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March 23, 2014
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
Kentucky Â– 78
Wichita State - 76
THE MODERATOR:Â We'll ask Head Coach Calipari to make a statement on the game.
COACH CALIPARI:Â Heck of a game.Â Really proud of our guys hanging in there and fighting.Â They never gave up.
Wichita State never gave up and had their last chance to win the game.Â Just proud of the guys.
Q.Â We talked about it coming into the game for any of you guys, all of you guys, but the joy that we saw from you guys jumping off that court, running off the court.Â How much did what happened here today and what happened the last couple of weeks wash away whatever there was about disappointment with this season?
ANDREW HARRISON:Â We just felt good beating a great team.Â Just shows all the work we put in, how much we'll get better.Â Even in this tournament we're still getting better.Â We just enjoy playing the game and enjoy getting a big win like that.
JULIUS RANDLE:Â Like Andrew said, we just enjoyed getting a big win.Â All of the adversity we have been through all season, just to see us coming together as a team and getting better each game, and finally get a big win like that, just enjoyed it.Â Everybody was happy and we just have to keep building on it.
Q.Â Andrew, were you close to not playing?Â And how did the elbow feel during the game?
ANDREW HARRISON:Â Yeah, I wasn't going to play at first, but I felt like I just had to.Â And I fought through it.Â The elbow, once you get your adrenaline flowing, it felt fine, but it was still a little painful.
Q.Â For Andrew and Aaron.Â Ron Baker said a minute ago when you all walked through the line at the end you said to him that he was a bad, bad, bad boy and he said that back to you.Â Can you talk about the respect you had for their team and the players at the end of this game?
AARON HARRISON:Â I mean, yeah, it is a great team and they had a lot of great players on that team.Â And I was matched up with him and it was a joy just playing, playing the game.Â And we had to play hard and battling is really fun and just going to work, really fun.
And going against a great player like that was a good match‑up and a great challenge.
ANDREW HARRISON:Â Like Aaron said, he is a great player.Â They have a few great players on that team, so we knew we were going to have to play every possession.Â And it was just a joy.
Q.Â John, your two guards dealt with a lot of criticism this year, Andrew and Aaron.Â What did you think of them tonight?Â It seemed like they both gave everything they had and made every big play they needed to make.
COACH CALIPARI:Â Well, they haven't been criticized by me.Â This team and what people said about this team, all we have done all year is continue to get better.Â We hit some pots, we hit some, like every team, you hit a hole that you don't play well.Â But they believed in themselves.
And these two right here, and Andrew will know what I'm saying, I did not do a great job with him early in this year.Â I didn't.Â And I'm the first to admit it.Â But I did later, okay.Â (Laughter.)Â And I told him, Make me look good, that's what I said to him.
Because I have been through this 20 years and I've coached every different kind of point guard.Â And I have been in a situation‑‑I don't know what I was thinking.Â Tweaked a couple of things for him and all of a sudden he is playing different, he's got a smile on his face.
As far as Aaron, you don't believe this, they kind of feed off one another a little bit.Â But as he played better, guess what?Â He played better.
And so a lot of this is it's so hard trying to figure out roles for guys when you got all these young guys here.Â And that means each guy has to sacrifice, each guy has to play the way he needs to play for the team and do it.
Greg Anthony grabbed me afterwards and talked about Julius.Â He said, He played great today.Â He didn't try to do too much.Â He played the game as it happened.Â He had six assists today along with his double‑double.
And again, I tell you I didn't do a great job with him, didn't define how he needed to play.Â It took time, but I am not sure they were ready to listen to me in the middle of the season.Â So maybe it has worked out fine for everybody.
Q.Â For James, can you describe what it feels like when you see a guy get as hot as Cleanthony Early did and then right after he puts them ahead you hit that three‑pointer which put you back in the lead and was really kind of the key play of the game.
JAMES YOUNG:Â He is a great player and I just tried to limit my shot on him.Â I just tried to give it a little space, but Coach told me to play up a little bit, that's what I did.Â And he hit the shot and coming back I just got open and once Drew drove to the hole he created a shot for me and I just let it go with confidence.
Q.Â Andrew and Coach Calipari, if you can just walk us through specifically kind of the play or not‑play decision.Â And Coach Calipari, putting this into perspective is this kind of the heavyweight fight of your career?Â Or is there a game that comes close‑‑
COACH CALIPARI:Â I have been doing this so long, I don't want to say that.Â I've been in wars.Â Let me‑‑so that one is out.
You all understand this was an Elite 8 game.Â This wasn't‑‑this was an Elite 8 game.Â The winner of this should have gone to the Final Four, that's what this was.
That being said, he and I never even talked.Â All I asked him was, Are you going to play?Â And my thing, and I told the guys last night, we're not forcing him.Â If he can't play, we have to figure it out.Â Correct?
ANDREW HARRISON:Â Yes, sir.
COACH CALIPARI:Â If he wasn't going to play, he wasn't going to play.Â I am not forcing guys to do something.
But he had ice.Â The trainer slept with him.Â Not in the same bed with him (laughter), but he was there in that room with him.Â The ice was on, they did all the‑‑why are you laughing?Â And, you know, he told his team, I'm playing, I don't care.
But my thing was, if he's 70%, now I have to make a decision.Â What do we do now?Â So I was happy he played.Â Without him obviously you know now it would have been a different game.Â We couldn't have won the game.Â So I am happy he played.
How are you feeling now?
ANDREW HARRISON:Â I am better now, yeah, I'm good.
Q.Â For Julius.Â One of the comments that the Wichita State coach made was that at some point you guys just put your head down and went at the basket.Â Was that a conscious decision?Â And did you feel that you had to assert yourself a little more in the second half?
JULIUS RANDLE:Â I really wasn't worried about offense, you know.Â Coach has done a good job of defining my role, as I've said.
When the lane was open, you know, sometimes that's what you got to do, just do your best to get to the basket.Â But at the same time I love to create for other people.
But I guess if that's what he said was going on, that's what happened, I just saw the open lane and went to the basket.
Q.Â James, that shot you hit down the stretch there late in the game was a big shot.Â How did that one feel?Â If you could walk me through that one.
JAMES YOUNG:Â It was supposed to be a drive for Drew, but then I guess the defender stopped him a little bit, so he gave the extra pass.Â And I just shot with confidence and it felt good to hit it and I just moved on to defensive and move on to the next play.
Q.Â Julius, your reward for winning a game like this is you get to play Louisville.Â Do you have any idea what this week will be like building up to that?
JULIUS RANDLE:Â I have no idea.Â I know the coach will do a good job of preparing us for it.Â We already have a good feel because we played them before.Â But I mean, I don't know exactly what we're going to do in practice.Â (Laughter.)
Q.Â For Julius, some of the other hyped freshmen have had letdowns under the pressure of this moment, but you kind of rose to it today.Â Can you just describe your approach to handling the pressure with all of the attention that you've received?
COACH CALIPARI:Â And then I would like all of the other freshmen up here to answer the same question.
JULIUS RANDLE:Â I don't really look at it as pressure.Â I know that I have great teammates and they have my back out there.Â So I'm really not even, you know, worried about it.
Like coach always says, don't worry about winning or losing, just go out there and play.Â And, you know, just seeing us getting better each game is encouraging in itself.Â And I know that I have teammates, that when a challenge presents itself we will rise to the challenge.
Q.Â I was talking to the freshmen not comparing to your teammates (inaudible).
COACH CALIPARI:Â Andrew, how are you handling this pressure?
ANDREW HARRISON:Â It makes it easier when you have‑‑like coach said, it makes it a lot easier when you have so many people on your team going through the same thing you're going through.
The changes in the college game and some of the criticism and stuff, it makes it easier when some of your brothers and stuff going through some of the same things that you're going through.
Q.Â If I told you before the game that Wichita State was going to shoot 55% and make 10 of 22 threes would you have thought that you would have won?
COACH CALIPARI:Â I would have said it was a heck of a year.Â (Laughter.)Â But the one thing‑‑here's what's happened with this team.Â They now are putting themselves in a position where they're accepting roles how they have to play.Â So we're becoming a better team.Â Individuals are losing themselves into the team, so they're playing better and more confident.
And then the other thing is, because we've been through so much throughout the year, they're stronger.Â So a little lull in the game doesn't affect them.Â They've been through all that.Â Their will to win, to stay with it, all that they've been up against.Â And like I told them today, I just wish we had another month of the season left, like keep playing.Â Because we're getting better every day.Â We're getting better in practice when we're out there.
So I just wish, you know, this thing could extend and extend and extend, but obviously it won't.
Q.Â For players outside of Andrew, when you see him gutting through that injury and seeing him playing so well, what did that do for you guys?
AARON HARRISON:Â I mean he knew we needed him and the team knew we needed him.Â And I've known him for awhile, so (laughter) I thought, I knew he was going to play.Â He wasn't going to sit out this big of a game.
JAMES YOUNG:Â He did a good job and we know we needed him for real.Â And he just came out there and just led us to the win.
Q.Â Coach, can you sort of describe the final play when VanVleet launched up the three.Â What was the assignment on Baker and Early?
COACH CALIPARI:Â The one advantage we have, we can switch every position and we're big.Â We wanted the ball to go at the top.Â Didn't want it to go corner and baseline drive.Â We put a big guy on the ball.Â We put Julius out there and he did a great job of kind of mucking it up a little bit.Â And he kind of stayed in there.
And we just switched everything.Â And we switched the last play.Â The guy came off the pick‑and‑roll and we were there and just made it hard.
But, you know, we were gonna foul if he made that free throw.Â So as they brought it up, because they were going to bring it up and call a time‑out at half court to go to a three and we were fouling.Â And I told the guys ‑‑ and then I got panicked because I have 18‑year‑olds and I thought if he misses this, someone is going to foul.Â So then I had to whisper, Don't foul if he misses.Â But I didn't want to put that in his mind, and then he missed and I just went crazy, Don't foul, don't foul.
Q.Â Cal, with that hip lately you more hobble than walk, today you looked like you were floating off the court today.
COACH CALIPARI:Â I had a massage.
Q.Â Pumping your fist to the crowd.
COACH CALIPARI:Â I had a massage today‑‑no, yesterday I had a massage.
Q.Â How much relief is it for you as a coach to see a team play‑‑
COACH CALIPARI:Â If wins are relief, it's time for me to retire.Â This was great joy in seeing a group of young men come together and start figuring this out.Â It took longer than I'd hoped.
I told them after the game, I've been hard on you like I've been every team.Â It's just been a longer process with you guys.Â But at the end of the day, you are seeing that they understand what's acceptable and what's not acceptable.
I didn't do as good a job in defining roles, that's on me, not on these young people here.Â But I'm just proud.Â Listen, I was whistling and skipping out in the hallway.Â There is nothing about relief, we're still playing.
Q.Â After the game Greg Anthony said it is the best game he had ever called.Â You mentioned you felt it was an Elite 8 game.Â Do you think these two teams shouldn't have had to play in the second round of the tournament?
COACH CALIPARI:Â I would say this was an Elite 8 that the winner should have gone to the Final Four.Â That's how good they are and how good we're playing right now.
Q.Â John, along those lines, the handshake after the game, it looked like it was a particularly emotional, reverent thing.Â You guys went slowly through.Â Can you just describe that?Â Was it what it appeared to, congratulations all the way around?
COACH CALIPARI:Â No.Â I feel for their team and I feel for their coach.Â And Gregg, understand what he did to keep these guys on point was nothing short of miraculous.Â I have done it where I had to coach teams that were 26‑0, 20‑0.Â I'm telling you, each game there is more and more pressure to win.
I was also in a league where we could not afford to lose any league games.Â If we did we became a 7‑seed.Â We would go from a 1‑seed to a 7.Â You couldn't lose any games.
I have been where he is.Â I know how hard they worked.Â And that's why I said this kind of game being played now, and they're that good, it should have been played later.
But you know what?Â I am happy we won and I wanted him to know, you know, and I wanted his players to know.Â Like, hey, guys‑‑and I told them I watched tape of you guys and it's amazing and I am happy for our guys.Â And I am just disappointed because they had a heck of a run going.
Q.Â And dovetailing off that, what does it say about Wichita State that with the game on the line their third option is the conference player‑of‑the‑year going for the win.
COACH CALIPARI:Â Let me just tell you something, Early, James said, I want to guard him.Â And they are arguing who should guard him, Julius and James.Â And then we said, Okay, James, you guard him.Â Then he scored on James twice.
So it didn't matter who was guarding him.Â He did, what are you talking about?Â He got the rebound from you under the basket and made two free throws, you forgot that one?Â Okay, now it's two, okay.Â (Laughter.)
But he was scoring on just about everybody.Â They were running fade screens for him and he had it going.Â And again, it just shows the character.
You have to understand again, they have been through so much.Â They have been attacked, they have been bludgeoned, they can't play, they're not a team, you can't do it this way.Â But they stayed together.Â It makes you strong.Â It makes you tough as nails.Â And we just hung around.
You can all say the biggest play of the game, in my opinion the biggest play of the game, Dakari's rebound on the missed free throw.Â That was the play of the game.Â If we don't get the ball and get it back to 2, I don't think we win the game.
THE MODERATOR:Â All right, gentlemen, good luck.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports