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March 20, 2014

Jamie Dixon

Lamar Patterson

Cameron Wright

Talib Zanna


Pittsburgh – 77
Colorado –48

JAMIE DIXON:  Well, obviously our defense got us going in the first half, and it was aggressiveness.  We really wanted to guard the ball screens, we really wanted to take aware their post offense and we did that early, and I think that was evident, but then also the unselfishness which we played with, I think 13 assists, one turnover in the first half speaks volumes, and these three guys are unselfish, we took good shots, and I thought they set a great trend.
I thought Cameron was terrific early, defensively on Booker, and that got us going, and he played about as well as anybody.  But Talib and Lamar, terrific, as well.  Lamar was really patient, let things come to him and made great passes early and really set the tone, I think, with his unselfishness.
Great start for us, and very pleased and happy with our intensity and our effort and execution.

Q.  Talib, was there any one thing you saw that kind of fit your eye, or was it just overall you felt you to do whatever you wanted to?
TALIB ZANNA:  I mean, just defense.  We were just trying to set a tone.  The energy, you can tell the energy was there and the focus.  The first five minutes we played really good defense, and from there we just tried to get a lot of stops and just run the floor, and we had wide‑open lay‑ups.

Q.  Lamar, when you're getting turnovers like that and getting fast breaks does that play into Pittsburgh's game plan?  Word on the street is you may be the fastest guy in the tournament.
LAMAR PATTERSON:  Yeah, definitely.  Defense is our main focus, so when we get turnovers it gives us opportunities to get out and go.  Like coach said, we have a lot of guys who are unselfish, we've got play makers, a lot of good passers.  When you have all that, playing up‑tempo and getting in transition, that's what you want to do.

Q.  Cameron, when you get up on a team like that, can you kind of smell blood in the water and keep pouring it on?  What did you do to keep the focus up to put this game away pretty early?
CAMERON WRIGHT:  Yeah, well, at halftime, Durand Johnson, he did a great job of staying on us, being in our faces and letting us know that we can't let up and we still have 20 more minutes left on the clock, and the level of focus and the intensity has to be the same.

Q.  Talib, you've had an eight‑game stretch now where you've played extremely well.  How are you feeling?  And second of all, what do you think has been the key over this eight‑game stretch?  Is it the end of your career?  What is it?
TALIB ZANNA:  I mean, I'm feeling good.  I just want to take my teammates, James, the guards, Lamar, Cam, they did a really good job of passing the ball inside, and I know if I'm open the ball is going to get to me.  I was just trying to be patient on offense and trying to just play the play we're running.

Q.  You guys are starters.  How much has it meant to you that Mike Young has matured the way he has and made a difference for you up front?
LAMAR PATTERSON:  It's a big thing when you have Mike playing the way he does.  He rebounds, he's physical, and as a freshman that's all you can really ask for, just to be consistent in your effort.  He brings it every day.
CAMERON WRIGHT:  Yeah, he does a great job bringing toughness to the table.  He deserves a lot of credit, but also Jamel does a great job in that 4 position coming off the bench and playing extremely well for us, also.
TALIB ZANNA:  Mike, he's a really physical guy.  We battle every day in practice.  I think he's hungry, and he's going to be here for a long time.
You know, I was just trying to talk to him and lead by example, and I think he's going to have a really good career here at Pitt.

Q.  I talked to the guys in the locker room, and I asked them if they thought the first half was the best half you've played defensively as a team this year.  You obviously have higher standards than they do, but they all seemed to think it was pretty close.
JAMIE DIXON:  It was pretty good, there's no question about it.  It probably was, and maybe the North Carolina game early, first half, Wake Forest was very good.  The good thing is we're talking about the last week or so, so we're a better team now than we were earlier in the year.  That's what you hope to be.  We fought through some injuries.  We had to replace Durand.  We got our rotations better.  Our freshmen are better.  We guard the ball screen really well, and our traps were effective, and our rotations are good.  We're talking better, we're communicating better, and we've had freshmen improve, but we've had seniors improve, too, defensively, and I think we're a better team is what you hope to be.  We have four returning players when Durand is out of the equation, so the opportunity to improve was there, and on most teams with four returning players you'd be talking about how young they were and use that as an excuse.  We haven't used that, we've used it as motivation.

Q.  The players talked about how when they finally bought into what you want them to do on defense how it opens up the offense.  At what point did you see that click prior to today or something about the way they played today that the defense created the offense the way you wanted them to?
JAMIE DIXON:  I don't know if it's buying in, it's just getting better.  We had four returning players.  It's a process, it's a learning process.  They've gotten better and we still have room to improve.  There's always something to see and something to get used to.  It's getting used to one another, it's trusting one another, it's being in the right place for one another.  We did it early in the year, but we had some injuries, had to make some adjustments, had guys not out there and then we lost a few games, and we stuck with it.  We've won a lot of games, we've beat a lot of good teams, and we haven't played perfect basketball the entire year, but we've played really well down this stretch, and I just‑‑ this team has been terrific.  They've tried to do everything we've asked to the best of their ability, and they've gotten better at it, which is all you can hope.

Q.  In a tournament setting, do you see a big win like this as a good thing at building confidence, or do you see it as potentially them resting on their laurels a little bit with potentially a tough team in Florida coming up?
JAMIE DIXON:  I think we really‑‑ I think last week was big for us, and we've gone through an interesting year with losing a really good player and really the emotional leader of our team in Durand, and then Talib and Lamar just not even being close to the players they were for a stretch.  We've been through a lot.  But I think we've recognized it, we've improved, and I think last week was kind of the eye‑opener for us.  We didn't win the tournament, but we played well.  We felt we should have won it, and we came out of there feeling that we should have won the tournament, so I think our confidence has built up.
And we won a lot of road games down the stretch there when we had to.  We lost some tough home games, and we had the best record in the ACC in road wins on the road during the conference, so I think that was a confidence builder, as well.  You win that many games on the road and the way we won them spoke volumes.

Q.  You've mentioned the team is peaking right now, that they're playing as well as they had at any point in the season.  You mentioned some of the reasons for that.  Could some of that also be the team's mental approach, the character that you have here right now?
JAMIE DIXON:  We do have‑‑ we have great kids.  And I've said it all along.  These guys are trying to do everything.  Yeah, we haven't been perfect, but this is a team that we had four academic all‑conference guys.  We had the scholar‑athlete of the year.  We lost one of our best players.  We had two guys go down that were not close to‑‑ they probably shouldn't even have played, but they played, and we didn't focus on that.  I mean, these guys have tried to do everything right, and we haven't been perfect at it because that's what young guys and new guys go through.  But our assist numbers speak to how unselfish they are.  Our defense hasn't been where it's needed to be to be the conference champion, but it's getting there.  It was better today.  It was better last week, and we need it to be better on Saturday.

Q.  Would you address the fact of a potential match‑up with Florida on Saturday?
JAMIE DIXON:  Yeah, I mean, we'll see what happens.  Both coaches are good friends and I know them well, known them a long time.  We'll see what happens here, but obviously Florida is the No.1 seed, so I'm sure everybody is anticipating that they're going to win.
Will is a good friend of mine, so I'll let it play out for about another hour and a half I guess and figure it out afterwards.  Either way I'll be playing a friend and going against somebody we know well, and we'll be watching tape and getting ready.  We're looking forward to the opportunity.

Q.  Can you just talk about the defense and the man trap that you've employed since I guess the ACC Tournament?
JAMIE DIXON:  Yeah, we've used it the entire year.  We're just getting better at it.  We're just getting better at it.  Talib is the best at it.  He is the only returning big guy.  You've got Jamel, Mike, you've got Derrick, you've got Joseph, all new guys, so it takes some time.  It takes some time and it takes some getting used to, and we're getting there.  It's been better this last week, and that's what you hope to be.  It's key to our defense.  It's something we can turn on and off, and we have it available always.

Q.  Obviously your defense triggers your transition, but with Talib, Jamel, Mike, your big guys run really well.  How important is that as being able to beat teams down the floor?
JAMIE DIXON:  It's been an emphasis, and they do run well, but it's learning to‑‑ it's got to be fast, but learning to run well is key.  Mike and Jamel, I think it's been developing, and Derrick, as well, too.  Talib, it's always been a strength of his.  He's better at it now, but it's that anticipation.  It's that first step we talk about that decides if you're going to be open or if they're going to be open on the other side defensively.
You know, they're playing against‑‑ you're talking about, as I mentioned earlier, four big guys that are new that are playing against better athletes than they've ever played against, older players than they've ever played against, and there's a process, and they've improved and gotten better at it.  Some guys have had some injuries and been out, so there's been those elements to get through, too, as well.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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