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March 28, 2014

Ryan Boatright

DeAndre Daniels

Shabazz Napier

Kevin Ollie


Connecticut – 81
Iowa State   – 76

THE MODERATOR:  We'll go ahead and get started with an opening statement from Coach and then take questions for the student‑athletes.
COACH KEVIN OLLIE:  First I just want to thank all the fans that came out and supported us.  We can really hear them cheering for us, but then we could also feed off them.  We can also draw off their energy.  They just did a wonderful job.
My student‑athletes played together, they played hard, and at the end of the game we played 40 full to get this win.  And only thing we're looking forward to is a Sunday matchup, whoever that might be, and we have to stay together and play another 40 full and get the win.
THE MODERATOR:  Take questions for the student‑athletes.

Q.  DeAndre, you kind of got off to a slow start and then all of a sudden you started making everything.  What changed for you tonight?  This post‑season what do you think you're doing so well?
DeANDRE DANIELS:  Well, I just wanted to stay aggressive and just start of the second half just keep staying aggressive.  My teammates were talking to me, and it would never have been possible if it wasn't for my teammates looking for me, and coaching staff getting me the ball in the right positions.  And I was able to knock down my shots tonight.
And this post‑season, just giving it my all, just for my teammates and UCONN, and UCONN Nation.

Q.  Any of the players:  With the crowd, the atmosphere, what was it like having so many UCONN fans cheering you on and how did that help you?
RYAN BOATRIGHT:  It was tremendous.  Just being out there with that crowd and with that UCONN Nation behind you, when you're tired or you just feel like you're dead, that intensity and that cheering, it helps you get to those loose balls, those 50/50 balls or those rebounds that you need.
SHABAZZ NAPIER:  Yeah, same.  It just felt like a home game.  Like Ryan said, when have you that crowd behind you pushing you, good things will happen, and that's what happened today.

Q.  Ryan and Shabazz, when you see DeAndre get it going like that, how early did you notice that, how much do you want to feed him and how much does that help the team when you get balanced scoring with him and you guys?
RYAN BOATRIGHT:  Well, once he hit the first jump shot, we knew that we were going to try to get him another easy basket.  And once he got that easy basket, we were going to keep going to him until he missed.  And he did a tremendous job with his shot selection and knocking down his shots.
SHABAZZ NAPIER:  Same.  I feel like that in the beginning DeAndre he was kind of pressing.  He wanted to make a big impact and I just told him, like, "Just calm down.  The game's going to come to you."  And like Ryan said, when he made that first one, and then we got him an easy one, it just‑‑ DeAndre's a scorer, and once you feel that you have that confidence, the next shot's going to go in, and we kept feeding him and he got super hot.  We had to cool his hand down, and we just kept going.  But he's a great scorer for us.

Q.  Shabazz, I saw in the quotes the other day that your coach said you're not scared of this moment; that you were ready for playing this game.  Can you just talk about, like, your whole motivation this season, everything that had gone on, and kind of not being scared of the moment, why is that in you and what your motivation for this season is.
SHABAZZ NAPIER:  I think that it comes from being in situations before when I was younger.  Playing basketball at the age of five and a half, that's when I started, you see a lot of things.  I've been scared before in these situations, but I learned the various ways of handling that.
I just go out there and have fun.  I don't want to put any pressure on myself; it's just another basketball game, even though it is the Sweet 16.  But we're blessed to be in this position.  And I just want to go out there and have fun.
I think that my motivation just comes from my mother.  I don't want to ‑‑ it's kind funny saying this, but I don't want to disappoint my family and my mother.  I just want to go out there and play my game.  And like I always said, it may not show up on the stats, but if my coaches and my players believe I gave a 110 percent effort, then that's all I care about.  And that's where a lot of my drive comes from.

Q.  Shabazz, you talked about all year how individual awards don't really mean anything to you and you want a championship.  Has it hit you yet or will it hit you that you're really one game away from the Final Four and ultimately towards that goal that you put so high all season?
SHABAZZ NAPIER:  With every game you win you realize the closer you are, but I said this since the beginning, since my freshman year, I'm the type of person that don't look towards the future too much.  I don't want to miss out what's going on in front of me.  I just want to take it game by game, day by day and that's what's got us here so far.
None of these guys‑‑ of course we're thinking about we're 40 minutes a way if we play our game, but at the end of the day, we understand that the team in front of us, we have to prepare for them like no other.  That's why tomorrow we're going to practice real hard, and whoever we are playing against, we're just going to go out there and do what the game plan is.
But we don't want to think too far ahead.  We want to visualize what's in front of us and go from there.

Q.  DeAndre, what's been the biggest difference for you from the regular season into the post‑season?
DeANDRE DANIELS:  Well, this is it.  I just want to win.  I just want to go out there and just play hard for my teammates.  This is the Tournament, and this is when everybody's going to go out and give it their all.  And just with our seniors on this team, I just want them to go out with a good bang.  And that's it.

Q.  Shabazz, Ryan, could you talk about, a lot's been made about how this was the first NCAA Tournament game in this building in 50 years.  But it's not for you guys.  You guys have played here a million times.  How comfortable is UCONN in here?  And how special is it for you guys to be making your run in this building?
SHABAZZ NAPIER:  It's definitely a comfortable thing for us.  We played here a bunch of times and we kind of got a feel for the court.  But that's no big advantage.  I think the biggest advantage is our fans.  And with it being not too far away, we have the support to come down and cheer us on, and a lot of teams don't have that.
We just feel like Madison Square Garden is kind of our third home.  Gampel being the first and XL being the second.  We just want to come out and give our best effort.  And with our fans behind us, cheering for us whether we're up by ten or down by five, we feel like we always have a chance.

Q.  For Ryan and Shabazz:  You guys have been in situations many times where you had a lead and had to kind of hold on, hold off the other team's run.  Just talk about the poise that you guys had, the foul shots, all those things that allowed you to do that down the stretch.
RYAN BOATRIGHT:  That's the advantage of having two good point guards that can handle the ball.  And then with Terrence coming off the bench and stepping up like he is, is just an advantage.
But Coach is on us all the time about making free throws.  We shoot a lot of free throws in practice, and he always says it's going to come down to free throws or one or two possessions.  So when we got to the line, we had the confidence to knock them down.
SHABAZZ NAPIER:  Yeah, like Ryan said, we shoot a ton of free throws in practice, and that's the biggest difference in a lot of games is, who can make the free throws.  And today I believe we shot, what, 18‑20?  19?  20‑22.  And that's what it came down to.
We like being in that position.  We feel like we have enough confidence to take our time and make the shot.
THE MODERATOR:  All right.  We'll excuse you to the locker room and take questions for Coach.

Q.  I saw when you came off the court there, Jim Calhoun was waiting for you, gave you a big hug.  For a guy who's won so much in this building, did he give you any ‑‑ I guess could you share a little bit about that conversation when you walked off and saw him there.
COACH KEVIN OLLIE:  No.  Coach just said "Congratulations", and I love Coach and I love him being around.  He's always a sounding board for me.  If I ever have a question he's always there to answer it.  He's like a second father to me.  He really gave me an opportunity to take over this program, and he's built this program on pride and tradition.  And I just want to continue to keep the torch alive.
And he's passed me the baton, and I'm just trying to run with it the best way I know how, and the best way I do know how is to keep our team together, keep us fighting, no matter what situation we're in, negative, positive, we're going to always see the bright light.  And that light is shining bright now and we got to keep it shining.  Hopefully we can play another 40 full UCONN style of basketball, and hopefully we can get to Texas.

Q.  DeAndre came into college with a lot of hype.  With the season that's had, and with a game like tonight, is there a sense that's starting to live up to that hype?
COACH KEVIN OLLIE:  I don't put limitations on my players.  You go through ups and downs.  You've got to understand they're still young men.  They're trying to develop and grow.  There's a lot different things.  It's just not basketball.  He has life issues and he's always worked through them.
And one thing DeAndre, I can tell DeAndre, he's been hurting sometimes, but he still is here.  He's still fighting for our team, and there's been some ups and downs where he didn't play to his abilities, but at the end of the day, you can always be a great teammate.  And that's what he's continued to do.  I don't care if you can be ‑‑ you don't have to be a great, all‑the‑time basketball player, but you can always be a great teammate.  And that's what he's doing.
And we really concentrate on DeAndre, it's not about points for him, it's about getting touches.  It's about him bringing energy.  When he does that, his talent takes over and you have that combination, it equals success.  And that's what you're seeing tonight with the 10 rebounds.  Them were touches.  Deflections are touches.  He's got two blocks; that's touches.  And then once that takes over, his talent is very supreme.
And he's an inside‑outside threat, and we try to do a nice job manipulating the defense, getting him in the sweet spots, and that's what I like to do on our offense.  And then I got great two point guards that find him in the sweet spot, and throw and deliver the ball on time and on target, and he did a great job tonight staying with it.  Because he could have easily hung his head, and he stayed with it and he pushed us over the top in the second half.

Q.  You touched on it, you talked a lot, if DeAndre doesn't have it going early on, he kind of wavers at times during his career, but tonight he didn't have the points through 15 minutes and then he turned it on.  Talk more about just the stick‑to‑itiveness that he showed tonight and the mental toughness.
COACH KEVIN OLLIE:  It's mental toughness.  It's a very expensive price that we paid to get here.  And each and every level you got to pay even more.  He sacrificed for his teammates.  He got touches, and then when his time was to shine, we gave him the basketball.  That's what it's all about.  We want to give him the basketball at his right position.  And DeAndre took it on himself to share the game, but also be a great player down low and then shooting a great three‑point shooting that he did display tonight.
That's the kind of player he is.  We want to continue to see that, but like I told you, at the end of the day, it's about him being a good teammate, and us staying together.  It's not just always DeAndre, it's not just always Shabazz; if we have a balanced attack, we can win a lot of games, and we can continue to play.  And that's what I want our guys to understand.

Q.  What did you think of your freshman tonight, Terrence Samuel?  Another second straight very good game, all 10 of his points in the second half.  Made some big plays for you guys?
COACH KEVIN OLLIE:  Yeah, he stepped up big time.  We asked him to take Shabazz off of DeAndre Kane a little bit; he did that.  He was exceptional getting to the basket, getting to the rim.  And one thing about Terrence, opponents can't stay in front of him because he's shifty and then he's powerful when he gets the ball, and with that confidence that he's displaying now, it takes us to another level because I can put three point guards out there at one time, and all of them can make plays for themselves but then they can also make plays for their teammates.
So T Sams did a great job.  He stepped up to the free‑throw line and knocked down his shots, and I'm very happy for him.

Q.  Can you just talk about the blocked shots, really authoritative send‑backs.  They seemed to demoralize Iowa State.  Something that Joel Embiid from Kansas did earlier this year.  And then the altered shots.  So many of them by Iowa State.  Can you talk about your interior defense and those blocked shots.
COACH KEVIN OLLIE:  Our main thing is protect the yard.  We want to protect that paint, and we knew DeAndre Kane, he always goes in there, and he makes great shots a lot of times.  And we didn't want to foul him.  We wanted him to make difficult shots, and I think we did that.  I think we bothered Ejim a little bit when he was going up for his shots.  And Amida did a great job just being straight up.  Using his verticality to his strengths, and I think he did a good job.  DeAndre did a good job.  And I think we forgot about Hogue a little bit; he had 34.
But as long as we got the win.  I think we established something in the first half with our defense holding them to 33 percent.  Not letting them score in the first 15 seconds was our key and that was on the board.  We can't allow them to get that first 10 seconds and get a possession.  I think we did that in the first half and really established our defense.

Q.  The players talked about the fans' impact when you play here, but is that it or is there anything else you can sort of put your finger on or quantify for why you've had so much success here at the Garden?
COACH KEVIN OLLIE:  It's defense.  I know we got the crowd and it's a great arena, but at the end of the day it's a basketball game.  You got to play defense, you got to win your individual battles and you got to play collectively as a group.  And over the years we have been having great defensive teams, and I hang my hat on defense.  And I thought we played exceptional in the first half defense to late in the game, when they got on a little run.  But our defense was exceptional.
Our players are translating what we're giving them in practice, and they're translating it to the game.  And their recoveries are real, real quickly.  If something happened bad, they recover and they get back in the defensive stance.  That's what we need, we need multiple efforts.  And that's what we tried to do tonight.  And I think that's what we had the first half; it was another effort, it was another effort and guys were covering up for themselves, covering up for their teammates and talking.  And I thought it was just a great game plan and they carried it out.
And players did a terrific, terrific job.  This is a players' games, and can I do all the X's and O's I want to, but those players make plays, and we did that tonight on the defensive end and on the offensive end.

Q.  Can you talk about the balance that your guys had scoring tonight, and also the success you guys had shooting and at the foul line as well.
COACH KEVIN OLLIE:  Yeah, we just like to manipulate the defense.  I was looking for the mismatches that we had, and when DeAndre plays like that, it really gives us that X factor, because I can pick‑and‑pop him, I can put him on a sweet spot, I can put him on the block.
And then we were getting stops.  So when you get stops, it allows you to run, and use our speed.  And I put Terrence in, we got three point guards out there.  All of them can be facilitators, and then they can be scorers when it's necessary.  I think we did that tonight and it was a great defensive game plan.  I think they just executed wonderfully, and we wanted to just keep those two guys under wraps.  That's DeAndre Kane and Ejim.  They do a great job and we wanted to keep them under wraps, and I think we did that.  And it allowed to us get out on the break.  And then it allowed us to share the game.  And when we share the game and we have balanced scoring, we are hard to beat.

Q.  It seems like one of the things that you're proudest of is the loyalty of your guys.  They could have bailed out last year, and why do you suppose they didn't?  Why did these guys stay loyal to the school?
COACH KEVIN OLLIE:  They love UCONN.  They love the school.  They love each other.  Like I said many times, we were banned from a lot of things.  We couldn't come here for the Tournament, but they weren't banned from loving and pushing and encouraging each other, and that's what it's all about.  Those dark times, if you don't give up in the dark times, it will reverse, the wind will start going in your favor, your direction, and I think that's what's happened now.  It's a shift, these guys are playing very, very well together.
And they're fighters.  And when you fight, you don't get on the ropes, you stay in the middle of the ring and you keep fighting and keep throwing punches, and I think that's what they're doing.  And we're 40 minutes away from a goal that they set.  We just got to play hard, and we got to stay together and we got to keep doing the things that got us here and that's defense, that's rebounding, and that's sharing the basketball and sharing the game.

Q.  Throughout the game we saw pictures coming in of former players from UCONN in the stands or at home watching the game.  Just wondering what that support means to you from guys who have been here before coming back to support the program in a big game like this.
COACH KEVIN OLLIE:  Oh, it was great.  That's the culture that we have around the University of Connecticut.  All those guys come back in the summertime and play with our guys.  But the best thing, they put their arms around our guys and they show, they give their gift away.  And that's a beautiful thing when you can have a Ray Allen come back, a Kemba Walker come back and just give them gold nuggets for them, for they can take it and be successful, also.
And it's just a family atmosphere.  That's what we created.  That's what Coach Calhoun created, and that's what we're going to keep doing.  And it's great to see our players doing so well in the NBA, but it's so great to see what type of people they are, what type of husbands they are, what type of men they are, what type of fathers they are.  And it just gives us some great ambassadors out there for the University of Connecticut and I thank them to death.
THE MODERATOR:  All right.  Thank you, Coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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