Connecticut-Chattanooga Quotes, March 18
March 18, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Connecticut student athletes. We'll go ahead and open it up for questions for the student athletes.
Q. Buzz Williams was asked about how his team sort of psychologically, as well as physically, had to adjust to losing Dominic James. What has been the process for you since losing Jerome Dyson?
A.J. PRICE: Uhm, I think we've adjusted well since losing Jerome. You understand anytime you lose a great talent like that, you're going to have to make some adjustments in order to pick up what he brings to the team.
I think we've done a good job of doing that. We're over that psychologically and ready to play basketball now.
JEFF ADRIEN: Like AJ said, I think we've been doing well without Jerome Dyson. We played eight games without him and won five of them, lost three. We lost two games, one to a very good team, a No. 1 seed, and then in a six overtime game. We can't really complain.
Q. Can you talk about how long it may have taken you both physically and even emotionally to get over that loss to Syracuse, how you think it might affect you, if at all, going into the tournament.
A.J. PRICE: Physically I was still feeling the effects of the game the next day. But after that, it was back to normal.
Emotionally, it didn't take long. It was a great game; six overtime game. We just happened to come out on the wrong end of it in a defeat. But we lost to a good team. We can't complain about it. Somebody had to win.
JEFF ADRIEN: I think that game definitely helped us out in many different ways. It showed our heart and how tough we were out on the court. You know, a lot of teams could have quit at the third overtime, but we kept fighting. We lost a lot of players in that game in foul trouble. But we kept fighting. I think it definitely helped us out in a positive way.
Q. AJ, have you had a chance to look at any tape or scout Chattanooga? What's the biggest key to stopping them? They have a guard who can shoot quite a bit.
A.J. PRICE: We had a chance to see them a little bit. They're a very athletic team, play very hard. So we pretty much know what we're going to see in them. McDowell is a very good player in his own right, shoots the ball very well. If he gets going, it's going to be very hard to stop him. We know what we need to do as far as defensively to try to limit them and keep them out of what they like to do on offense.
Q. The Chattanooga kids talked about how no one expected them to win. Have you thought about what might be going through their mind being an overwhelming underdog? What is it being such an overwhelming favorite and stay focused going into a game like this?
A.J. PRICE: For me, personally, I really don't get into who's favored, who's not, underdog, who's not. If you're in this tournament, you're a pretty good team. You can play basketball. You've won games. That's the way you have to approach it.
So whoever the opponent may be, we're going to have to come out and execute and play well, regardless if it's a 16 seed or another 1 seed. We're going to have to come out and perform. We understand that fully.
JEFF ADRIEN: I agree with him (smiling).
Q. Jeff, you were a freshman when you were here three years ago, losing in the second half to Albany. What was the feeling like then? Is that something you can help your guys with playing tomorrow?
JEFF ADRIEN: That feeling, it happened so quick. We was down 11 with 12 minutes left. Our seniors just came back, you know, led us through that game. It wasn't a great feeling, but to get it over with and get that W, it felt great at the end.
Q. Jeff, about a week before Jerome went down, you were the No. 1 team in the country. You were the team to beat in the tournament. Since then you've been asked about Jerome, losing in six overtimes, sort of like the unbeatable quality has been lost, sort of. Are you angry about that? Do you still feel like you're the team to beat?
JEFF ADRIEN: I think there's a lot of great teams out there. I think we're definitely obviously one of the teams to beat since we earned our No. 1 seeding.
Are we angry about what people are saying about Jerome? No. You know, if anything, we're more motivated and we want to go out there and prove people wrong, that we can play without Jerome.
It's very tough to play without him. But we played some good games and beat some good teams without him already. I think we're definitely motivated about it.
A.J. PRICE: I definitely think we're still one of the teams to beat in this tournament. We're 27 4. Had a great year so far. Still have a lot of good players on this team who are capable of stepping up and doing some really good things.
And I think, uhm, now is that time of the year where everybody senses that and everybody's gonna give that extra five to 10 percent that we need to make up for what Jerome brought for us. I think we're up for that challenge.
Q. Jeff, what was the feeling on the bench at that point against Albany, to be here, to be the No. 1 seed, you're down double digits? What was the feeling of the team then? Is that something that's been talked about coming into this tournament to make sure it doesn't happen?
JEFF ADRIEN: Yeah, we talked about it a little bit the past couple days. It's a basketball game. You're going to go through ups and downs. You're just going to have to find a way to fight back. The mood on the bench, we're still very positive. We got great help off the bench with Rashad, myself, and even Craig that game. We were still into the game. We was very focused, you know, so...
Q. AJ, usually an underdog comes out and plays hard. You said you have to match their intensity from the start?
A.J. PRICE: I think we need to play harder. Don't try to match the intensity. We need to come out and try to impose our will, let them know that we're here to play, as well.
They're here to play. They talked about playing freely and things like that. Well, we just need to play hard. If we play hard, I think we should be fine.
Q. AJ, coach talked after the game Thursday about the 27 turnovers quite a bit. I know some of that was because of the Syracuse zone. How much of a focus has it been in practice this week to take better care of the basketball so you don't have a high number of turnovers in this game tomorrow?
A.J. PRICE: It's been a huge focus. We definitely try to focus on that, understand that we can't turn the ball over, especially at this time of the year. You know, Syracuse' zone is very difficult, it's very unique in their own right. We didn't do a good job of handling it. If we want to go deep in this tournament, we're going to have to take much better care of the basketball.
Q. Most times when you have a seven footer on a team, it's a tremendous advantage. You guys haven't won a tournament game with Hasheem on the team. Is there any rhyme or reason to that? Just been bad luck?
JEFF ADRIEN: You know, I think it's been bad luck truthfully. Hasheem's a great player. He's not the reason if we lose or win. It's more of a team effort. You know, Hasheem has been playing great. I just think it's been bad luck.
Those games we didn't execute down the stretch, get the big stops that we needed. So, you know, there's definitely, I think, some luck involved with that.
A.J. PRICE: We haven't won a tournament game. So be it. We have a chance to make amends for that now.
Q. AJ, you probably have been through at least as much as any player in this tournament throughout your career. Pause for a second and think about what it would mean for you to cut down the nets in Detroit.
A.J. PRICE: I really haven't gotten that far ahead of myself yet. Everybody knows I've been through a lot in my college career. It's still going. That's the way I look at it. Got one last tournament to play in. Good play as many as six more games.
So as long as this team stays focused and we do the things we know we're capable of doing, we have a chance to play for a long time.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.
We're joined by Connecticut head Coach Jim Calhoun. Coach, we're going to ask that you make appear opening statement.
COACH CALHOUN: First thing, we're very happy to be here. The team is, I know for sure. And I am.
Secondly, we hope we stay longer than we did last year. That would be kind of nice. Had kind of gotten used to that. We found out it wasn't a God given right. I never thought it was, but can you get that assumption sometimes. I was kidding with George Blaney. I said, George, you've been here eight years. How many NCAA tournaments have we been to? He said, Seven, and you screwed up one year. Which is what a 40 year friend would say to you.
Right now, I think in the way we've always tried to put it in perspective. Whether I was at Northeastern as a 14, 15, 16 seed, whatever it may be, or at UConn, it's a 40 minute season. So after everybody says anything, I know Coach Shulman was kind to say about my 800 wins, I don't think their kids care, I don't think anybody cares. The game starts out, as he said, 0 0. You play 40 minutes. Somebody advances and somebody goes home. We want to keep advancing.
So I think that's the only approach. You know, I've seen the four or five 2s 15s. The 16 1's gonna come. Hopefully, it doesn't come tomorrow. But my point being, you can see that line getting closer and closer. And so not talking particularly about our game, our game of college basketball, college parity...when we lost to George Mason, I can't tell you, we played great. I can tell you George Mason played great and they were very good. By the way, they only beat that year, if I remember correct, Michigan State, Carolina. I mean, they had significant wins. So people are very close. We played Western Carolina out of Chattanooga's league, and I was very impressed with them early in the season. We broke that game open late. So the score is a little deceptive. We know they're a very good team. We know they feel good about themselves, which if you were gonna do anything besides have terrific talent, you want your kids feeling good about themselves. You'd like both obviously anytime, but you would like your kids feeling really good about themselves.
I think hopefully I think we feel pretty good about ourselves, and I think that within the game hopefully we can develop some confidence. When you win 27 games, you should have confidence. We're 5 3 without Jerome. The reason I say that, because I said that three or four times today when we were practicing. We said that a couple different times today even. By the way, the guys you lost to was a 1 seed, twice. I think the game was evenly matched between teams that went into six overtimes. Quite a clash.
Bottom line is we're still a good basketball. Tomorrow we got to play well for 40 minutes. If we do, we'll be playing on Saturday.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for coach.
Q. A couple of days before Jerome went down, you were the No. 1 team in the country. You surpassed Carolina, anybody else. Since then you lose Jerome, 5 3. It seems at least outside perception that air of invulnerable has been penetrated. Do you buy that? Have you spoken to your guys about, No, we're the team that should win this tournament?
COACH CALHOUN: No, I don't think you can say that. What I did say, I think you're right, I went home that night, I think it made us 24 1 when we beat Syracuse that night, Jerome goes down. You have to count that as a game without him. He doesn't score a point; went down in five minutes. We are 5 3. I said to my wife the first time all year, my job, I think, is to pick the warts out on our team and try to eliminate as many of those as we can and hopefully play to our strengths.
That night going home, holding Syracuse to 49 points, we, including the Connecticut media, got the same report, that it was a contusion, he'd be back. Obviously, they didn't misdiagnosis. Under further observation, it was a season ending injury. I felt we were as good as anybody if not better than anybody in the country at that point.
I still think we're a very good basketball team. The swagger thing, I'm not going to disagree. I've seen it appear a little bit. The only solution to that, because exactly how that was created, we didn't have a swagger down in the Paradise Jam. When we were playing Miami or Wisconsin, we developed a little bit as we started to play better. So how that swagger is there, we've convinced them hopefully, they should know they're pretty good, they've won a lot of games. But quite frankly, success creates confidence. Confidence creates that positive swagger that the team needs to be very successful in this tournament.
Q. You have a few seniors on your team potentially with a future in the professional game, certainly a junior with a future in the professional game. When it comes down to having to focus on the task at hand, does that creep into their mind much at all? How have you seen players throughout your career handle that?
COACH CALHOUN: When we're here, I'll be very candid about this, in '06, it was creeping in a lot of places because we had so many. If you remember correctly, we had Josh, who was very confused about what he really wanted to do. Hilton, who was a senior, leaving. For him, being kind of the home boy he was, really, he wasn't quite himself. Rudy Gay was trying to make a decision. Marcus Williams was trying to make a decision. When you keep going through it, you keep going through that list, we had Denham and Rashad, we had a lot of kids that were going through tough decisions. It was the only time, I believe, that I've coached at Connecticut that the team wasn't quite as focused on the task at hand as it should have been.
Then I looked, and we beat a very good Kentucky team. Sparks kid has 28. Rondo looks like an ordinary player. Great win over them. Have a terrific win over Washington. End up losing in overtime to George Mason in a game we didn't play as well as we should have. Yet I'm the first one to admit that we trailed Albany by 11 at one point, maybe 12 to go, got it down to a tied game about eight to go, seven to go. Eventually got a 12 point win.
It happens to teams. I've seen it happen. It's why over the next couple days hopefully not from us but you'll be hearing stories about teams that just didn't play the same in post season play. I think a lot of it's got to do with, is your mind on a single goal? I'm not speaking for Coach Shulman, but a team like Chattanooga, team like Northeastern, teams that I know from that ilk, Albany, they were focused on one single thing: just beating us. I think, and I truly hope we believe this, we're focused on one thing: to show without Jerome Dyson, will be a terrific player next year, we're still a very good basketball team. We're focused on advancing in this tournament.
AJ was magnificent today. We were a little bit sleepy this morning. Had two good practices since then before then, excuse me. I thought he was terrific today working out. You're going to need that leadership on the court tomorrow. And the other thing is, we had a situation last year, as you know, watching AJ go down. After all is said and done, we didn't really react. We were still a better team, in my opinion, than San Diego. But they were the better team that day because they played better than we did. That shouldn't have happened.
So hopefully they'll take that with them. They've been reminded of that. We were having Stanley play an awful lot today. We did a lot of different things today. The "in case of" kind of things to make sure we're ready for this tournament. Chattanooga is the kind of team that gives you problems. I love Coach Shulman's background. He was a JV high school coach. I was a high school coach. I watched them against I turned the TV on and I watch as many games as I can, but that because of my friendship with Bobby Cremins. Same country club down in Hilton Head that I'm a member of. Actually, I shouldn't say that, I'm a member of a country club. Probably not a good idea to advertise (smiling). I'm sorry. The public course that I go to and play with him, $35 greens fees down in Hilton Head, sure (smiling). I don't know.
I really did, I really made a note to see Chattanooga play. I felt like a lot of other people, who is coming out of that league? We play Western Carolina. Davidson, you want to see Curry, who is a wonderful player. Then Bobby is playing. Bobby's first chance to get back to the big dance. I thought Chattanooga was really good. McDowell, I kept calling him McClinton, but, you know what, I studied enough tape of McClinton from Miami, that he kind of reminds me of him. Not particularly big, but no problem getting the shot off. They've got five seniors. They have bookends at the wing spots. You almost can't put a definition on them because they can do all kinds of things. Hartwell is a very good center because you see a kid get 16, 15 in a finals game, impressive. I love their point guard, very good player. Bottom line, they have a very good team.
You know what, when college of Charleston made their run after being down 18, they ran some nice sets and got the kind of shots that good teams get to win. They're coming off a three game winning streak. Their athleticism, if you ask him, three point shooting, their athleticism, are two things that mainly concern me. They give great help side defense. They're a good basketball team because they're athletic enough, that that isn't the way we're going to be able to beat them. We're going to have to try to beat them in other ways. Sometimes you beat them on being so athletic.
Q. What kind of defense would you play on McDowell?
COACH CALHOUN: We'll start Craig, just so you know. I thought the best thing to do with Craig, took him in the office, Craig and I have had a very close relationship, he's always been the guy that, okay, now you're going to start after not starting 12 games, or you're going to have to sit because Marcus is coming. He's always been there as a guy for me, as a guy, player, teammate. I took him in the office, I got a great way if you think you're in a slump. I really believe in you, as a matter of fact, much more than you do. I say that, and you know I'm kind of a bullshitter, so you don't have to take it. How about this one: You'll start on Monday in practice and you carry it you'll start Thursday. He's had three good practices. He'll start tomorrow. He will start on him.
As I said, what if stuff fill we put in, maybe double him a couple times, deny him a couple times, the big guy comes up and place the pick and roll a little differently. Bottom line is he has been all year a factory. Any kid who can put up 19 threes, anybody guy can put up 36, 38 points is a major factor once they get going in a game, Jeff is a good three point shooter, I mean, we saw that recently at Marquette when AJ got going. There wasn't anything Marquette could do, as good as Marquette is, to stop him from getting 36 points.
Q. Chattanooga was talking a lot about how they could be loose, nothing to loose, as you've been in that situation plenty of times. Based on the history of last year, how do you guard against the opposite, that your guys don't feel the pressure to live up to what they're supposed to do here?
COACH CALHOUN: The only pressure is opportunity. Honestly, it really is. We have an opportunity to prove that we are we have some very good basketball players in the program. The fact that our second leading scorer went down, it means there's other opportunities for people to show they were more than just Jerome Dyson. If they triple team down low on Hasheem, you know, we're more than that. So we have an opportunity to prove that.
There is no question, and I've said this before, that if you're a high seed, and you're up 7, you got a little sweat going on the brow. If you're the low seed, you're down 7, you're happy as hell. That's just the way it works out. That's not going to change. That's going to be time, I believe.
How can you be playing something you've earned the right to be playing? This isn't one of those games that was scheduled, although I really do like the guys from Saint Mary's, I'd like to be able to schedule a game in three days to get into an NCAA tournament. I thought that's one of the great moves of all time. Point being simply that this is an opportunity that we have and we should take advantage of it.
So I don't see it that way. I don't feel that way. And I hope that I'm not giving that off to my kids by any stretch of the imagination. Once again, we have a terrific opportunity here.
And here's the other thing. So many of you write it for so many years and see it. This is the time that legends are made. This is the time that people become bigger than life. Homer Drew. No disrespect to Homer Drew, but I don't even know where he is now basketball wise. I do know one thing: I'll never forget how he played during the tournament. My point is, in teams, this is a time that you can do some special things, both as an individual, more importantly as a team, because if the team does well, they're going to give credit to somebody on their particular team. We've had to talk about that because we're overcoming a couple different things. We changed ourselves a little bit, had no choice.
So I'm really excited about it and I hope the kids are as excited as I am about the opportunity to play tomorrow. And I'll tell you right now, Chattanooga's the kind of team that could give anybody problems just because I think they're not going to quit, they can make shots. They have two fifth year players and three four year players. They're a seasoned team and this is their chance.
I look at this as being Connecticut's chance.
Q. You talked about being up 7, down 7, the feeling. How important is it to kind of set the tone in the beginning for your team to take away some of their confidence?
COACH CALHOUN: I meant exactly what I said about the point totals, just the nature of the beast. I think the most single important thing is how we're playing. There are certain games that you feel really good about how you're playing, and other games you know you're struggling. So I think it's important for us to play well early, play well. The results are whatever they may be, 15, 12 we're down, but we're playing well and we're only there. Almost made a stop, kid shot well. Playing well will be important for us early.
Q. Annually, this week, the graduation rates are made public. Much public discourse from all around the nation goes on. Does it please you, displease you? Do you think things are represented, misrepresented? What do you think the direction of that conversation is?
COACH CALHOUN: I think the APR is at least, to some degree, because it's a different stat that you see, it just came out now. If you took the schools, we happen to be the No.1 seed, then the lowest, my answer simply is NBA. I can give you seven examples during that time, the six year period, of guys who left early, they weren't going to graduate because they were going to make millions of dollars. So if you're asking that, I know you aren't, but if you're asking that of us, there's reasons attic institutions why that figure is going to show.
What the APR shows, what did you do for the kid while he was there? We have now for seven straight years no problems with scholarship or any of that type of thing. The NCAA has made, pray for his health really, Myles Brand, Dr. Brand, made great strides in showing that. Now if a kid does go to the NBA, he gets off your final total under the NCAA APR.
I think next year, am I correct, they're talking about, I think, listing coaches with their graduation rates, then they're going to have a detention hall afterwards? It's like chewing gum. It's the same thing. It's the exact same thing. And I'm not making light of it, in all honesty.
Your responsibility as a coach, our responsibility as an institution, is to give the kid the best education possible, make sure he's making normal progress, make sure he's getting towards a degree. If an incredible opportunity comes up to him, I think I've already publicly said, if Hasheem is going to go 1, 2, or 3, it's good to be difficult for me to look him in the eye and say You should stay here for another year and get your degree. The NCAA has made provisions for that.
I think Tom, of those things that are thrown around. They're still making, by the way, situations in the APR, that that's a much better reflection than diplomas. We've had 12 or 13 kids go early. But those guys are not going to be in our graduation rate. The only guy who was, as you know, is Emeka. He left after his junior year, but he was a graduate certainly.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Chattanooga student athletes. We'll go ahead and open it up for questions for the student athletes.
Q. When you started 1 7, seems like NCAA was probably the furthest thing from your mind. Can you talk about the turnaround, how much fun it's been these last couple months.
STEPHEN McDOWELL: Actually, that's been our focus from the beginning of the season. Even though we were one seven, we never lost focus of our ultimate goal, which was to reach the NCAA tournament.
NICCHAEUS DOAKS: We never lost confidence, even though we started off slow. We knew the potential this team had. We knew we was a good team and we had to, would out things, get better every day in practice. We started focusing more. We ended up with the final goal of us getting here.
Q. Kevin, what was it like when you were sitting there and you see UConn come up? What gives you confidence that you can be the first 16 seed to win?
KEVIN GOFFNEY: When we seen that we got UConn, I mean, we was happy to be up there on the board. Coming here, we believed we can be one of the teams in history, to make history and beat UConn. It's all about believing in the system, believing in yourself. When you toss up that ball, anybody can win. Ain't just 'cause they UConn it's a lock. It's a basketball game. Both teams we got to play, they just like us.
Q. Talk about the challenge of facing a guy like Hasheem and Adrien.
NICCHAEUS DOAKS: It's going to be fun. It's going to be fun playing against them tomorrow. Probably going to be NBA draft picks next year. Going to be fun playing against them.
But they're human just like I am. I think I can be an NBA draft next year, just like Kevin, I got the same dreams, same ambitions as they do. I'm going to go out there and do the same things they do. Just because they're UConn, doesn't mean they're invincible action can't be beat. We're going to play as hard as we can against them. Show them that we're from Chattanooga, we can play ball, too.
Q. Can you talk about, was there a moment or something that happened that turned the season around, that got you guys on track.
NICCHAEUS DOAKS: I can't even say it was one moment or something that defined our season and made it turn it around.
Early in the year, we didn't have Kevin Goffney. He was hurt. We also didn't have Chris Early, guys like that. We had the new guys getting adjusted to the system. Then we all started buying into coach, started listening to coach, focusing on defending and rebounding, then the wins started turning around. We started off 0 3 in conference. We weren't believing in coach yet. We started focusing more in practice, started being dedicated to coach's philosophy, then it started to work.
Q. Kevin, the last time UConn played in Philadelphia, they were a 1 seed. Albany, they played, was tied with them. Have you brought that game up at all? Has that come up in conversation at all in any way?
KEVIN GOFFNEY: No. But I read that somewhere. I seen that. I mean, you can't be scared. You got to have confidence going into the game. I mean, 'cause that's big time. If you go in thinking maybe you can beat them, we maybe can do this and that. I mean, they can run away because they're real talented. You got to go in there knowing you can beat the team.
Q. Coach talked about how you have the green light, can take unlimited shots without getting in trouble with him. Talk about having that freedom on the court.
STEPHEN McDOWELL: It's definitely a great feeling to have. Most important thing is my teammates have confidence in me. That's the ultimate feeling.
If I don't take a shot, they get on me for not taking shots. It's hard to explain how much confidence that gives me. You know what I'm saying, when you have guys that believe in you and are backing you like that.
Q. Did you expect to be the 16 seed? Did you look at that as a surprise? How did you think about it when you saw it?
NICCHAEUS DOAKS: No, but looking at our record, some folks probably thought we should be playing the opening round game. Pretty much everybody was thinking that. We knew we're way better than our record shows. 18 16, there were some games we know, if we had KG and Chris Early, how our team was in the conference tournament, our record wouldn't be like that.
Don't let the record and the 16 seed fool you. We're a good basketball team. Just like our conference is a very good conference. We also have teams like Davidson and College of Charleston. We knew we're a good team. We're just going to have to come here and prove it tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.
Joining us now from Chattanooga is John Shulman. Coach, we'll ask that you make an opening statement.
COACH SHULMAN: Yeah, don't ask any Jimmy Fallon questions (laughter). That's what I've been asked all day.
We're really excited to be in Philadelphia. Didn't know if we would be playing in the NCAA tournament two weeks ago. But really excited. Playing really good basketball. Really looking forward to a challenge that has never been accomplished.
So we're excited about it. I guess as excited as you can be, getting ready to do what we're about to do (smiling).
Q. How important is it for McDowell to play important in this tournament?
COACH SHULMAN: It's really important. You got to be able to score the ball. They're very difficult. I don't see a whole lot of people scoring the ball inside against them.
We've played a really good schedule. We were able to play with Memphis. You know, I think our best player, you just saw him, I think our best player is Kevin Goffney, even though he doesn't get all the stats and all the public attention, all the all conference stuff. He got hurt. He didn't play against Memphis, eight games early. We played against Memphis because we could defend and we rebounded and McDowell made a boat load of threes. That's kind of our form. If we're going to do something pretty neat, that's what we'd have to do.
Q. How could you get your team believing that it can beat UConn? Do you have any sort of inspirational pep talks stored up for tomorrow?
COACH SHULMAN: I'm a dreamer. I was a JV basketball coach 24 years ago. No one thought I could be a Division I head basketball coach. So I'm a dreamer.
We've got two words up in our locker room: dream and believe. I just told them, if you can't dream it, you can't believe it, don't show up tomorrow, don't go. Fake an injury. Got a hamstring pull, your back hurts, something.
You know, last time I checked, the score would be 0 0. If they make the first shot, they're not going to be up 20 0, they may be up 2 or 3. But believe. If you don't believe, why play the game?
This is not football. Football, the strongest blocks to the right, you block to the left, give him the ball, he runs through the hole. Very few upsets in football. This, you screen and you're still going to have to make a shot from 20 in a tight situation. I've said many times, regular season, two balls fit through that hoop. In the post season, those little orange Nerf balls sometime versus a tough time going in, not for the 16 seed, but for the 1 seed. We're going to have to rely on that a little bit, too.
Q. I guess along the same lines, being the team that no one expects to win, do you sense your kids are looser for that? Are they relishing the situation they're in? Are they having more fun with it or is it more pressure?
COACH SHULMAN: It's not more pressure. But I don't want loosey. I don't want them up here having fun, just enjoying the moment. We can enjoy the moment in two weeks. We'll all look back and enjoy the moment. This is not time to enjoy the moment. I want to be loose, but I want to be competitive.
We've played Tennessee. We've played Missouri. We've played Southern Cal. We've played Alabama. We've played Memphis. Davidson, out of our league. We've got a pretty good league. Our league representative last year was a shot away from the Final Four. All of a sudden we're the 16 seed, everybody kind of looking at us funny. But our league's pretty good. We played pretty good people.
We got to get used to the surroundings and here. I certainly hope we're not absolutely intimidated of the surroundings and the situation tomorrow.
Q. The last time UConn was here in '06, Albany was tied with them about eight minutes to go. Have you brought that up to your kids at all? Are you using it, if so? Are you surprised at this point in the tournament's history that a 16 has never beaten a 1?
COACH SHULMAN: You know, yes, I'm using that Albany tape. We've talked about it. We talked about 2:30 in the morning, our coaches. I said, "We got to get that tape quickly." (Smiling).
I am a little surprised. I think it's getting closer. I was sitting in my office last week and one of my assistants came flying down. He said, I'm listening to the Colin Cowherd Show. Jim Calhoun just said something nice about Chattanooga. Gosh, I just watched Chattanooga play, they're pretty good, might be a 16 seed.
I think things are changing a little bit. I know East Tennessee State is getting ready to play Pitt. East Tennessee is very, very good. I know we're much better than our 18 16 record. You know, I'm just going to tell you, it's going to happen sometime. Might as well happen tomorrow, I guess, since we're all here. We might as well let it happen tomorrow.
But it's going to happen sometime. You got to believe and you got to dream and you got to play pretty close to perfect.
Q. Could you talk for a second about Keyron and the impact he's had on the program.
COACH SHULMAN: Keyron is a winner. He's always been a winner. He won the national championship in junior college. Ranked No. 1 almost the entire year, his sophomore year. He comes to us and he actually had a freak injury, had a dislocated collarbone. It was like a car wreck injury that happened in a basketball game.
So last year he tried to play, but he couldn't use his left arm, which is tough to play. But he really helped us win a regular season championship last year. He came in and struggled early, as we all did, with our schedule. He's just come into his own now.
If you quizzed our kids, and hopefully I wasn't out here when our kids were talking, they truly believe. I mean, they truly believe that we can do something tomorrow. And if they don't, and if I'm not preparing them to do that, then I've done a poor job as a coach. So I'm just gonna tell you, we believe we can do it. I know you've had many people stand up here and say that. And that's okay, too, because I like those people. If you don't believe, we shouldn't be here. If we're up here just to have fun, I'm in the wrong profession.
Q. When your players were up here, they said in the beginning of the season they didn't quite believe, they were still getting used to all that. What did you do or how did it all change so they did come to this belief down the stretch?
COACH SHULMAN: We quit playing Tennessee, Memphis, Missouri and Southern Cal, number one. We quit playing all those people.
We got Goffney back. Goffney is kind of our glue. Goffney and Keyron are kind of our guys. They don't get the pub that the rest of those guys get, but they get the Ws, to tell you the truth. We got Goffney back. Goffney missed eight games. He's the guy.
In our league, he's a tough matchup. All of a sudden we don't have 6'9" small forwards, we got 6'5" small forwards like Goffney, he's a tough matchup in our league.
Those guys, we got Goffney back. We were thinking about redshirting Goffney. He came back after Christmas. All of a sudden he said, "Coach, I want to do it, I want to finish out with these seniors." We also started out 0 3 in the league. We got back right defensively and we won five in a row, then we lost a couple, then we won six out of seven, secured our bye, secured our first place in the north, opposite of Davidson. Then we lost three in a row. But they didn't kill us.
Our guys always kind of had that belief late. Also, like I said, playing BCS schools is not a lot of fun.
Q. When we mentioned to Stephen that he had a green light to shoot, he got a smile on his face. Does he have that freedom or are there times you cringe?
COACH SHULMAN: I cringe a lot, my personality. I stress about everything. But we got him for a reason. Actually his junior year, he shot 19 threes in a game against East Tennessee State. He had shot 35 for his career at South Carolina in one year. He shot 19 in a game.
But he struggled shooting it that night and he passed one up. I took him out. I said, Listen, you're not out there for your looks, you're not out there for your ball handling, D, shoot the ball. That's what he does. He's got to make some shots for us. We have struggled when he hasn't. He's not a huge guy either. He says he's six foot. He's maybe six foot. That's about it. But he can really, really shoot that basketball.
He's not Steph Curry. He's Steph McDowell, and that's good enough for us.
Q. Wondering your impressions of Hasheem and his shot blocking abilities.
COACH SHULMAN: I was so depressed. I was asking the pilots to turn the plane back around yesterday. I watched the Seton Hall game. We played in a tournament, Seton Hall, down in Puerto Rico. It was a joke. I mean, he had nine blocks. He altered like 13 other shots. He dominated the game. He dominates the game on the defensive end. We're not used to that.
I got an unbelievable play sheet here on everything we can run. Half of it I got to throw out because it doesn't work against a 7'3" guy standing two inches front of the bucket.
We got to be smart. We can't back down, but we got to be smart. We're not going to sit there and challenge him all night long at the basket. A lot of people tried that. If it don't work for some of the Big East people, trust me, it don't work no Chattanooga. We have to make sure he goes this way, away from the basket, make him defend a little bit away from the basket.
But he's phenomenal. He's great. Plays with a grin, a smile. He smiles all the time. I don't like that. He looks like he's having a little bit too much fun blocking everybody's shot. I don't like that part.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.
COACH SHULMAN: Thank you.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports