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March 19, 2011
THE MODERATOR: Questions for our student-athletes.
Q. Last night you guys seemed to be very loose. Can you just talk about that breakthrough when and how you carried that attitude over against Kansas?
DEMETRI McCAMEY: We just focused on defense. I think we let our defense dictate our offense and we started hitting shots. We started feel going about ourselves. So we got the nerves out the first couple of minutes of the game, and we just played. With Kansas we've just got to come out and fight, fight on the defensive end, rebound the ball, and get out in transition and get some easy points.
Q. When is the last time you guys played that well? Have you figured that out?
BILL COLE: I actually thought the last three weeks, even coaches said we've been starting to put it together, minus the second half of Michigan there. We've been kind of adding a piece back to the team each week because we had some slumps there in the January and February window.
It looks like we even got D.J. back last night. They started to make their run, and he kind of slammed the door with those two big threes. So we've been getting everyone back. We looked better even though in the Michigan game we fell apart down the stretch. But we put two halves together last night for the most part, and I thought we looked great last night.
MIKE DAVIS: Just like Bill said, the past two weeks we've been playing pretty well. We've just got to put two halves together. Michigan we didn't put two halves together, but Indiana we put two halves together and you saw the result. If we put two halves together we're a tough team to beat, especially if we're playing deep and hitting our shots.
DEMETRI McCAMEY: I would agree. The last couple of weeks we've been picking it up in practice and carrying it over in the game. So I think in the last cup of weeks we've been playing pretty good basketball on both ends of the floor, and letting our defense dictate our offense. That's what's been carrying us the last couple of weeks, besides the Michigan game and the Big Ten Tournament.
Q. Is this the best team you've played all year, Kansas?
DEMETRI McCAMEY: It's going to be one of the top teams. We played against Ohio State, Purdue, Gonzaga. We played against talented teams and high-ranked teams before. So everybody is good in their own right. It's not just who is the best or who is this, who is better, who is not. We've played against some talented teams, and it's going to be a tough match-up for us, but we're ready for it.
MIKE DAVIS: It's like Demetri say, I put them up there with Ohio State in terms of one of the best teams we've played. Purdue, going back to Texas who is also a great team. So we've been playing a great schedule. We've played 18 tournament teams who are in the tournament right now.
So we're prepared. We played the top teams, the top players in the country, and we've got to come out and execute. It's all about X's and O's, and how we play. Don't let our defense dictate our offense, we let our offense dictate our defense and we'll be fine.
BILL COLE: We played top teams. That's why coach made our schedule like we did. We won Texas at the Garden. We played Maryland at the Garden. They're pretty good. We played at the United Center, and we played Missouri at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. We've played big venues, seat until Gonzaga, and that's what coach said he wanted to do was prepare us for games like this so there wouldn't be any stage fright.
Last night it was awesome. We came out and played our game. Everyone looked loose and free, and we've had that atmosphere around our whole program this week.
Q. Would you talk about the challenges the Morris twins present and how you'll have to slow them down?
MIKE DAVIS: Yeah, they're so versatile. They can shoot threes, dribble pass, shoot. I just look at them as we've played against big guys like those guys, like Juwan Johnson, Mbakwe and Sullinger.
We've played a lot of big guys. So we have to come out and fight. Me, Tisdale, Bill Cole, Griffey, we've got to come out and do a great job on the Morris twins because they're probably two of the best big guys in the country. So if we fight them and slow them down, we have a better chance to win.
BILL COLE: Like he said, they're extremely tough to guard. But we have to make sure that Kansas is one and done as much as we can. Rebounding and keeping those two off the glass is going to be a big, big part of the game. It might just be holding them two out so they can't get the rebound and having the guards come down and grab it.
So that's something we talked about this morning, in our first little scouting report was just keeping those two off the glass as well as Robinson. Because they've got some beef down low.
Q. Obviously you never played for Bill Self or any of the -- he was long gone before you got to Illinois. But do you think this is a bigger game with the fans because of him being a former Illini coach and people still being upset that he left like he did?
DEMETRI McCAMEY: I don't think it's about the coaches or Illinois versus Bill Self. I think it's the NCAA Tournament game. You're fighting to get to a Sweet 16. That's enough pressure right there to go out and compete against one of the top teams.
So I don't think the coaching staff or the Illinois program will have anything to do with that tomorrow.
MIKE DAVIS: I'm not from Illinois, so I don't know about all the coaching drama and all that stuff. It doesn't apply to me and my teammates. He was here eight years ago. We just want to go out there and play hard and try to execute our stuff and come out with the victory, because that's what it's all about.
BILL COLE: Like he said, it has no effect on us at all. None of us were here when he was here as you pointed out. But it will probably be a big side story with the fans and the media. We'll try to stay as far away from that as possible, and just go out there and try to do some of the stuff we did last night and just play loose and good things can happen.
Q. Being a senior, how driven are you given this last chance in the tournament and you know this is the end of the road coming up the next time you lose?
BILL COLE: It's everything. It's one and done from here on out. We get that and I think that's part of the reason you saw how spirited we played last night. We played with great energy. We just want to go out on a high note. We're going to try to beat Kansas tomorrow the same way we beat UNLV, using our energy, getting out and running, and just trying to make a legacy for the seniors.
MIKE DAVIS: You pointed out every game is Game 7, one and done. So we've got to come out and play as hard as we can. We're capable of doing it. The team you saw last night is the team we should have been all season. This past couple of weeks we've been playing spirited basketball, and just got to keep having that energy level and playing great defense and hitting open man and sharing the ball. It starts with Demetri because he's our best player and we follow behind him.
We've got to come out and play together and have a good effort. Just have each other's backs at all times because we need to play together. It's going to be a close game, and it's going to come down to the end.
DEMETRI McCAMEY: I agree with those guys. You know this is going to be your last game, so you're going to go out and play 110% and leave it on the court. So it just makes it that much more special that you know if you lose, it's going to be the last time you wear Illini uniform.
So we just want to pick it up on the defensive end and bring energy and make sure we can compete for another game down the road.
Q. Since you've been around a while but you weren't here when Self was here. Any feeling about how the fans feel about Bill Self in champagne or around Illinois?
DEMETRI McCAMEY: I hear more stories about me and Coach Weber than Bill Self and Illinois. I don't think the fans really care about Coach Self anymore. It's been eight years. They've been done and over with. They just worry about us being successful in the tournament.
BILL COLE: For the players, we're 100% focused on the game. No one in that locker room is worried about the side story that is Bill Self and Lon Kruger in the same bracket. I'm sure it's a fun story for the fans, but I can guarantee you it's 100% out of our mind.
Q. What's the year been like mentally and emotionally, starting off so strong, a win over North Carolina and Texas in overtime. Then struggling a little bit with the wins and looses down the stretch?
BILL COLE: It's been up and down. We had such high expectations because we were so talented at the beginning, and it was really tough at times because some games we didn't live up to that. It felt like a lot of times in the middle of our season, we'd play down to our competition.
It seems like the last couple of weeks we started to get over that, and like I said in the first question. We've really been playing better basketball here down the stretch.
So I think that's why there is just so much excitement in the locker room and around the program right now because we've looked so much better these last couple of weeks.
MIKE DAVIS: Yeah, we lost 7 games by 5 or less points. We've got to learn how to finish games. Hopefully tomorrow if it comes down to a close game we can finish. We've been doing a lot of drills in practice to close out games and stuff like that. Playing different sets and a variety of things to get people open and get easy shots.
Like I said, if you win those games you're going to be saying it's been up and down. We've just got to close out games and we know that. We've got to come out here tomorrow and have the great effort. We have the ability to do it, we've just got to go out there and do it.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, an opening statement and then questions.
COACH WEBER: It's quick and furious. Obviously, you get back to the hotel last night close to midnight. Get a little something to eat and then start watching tape. We had a coach that already had seen six or seven games and started doing the scouting report.
So just sit down and figure some things out. I guess the pressing thing is when you grab their stat sheet, Kansas' stat sheet, you're looking for some weaknesses. There just aren't many on there. They're one of the better defensive teams in the country. One of most efficient offensive teams. They've got inside scoring, they shoot the ball well from three, and they're very good in transition.
It's a tough match-up. There is no doubt about it. The thing I've emphasized to our guys, and I said it to you yesterday and the day before, the good thing is we have played top teams. I think they're very similar to Ohio State. When you compare it, it's probably a very good match-up between these two.
We played with Ohio State. We couldn't beat them, but we got close. We've played top teams and we've played them many different venues. You hope there is no stage fright and we come ready to play. I think our kids are excited about it. It's a big challenge. If we play special like we did the other night, maybe we can give them a game.
Q. What do you think the odds are that three guys who coached at Illini were sent to this regional, and your thoughts on having to beat the other two to make it to the Sweet 16?
COACH WEBER: We laugh about the NCAA always saying they don't put any of their story lines into the match-ups. But I think the real one is, if you think about UNLV, Lon being three years in a row with Kansas as an 8-9, that's amazing in itself. Now they throw me in the mix, and we're fortunate to get a win last night.
Obviously, if you beat a Kansas team -- if not the best one of the top couple teams in the country -- a chance to move on would be special, and Bill's a tremendous coach. He's done great things, whether he's where he started at Oral Roberts through Tulsa, to Illinois, to now Kansas continued that.
It would be great. There is no doubt. It's not beating Bill Self as much as beating Kansas and moving on.
Q. Can you talk about the Morris twins? We always joke about the Twin Towers, but these guys are actually twins.
COACH WEBER: I just wondered if they went in at halftime and switched jerseys if anyone would ever figure it out, because they look similar, they play similar, and as we watch more and more film I'm sure there are some little differences.
The thing I'm impressed from last year to this year, they're shooting -- their ability to go out on the court -- it spreads the defenses so much more. It makes it tougher to guard both of them now because if you don't guard them at the three line they're going to make shots. Maybe last year you could sag off a little bit and help inside on each one of those guys. So they've continued to improve.
They're warriors. They play hard. We've had to deal with Sullinger, which was a handful during the year, and I'm not sure we've figured out how to guard him or anyone else. Now you have two guys that are very similar to that. You know, you're going to have to figure and hope that they don't play their best game and our big guys got to do a good job.
I told them we have to play our best post defense of the year from all our bigs. It's going to take even a Meyers Leonard coming in and a Tyler Griffey coming in. And then our guards, our perimeter guys got to help whether it's squeezing the lane, putting ball pressure on and making it tough to feed the guys and feed the big guys inside.
Q. Is there anything further on Jereme's status? Are you just going to leave it alone?
COACH WEBER: Yeah, I'm just going to leave it alone. I know you've got to ask the question. The situation is a tough one, but it is what it is and we'll talk about it and make an a announcement tomorrow.
Q. You had so many easy baskets in the first half, dunks, lay-ups. Did you say to yourself at any point this was almost too easy the way it was going? How do you duplicate that?
COACH WEBER: Well, if you've followed us closely, we've had some special games like that. Your guys asked me when we just did a little interview, was that the best game of the year? We go back whether it was Carolina, Gonzaga, Northwestern. We set the school record and shot 70%. When we move the basketball in space and don't dribble, we're a very, very good team. There is no doubt about it.
The problem is we haven't been able to capture that formula and do it every game. It's a thing tomorrow we're playing against a very good defensive team. We're going to have to be patient. Again, like we talked about against the Rebels, we have to take care of the basketball. Part of that patience is taking shots you can make. If we can do that, we can give it a go.
Q. When you had the transition time after you replaced Bill, which is always tough, and you had the little mock funeral thing, any thoughts now looking back on it? Did it have the effect you had hoped for at that time?
COACH WEBER: You know, when I did that I'm not sure how Bill took it, but it was really a compliment to him, to be honest. You how he captured the players, the fans, and what he did at Illinois. Somehow I had to get -- say, hey, we've got to move forward. We've got to go down the road.
I always joked I never could understand people were mad at me because he left. And I had to deal with that. You know, part of it I did it for our players too because they were the ones we're playing games, you know, eight games into the season and people are still asking about Bill Self. Hey, we've got to stop this. We have a team, and we made a big push. Had a great finish that year. Won the Big Ten outright. First outright championship in 52 years.
I had to deal with a little bit of heat when I did it, but maybe it works, I guess, in the long run.
Q. Can you talk about Demetri and how valuable it is to have a veteran guy like that leading you at this point in the season?
COACH WEBER: Well, when he plays and plays well, we're a top team in the country. We can compete with anybody. You saw it last night. He took over the game. He made great decisions, got into the defense, had energy, and he guarded last night. That was the thing I really appreciated. That is kind of extra X-factor with us as a staff. We know he's really cut into the game when he's defending. He has great vision. Probably one of the best passers in the country if not the best.
When he is able to penetrate the defense and find people, that's when we usually play well, and we shoot the ball well because we get open shots.
Q. Can you address if you and Bill have any kind of relationship when you're on the recruiting trail or anything? Is he one of the guys that you sit down and talk with?
COACH WEBER: I've known Bill for a long time. We played when I was at SIU and he was at Tulsa. Just through all the years that he was an assistant, working our ways up and seeing each other. I wouldn't say he's one of my best friends, but we have a cordial relationship.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports