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March 22, 2014

Ryan Boatright

Niels Giffey

Shabazz Napier

Kevin Ollie


UConn ¬Ė 77
Villanova - 65

THE MODERATOR:¬† Joined by Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie, as well as student‑athletes Ryan Boatright, Niels Giffey, and Shabazz Napier.¬†
COACH OLLIE:  Great game by our guys.  They showed some resiliency.  They showed toughness, and they just played with a will.
When Shabazz went out, guys stepped up, and that's what a team is all about.  Then in the second half, he scored 21 points for us.
But everybody was strong.  Everybody rebounded the basketball, and we just played together.  It was a gutty win.
We're going to the Garden.  We just love to plant seeds.  We're going to keep planting seeds there.  We're going to keep playing together and keep caring for each other.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach.
Questions for our student‑athletes.

Q.  Shabazz, the injury sustained with about four minutes to go.  What happened there?  It seemed like you were in quite a bit of pain, and you were able to come back a minute or so later.
SHABAZZ NAPIER:  I was trying to get open for the ball, and I think it was Hilliard was playing me aggressively.  I just tried to make a move, and he kind of kicked me or kneed me in my shin area.  The pain was just excruciating.  I couldn't really put pressure on it.
Our athletic trainer James Doran, one of the best in the country, he was just applying pressure on it to make sure I was fine.  Put some good Biofreeze on it.
He told me mentally stay strong.  Physically, everything felt like it was in the right place.  I think it was just a deep bruise.  Like I said, James Doran, our athletic trainer, put that Biofreeze on, and I was ready to go.

Q.  Any of you guys, what does it mean to be able to go back to the Garden, playing Sweet 16 at the Garden where UConn's had so many great moments.
RYAN BOATRIGHT:  It's always good to go back to the Garden.  At UConn, we call the Garden our second home because, when we go to the Garden, we take care of business.  But it just feels good to go through to the Sweet 16.  Going through what we went through last year, it was hurtful and painful to watch.  We didn't have nothing to do with the sanctions, but it just feels good, man, to move on.
NIELS GIFFEY:  Great chance just for us to have the type of home game.  We have a couple of guys from New York, and that's one of the reasons why Terrence played so well.  He was really trying to go home for a little bit.
Yeah, we're just excited to have our home crowd right around the corner, especially the older guys with so many great memories in the Garden.  Like Ryan said, we're just trying to take care of business in the Garden.

Q.  Ryan, how important was that stretch of Shabazz was on the bench in foul trouble.  Did you guys just turn it up on defense?  What did you do to hold on and build a lead there?
RYAN BOATRIGHT:  I just told the guys that we had to come together and we had to take care of the ball and play good defense to get to the second half so we could get Shabazz back.
The guys that came in and played in that first half, they stepped up real tremendously.  I was just trying to make plays for myself and for others and just take care of the ball.  I knew that, if we could take care of the ball and we could play defense going into the first half either winning or with the game close, once we got Shabazz back, he'd have a good chance of winning the game.

Q.  Shabazz, you always talk about how important your teammates are to you.  Does that kind of show at that point, when you're sitting out, how important they are?
SHABAZZ NAPIER:  Exactly.  It was a big moment when I got my second foul, but we didn't skip a beat.  That just shows the maturity of this team and how much they continuously are getting better.
I get recognized for a lot of things, but everyone knows that there's no 'I' in team, and they proved it today.  I got in foul trouble.  Boatright, being the captain that he is, stepped up.  Niels stepped up.  Terrence got in the game and stepped up.  I could go down the list.  Everybody stepped up, and that's what they do.
I've been watching them this entire season in practice, in games, and spurts in games where I know my teammates are ready.  It showed today collectively, and I'm definitely so happy I'm part of this team.
Like I always said, I'm nothing without these guys, and today was a big show for that.

Q.  Shabazz, you've been working with Terrence since he got on campus.  What are the biggest differences that you see in his game from then until now?
SHABAZZ NAPIER:  He just matured so much.  As a freshman coming in, you know, in high school you play so many minutes.  The biggest thing is you want to do the same when you get to college, but when you have great guards in front of you, it's kind of hard.
He kept his head.  He understands he's a big role member on this team.  Today, I mean, it didn't shock me one bit.  It was just beautiful.
I'm not the only one that's helping him out.  Ryan Boatright is helping him out.  Coach Hobbs.  Coach Ollie.  We have a tremendous coaching staff that were guards, they were great guards.  So Terrence, nothing he did today shocked any of us.  He does that all the time.
In practice, he can take over in practice plenty of times.  That's just how he is.  He just showed how much he matured, and I'm just happy for that.
THE MODERATOR:  Guys, congrats.  Good luck next weekend.

Q.  Kevin, I think Villanova scored 13 points in the first four and a half minutes when you called timeout.  What did you see defensively in terms of intensity from that point on?
COACH OLLIE:¬† I seen a lot.¬† I seen us being great for three.¬† When we called great for three, it's not enough to go two slots.¬† We have to go the third slot.¬† They was penetrating and going out and getting easy threes.¬† So we wanted to run them off the three‑point line.
I think when Shabazz got his foul, his second foul, we started really turning up the defense another notch with him on the bench.  It's nothing against Shabazz, it was just we got to take this moment.  The game is right now.
I think once they took Shabazz out on this last play and he hit three and was up nine, we went on a 16‑1 run.¬† It was just a great run by us with our leader on the bench.¬† But that just shows you what kind of team we're made out of.
Everybody talks about we're not deep, we're not this, we're not that, but we've got heart.  Every guy that comes in on the court, they stay positive, and they stay productive.
I'm going to keep saying the same thing.  That's what our guys do.  That's how we're built.  We're UConn made.  We're UConn made through and through.  And every day we come out there and play with that toughness and play with that heart.

Q.  Kevin, after Shabazz got hurt, he came back in and scored on a pretty ridiculous scoop layup.  Does anything he does at this point surprise you?  That looked like I thought he wasn't coming back in, and there he was scoring on a wacky shot.
COACH OLLIE:¬† He's just tough‑minded.¬† A lot of things he's been through in life made him that way.¬† His mother Carmen is one of the toughest ladies around, and he'll be the first to say that, how he was raised and what she had to do to keep their home together, and I think he gets that toughness from her.
He goes out there and plays.  I told you on many occasions he does whatever we need to win.  If that's scoring a scoop shot, that's being my unpaid coach for 12 minutes, you know, that's what he does.

Q.  Can you talk about Terrence's development and what he's done lately.  Obviously, he didn't seem to be too nervous.  Even after he misses the layup, he seemed to respond quickly and got right back on D.
COACH OLLIE:  We've been telling Terrence and all of our guys, you've got to recover quick.  For me, I've got to be positive over there because they're looking at me, and I have to have the right body language when he makes a mistake.
That's what I try to do with Terrence.¬† He's going to be a great player for us.¬† He's maturing right now.¬† Like I told him, once he stepped on the free‑throw line the last game, he's not no freshman no more.¬† You're all sophomores.¬† This is the big stage, and they're stepping up and playing wonderful basketball.
Things I don't see.  I keep telling you.  They work hard in practice.  Kentan's working hard.  You don't see it, but he's working hard.  All our guys have that passion and that want to get better.  We tell our guys, every time you step on the court, Try to do something better.
Terrence is maturing, and he's a great competitor, but he's also a great teammate.¬† He's going to be a great basketball player for us and a great student‑athlete for the University of Connecticut.

Q.  You're getting guys that do things when you need them, Niels, 11 rebounds, Lasan scored today when he hadn't scored much.  How do you explain the guys can fill in when you need them to?
COACH OLLIE:  I just explain, we plant seeds.  We plant seeds every day in practice.  Sometimes you're not going to see them growing the first day or first two days, but sooner or later, they're going to grow.  That's what they do each and every day.
Lasan has been working hard.  He does different things for us to win.  You know, against Saint Joe's, he played tremendous defense on Galloway that last possession.  We just want our guys to be solid, just continue to play their role, be solid, and just contribute in so many different ways.
You don't have to be a great player all the time, but you can always be a great teammate.  That's what we try to strive for all our guys to be great teammates on and off the basketball court.

Q.¬† When Shabazz went out with that injury, I mean, it's still a pretty close game at that point.¬† How much concern did you have?¬† How much fear did you have that might have been a long‑term injury or something more than what it ended up being?
COACH OLLIE:  Just, I believe in my team.  I'm hurting for him because I don't want him coming out of the game.  But like they just said, we've been hurting a lot, but we stayed here.  We're hurting, but we're still here.  That's our motto.  We're going to be here.  We're going to stand up.  We're going to say I'm present.
If Shabazz is on the bench, we've got to keep going forward for him, and we got to uphold each other.  I think that's what we did.  Then Shabazz got back in.  I knew he's a tough player.  He's going to get back in there, and that's what he did, and he led us to victory.
He was just unbelievable that second half.  You know, 21 points, crucial threes, dagger threes.  You know, it looked like he was 30 feet out and just making them with all the utmost confidence in the world.  Great game by him.
But it was a great thing, when he's on the bench, our other players can step up and provide a great spark for us.

Q.  Kevin, is this at all starting to feel like Kemba did with this team four years ago?
COACH OLLIE:  Kemba is a special player.  I just want to keep riding Uncle Mo.  That's the momentum.  Wherever it takes us, it's going to take us.
We got to stay together as a team.  We can't get drunk off success.  We got to make sure we understand we go back to work on Monday.  Give the kids the day off and then go back to work.  We see who we're playing, and we've got to prepare.  That's what we need to do, and whatever happens is going to happen.
We're going to write our own story.  We're not going to let anybody write it for us.  We're going to continue to learn and grow and appreciate this journey that we're on.
THE MODERATOR:  Coach, congrats.  Good luck next week.
COACH OLLIE:  Appreciate it.  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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