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March 14, 2010
Kentucky - 75
Mississippi State - 74
THE MODERATOR: We're ready to continue on with Kentucky. We'll ask Coach Calipari for some general thoughts on the game. Then we'll take your questions just for the four student-athletes. Coach, would you begin.
COACH CALIPARI: That was easy. Let me first start by telling you this eye test they talk about. If Mississippi State is not in the NCAA Tournament, there's no such thing as an eye test.
Come on. If we're the number two seeded team with the one, two, this was a road game for them. I don't understand. But then again, there's a lot of things I don't understand.
I know these guys are all up here, and they were tremendous in how they played. But I've got to tell you, Daniel Orton, when DeMarcus got in trouble, played ridiculous, unbelievable. Perry Stevenson went in there and did great stuff. And then Ramon Harris, a senior who I haven't played that much, got the biggest rebound of the game. I'm so proud of those three because that's how you win.
The one play I'll tell you, Patrick knows he left a corner man, and they made a three, and they went up five. As we walked to the bench, Eric Bledsoe grabbed him and said, we got your back. We're not going to lose it that way. You just keep playing. We got you.
That's the will to win. That's that refuse to lose attitude. That's what these guys have. I'm really, really proud of them. It was a good win for our program.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. John, what was going through your head on that last shot? You hadn't be shooting well up until that point, and you weren't really open. What made you want to take that shot?
JOHN WALL: Which one, the end of regulation?
Q. Three-pointer in overtime.
JOHN WALL: I seen the shot clock going down, so I just faded, and it went in. So I was happy and celebrated.
Q. DeMarcus, could you talk about getting the rebound on the last play in regulation, just that whole consequence.
DEMARCUS COUSINS: John shot it. I knew it was an air ball. You could just tell it was short. So I just grabbed it and tried to put it in quickly, and I got it.
Q. Did you know when you shot it, it was good? Did you know you had beaten the clock?
DEMARCUS COUSINS: I knew it was good because I was looking at the red light.
Q. For DeMarcus and John, that last sequence and then the celebration, did you know at that point? You tied it, but did you know going into overtime the game was yours at that point?
JOHN WALL: I didn't know it was going into overtime, to be honest. I was tapping so hard on the table, I was so excited. When I went to the bench, Coach said, it's overtime. I was like, whew, I was tired. I knew we fought hard. I didn't play a great game, but I did great job of leading my team.
Eric is a tremendous backcourt to have. People overlook him. Him being in the backcourt helps out a lot. With Patrick and DeMarcus down, they're two beasts. Like Coach said, our bench is amazing. I knew going into overtime we had a chance to win with those guys making the shots, and they're just rebounding.
DEMARCUS COUSINS: I knew it was just overtime. I made the shot. I don't believe the rest of the team knew. So I got kind of beat up at the end thanks to John.
Q. Eric, did you think they were going to find you at the end of regulation? What did you think the strategy would be?
ERIC BLEDSOE: When it went off the backboard?
Q. No, when they fouled you with 5.8 seconds.
ERIC BLEDSOE: I don't know.
COACH CALIPARI: We weren't sure they were going to foul or not. We made sure we kept it tight to shoot it, but then they fouled. We weren't sure.
Q. DeMarcus, talk about Varnado and what he does inside there, especially defensively.
DEMARCUS COUSINS: He's a tremendous player. I mean, that's a tough matchup for anybody to play against. I mean, he's just got so much length, and he's so good as what he does. It's just tough to score and do anything over him. He's a tremendous player.
Q. For Patterson and maybe a couple of the other players, how much does this tournament help you now that you get ready to go into the next tournament? Do you feel tested at this point?
PATRICK PATTERSON: I definitely do. I mean personally I think it's going to help us prepare for the games coming up ahead, playing against a top team like Tennessee and being able to have the performance we did can definitely help us. Also, this game against Mississippi State going into overtime and my teammates still battling and having that will to win. That definitely will carry on into the games in the NCAA Tournament.
JOHN WALL: That's basically it. We played three great teams back to back. We played great against Tennessee, and today we struggled a little bit. But like Patrick said, we got the will to win, and we came out with a tough win.
Q. For any of the players, was there any point at the end of regulation or near the end of regulation that you thought you wouldn't be able to come back?
DEMARCUS COUSINS: To be honest, I knew something crazy was going to happen, and I was expecting it to happen from John. And he did do it when he got that steal and then layup. So I was just waiting for something spectacular to happen, and he came through.
THE MODERATOR: We'll excuse you. We'll continue on with Coach Calipari.
Q. John, that sequence, the way they got the bucket to tie it and then in overtime. How do you like the way this team responded to the pressure of being down, I think five, with 2:28 to go?
COACH CALIPARI: You know what, they've been doing it all year. They have an unbelievable will to win. What Eric did, where he talked to Patrick, made me feel good. Then I felt, we're going to be all right. It's not what I think, it's what they think.
When I saw how our bench was playing -- and even in overtime where DeMarcus said let Daniel get in there and play. I'm a little winded. That's great. You're not selfish. You're not worried about staying on the floor.
But it was all good. I mean, you know, there were things that we did today -- I wasn't sure whether they were going to foul. There's all kind of ways to do it. When we played Kansas, if you remember, all the geniuses who should have fouled in the backcourt with 11 seconds with the worst free-throw shooting team in the country, we were going to foul at half-court, and the kid got away from us, and we don't.
Mark Few calls me and says, I would never foul in that situation. If you win, it was smart. If you lose, it wasn't smart. Doesn't matter which way you go. You either foul or don't foul. If you win, you're a genius. If you don't, idea you do that?
So we happened to miss the second one, and we have a little thing we work on that ran John down the middle of the lane. He missed it good and it tipped out and John grabbed it. How did we win this game? How did we go to overtime? I don't know. Does that make sense what I just said? No, I didn't think so.
Q. John, you made no secret of your disdain for tournaments, and you've mentioned the fact that winning the regular season isn't a big deal. Now that you have and the way that you've done it and the way that things have transpired, do you still feel that way?
COACH CALIPARI: Yes. We were playing for the seed in the NCAA Tournament. No disrespect to any tournament, whether it was an Atlantic 10 Tournament, a Conference USA Tournament, or an SEC Tournament, we're playing for a seed in the NCAA Tournament. That's what we play for. I only brought two suits because I thought we'd probably get beat and didn't bring another suit. I wore the same shirt I wore yesterday because I didn't bring enough clothes. So we'll rest, go home.
Now it's Sunday, we may play Thursday. Now after we won the game, I thought, we might as well try to win this one now that we're here. I want these kids to think big. I want them to think beyond today.
You know, you look at it, Patrick -- this is the first game like this Patrick's ever been in. Hasn't been in the NCAA Tournament yet. Think about it. We're thinking beyond, and that's what I try to get them to do.
Now, you know, we're going -- we go through a season, every year I've coached, it's all game to game. It's not this game, that game. No game is more important because they all matter toward that seed. North Carolina is just as important as Morehead State. Morehead State is just as important as Louisville. They're all important.
Q. Is that why you guys decided not to cut the nets down today?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, we will cut down nets. It's just not the SEC Tournament nets, and it may be hopefully in the NCAA Tournament somewhere. But I think these guys, they have a big picture, and it's no -- we knew how hard this was. We could have lost to Alabama, folks. Alabama had us beat. We made a bunch of shots inside. We were able to post the ball. We went and did some things. Tennessee had us beat, but we made threes. Then all of a sudden we stretched it to 30.
This game was a game we should have lost too. Again, you can -- one thing I've noticed. I've done this a long time. You can't ask these kids to climb mountain after mountain after mountain after mountain. After a while, they got nothing left. So you got to figure out what mountain do you want to climb?
And as we did this, you find out that that other stuff, it's not as important, but you win them. You're not putting any emphasis on it, and you win them. I don't know if it's smart, dumb, that's just how I've done it. There's a thousand ways to do what we do in this coaching profession.
Q. Cal, on that intentional free-throw miss in practice, out of ten times, how many times does that work in your favor?
COACH CALIPARI: About nine. That's why people will say it was the right thing to do because 9 out of 10, bang. But then again, you're looking to say they weren't making threes. Why not -- it's just, it doesn't matter. I swear we did the right thing against Kansas. I didn't call time-out because bill self didn't have a time-out. It didn't matter. The ball went in, and we lost the national title. Cal, what the heck is this guy doing? Today it works the other way.
All I know is you know your team. Rick knows his team. He's done a great job all year. He played his guys the way he felt he needed to play that game. And I'm doing the same. No one knows my team like me, and no one knows Rick's team like him. No one's in our practice every day. No one knows our kids mentally. We know them. So you do what you think is right.
I called a time-out against Vanderbilt, the stupidest time-out I've ever called in my life, and we luckily won the game. The players saved me. I put the ball in Kevin Stallings' hand, the coach of the year in our league, and he does what a great coach does. He throws it down the court, and they get a four-footer, and it just happened to miss. It was the dumbest thing I've ever done.
Coaching -- it doesn't matter. Whatever you do, if you win you did the right thing, if you lose you did the wrong thing. That's just how it is. As I get older, I'm better than that. Whatever you think, that's fine. I'm just trying to win and do right for these kids and put them in a good position to win ball games.
Q. You mentioned Ramon Harris at the end. You hadn't really played him much the whole game. What made you decide you could go with him? Because you then kept him in almost the whole way.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, I haven't been fair with him, first of all. I told him prior to the game, if I put you in, I'm going to leave you in for three or four minutes because it's not fair what I'm doing to you. You can't go in for 30 seconds or a minute and play, and he deserves better because he's a great kid and he's a hard worker, and he's meant a lot to this program. And I told him before the game that.
So I just had in my gut, I watched the game tapes from last night, and I just said, I want to play this kid. I love him. He's behind players who are better than him, but he deserves to play. It's like Perry Stevenson. He's behind players who are better than him, but he deserves to play.
Q. John, late in regulation, you were down five, you didn't foul. Did you have that much confidence in wall's defense?
COACH CALIPARI: Yes. We're a great defensive team. The choice is start fouling and give them confidence, and I'm like, look, we're going to get one stop, get a rebound, something good will happen. We'll be right there. All of a sudden, it's a three-point game.
When it got down to it, we had to deny an inbounds pass. I'm confident because it's how we play. It's not how we play every once in a while. It's how we play. I have a lot of confidence in the players.
I said this on the radio after. These players are so young they don't know better. In a way, it's not bad. They just think, we're going to come back. They haven't been in enough games to know, that's very hard what you just did. Nearly impossible. They're like, no, it isn't, we just did it.
So we've got all these young guys and a deep team, and we were lucky. You have to admit, Mississippi State did everything they're supposed to do to win the game. And the call at the end with 5.8 seconds is the right call. Wouldn't you say? Some of you say no, so I shouldn't say that. They lost, and it's the wrong thing.
That's the normal thing for a coach to do, and we happened to win the game anyway. That's just how the ball bounces sometime.
Q. Coach, given his recent struggles from the line, when he missed the first free throw at the end of overtime, Cousins, what were your thoughts? Being that he didn't start the overtime, but he ended the overtime.
COACH CALIPARI: You may say, did you plan on getting him the ball? No. But when they played behind him, my thought was, we may throw it away. So just step and catch it, and I have faith in the kid. I have faith in him.
So he bank missed the first one, and he plugged the next one that almost would have been a jump ball if it stayed behind the rim in the backboard, and it happened to roll in. But I have a lot of faith in the kid.
I mean, I've let him shoot technical fouls. Then I've seen him other games go 7 for 18. But when I'm with him, I know where he is mentally, and if he's right, he's as good as anybody. Sometimes he's not right because he's an inexperienced, immature kid. He does stuff, like just about my whole team, but I had faith in him.
Q. With this team being young, how do you think these last three games have prepped them now for the mountain you've been shooting for?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, the one thing I -- people called me and said, the Alabama game's great for you. I said, not if we didn't learn from it. We got out-rebounded by 12 rebounds. We gave them a chance to win. If you do this in the NCAA Tournament, you're losing. We've done this in enough tournaments.
Now I wondered if they learned from that. You saw in Tennessee that for 40 minutes they were vicious. They played. So it helped them.
For today, you're going to be in a game like this in the NCAA Tournament. You have to figure out how to win when you're missing shots and not doing terribly well. The other team is making shots, and you've got to figure it out. So it helps.
So I have loved to be in a 40-point blowout? Yes, I would have. You all enjoyed it. It was so close. It was a great game. But you didn't have to coach through it.
I'm happy for our guys. I'm proud of them. Are we ready for the next tournament? We're going to find out. We've got one player that's played, I believe, in an NCAA Tournament game. Nobody else.
I still want somebody else to go back and find out the average age of the Fab Five. We've got to be right there. We've got to be that young.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
End of FastScripts