March 20, 2009

THE MODERATOR:  Joining us this evening are student athletes Terrence Williams, Andre McGee and Samardo Samuels.
 
COACH PITINO:  I want to congratulate Morehead State.  I think what makes this tournament so great is you look at the way Cal State Northridge has played and East Tennessee State, Morehead State, all these teams are playing tremendous basketball, and that's what this tournament is all about.  We didn't play bad in the first half.  We shot 50 percent, and they hung right there with us.
 
Because of this young man to my right, without question    Earl Clark and Terrence Williams are the professional athletes, potentially, on our basketball team, but there's no doubt about it, this young man here is what makes our basketball team win.  Andre McGee is the key times 10 to our basketball team.  He gets everybody pressing, everybody playing defense, and he just does it for one reason.  He's not trying to impress anybody.  He just does it because he has a deep passion to win.  I'm real proud of him, because what he does is tough to do.
 
And the other young man, Samardo Samuels, is one of the better freshman in the country.  He gives you every ounce of perspiration he has.  I'm proud of these guys.  It was a very good win for us.
 
THE MODERATOR:  Questions for the student athletes, please.

 
Q.  Andre, talk about your role.  How tiring must that be?  You're handling the ball a lot and chasing around three, four, five different guys at all times.  How are you able to go that length of time?
 
ANDRE McGEE:  It is a tough job.  I've been doing this since September, when we started conditioning, and I made sure I worked on my conditioning this past summer.  We've been pressing since I've been here with coach.  Coach is infamous for his full court pressure.  I knew that coming in to play for the University of Louisville I'd have to work hard on the defensive end.  I made that my staple, make sure I come in day in/day out and push myself in practice.  When you practice two hours by pressing, when the game comes you're pretty much used to it.  You're doing it every day.

 
Q.  Samardo, what happened at the start of the second half, 8 0 run on the way to a big, huge burst?
 
SAMARDO SAMUELS:  It all started from Andre defense.  As Coach said, his defense and everybody just followed behind him.  Like he's the leader.  He gets us going on defense and we're just trying to match his intensity on defense.  And he's the one that got us going.  That's what happened in the second half.

 
Q.  Andre, can you talk about in the first half, did it ever kind of go through your mind like, "Oh, no, here we go, we're letting these guys stay around too long"?  Was there any seed of doubt planted?
 
ANDRE McGEE:  No, because it's a long game.  You can never get down on yourself.  We're playing basketball, we're taking good shots, making good shots.  Conversely, they were also making shots, too.  We weren't strapping down the defense like we usually do.  Guys were getting dunks off our press and flashing high post and hitting jump shots.
 
We were shooting in the 50th percentile, they were shooting in the 40s, it was a good game, we needed to play defense, which we weren't doing in the first half.

 
Q.  Andre, how much confidence does this team have in their second half ability to come out and shut teams down?
 
ANDRE McGEE:  We have a lot of confidence in ourselves, period.  We know that we can't get down on ourselves.  We've been in this position when where we've been down at halftime in plenty of games.  We know we can stick to it.  We know we have the depth to keep going through, whether it's going to go regulation or overtime, to keep the relentless pressure on.  We know we're not going to get tired or let up.  We know teams seeing us as No. 1 seed are going to bring even more intensity towards on us.  And this being the NCAA Tournament, every team raises their game to the next level.  That's what makes the tournament so special, any team can beat any other team regardless of their name or ranking.
 
It just depends on which team can play hard, sustain that intensity throughout the whole game.

 
Q.  Andre, there was one possession in the second half.  I saw you guard four different guys.  It wasn't up in the top, either.  You were in the zone getting the guy down on the baseline.  When you get it going on defense, what does it feel like    you get a strip and you almost feed off yourself.  What does it feel like when you're in that zone on defense?
 
ANDRE McGEE:  It feels great.  You're hustling like that, getting steals going down to the other end, getting easy points, it's like a dog smelling blood.  We really try hard to get after teams and we go on our runs in the second half and we try to do that.  It just picks everyone else's intensity up.  Sometimes I get a little too involved in it.  The pass gets thrown to another player, I go ahead and keep guarding him, try to keep the pressure on him.  He pass to another guy I just switch off and guard him, too, run anywhere we can.  I know the guys behind me have my back and are going to make the rotations feeding off me and reading me.  And I'm just trying to deflect the ball, allow them to make the steals and the proper rotations, and it usually works out.

 
Q.  Andre, you mentioned the conditioning preseason.  What did you do?  How can you get ready for what you do in a game?
 
ANDRE McGEE:  Man, you just run yourself until you drop.  That's the only way you can simulate that.  We went hard in conditioning this year.  We told ourselves that for us to play our style of basketball, we're just going to be more up tempo, more fast paced, a lot more pressing.  We really have to pick up on our conditioning, and guys paid for it on the track earlier this year, out they're falling out and catching cramps at 6:00 in the morning, doing sprint works and running miles.  Everyone really bought into the idea of hard work and dedication this year.  It's paid off.  We were able to win two Big East championships.  We're trying to win a third.  We've got to take it one game at a time.  Everyone focuses in and plays our style of basketball, which is defense.  We think we can match up to anybody.

 
Q.  Samardo, you scored 7 of the first 12, and then I guess the offense went away from you.  What happened in the second half of the first half?  Was it a change in passing the team did, or just they played you differently?
 
SAMARDO SAMUELS:  I guess Morehead adjusted.  I mean, coming in they're more focused on Earl and T. Will, most of the scoring is coming from.  So that allowed me to get easy points instead of the offense, go through them a lot.  The guys tend to focus on them more, so it gives me one on one coverage, sometimes, which is why I'm able to get easy buckets early.
 
And the second half they just adjusted and Earl and T. Will get it going, and Andre and everybody started making shots.

 
Q.  Andre, 11 straight wins now since the Notre Dame game.  What happened after Notre Dame and how brutal?  You've probably been asked this 100 times, how brutal was that night and what's happened since then?
 
ANDRE McGEE:  That night wasn't that brutal thinking how well they played.  I think they probably would have beat anybody in the country that day.  They were due for a win.  I think they were on a 7 game losing streak.  They shot lights out, and it was like a Mike Tyson fight, knocking us out on the first round and we never got back up.  We didn't dwell on that a lot.  We knew it was a good team and we had an off night and it was their night.  We took that for what it was worth and kept practicing and kept working hard, and that hard work is why you seeing we're on a winning streak.  But through the course of the regular season, the Big East, everything is erased, everything you did prior to this tournament is irrelevant.  Everyone is on the same slate now, clean slate, and it's up for grabs, whoever sacrifices the most is going to be the team that can win it.
 
THE MODERATOR:  Questions for coach.

 
Q.  How does this team stack up to what Andre is talking about with their preseason work ethic and conditioning, and also how about Andre and his work and conditioning preseason?
 
COACH PITINO:  I think the amazing thing about Andre is young people today are really into their stats.  And the thing that separates    Andre was a young man that averaged like 32, 34 points a game in high school on a bad basketball team and didn't play a stitch of defense.
 
And he came to the University of Louisville to win, and he just changed his game into one of the better defensive players in the country, because his ego is team ego.  He gets everything, all his gratification comes from the team winning and the team working hard.  You can see how eloquent he speaks about hard work.
 
So you can't get 13 Andre McGees.  If so, every one of us would be so successful.  But he's really been a great captain, great leader, someone who has gotten total fulfillment out of the college experience?

 
Q.  Solid win today, but did you see anything that you thought needed to be improved on in order to notch another win against Siena or Ohio State on Sunday?
 
COACH PITINO:  I thought we, in the first half, turned it over a little bit too much.  We shot 50 percent.  We were passing the ball well.  Morehead just played terrific.  You have to give credit.  We've been down eight the last two games at halftime.  So we're used to it.  Pressing teams against good teams really get their dividends in the second half.  So you've got to know what style you are.
 
And if you're a different team and you want to be up because you can't play from behind, it's different.  But we're down quite a bit.  This is not something that's abnormal.

 
Q.  Rick, was there any mention of the Pittsburgh/East Tennessee game or in general, did you mention anything about just how crazy this time of year  
 
COACH PITINO:  I told them at halftime, "Don't get nervous."  I said, "We're up 2.  We were down 8 in the last two games."  We understand that.  I said, "You've all been following Northridge and Pittsburgh today."  I said, "We'll be fine."
 
I told them that I think it was '96 we were down    I think we were the biggest favorite in the history of the game.  We were down 1 to San Jose State, and we won by 40 the second half, I think.  Get to be my age you start to forget.  I think it was '96.
 
But it's just that way.  And you don't panic.  So often    and not to knock the question here, what can you improve on?  So often we just don't want to give East Tennessee State or Northridge or the other team credit.  We want to see what went wrong with us or Memphis.  The other teams were terrific.  Morehead State was terrific, bottom line.  We played well.  We didn't play great, but we played well but Morehead State was great.  So we've got to give them credit.

 
Q.  Where does this group rank as far as the teams you've coached as far as the full court press?  Are they one of your best?  Are they the best?  Where would you rank them right now?
 
COACH PITINO:  They're not the best, but I put them in my top five.  The '96 team is one of the greatest teams I've seen in my life, never mind coached.  But they're definitely a very good pressing team.
 
We don't have as much shot blocking that would make it really terrific.  But everything else is there.  The quickness is there, the length is there, the hard work is there.

 
Q.  Back to Andre.  He's good all the time defensively.  But does he have    looked like the first five minutes the second half he was just at another level.  And what enables him to do that?  He's not the fastest guy out there, maybe, and he certainly doesn't have length, but he does seem to be able to guard most the other team at times?
 
COACH PITINO:  He's extremely quick.  He's one of the quickest guys.  But Andre is not going to get bothered by whether he's scoring or in foul trouble.  Andre McGee is, I always say this every year, Bill Russell gave one of my Celtics teams one of the greatest speeches of all time about team ego, stats don't matter, but the only thing that matters is the final score, that's Andre McGee.  Give me the W.  I don't care about how many points or assists, give me the W.  That's the way he plays, with total purpose of team.  Andre is not playing for anything except the University of Louisville.  He's not planning to impress any scouts or impressing anybody except get his team a victory.  That's what makes him tick.
 
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach.
 
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