Connecticut-Missouri Postgame Quotes
March 28, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We will stick to the same format. We will ask Coach Calhoun for a few opening comments and then questions for the student-athletes and then questions for Coach.
COACH CALHOUN: I'm ecstatic. I have had the opportunity now, this is our third time going. Quite frankly, the first one was emotional. The second one was actually wonderful because we had the best team in the country, in my opinion, when Emeka was healthy. I'm going now with a group now who found a way, found a way to get to a Final Four. That's a hard, hard, hard thing to do. It is a very difficult thing to do.
When Jerome went down, we had to adjust so much with so little time left in our schedule. And to have A.J. pick up the pace, to average almost 20 points a game. When Jerome went down and to have Stanley become a special player, some of the things he did today, blocking shots, rebounding, to have Kemba come off the bench and do some of the things he was doing today, was really, really, special.
I couldn't be happier. As far as Mike and Missouri, we really gave them great credit for their full-court defense. And it bothered us obviously up to 17 turnovers. The remarkable thing to me is when we got into the half-court set they disrupted us between traps and other things. We went nine out of ten trips, couldn't score.
The good news is they went nine out of ten trips and couldn't score and that's why we are sitting here with smiles on and feeling elated, in all honesty. Because our defense was the thing that did it. And then we had big plays by Kemba, a dagger shot by the MVP of the Western Regional. I just reminded him that the guys before him who were MVP in this regional were Richard Hamilton and Emeka Okafor and now A.J. Price.
For freshmen to come off in a game like Kemba did is really, really special. Missouri is really good. They are relentless. They are talented. The way Mike has taken that program to where it is right now, where it is a national program, is, I mean -- they certainly could be sitting here. We had a little something extra. Someone asked me yesterday about grit of a team, how do you measure that, you measure it by what you saw today. Our offense, we shot 70 percent in the first half, 30 percent in the second half, yet still found a way by making 11 straight foul shots and making big defensive plays.
I'm as happy as I possibly can be about the basketball situation. I'm so proud. I said to the kids, so happy for this group. I mean, I feel like busting out just -- because I just think they are really special, what they did once they get dealt a real tough blow. It took some bounces, it too many some bruises. Here we are going to the Final Four and, once again, I'm just elated.
Q. A.J., such a frenzied game watching Mizzou play. Could you just talk about how Kemba fit into that and how he excelled today during that?
A.J. PRICE: You know, they applied so much pressure. They make you play at a frenetic pace even though you try not to get into that type of game with them. They almost force you to do that.
You know, I told Kemba around the ten-minute mark, he's growing up today. He grew up. He played like a man among boys. There was times he dominated the game. They couldn't pressure it. He was breaking the press and dribbling through two or three guys and still had enough in him to go down and finish the play-off. He played phenomenally today and I couldn't be more happy for him.
He definitely helped us get over this hump today.
Q. Talk about the constant pressure, what it does to you mentally, how you can't relax for a minute.
KEMBA WALKER: It makes you play at a fast pace. That's something I like to do very much, play at a fast pace. I was able to keep my composure out there and just play fast and just either get a basket or get it down.
Q. Talking about how emotional it was for him these last couple that he won, can you talk about your emotions after the game. Obviously very happy. Was there a mixture? Did you want to cry at any point? What were the emotions for you two?
KEMBA WALKER: I can't lie to you, after the game I actually -- I kind of did cry. I know tears came out of my eyes because I never thought I would get this far. We went to the Final Four now. I'm happy.
Q. Kemba, can you take us through that shot that banked off. Did you call the bank? Just tell us what was going through your mind.
KEMBA WALKER: Time was running down. The ball was in my hands, and Jeff was there about to set a screen. I told him to get out of my way. I kind of just took over. The guy actually played me kind of well. I was turning and turning and I had to get it up. I just threw it up, God help me, and it went in.
Q. A.J., you just talked about how you kind of took over defensively when you guys weren't scoring in the second half for a little while and how much you have embraced defense in this tournament.
A.J. PRICE: We say it all the time, everything starts with defense with this team. We had a good stretch where we couldn't really put the ball in the basket, but we told ourselves in the huddles and things like that, if we rely on our defense and keep stopping them, we will win the game because we got the lead. That's exactly what we did.
We weren't able to score like Coach said nine out of ten times, but we held them scoreless nine out of ten times. That really helped us win this game.
Q. Kemba, when you made that bank shot, did you sense that you kind of took the wind of their sails a little bit and deflated them a little bit?
KEMBA WALKER: I think so because if I would have missed that, I think they would have had -- I think we would have been up two points. And it was definitely a big basket. So I think it was a heartbreaker.
Q. Matt Lawrence got really emotional after the game, not so much it seemed just because of the loss, because he won't be spending time on the court with people he had grown so close to anymore. Can you tell us about the journey and bonds that are formed with guys that you put in so much work with and what it means to accomplish something like this with people you are close with?
A.J. PRICE: This is a time in your life you will never forget. You will always remember these big games and these big trips and things like that. You go to war with these guys.
30-some-odd times throughout the year, it is no different. When you lose it is very gut wrenching. It can be heartbreaking. I'm sure it was for some of the Missouri players.
On the other end, we are just elated that we are able to move on and advance. We feel delighted about it. Like I said, these bonds will be formed and strong for the rest of your life. You won't ever forget these guys. Just happy that we continue to have this journey to keep going.
Q. Kemba, Zaire Taylor said he knew from just playing against you, what you said on the court, that you were from the Bronx. He is from Staten Island. What do you think that means?
KEMBA WALKER: Well, a Bronx guard? Speed, handle, just a tough player.
A.J. PRICE: And moxie.
Q. I apologize if this question has already been asked. Can you talk about -- can you describe why you guys decided not to cut down nets today and what is the philosophy behind that?
KEMBA WALKER: I have no idea.
A.J. PRICE: We just chose not to cut down the nets. Hopefully we will have a chance to cut them down somewhere else.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach?
Q. Can you talk about what Jeff Adrien gave you. He had to play probably more than you wanted him to, 39 minutes, because Hasheem was in foul trouble.
COACH CALHOUN: As you know, he was coming off probably one of his poorest games total package-wise against Purdue. It was really kind of funny because the guys around him at halftime -- not tonight but the previous game. He and I talked about, once again, it wasn't complex and so on, but Jeff, I call you the rock for a reason. We are 40 minutes away from Detroit. If there is a shuttle or something, but regardless we are 40 minutes away from Detroit and you are going to be the guy that gets us there. You were the one with the team that should have maybe got someplace and didn't.
Now you can lead us to that place. He was important. He played Lawrence, the jump shooter, did a great job on him, rebounded, scored early.
Jeff was really good today. The things we had problems with was matchups. Quite frankly, as much as we scattered them and were still doing things early this morning, Missouri -- Mike did a terrific job of playing both big and small against us and made it more difficult and Jeff had to play a free man. He had to play different kind of people, and he was just great. The trip that maybe in his freshman year he thought we were going to get and we didn't get because we really thought we were the best team that year.
I don't know what we are this year, but I know we're really, really good. We're borderline to tremendous, tremendous basketball team. If you make the Final Four and win 31 games you are a terrific basketball team. I felt incredible for Jeff. He and I embraced on the court. It is four years through a lot of different things. I couldn't be happier for him.
His performance more importantly for him was part of the journey. Ten rebounds, 12 points. And really probably three blocked shots, probably one -- probably maybe his best defensive games in 10, 15 games.
Q. There is a lot of basketball left to be played this weekend, but it seems now back-to-back years that the top seeds are almost invulnerable after that never happening before. What do you think some of the reasons are? And are you surprised about it?
COACH CALHOUN: I think there are particular teams -- we may be a little bit of exception by the fact we had an injury at a particular point in time that, as I said before -- when we went to 24-1 by beating Syracuse when Jerome went down in that game I thought we were the best team in the country. We had just come off a great win over Louisville. Bottom line, we were playing great.
It seems to me that there are probably six or seven teams that could win the national championship, and I felt that way coming into the weekend. So I'm not just saying being 1s. I think after that it starts to separate itself. They either don't have size -- even though people aren't going to give Hasheem the credit for some of the things he did tonight, 13 rebounds, no blocked shots, but his presence causes problems.
And we have that. UConn has that. We got -- they did a great job of double-teaming, and two teams in a row now who double-teamed A.J. Kemba picked up the ball. Those are the kind of teams. So it seems to me that we are picking obviously the right ones. The seeds -- I mean, the seeds seem to be playing right out as they kind of -- I think is it a 1-3 that's playing now, Pitt, and this is a 1-3. It just seems to me the people at the top have become definitively, clearly the people at the top.
In that range, I don't know -- I'm not sure that one seed and one second seed, fifth team, there is much difference of a six -- I don't think there is much difference between any of those teams. That's why it's happening.
I think there is a gap in given years. The one thing I noticed, and I haven't been through every single team. But I went through enough of the teams, all the teams are starting seniors. We started three. They started two or three. That seems to be where you couldn't -- we went years where you couldn't because we had so many kids leaving for the NBA.
Maybe that's the reason. More kids are developing and that would be a Craig Austrie, A.J. Price, Hasheem, Jeff Adrien -- a Hasheem is a third-year player. Normally Hasheem Thabeet now, not then, is gone after his freshman year because he is 7-foot-3, because it took him time to develop. I always thought that about the Gray kid; it took him time to develop at Pittsburgh, and he was a great player by the time he became a senior.
I think more kids are staying around. I do believe I would like to see it longer. The one-year rule does work that some kids are exposed a little bit and don't go out quite as quick and they are juniors and seniors and are still playing.
Q. Can you describe Kemba Walker's development from the time you recruited him? And, also, did you have a feeling this could be his type of game because of style?
COACH CALHOUN: We felt that if he didn't play close to 30 minutes tonight we were doing a poor job as a team. There isn't many quicker guards in the United States than him. And we played him 25 minutes, and he was that spark we needed to break pressure, to try to take them -- we actually did take them out of some pressure. Actually we got into the half-court defense and they played much better half-court defense than I had seen them play before.
This is a perfect game for Kemba. When we get to a slow-down game, as his shooting develops, any game will be great for him. But a full-court game, just as he said, he wants that 95 feet. When he gets going 59 feet, you saw him going through two, three people at a time and get to the rim. He is a pretty special player. It was a perfect game for him, yes.
For us to get in a Final Eight game to get a team that will run for Kemba Walker and A.J. and some of the other kids we have, it was a good matchup for us in many ways even though they are a very, very good basketball team.
Q. How important -- even though they made the run at you, how important was the quick start and what did you see in the first few minutes?
COACH CALHOUN: After I saw what they did -- I thought that the two nights ago hit Memphis so hard that they get up by 22 points. I don't think Memphis was expecting that. They were just so good. It took Memphis so much time to come back that -- and I think they used all their energy up and then Missouri put the game up. I was incredibly impressed by them obviously.
But we talked early -- I was talking about a delicate balance before the game, run and then set up half court and we did some of that. But in the first five minutes, we were bound and determined we were going to attack their pressure and go speed for speed with them to try to get some of the separation early so it wouldn't happen what happened against Memphis where they could jump on top of you.
Q. Kemba's body get ahead of the ball and he had a turnover and you looked at him and asked him where he was going --
COACH CALHOUN: I didn't get an answer.
Q. Are you pretty confident most of the time where he's going and when the ball is in his hand? Or is it still a process?
COACH CALHOUN: It is a little bit of a process. But when you ask a freshman to step up in a Final Eight game and get 23 points and do things he did, there are going to be times when reverts back. When they talk about Bronx guards and New York City guards, they are fearless. At times, 90 percent of the time it is their greatest asset. It is that 10 percent of the time it becomes lethal for you as his coach. But I like the 90 percent time, because he certainly gave us so much and was just a great player today.
Q. Was there a time especially maybe when you were at 17-14 in '06-'07 that you thought maybe you would never get back here?
COACH CALHOUN: Did it cross my mind? Did I leave the season with my head down a little bit? Yeah. A tad bit. Just like had we made the right judgments on some of the young kids we had.
I started to realize just how young they were, just by the fact we thought Josh was coming back, Rudy could have come back. Marcus Williams could have come back and we lost three other pros. We lose three pros on a team, it is very difficult. I never thought Josh was going to come out and Rudy did want to come back. He prematurely said he was coming. By the time he tried to come back, he couldn't. We were left to fend with Jeff as our, quote, experienced guy at 16 minutes a game.
Times during that season, I'm saying -- but they should be doing these things. I have been spoiled by Caron Butler, Ben Gordon, by Emeka, by Hilton, by Josh Boone, Ben Gordon, et cetera. For me personally it was more difficult maybe even more so than the kids.
Last year's 24 wins and the ten-game win streak to me was very special because it told me that we were back on track. This year's team, to do what it has done on the road and do what it has done in good games when they haven't played offensively as well, I really wish -- and I don't run out of words. I just run out of really good words to express to you just how I feel about this team.
I'm very emotional about this team getting to a Final Four, I mean, really emotional because I think they have been through things where you're right, maybe at a particular point in time I'm saying "are these the guys to get us there." One of the guys I thought we needed to get us there was Jerome Dyson. Yet, if you keep working at things, good things happen to you.
Q. Free throws, sometimes they go in down the stretch, sometimes they don't. Tonight they did. Do you ever get a sense whether they will and what's the reason for them going in sometimes or is it just one of those things in basketball?
COACH CALHOUN: Over the years except for a couple games, Notre Dame and a couple other games we shoot about 79 percent in the last three minutes of games. We shoot a lot of those 9s in a row and you guys are at practice and see the things we try to do. Generally speaking. Have we had a couple of games where we haven't made them down the stretch? Yeah. But it hasn't cost us a basketball game.
The only game I would think of is the six overtime game at Syracuse. Beyond that, it hasn't cost us a basketball team. We seem to find a way to win basketball games. Tonight because we couldn't score we made foul shots. That seems to be the one ingredient that's very difficult to describe. It is the grit of this team, and it is will to find a way. Some teams have it. You can describe it. You can talk about it. But it is there, quite frankly, and it is not there. With this team at 31-4 going to the Final Four, it definitely is there.
Q. You have addressed this before, but here you are again winning in the state of Arizona. There's -- is it just coincidence? Is there anything you can point to? What are your feelings of this area now?
COACH CALHOUN: I'm buying a house. I purchased land yesterday afternoon that says tentative unless we win today I will come out here once every five years.
No. For us -- I'm not sure -- it didn't exactly work out quite that way, but I think for the kids it did. As a matter of fact, it probably did for the kids. I like being out West because we are away from distractions. It really didn't work out for me personally quite that well. But John Thompson, who is a dear friend, Sr., as well as his son, but John said to me -- and John twice came from the West to go to the Final Four. One of the times he won it. He said you get your kids away from all those people who tell them how good they are and all the people that will put pressure on them about tickets and all that kind of thing.
It is a great area. The people have been absolutely fantastic. This is not like playing at the Meadowlands, trust me. The guys at the Meadowlands tell you get your stuff in the locker room and move. We got hockey tonight. This is not -- I certainly -- they are going to tear the Meadowlands down. If they weren't, I wouldn't say that.
My point being the people are incredibly gracious. And really from our team standpoint, we are away. They're away. Last night we went to a Mexican restaurant. Two nights ago we went to Chase Field and sat out in left field and it really is enjoying the experience. Yet, being focused on what we have to do. Having very little around us to really detract from the experience.
We did everything humanly possible to keep them busy and to keep them focused on just one thing, and that's beating Purdue and now fortunately beating Missouri.
COACH CALHOUN: Thank you. Just quickly, we do love coming out here and, once again, if they want to send us out here again next year, we would be more than happy to have it. Thank you.
End of FastScripts
THE MODERATOR: We have been joined by Coach Anderson and the Missouri student-athletes. Again, we'll ask Coach for a few opening comments on the ball game, go to questions for the student-athletes, and then questions for Coach.
COACH ANDERSON: Obviously I hurt for our guys. I thought I could get them to that magical place, and we just came up probably a couple of buckets, a stop here, a stop there. Maybe we just ran out of time, a couple minutes.
Hats off to Connecticut and congratulations to them as they get ready to move on to the Final Four. They are a great basketball team. I thought our guys came out with the understanding and mind-set that we wanted to certainly try to survive and advance. But credit to them.
But I tell you what, if our guys came with what they came, they went out the same way they came in to this season. They came in fighting, scratching and clawing, and if you are going to go out, that's the way you want to go out, fighting, scratching and clawing, giving yourself a chance.
Q. Matt, Leo and DeMarre in particular, toward the end of the game, you guys were on the bench as the reserves were coming back. How difficult was it to sit there?
MATT LAWRENCE: It wasn't difficult at all. They were playing great basketball, and they got us back in the game. They were getting stops on defense so they should have been out there.
LEO LYONS: Same thing he said. Those guys deserved to be out there. We are not that type of team to just force something. The guys who were sitting on the bench didn't have it going and they did. Plain and simple.
DEMARRE CARROLL: The same thing Leo said. Our bench has been our key all year. They really stepped up tonight. They were playing some better basketball tonight. Give credit to them guys. They really came out and played tonight.
Q. DeMarre, can you talk a little bit about the start. Connecticut seemed like they hit you in the mouth in the first five minutes of the game.
DEMARRE CARROLL: Yeah, they came out, threw the first punch, and we tried to throw a punch back but we just couldn't get over that hump. We tied the game plenty of times but we just couldn't get over that hump. Give credit to Connecticut. They got some great guys. Hasheem Thabeet, he really made a difference in the lane.
We just couldn't get over that hump.
Q. Matt, can you -- it is early on, I realize, but can you try to put in perspective from your own standpoint where this team came from and how it got here and what it feels like right now?
MATT LAWRENCE: Well, we came from nothing, and I'm pretty sure no one expected us to get here except for the guys in our locker room. I have never been a part of a team that was more cohesive than this one.
When you got guys doing whatever it takes to win, you are going to get this far. I know we wanted to go further, and I think we had a team that was able to. Just didn't get the buckets we needed tonight and the defensive stops. Connecticut is a very good basketball team.
But I think the future looks very bright here for Missouri.
Q. This is for J.T. I think there were a couple of minutes left. You guys were down by three and shot clock winding down and Kemba Walker hit that shot. I don't know how you describe it. Kind of threw it up there. How damaging was that at that time?
J.T. TILLER: You know, sometimes you got to make plays, and that was just one of those plays that put us back on our heels a little bit after we played, I say, great defense for 35 seconds on the shot clock and he put it up there. Just described what kind of day it was, you know?
Q. Matt, could you talk about the tempo. Did you guys get the tempo you wanted? If so, sort of just talk about whether that part worked out for you. Were they able to play more at your tempo?
MATT LAWRENCE: We were trying to force our tempo upon them the whole game. They are a very good team, though. They did a good job with our press. Usually our press wears on teams in the second half, and I think it started to. Towards the end you saw they never really could get away from us. We just didn't have the stops that we needed at the end.
I think every time they kind of looked like they were about to break out and go up by a lot, we would fight and scratch, like Coach said, to keep it close. We just couldn't really get over that hump. I think we might have settled for some jump shots in the second half when we should have been attacking a little bit.
As far as the tempo, though, I think we got it to where we wanted to but just not quite there for 40 minutes.
Q. Along the same lines, J.T., do you think UConn handled your press like you expected them to? Was it not as effective as it has been in the past?
J.T. TILLER: Really, I think a lot of people think that our press is set up for steal the ball. And they base the success on that. But really, our press was pretty successful because it was meant to slow them down and get them out of what they were trying to do, which was run plays. It was pretty much successful. They just withstood it for 40 minutes, though.
Q. Leo and DeMarre, are you guys feeling like you had something in your hands and it just somehow slipped away? What's your mind-set as to the suddenness of a season ended?
LEO LYONS: It does feel like it slipped away, that game right there was the game that we could have won, that we should have won. Like Coach said, it was a couple baskets, missed a shot here, turnover there that could have changed the whole aspect of that game.
For us to lose like that, it is tough on our guys. But I think these guys that we got back there in the locker room, they got to come in as freshmen and see a lot of success. Hopefully they ride it on for the next three years.
DEMARRE CARROLL: The same thing Leo said. We had the game right there, like we said before, we just couldn't get over the hump. You know, we lost the game, but throughout the whole season it was a great season. To come from rock bottom and to be where we're at now, you know, it is just -- I think it is a success.
So, you know, we stood and gained some positives from this our whole year, but, at the same standpoint, we lost the game. It hurts. But from the same standpoint, we gained some success for the year.
Q. Matt and Leo, I don't know if you can figure this out exactly, but how much of the difficulty right now is about losing the game and how much of it is over not playing with these guys any more?
MATT LAWRENCE: Initially it was definitely about losing the basketball game. After you put so much into it, so much time outside of basketball -- I mean, we're out there working hard, it seemed like for a long time to get this program back to where it was. I know for myself and Leo it has been four years, and this is a great way really to go out, I think. But as we got back in the locker room, it was more about -- it was more about those guys that I will never get to play with again.
LEO LYONS: When the buzzer went off, it was tough. It was more of a loss standpoint because these guys really wanted to win that game. Very competitive on this team. For us to lose that game, I mean, it hit everybody in the heart.
But right now it is about us staying close. I mean, our career is over with. All we can do is be mentors to the other guys and help them keep a good mind-set and keep working out with them until we do something else.
Q. J.T., how much are you going to miss playing with these guys right here and just their presence in the locker room?
J.T. TILLER: Having these guys on the team has been having a great honor because these are some great players. We grew as a family these last three years, especially coming from what? Three years ago, their sophomore year, until where we're at now, we just grew together as brothers.
I'm going to miss these dudes something serious, you know what I mean? Because without them, we wouldn't even have got this far. They built this program up. I'm just following their lead, so I'm going to miss them.
Q. Leo and DeMarre, can you talk about the difference Thabeet made and their other shot blockers, how tough it was to get anything inside today.
LEO LYONS: Of course it was a little bit tougher because they had Thabeet in there. He is very long. I don't think that changed the aspect of the game, though. I think we lost that game more as a team effort. We stayed on attack. Nobody shot away from attacking. They got a lot of blocks, but everybody kept going in there. That has been the tale of our team, to stay on attack.
He is a great player. He did change a lot, but it wasn't just him. You have to tip your hat to the whole team for playing great defense, like Stanley Robinson and Adrien. They rebounded and blocked shots as well. It was just the better team showed up today.
Q. Talking about the future, Justin and Keith both had big offensive games today. Is that a sign of things to come for them?
LEO LYONS: A lot of people don't get to see what those guys can do because they come in the game with the defensive mind-set. Our team is very unselfish, so nobody goes out there and tries to get it. But this program is going to be the same or even better. I think they will be better because these guys, like I said, came in on their first year, second year and now they're in the Elite Eight. Now they know success and hopefully they will keep it up. J.T. is captain. He will be the leader of the team next year.
With somebody who works hard like he does, the rest of the team will follow. Everybody better watch out for Mizzou basketball next year.
Q. J.T., midway through that second half, you guys seemed to be playing with a lot of confidence. Did you sense that they were playing on their heels at that time? Did you really feel like you had the game where you wanted it at that point?
J.T. TILLER: Like, we came in the game knowing we could win this game no doubt, you know what I mean? Especially in the second half when we started making our runs and actually getting them on their heels. When we tied the game up -- I don't know if we went up one or tied the game up.
COACH ANDERSON: One.
J.T. TILLER: We could sense they were on their heels. We are used to that, you know what I mean? In the second half, we like to get them worn out and going at our pace. We felt like it was going our way at that point in time, but it just didn't -- didn't come through in 40 minutes like we wanted it to.
THE MODERATOR: We will excuse the student-athletes and keep Coach Anderson. Questions for Coach?
Q. Can you talk about what you tried to get across to the players when you talked to them in the locker room about the season and where they came from.
COACH ANDERSON: First, I told them it was a phenomenal season. These guys came out of nowhere. Even as we played today, no one gave us a chance. Here we are, scored tied up, we are up one or tied. We got stuck on 52, and we gave ourselves a chance to advance to the Final Four.
I think all the hard work they put in, all the dedication, they brought back a sense of pride at Missouri basketball that hadn't been there for a while. For that, I thank them. For them, especially a guy like Matt Lawrence, Leo Lyons, as a coach that did not even recruit them, I opened my arms to them and they took me at my word that we were going to win a national championship. I don't know when. Here we are right on the cusp of a Final Four.
They left it on the floor. That's a locker room where some guys are in hurt in there. There are tears. They expected to win this game. That's okay. But hopefully we can -- we've had an opportunity to taste some of it, and I think our guys can -- the younger guys that experienced it, as these guys talked about, they can pass that tradition on, that feeling, they have tasted it. Hopefully they want to work extremely hard to have an opportunity to get back.
It is going to hurt them for a while because they were right there, I thought. A lot of emotion in that locker room. You got some seniors, man, blood, sweat and tears, they left it all on the floor. With the season coming to the end the way it did, but we lost to a pretty good basketball team in Connecticut, very good basketball team.
I thought the game went the way we want it had to go. I thought we had the rhythm. But Connecticut probably shoot free throws like we do, and they shoot 26-32. That's pretty phenomenal. You got to have some phenomenal things to happen for you in this setting. The bank shot by the Walker kid, he has a career game. Somebody had to step up for them. We did a tremendous job on Thabeet. I thought we did a great job on him.
You look at the stat line, I thought we did some good things. We turned him over 17 times. We had six turnovers, 21 -- I mean, that's pretty good basketball. But we just couldn't make those plays. Seem like we just got stuck on 52 and never quite got over the hump.
But it wasn't because our guys weren't trying.
Q. How hard was it on you the last five minutes? I know you mentioned that the bench is so important all year, but to look at the seniors. You knew those guys were hurting. How hard was it on you the last five?
COACH ANDERSON: We were trying to win. We were trying to win. It is not about hurting. It is about winning. That's what we were trying to do.
Those guys that were out there playing, I thought they had it going on. They were playing well, and they were going to give us an opportunity to win. So some days, you know, guys don't have it so you got to go with the guys that had it going on.
Of course seniors, you expect them to really step up and really showcase what they are capable of doing. But we have some other guys that were playing -- Justin was playing probably one of the best games of his life on the biggest stage. Keith Ramsey playing extremely, extremely good basketball.
And so those guys that were out there, they were doing their job.
Q. Connecticut took your best shot today and they took Purdue's best shot the other day and real different approaches. Just talk about how they're able to survive and advance, to use the phrase, just sort of the versatility that they showed this weekend.
COACH ANDERSON: I think they got some guys that wouldn't get rattled. I think they got some experienced guys that wouldn't get rattled.
At the same time, I thought we didn't do a very good job defensively in the first half. I thought the first half was -- even though they got off to a big start, I thought we made the run back. But I just thought we didn't do a very good job on dribble penetration. I thought we did a better job in the second half. We did a better job in terms of rebounding and make them work a little bit. They shot 70 percent.
But they are an outstanding team. They rose to the occasion. They made big plays. A.J. Price goes out and makes a big, big shot going down the stretch. I thought the biggest one is where we had great defense and -- is it Kemba Walker? He banks one in. And you go, whoa, what is taking place.
But to our guys' credit, it wasn't over until the clock said 0:00.
Q. Mike, you did come back but the first few minutes of the game, did you feel like your guys were tentative or was that Connecticut playing great?
COACH ANDERSON: I thought we were tentative, especially when we attacked the hole. Zaire attacked a couple of times and they blocked a couple of shots. You could just see -- Connecticut came out with energy. They came out with great energy and they probably had three or four straight layups. Eventually we settled down and got back into the rhythm of how we played.
I thought the guys that came off the bench were big keys in doing that. They actually settled us down. That's why you saw them in even in the second half, they were playing because they were playing pretty good basketball.
Q. Coach, would you comment more on Kemba Walker and how difficult is he with his speed and ability to finish.
COACH ANDERSON: Coming into the game, we knew he was one of those guys that liked to attack. That's what he liked to do. There are times when of course in open court I thought he did a good job of getting in there. We didn't fix it on defense in terms of rotating over or deflecting passes. I thought we did a better job in the second half.
Again, he just made some big plays for them. He is a good player.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts