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March 20, 2014

Ryan Boatright

DeAndre Daniels

Shabazz Napier

Kevin Ollie


UConn – 89
Saint Joseph's - 81

THE MODERATOR:  Joined by university of Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie as well as student‑athletes Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels, Shabazz Napier.
COACH OLLIE:  First of all, I thought it was a great game by both teams.  Unfortunately, someone had to lose.  I'm just glad we came out on top.
The guys right here, they played hard.  They played with grit.  They played with grind.  At the end of the day, we wanted to outwork our opponent.  It took a little longer than I thought, but fortunately, we got it done at the end.
We started making plays.  It's all on my players, and I thank them for having a great game for this great university.

Q.  (No microphone) a three‑point play at the end and the composure he showed, hitting the shot and then the clutch free throw.
RYAN BOATRIGHT:  He showed a lot of maturity and a lot of heart for that possession.  Man, for him to make that play, just for him to go to the line like he knew he was going to make it.  He went to the line with the swag and all that.
So he went to the line and knocked it down.  It was a big play for us.

Q.  Shabazz, I think you had five points in the first half and 19 in the second half in the overtime.  What was the difference between the two halves?  Was there ever a moment in that game where you thought this might be the end of your career?
SHABAZZ NAPIER:  You know, the first half went by so fast.  I was in the locker room, and I was just telling myself, Man, I got to do something because my teammates need it.  And at the end of the day, this may be my last game, like you just said.
My teammates helped me.  They willed me, like they have been throughout the whole season.  Guys are telling me, Shabazz, keep going.  Keep shooting.  You're going to make the next shot.  And they willed me.
I was fortunate enough to make a lot of shots in the second half, but it wasn't what I did in that second half.  It's what everybody who stepped on that court did.  They never gave up.  We was down.  We had all the excuses to give up.  But guys was just willing each other, the resiliency that we have was just tremendous.
That's what you've got to do when you come to these tournaments.  You've got to just keep pushing along because anything can happen.  I'm just so proud of my guys.

Q.  Shabazz, at the end there, when Saint Joe's took out Ron and Langston, I saw you go over and give him a hug.  What sort of prompted you to do that?  Did you know those guys or was it just the game?
SHABAZZ NAPIER:  No, I didn't know them guys until today, but when you play basketball with that competitiveness, you earn a lot of respect.
I'm passionate for the game, and I seen it in them guys' eyes.  They're seniors, and this is it.  I would have loved for them to do the same thing for me.
When you work so hard for something and it goes down the drain, it saddens me.
But I'm happy I'm on the other end.  I just wanted to show them my respect and tell the guys that he did a tremendous job.  Just sometimes you fight, and you don't win the battle.  Just showing respect, basically.

Q.  Shabazz, it was an entertaining game for a lot of people to watch.  How much fun is it to play whena team played hard, too?  You really don't know how it's going to end up when you get down to the final moments there.
SHABAZZ NAPIER:  That's what these games are all about.  Any team any given day can beat a big team.  That's what you kind of want.  That's why I came to the University of Connecticut to play in these tournaments, to give myself and my team a chance to hoist that trophy at the end of the day.
We're all here for one common goal.  If someone told you different, it's a lie.  They play with so much competitiveness and passion, that we had to do the same on our end.
Like Coach said, someone had to be a loser.  Not to say that we had more passion and more competitive, but we were lucky and fortunate to be on the other side and win.

Q.  DeAndre, or maybe all of you could address it, but you've been through a lot of games like this over the last couple of years, tough, grind it out games.  Was this the toughest game of this kind that you've been through?
DeANDRE DANIELS:  No, we've been through a lot of tough games through the whole season, just the will that this team has is amazing, and just to fight, and we never give up.
Everybody just follows our two leaders on the team with Shabazz and Boatright and the heart those guys got in them.  Everybody on the team is just following along.

Q.  Thanks for making it interesting.  Shabazz‑‑ or Shabazz, I'm sorry?

Q.  I'm a little out of breath here.  I'm sure you are too.  To be able to shake off some of the misses that you made, especially the one at the end of the second half, what gave you the confidence to know that you could‑‑ you hit nine‑‑ I think you scored nine points in overtime.  What did that mean to you?
SHABAZZ NAPIER:  You know, at the end of the day, I've been playing basketball since I was 5 1/2.  Just because I missed two shots, three shots, doesn't mean I'm not going to take the next one with a lot confidence.
I told my guys the same thing, you can miss a shot, you can miss ten shots in a row, but I'm going right back to you because I know what you're capable of.
None of these guys on the team are going to tell me not to shoot the ball because I missed ten shots.  They love me, and they know what I'm capable of.
Same goes for everybody on the team.  I missed that shot and went to the next one, and I was fortunate enough to make shots.  When I make shots, my teammates make shots, it's hard to play us.
Today was a big dogfight, but we willed ourself and just continued to push each other to get the win.
THE MODERATOR:  Gentlemen, thank you.  Congrats.

Q.  Kevin, congrats.  You're the first coach at UConn to win a tournament game since Dom Perno in '79, I believe.  Is there significance to that?  Just the fact that it's your first tournament game, and what is the significance of a win like this to you?
COACH OLLIE:  Coach Calhoun won three National Championships, so I think he won a couple of games in the tournament.  I don't know where you're going with your question.

Q.  You're the first one other than Jim.
COACH OLLIE:  That sounds better.  That sounds better.  You were scaring me at first.  Don't let Coach Calhoun hear that either.  It will be hard.
It was a great win.  It's for the university.  I love this university.  Those players right there, that's what kept this university alive.  They could have transferred.  They could have did anything.
Like I said, they have even now faith.  Even now we're going through a dark time, we're going to stay with our program.  That's the beautiful thing about those guys.  They just stayed, and they're resilient, and they played hard.
We was banned from the NCAA Tournament, but like I said always, we wasn't banned from loving each other and encouraging each other all the time.  That's what got us through.
Coaching is overrated.  It's really overrated.  These players make plays, and I'm very passionate about my players.  I love to win, but I'm more passionate about my players being great student‑athletes.  They did a great job keeping this great university where we belong, and that's getting 20 wins every season.  That's getting back to the NCAA Tournament.  This is where UConn belongs at, and I give them all the credit in the world.

Q.  Coach, defensively what changed in the second half, in overtime?  Can you talk a little bit about what Kromah did on Galloway.
COACH OLLIE:  Lasan did a great job on Galloway.  He was still making unbelievable shots.  We kind of started widening in the post.  Kanacevic was getting on the post.  Roberts was getting on the post.  They was making our defense collapse, and then they was getting threes.
We started buckling down there in the second half.  We ran them up the three‑point line a little bit better.  I think they made seven threes, and that was a real big key to us.
First of all, it was just making a stand.  That's what I told those guys, Get back in transition, make a stand, play them one‑on‑one.  You've got to individually win your battle, and that's what we had to do.
But also know it's collective, group, team defense.  But sooner or later, you're just going to have to man up and win your individual battle.  That's what they started doing.  It really gave us an opportunity to start getting some buckets on the offensive end.

Q.  Kevin, you listened to Shabazz talk about why he went over to their seniors after the game and talk to them.  Does that kind of exemplify what you want your players to be about and what you want the program to represent?
COACH OLLIE:  Yeah, you want to always respect the game.  You want to respect the players in the game.  But that's why you play so hard.  And that's what I try to tell each and every guy.  You can't take this for granted because it can be taken away from you so easily, and every minute you've got to cherish.
I know those seniors want to go out and play on Saturday.  Like I said, unfortunately, somebody had to lose.  Just to go over there and congratulate them on a great four years at that program.
And Phil Martelli, if I get an opportunity to see him after the game, I'm going to congratulate him.  He's just a great coach.  And that was a very, very tough team that we just beat.  That's not a 10 seed, and I don't think we're a 7 seed.
But at the end of the day, it's about planting seeds.  That's what we keep doing every day in practice.  We keep planting seeds.  We've got to continue to that.  We're going to see another tough team out of Milwaukee here and Green Bay and also Villanova.  Whoever comes out of this game is going to be a tough matchup for us, and we've got to get ready for it.

Q.  Were you thinking of trying to get their big guy out of the game early in overtime?  I mean, four fouls early on, and you got rid of him.
COACH OLLIE:  That was the game plan.  When he had four fouls, he was trying to go right at him.  DeAndre took it right at him.  He got the fifth foul.  I think he was in the charge circle.  DeAndre took it up strong and got that one, and gave him his fifth foul.
That was a big upswing for us because so much of the offense go through him.  He's just a great basketball player, and he's tough.  That exemplifies what Saint Joe's is all about, the toughness and the grit.  I just know how Philly coaches are.  I know how Philly players are.  And just all the different players that come through that program.  They play one way, and they play the right way.
I got so much respect for their players and also Coach Martelli.

Q.  Kevin, Shabazz has made so many huge plays in the last two years at the end, but the fact was tonight, the 11 big points last minute in regulation and the first couple minutes of overtime, those 11 points were all scored by DeAndre or Amida.  Could you talk a little bit about what they brought tonight at that very crunch time when the season was on the line.
COACH OLLIE:  Oh, they brought a lot.  They've been stepping up.  DeAndre's been stepping up, and Amida's been stepping up.  If you followed our tournament in Memphis, they was both stepping up.  I've seen them be more confident.
And we have to trust each other.  Ryan Boatright trusts Amida to throw it up and not throw it at the big fella's ankles.  So it's just great plays by them.  They wanted to win.
And you can't wait, and they didn't wait.  Amida stepped up and made those free throws.  But there's certain things you all don't see, but he had been working on that every day after practice with Glen Miller, every day, every day.  That's things under the waterline that a lot of people don't see.
When he got it in that moment, he stepped up, and it was great for him.  It was great for DeAndre.  I need DeAndre to still rebound more, but we'll take four, and we'll take a win.

Q.  Two separate questions.  One, talk about that play at the end of regulation with Amida, the put‑back and the free throw, which you wouldn't be here winning now if it weren't for that free throw.  And secondly, your guards and Amida did a much better job in the second half of dribble penetration than they were in the first half.  Talk about those two aspects.
COACH OLLIE:  Amida went to get the basketball, got a great offensive rebound, went to the right hook, and that's pretty much money in the bank when he turns over the left shoulder.  He got a foul and got excited.  Then he composed himself and went to the free‑throw line and knocked them down.  Then he hit two big free throws in the first possession of overtime, which is huge.  That's three in a row.
I think we made 15 in a row, something like that, in the game in that last half, and that's just phenomenal.  If you come to our practice, we spend a lot of time on free throws.  That play with DeAndre, he does a great job.
I mean, all of us did a great job, and I'm just so proud of those guys.  All the plays that we made was winning plays.  It's not only the guys in the game.  Everybody sees the guys in the game.  I'm talking about Omar Calhoun and guys like that, cheering their teammates on.  That's what I'm so proud of.
Everybody can make winning plays in a game.  It's not just the five on the court.  It's everybody.  You know, in practice, Kentan, Terrence.  It's guys that don't even play a lot, and they're giving us effort in practice.  That's winning plays to me, and that's the only thing I care about.

Q.  Coach, we talked about DeAndre and Amida's big play down the stretch, but it seems like in the last couple of weeks, especially Ryan, those times where we see Shabazz get explosive, it's been Ryan taking over at times.  What have you liked from him the past couple of weeks, and do you think he's taken his game to the next level?
COACH OLLIE:  I just like Ryan's level.  I think you have the right attitude, it leads to certain situations where you're in the game and your mind is in the game and you're playing for others.  When you play for others, that reciprocates back onto you and when you get open shots.  You know, Shabazz gave him open shots, you know, great assist on time and on target, and Ryan knocked them down.
He's been a special player for us, and we're going to continue to keep getting him the right shots.  And Boat got to understand, when he penetrates, it's for others, and that's what he's starting to do.  He's starting to share the game.  Got three assists, one turnover.  He's 5 for 10.  He was efficient with 17 points, and that's where we want his game to be at.
THE MODERATOR:  Coach Ollie, congrats.  See you Saturday.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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