that hump.
Q. Matt, can you -- it is early on, I realize, but can you try to put in perspective from your own standpoint where this team came from and how it got here and what it feels like right now?
MATT LAWRENCE: Well, we came from nothing, and I'm pretty sure no one expected us to get here except for the guys in our locker room. I have never been a part of a team that was more cohesive than this one.
When you got guys doing whatever it takes to win, you are going to get this far. I know we wanted to go further, and I think we had a team that was able to. Just didn't get the buckets we needed tonight and the defensive stops. Connecticut is a very good basketball team.
But I think the future looks very bright here for Missouri.
Q. This is for J.T. I think there were a couple of minutes left. You guys were down by three and shot clock winding down and Kemba Walker hit that shot. I don't know how you describe it. Kind of threw it up there. How damaging was that at that time?
J.T. TILLER: You know, sometimes you got to make plays, and that was just one of those plays that put us back on our heels a little bit after we played, I say, great defense for 35 seconds on the shot clock and he put it up there. Just described what kind of day it was, you know?
Q. Matt, could you talk about the tempo. Did you guys get the tempo you wanted? If so, sort of just talk about whether that part worked out for you. Were they able to play more at your tempo?
MATT LAWRENCE: We were trying to force our tempo upon them the whole game. They are a very good team, though. They did a good job with our press. Usually our press wears on teams in the second half, and I think it started to. Towards the end you saw they never really could get away from us. We just didn't have the stops that we needed at the end.
I think every time they kind of looked like they were about to break out and go up by a lot, we would fight and scratch, like Coach said, to keep it close. We just couldn't really get over that hump. I think we might have settled for some jump shots in the second half when we should have been attacking a little bit.
As far as the tempo, though, I think we got it to where we wanted to but just not quite there for 40 minutes.
Q. Along the same lines, J.T., do you think UConn handled your press like you expected them to? Was it not as effective as it has been in the past?
J.T. TILLER: Really, I think a lot of people think that our press is set up for steal the ball. And they base the success on that. But really, our press was pretty successful because it was meant to slow them down and get them out of what they were trying to do, which was run plays. It was pretty much successful. They just withstood it for 40 minutes, though.
Q. Leo and DeMarre, are you guys feeling like you had something in your hands and it just somehow slipped away? What's your mind-set as to the suddenness of a season ended?
LEO LYONS: It does feel like it slipped away, that game right there was the game that we could have won, that we should have won. Like Coach said, it was a couple baskets, missed a shot here, turnover there that could have changed the whole aspect of that game.
For us to lose like that, it is tough on our guys. But I think these guys that we got back there in the locker room, they got to come in as freshmen and see a lot of success. Hopefully they ride it on for the next three years.
DEMARRE CARROLL: The same thing Leo said. We had the game right there, like we said before, we just couldn't get over the hump. You know, we lost the game, but throughout the whole season it was a great season. To come from rock bottom and to be where we're at now, you know, it is just -- I think it is a success.
So, you know, we stood and gained some positives from this our whole year, but, at the same standpoint, we lost the game. It hurts. But from the same standpoint, we gained some success for the year.
Q. Matt and Leo, I don't know if you can figure this out exactly, but how much of the difficulty right now is about losing the game and how much of it is over not playing with these guys any more?
MATT LAWRENCE: Initially it was definitely about losing the basketball game. After you put so much into it, so much time outside of basketball -- I mean, we're out there working hard, it seemed like for a long time to get this program back to where it was. I know for myself and Leo it has been four years, and this is a great way really to go out, I think. But as we got back in the locker room, it was more about -- it was more about those guys that I will never get to play with again.
LEO LYONS: When the buzzer went off, it was tough. It was more of a loss standpoint because these guys really wanted to win that game. Very competitive on this team. For us to lose that game, I mean, it hit everybody in the heart.
But right now it is about us staying close. I mean, our career is over with. All we can do is be mentors to the other guys and help them keep a good mind-set and keep working out with them until we do something else.
Q. J.T., how much are you going to miss playing with these guys right here and just their presence in the locker room?
J.T. TILLER: Having these guys on the team has been having a great honor because these are some great players. We grew as a family these last three years, especially coming from what? Three years ago, their sophomore year, until where we're at now, we just grew together as brothers.
I'm going to miss these dudes something serious, you know what I mean? Because without them, we wouldn't even have got this far. They built this program up. I'm just following their lead, so I'm going to miss them.
Q. Leo and DeMarre, can you talk about the difference Thabeet made and their other shot blockers, how tough it was to get anything inside today.
LEO LYONS: Of course it was a little bit tougher because they had Thabeet in there. He is very long. I don't think that changed the aspect of the game, though. I think we lost that game more as a team effort. We stayed on attack. Nobody shot away from attacking. They got a lot of blocks, but everybody kept going in there. That has been the tale of our team, to stay on attack.
He is a great player. He did change a lot, but it wasn't just him. You have to tip your hat to the whole team for playing great defense, like Stanley Robinson and Adrien. They rebounded and blocked shots as well. It was just the better team showed up today.
Q. Talking about the future, Justin and Keith both had big offensive games today. Is that a sign of things to come for them?
LEO LYONS: A lot of people don't get to see what those guys can do because they come in the game with the defensive mind-set. Our team is very unselfish, so nobody goes out there and tries to get it. But this program is going to be the same or even better. I think they will be better because these guys, like I said, came in on their first year, second year and now they're in the Elite Eight. Now they know success and hopefully they will keep it up. J.T. is captain. He will be the leader of the team next year.
With somebody who works hard like he does, the rest of the team will follow. Everybody better watch out for Mizzou basketball next year.
Q. J.T., midway through that second half, you guys seemed to be playing with a lot of confidence. Did you sense that they were playing on their heels at that time? Did you really feel like you had the game where you wanted it at that point?
J.T. TILLER: Like, we came in the game knowing we could win this game no doubt, you know what I mean? Especially in the second half when we started making our runs and actually getting them on their heels. When we tied the game up -- I don't know if we went up one or tied the game up.
COACH ANDERSON: One.
J.T. TILLER: We could sense they were on their heels. We are used to that, you know what I mean? In the second half, we like to get them worn out and going at our pace. We felt like it was going our way at that point in time, but it just didn't -- didn't come through in 40 minutes like we wanted it to.
THE MODERATOR: We will excuse the student-athletes and keep Coach Anderson. Questions for Coach?
Q. Can you talk about what you tried to get across to the players when you talked to them in the locker room about the season and where they came from.
COACH ANDERSON: First, I told them it was a phenomenal season. These guys came out of nowhere. Even as we played today, no one gave us a chance. Here we are, scored tied up, we are up one or tied. We got stuck on 52, and we gave ourselves a chance to advance to the Final Four.
I think all the hard work they put in, all the dedication, they brought back a sense of pride at Missouri basketball that hadn't been there for a while. For that, I thank them. For them, especially a guy like Matt Lawrence, Leo Lyons, as a coach that did not even recruit them, I opened my arms to them and they took me at my word that we were going to win a national championship. I don't know when. Here we are right on the cusp of a Final Four.
They left it on the floor. That's a locker room where some guys are in hurt in there. There are tears. They expected to win this game. That's okay. But hopefully we can -- we've had an opportunity to taste some of it, and I think our guys can -- the younger guys that experienced it, as these guys talked about, they can pass that tradition on, that feeling, they have tasted it. Hopefully they want to work extremely hard to have an opportunity to get back.
It is going to hurt them for a while because they were right there, I thought. A lot of emotion in that locker room. You got some seniors, man, blood, sweat and tears, they left it all on the floor. With the season coming to the end the way it did, but we lost to a pretty good basketball team in Connecticut, very good basketball team.
I thought the game went the way we want it had to go. I thought we had the rhythm. But Connecticut probably shoot free throws like we do, and they shoot 26-32. That's pretty phenomenal. You got to have some phenomenal things to happen for you in this setting. The bank shot by the Walker kid, he has a career game. Somebody had to step up for them. We did a tremendous job on Thabeet. I thought we did a great job on him.
You look at the stat line, I thought we did some good things. We turned him over 17 times. We had six turnovers, 21 -- I mean, that's pretty good basketball. But we just couldn't make those plays. Seem like we just got stuck on 52 and never quite got over the hump.
But it wasn't because our guys weren't trying.
Q. How hard was it on you the last five minutes? I know you mentioned that the bench is so important all year, but to look at the seniors. You knew those guys were hurting. How hard was it on you the last five?
COACH ANDERSON: We were trying to win. We were trying to win. It is not about hurting. It is about winning. That's what we were trying to do.
Those guys that were out there playing, I thought they had it going on. They were playing well, and they were going to give us an opportunity to win. So some days, you know, guys don't have it so you got to go with the guys that had it going on.
Of course seniors, you expect them to really step up and really showcase what they are capable of doing. But we have some other guys that were playing -- Justin was playing probably one of the best games of his life on the biggest stage. Keith Ramsey playing extremely, extremely good basketball.
And so those guys that were out there, they were doing their job.
Q. Connecticut took your best shot today and they took Purdue's best shot the other day and real different approaches. Just talk about how they're able to survive and advance, to use the phrase, just sort of the versatility that they showed this weekend.
COACH ANDERSON: I think they got some guys that wouldn't get rattled. I think they got some experienced guys that wouldn't get rattled.
At the same time, I thought we didn't do a very good job defensively in the first half. I thought the first half was -- even though they got off to a big start, I thought we made the run back. But I just thought we didn't do a very good job on dribble penetration. I thought we did a better job in the second half. We did a better job in terms of rebounding and make them work a little bit. They shot 70 percent.
But they are an outstanding team. They rose to the occasion. They made big plays. A.J. Price goes out and makes a big, big shot going down the stretch. I thought the biggest one is where we had great defense and -- is it Kemba Walker? He banks one in. And you go, whoa, what is taking place.
But to our guys' credit, it wasn't over until the clock said 0:00.
Q. Mike, you did come back but the first few minutes of the game, did you feel like your guys were tentative or was that Connecticut playing great?
COACH ANDERSON: I thought we were tentative, especially when we attacked the hole. Zaire attacked a couple of times and they blocked a couple of shots. You could just see -- Connecticut came out with energy. They came out with great energy and they probably had three or four straight layups. Eventually we settled down and got back into the rhythm of how we played.
I thought the guys that came off the bench were big keys in doing that. They actually settled us down. That's why you saw them in even in the second half, they were playing because they were playing pretty good basketball.
Q. Coach, would you comment more on Kemba Walker and how difficult is he with his speed and ability to finish.
COACH ANDERSON: Coming into the game, we knew he was one of those guys that liked to attack. That's what he liked to do. There are times when of course in open court I thought he did a good job of getting in there. We didn't fix it on defense in terms of rotating over or deflecting passes. I thought we did a better job in the second half.
Again, he just made some big plays for them. He is a good player.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts