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April 1, 2008

Billy Donovan

Marreese Speights


COACH BILLY DONOVAN: Well, I thought UMASS played a very, very good game. I think one of the things that really plagued us in the game, no question, was our free-throw shooting. We didn't shoot the ball particularly well. I think that's one thing. But I think any time you shoot in the 30 percentile from the free throw line, it's always going to cause you a problem.
And I thought their speed and quickness on the perimeter caused us some problems going by us and getting in the lane, but you know, I don't know if it was a great performance offensively by either team. I don't think either team shot the ball particularly well. I thought UMASS had some really, really good looks in the first half that they did not knock down, and we were probably a little fortunate to go into the half up nine.
But then I thought in the second half, they made some of those and were able to kind of come back into the game, and then our missed opportunities at the free throw line probably gave them some momentum to make plays.
MARREESE SPEIGHTS: It was a good game for both of us. They just came out on top. In the second half we couldn't hit any free throws like Coach said and they played better in the second half, and they were the better team.

Q. Can you just talk about the difference between the way they were playing you in the first half and the way they played you in the second half?
MARREESE SPEIGHTS: The second half, when I was trying to get offensive rebounds, they were hitting me real harder and trying to play me more physical down low and front me and have help. It wasn't really different, they just came out and played better on defense and played better to win.

Q. How do you feel about this run and the way you finished up the season?
MARREESE SPEIGHTS: The last three weeks, we've been playing hard and practicing in the games and trying to carry it over into the games and we did a pretty good job up to this point. So we just came out as a good team, real good team and went out there and battled for 40 minutes and they came up with the win. We are feeling good about ourselves and know we're going hard and doing the best we could, but they just came out with the win.

Q. Can you talk about the disappointment of coming up here and turning around to leave?
MARREESE SPEIGHTS: It's been disappointing to lose. We've been working hard the last three weeks, I know we lost but we can use this in the summer and off-season to get better, so a lot more basketball to go.

Q. Some people have you projected as a first-rounder; what are the chances of you coming back to Florida next season?
MARREESE SPEIGHTS: I really don't know. I'm going to sit down with Coach and my family and see and like talk to him and see what he thinks I should do and talk to my family and see what they think I should do. I'm not really focused on that right now. I've been focused on the season, so haven't really been thinking about that. I'll sit down and talk to Coach about that.

Q. A lot of what happened during the season, you guys played hard and you played with passion, but athletic, senior team, free throws were an issue; the weaknesses of your team kind of showed up again tonight in the second half.
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: Yeah, it's hard for me to say that, I feel like the last three weeks these guys really committed themselves. They worked hard in practice and gave me everything they had. I think as a coach, you know, when you -- I don't necessarily feel maybe the same way Marreese has, like feeling good about yourself coming out of the season, and I understand what he's saying. Marreese is saying, we've worked hard. You feel good when you work hard, and if you lose to a team that was better than you on a given night; you have a tendency to tip your hat to UMASS and say they out-performed us.
I don't know, I'm pleased with the strides they tried to make, you know, throughout the course of the season. But I think the big thing is how these guys take these experiences this season and how they view them, how they view them and do they really take them and use them to get really, really better. Because they can take what happened in the season and they could not improve, and I think -- I've often said, I think that's why in life people make the same mistakes over and over because they are not really quite sure how to figure out what the solution is to make corrections, and I hope that we can evaluate -- that they can evaluate as individuals where they have got to get better and have it relate to our team getting better.

Q. About eight minutes into the second half, it just seemed like y'all kind of hit a wall there. Couldn't get any offensive execution. Started having some breakdowns on defense. Were they just kind of tired, do you think?
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: Oh, I'm sure. I mean, it's not an excuse. I'm sure UMASS is tired, too. Our guys have really worked hard. I said one of the greatest positives about this experience for our guys was really the fact that it went all the way to April 1, and, you know what, people were asking me in the middle of February is, have these guys hit the quote, unquote, "freshman wall." And it's amazing how a month and a half later, no one is talking about the freshman wall anymore.
These kids I think played pretty hard and gave me what they had. I think probably the missed free throws and missed -- you know, we were 8-for-21 from the free throw line, and at one point, we were 5-for-18 on the break with drives to the basket. I mean, we missed an enormous amount of layups at the rim that you've got to make, you know, in a game like that. And I think the combination of those missed drivers -- you know, three-point shooting is going to come and go. They didn't shoot the ball well from the 3-point line, it was 20 percentile. We missed a lot of layups around the basket and those free throws really caused us some problems.
I think at the end, the stat sheet, 42 percent is not bad, 20 percent from the 3 point line is not that bad. I don't know if we necessarily gave up 78 points; we fouled a lot at the end to just maybe lengthen the game and hope they would miss some free throws. I thought they tried really hard to do the best they could. I thought in certain situations, there was a speed and quickness -- I've heard this comment before. The guys are giving me all they can, and there's a disadvantage due to athleticism, speed and quickness, there's not a lot you can do about that.
There are certain situations I thought our guys were trying and they were quicker and a little more athletic and stronger being older.

Q. Is it encouraging that you guys had a bad offensive night, didn't shoot a lot of 3s or make a lot of 3s, but there have been times this year where you saw this translate on the other end?
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: Yeah, I think they tried. I thought Nick -- I felt bad for him because he's had such a great year, and for it to end where he didn't shoot the ball well from the free throw line, he was 5 for 19 from the field and missed a lot of drives to the basket that he's normally able to finish.
You know, they have tried to get better at the things that we've tried to address with them, you know what I mean. I feel better about that than maybe I did three weeks ago, just their commitment.
You know, I've been around teams and I've pushed them pretty hard and challenged them hard in a lot of ways, and, you know what, they came out and tried to respond and do the very, very best they could. As a coach you have to be able to sit there and say, you know what, I felt like I got the most out of them at this point in the season, and I felt like we really got the most out of them.

Q. What can you guys do in the off-season to make them better prepared to face these quick and athletic teams?
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: I just think through normal maturity and growth we'll get better. I think our biggest issue is the mental part of handling this experience.
You know, again, if you said to me, what's your biggest concern, that would be my greatest concern going into next year; that we're a year older. It just doesn't work like that. You know, there are freshmen that have come into college basketball and have had incredible impacts on teams. There have been sophomores that have gone from their freshman, sophomore year and have not quite gotten it. There are guys who make an incredible jump from their sophomore year as Joakim Noah did, maybe the greatest development I've seen maybe in the game, the jump from his freshman year to his sophomore game. It wasn't a physical jump but it was a mental jump he made that he understood what it was about and he had it figured out. I don't know how our guys internalize the experience they went through, how they view it, and I know how they should view it.
And they are good, respectful kids, and they are always -- they always listen, but I just question, just unsure, are they really going to take that to heart. Do they really believe that in their heart how they are supposed to view the season.

Q. When Speights comes to you, what kind of feedback will you give him?
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: You know, I think that's part of the problem, you know, with college basketball, is someone made a comment that he's projected, and that's the problem is sometimes these kids make decisions on projections.
I've not heard that at all, and I'm not saying he is or he isn't. But I've always been a big believer that, you know what, when I sign a player, I'm really, really excited when they come, and when they leave, I can't be disappointed. So you know, Marreese, if that's -- again, I haven't heard what the question that he's projected. I think that's one of the problems with people right out, and I'd love to go back and take all the NBA draft board stuff that these kids see, because we have got some guys in our program that quote, unquote were "projected" in the lottery and they still haven't seen the lottery. And that's I think the unfortunate part what happened.
So I don't know if I can give Marreese any advice right now because I have not really talked, spoken to anybody that I have gotten back that type of information, but that's not to say that I am not off-base. I'm not saying that at all. I don't know. So I would just sit down and talk with him and find out where he's at. I think for any player, I want him to be here for the right reasons and he wants to be part of his team.
I had a situation obviously last year with three guys that really wanted to come back and try to do something that was unprecedented in college basketball, and I had also had some guys in, you know, Walsh and Roberson that wanted to bypass their senior years. I just try to be supportive, give them information, and really it's the young man's decision what he wants to do and certainly I was supportive when they wanted to sign here.

Q. Can you talk about the scholarships --
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: I have no idea right now, but I think one of the things that happened to us -- and I'm not disappointed or upset in this -- I think things constantly change day-to-day. I remember, you know, Sidney Green, telling me before Taurean's junior year, he's going through four years and he's staying there. You know what, at that time, I think Sidney was 100% truthful and honest with me, and, you know what, we both agreed along with Taurean and his mother that he needed to go out. You know, I was probably a little bit unexpectedly didn't realize that Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson would leave and we had gotten caught where there's been some surprises where guys left to put their name in or somebody may have transferred from school.
So I have been here now for 12 years. I don't think we have ever had 13 guys on school scholarship so I didn't have the slightest idea how we would get to that point but generally it works itself out.

Q. A few guys from New York were on UMASS; could you see the influence of New York in their play, the toughness on the other team?
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: Not really. I thought that they played like they always play. I think Chris Lowe is a terrific player. You know, I think Forbes is a Player of the Year in the Atlantic Ten, and the Atlantic Ten has a team that went to the Elite 8 in Xavier and for a guy like Forbes to be Player of the Year, quite an accomplishment.
So I didn't see anything different from them on the court that I had not seen from film all year long. And those guys are really, really good players, really good players, and I thought Milligan was a definite difference up front the way he played. I thought he had a really special game. And I don't know who the other New York guy is -- he played terrific. He controlled the pace of the game, tempo pushed it, got into the lane and did some great things. It wasn't anything like all of a sudden they raised their play because they were in New York. I think they have played that way all year long.

End of FastScripts

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