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NCAA MEN'S REGIONAL SEMIFINALS & FINALS: SYRACUSE


March 25, 2010


Eric Bledsoe

John Calipari

DeMarcus Cousins

Darius Miller

Patrick Patterson

John Wall


SYRACUSE, NEW YORK

Kentucky 62
Cornell - 45


THE MODERATOR: Coach, congratulations. Can we ask you to make an opening statement and then we'll take questions of the student-athletes.
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: You know, I was really pleased with the defense we played today. The guys really worked hard to make it hard for them. We fouled some at the end. Our goal in the game was to guard the three-point line and then to also not foul them because they're a great free-throw shooting team, also, and at the end we fouled them a little bit. But the discipline it takes to play that way, the focus that it takes for a group of young people like this, you know, in their first NCAA Tournament run was tremendous.
Now, I thought the second half we kind of backed up and tried to just get out of the gym, and you can't play that way in the NCAA Tournament, but that's OK. We learned a great lesson. We gave them a chance to maybe clip us. But we did good.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. We'll start with questions for the student-athletes. Please try to direct your question to a specific student-athlete.

Q. For Darius and John: It seemed like you guys were able to get out so heavily on to their three-point shooters that did you get the sense that they just got to the point where they didn't feel they could even get it off, like they would have to rush?
DARIUS MILLER: When they were coming off screens to hand off, we tried to pressure them over. Our big men did a great job giving us time to get back to them. Like Coach said, our main goal was to guard the three and try not to let them get open looks.
JOHN WALL: Basic idea was Coach said, make them shoot tough twos. When you help when they do rolls, you have to run back out with your hands high. We did a great job of that today.

Q. This is for DeMarcus and Eric: When it's 10-2 and the crowd is so partisan Cornell, so loud, what are you guys thinking 10-2?
DeMARCUS COUSINS: That's how the crowd is. Especially when it was more Cornell fans there tonight than Kentucky fans. When they made a run, we knew it was going to be loud. It's like that usually with every road game. We just have to keep playing basketball.
ERIC BLEDSOE: Like DeMarcus said, we've been doing that all season. Coming out a little sluggish. We found a way to get back in it.

Q. For Darius: I think with Wittman went 26 minutes without scoring after he hit that early three. Do you think your length bothered him or your quickness or what in particular did you do with him?
DARIUS MILLER: I think it was just great team defense. Like I said, when he was coming off screens and hand-offs, the big man did a great job of giving me time to get back to him. And we just worked on closing out with high hands and trying to make him take tough twos, just like they said.

Q. This is for Patrick: You're going to play West Virginia for the right to the Final Four. Can you talk about how much both state schools mean to people on both sides of the border there?
PATRICK PATTERSON: That is huge game for both people from Kentucky and West Virginia. For myself, definitely look forward to it. I know a couple of people off the team. They're a great team. They deserve to be in the Elite Eight and to be this far. Their record shows how well they've been playing. I know my teammates and I will get ready and hopefully we can perform well against them.

Q. This is for John: You guys had about eight points ten minutes into the second half. Was that a matter of you guys just not shooting well or was Cornell doing something special defensively?
JOHN WALL: Like Coach said, second half we came out at the beginning we backed off on them. We didn't come with the same intensity that we had in the first-half offense trying to score and look for our plays. I think we backed off and later on when they started making a run, we knew the game could get close. We started fouling and they started making shots. We knew we had to play basketball.

Q. This is for Patrick and DeMarcus: A lot was made going into the game about Ivy League school versus Kentucky school. You all talked a little bit about it. How did that get you guys prepared or whatever for the game?
DeMARCUS COUSINS: I mean, I really didn't get into all that. They're a good team and they deserved to be here tonight. We just went out and played basketball. All that had nothing do with basketball. That's just talk. We came and played ball.
PATRICK PATTERSON: Like he said, it was all talk. The media, we saw it. We laughed at it. But when it came down to it, it's basketball. We went on the court and we respect them as a basketball team just like they respect us. And we went on the court, shook hands and we just played and forgot about everything.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else for the student-athletes? OK, guys. We'll let you go. Thank you. Congratulations. Questions for coach.

Q. Can you just talk about what kind of challenge it is defensively to guard all the things they do and how well, you guys did it the first half?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: You have to be a disciplined team to be able to stay the whole shot clock. The other end of it is you have to rebound. So you're playing the full 35 seconds and they're running back cuts, back screens, side screens, fade screens, ball screens, hand-offs, X cuts. They're doing it each time down the floor. We got a little bit of trouble when they went that side guard, guard pick and roll and we started switching it and did better.
But it takes a disciplined team. And that's what's amazing. You are talking about four freshman in our top six, three sophomores, and Patrick Patterson, who is in his first NCAA Tournament games, too. I thought Ramon Harris and Perry Stevenson did fine to help us. I think that's important for us that we have those two come coming off the bench along with DeAndre (Liggins). They're a group that has a will to win. But they hadn't been in a game like this where the other team makes a little run, and we started walking the ball up the court. And we got away from playing how we play. But at the end, we just said look, we're going inside, go to DeMarcus. We said, "DeMarcus, you're going to have to make some free-throws because they're going to foul you. Get you on the line and just make them and don't worry about it."

Q. Following up in that vein, is this the toughest opponent you have had in the Tournament so far?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, they're -- the teams, all the teams that we've played were good. The first half we played here I thought we played as well as we've played. The second half we didn't play as well. A lot of it was because they never would stop. Steve had those guys believing, if we can be in the game the first five minutes of the second half, we may make threes and beat these guys. That's how they play and that's why he's a great coach.
But, you know, we played really well against Wake. I thought our second half against Wake is maybe the best half we had all year. So I mean, I'm not -- we're just trying to play as well as we can and move on. But we did OK.

Q. Darius kept Wittman without a field goal or a point for 26 minutes. He also didn't have a turnover. Talk about his overall performance.
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: He's really been playing well. He's playing well at the right time. He's playing aggressive, he's going to the basket. You know, he made those free-throws when he got fouled, which were big. He made that runner down the middle. More importantly he's defending and rebounding. If he does that, it's easy to leave him in the game. Just leave him in. If he's not playing great offensively, it's fine.
But I thought the entire team, I thought our big guys played good and helped us. Our four men played well. We missed a couple of blockouts, our guards and their little guys went in there and tipped balls around. All in all it was a good game for us.

Q. When they cut it to 6 at 40-34, did you specifically tell your team to pound it inside to DeMarcus or did it just work out that way?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: No, we were trying to go inside. Obviously they're a smart basketball team and they know, we're taking too many jumpers, let's go in. But we talked and we were pounding it in. I was going to call a time-out and I said, I don't want to build up their adrenaline. Let us run this out and see if we can get a basket here. We were fortunate enough to get one.
But we finished the game trying to go at them. Then I even told them, I said, "You know they're going to foul you now. You're going to have to make free throws or we can't throw it to you." I said, "Can you make free throws?" He said, "I can make free-throws." I said "OK."

Q. Bob Huggins talked earlier about how much playing for a Final Four means to the people at West Virginia. Everyone knows how passionate Kentucky fans are. Can you discuss how big of a game this is and how much you getting into a Final Four would mean to your general friends?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: Obviously Kentucky is one of those places. I imagine West Virginia is very similar in that the people across the state breathe the program. And they do in West Virginia. So I imagine on both parts it's important that way. But I really want this to be about these kids and I want them to go out and have fun, play their best and see what happens.
We're playing against an outstanding team, a Hall-of-Fame coach. They have an injury, which meant everybody on their team just played better, which I knew they would do. You know, it's an opponent that just went through the BIG EAST and BIG EAST Tournament and played well. That means they are battle-tested. It's going to be a very difficult game for us to win. All these young guys, it will be one of those games that they'll be like, wow. This thing, they're coming at us left and right. So it will be hard.

Q. Did you ever recruit any of those Cornell guys? And now do you wish you had?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: Well, last night Sam Cassell and I talked, and Randy Wittman was in the background screaming, "My son is getting 50!" I said, "He can get 50, as long as we win by two, I don't care."
Randy, who I've known through the NBA stuff, but -- those guys can play. Dale can play. You know, you have to be happy about the big kid. You have to be a fan to say this kid persevered, walked on, probably got ridiculed at some point. You this, you that. You that. He withstood it. He goes in there and he's factor. I'm going to tell you what he can really do, pass. That's why I was getting over DeMarcus. "Get your hands up. He's a great passer." You have to look at that and say, wow, isn't that great?
But Steve just did -- you think about the coaching job he did. And to go through and win the games. I saw the Kansas game. They had Kansas beat. They had them beat. There was a three-point play called at the end of the game that basically ended the game. But we were fortunate to really guard. We're a long team. We defend. We're a good team offensively, too. We didn't make any shots today. We made a couple of threes. We missed all kind of wide-open shots and still did OK. If you're defending rebounds you can play that way. That's what I'm trying to tell them. No pressure on you to make shots if you defend and rebound. If we make shots there's a gap. So...
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for Coach? OK, Coach, thank you.

End of FastScripts




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