No. 3 Pitt vs. No. 19 Connecticut, March 10, 2011, New York, N.Y., Madison Square Garden
Quoting Pitt’s Jamie Dixon, Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker
Quoting Pitt Head Coach Jamie Dixon
“Okay, first of all, congratulations, Connecticut. Obviously a great game for everybody to watch, disappointing for us in that we came up short. We played hard but at the end we simply got beat at really at our own game we got beat on the boards and it was clear and evident especially down the stretch. It's something we will address and as we get ready for the NCAA Tournament, we've got some things to work on. So we shot a high percentage. I thought we did a very good job executing our offense, some turnovers hurt us in the fact that 11 is not a big number but they seemed to turn into baskets pretty much the other way each time and that was really what caused the biggest problem for us in that we weren't able to pull away, a couple of turnovers got them transition buckets. Defensively good not great. We made Kemba Walker shoot a low percentage. We talked about the number of shots we was going to take and had him shooting a low percentage but at the end of the day they had far too many opportunities, 17 offensive rebounds and way too many free-throws, they about the beat us at the free-throw line, simply put, the numbers are evident.”
Q. Coach, you guys came out to a huge lead in the first half. Do you think the rebounding and the turnovers toward the end of the first half going into the second half, do you think that had an affect?
COACH DIXON: “We got a lead in the second half as well so you can look at the numbers they stick out, free-throw line hurt us, 21 makes for them, 25 attempts, 14 attempts for us. But the turnovers led to baskets and low number but they turned into baskets at the other end. We got a lead in the second half we were in good position but we just didn't -- the second half it came down to rebounding and that's where the numbers switched up especially at the end of the game.”
Q. Jamie, you see UConn now with that swagger back, they lost it may be over the last month or so, did you see 'em back?
COACH DIXON: “They were down most of the game so I don't know that that was a swagger, they got some turnovers, we made some careless passes and that's what got them going, we weren't able to pull away to the extent we needed to with as well as we were shooting the ball and executing offensively because of the turnovers and I think the rebounding caught up with us in the end, we got some stops and -- 17 offensive rebounds is too big of a nobody and we had to keep them off the free-throw line, we tried a zone against them, we seemed to be getting a lot of fouls, we were up big, first half, we get guys in foul trouble and that changed the game a bit, too, for how we had to play.”
Q. Coach, you bring up the physical nature and the free-throws that you didn't get, do you feel that the physical game may have been taken away from you because of the foul trouble?
COACH DIXON: “They had some foul trouble, too, so I think that's just part of the game, guys are going to be in foul trouble, it's part of basketball and you need to play through it. We just were not able to come up with rebounds. They were a lot of long rebounds we didn't come up with in the second half and that's where the numbers changed, we always track it throughout the game and I think we were up in the boards in the second half and in the end of the second half they completely changed that around.”
Q. Coach, you had excellence in the conference this year and losing a game like this, a last-second shot, it should not affect the seating for Pittsburgh for the body of work for the overall year, you think?
COACH DIXON: “That's what we've seen in the past when you win the conference and come up short in the tournament especially to a good team which is what we faced in a very close game as well. Obviously in a game that we led for most of the game, you know, I don't think that will have a big affect on it as we've already played 31 games, but it would have been better to win the game. But we didn't get that done but one game doesn't change what we did the other 31 and it's hard to make up too much ground for other teams with the teams they're playing, we're obviously playing against a highly ranked team, highly-rated team in UConn, seems in the past there has been a history of conference tournaments not changing too much where you end up.”
Quoting Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs:
Q. Ashton, it's a disappointing loss. Can you talk about how this motivates you into the NCAA and do you feel it will propel you guys into a deep run?
Ashton Gibbs: “Yeah, I think so, this is something we wanted to win. We talked about winning all three crowns. That's what we talked about all year, regular season, Big East and NCAA, we didn't get this one but it's extra motivation for an NCAA Tournament.”
Quoting Connecticut Head Coach Jim Calhoun and Kemba Walker
COACH CALHOUN: “Well, we played, in my opinion, the best team in the league in Pitt and I think I said yesterday on this podium that we wanted to get at least where we were vis-a-vis where we played them on December 27th, and particularly because I thought the body language we had against Notre Dame even though we lost the game we didn't do well down the stretch and we were better than DePaul and we played well and I know that Georgetown is down a player but we dominated then, and the first ten minutes were great and they did all the things that Pitt does. In or about that point leading to the first half I thought we toughened up. I thought in the second half we stayed with it all the time and never let them get true separation from us. But we stayed there, and then we just made some terrific plays by so many people. Alex came alive. We were able to use Niels Giffey on defense and Jamal Coombs on offense and Jeremy Lamb made shots and the best player once again, the best player in my opinion for his team, don't quote me or anything, but the best player in my opinion made a big-time shot we had been working on, seen other teams do the same type of thing, only giving them a hard screen at the top with McGhee and have the other guys separate for a jump shot, so we had both options, Jamal separated for a jump shot so we had both options but there wasn't any doubt in my mind which shot was going to be taken. He kept up and made a spectacular play and as usual Kemba has made a ton of big shots this year and like I said, I think he's the most important guy for a single team in college basketball. But I'm really proud of our kids. It means after three days I feel so much better about our team. As we go into play beyond this and I was telling the kids, we have not experienced it recently but Friday night in Madison Square Garden, semifinal, it's a pretty special building to walk into and they'll have an opportunity to do that tomorrow night.”
Q. They switch pretty much everything all game it seemed like. Were you surprised that they switched to a point with McGhee was on Kemba?
COACH CALHOUN” “It's always like us to some degree. I thought at one point in the second half just to change things because we couldn't get over that 5 or 6 points and go zone. That's not who we are. We try to play man-to-man defense and even though they were making plays we were making plays. It's a hard hedge. If a man rolls, they'll double Kemba. If we separate him, that's why we use Jamal Coombs. He made two three's yesterday, two three's the day before. They had to honor that. So we set it a little different. We normally big guy they switch it, now they couldn't they had to play the shooter and try to play Kemba with the big and we thought the advantage was to us.”
Q. You survived some serious frontline foul trouble. Talk about the lift and the production Alex Oriahki gave you?
COACH CALHOUN: “That's the liflt -- he didn't start off the game well, didn't play particularly well, played great against DePaul and in the second half he was the guy and he was great in the middle, scored points first for us, rebounded first, got in there, did a great job on defense and using Jamal and Niels as a force sometimes and I thought Tyler gave us minutes, too. So you're right, we didn't have a front court and right now Roscoe has 8 stitches in his head. He hit pretty good and was incidental. It was. I've seen the tape already. It was incidentally and he caught an elbow there. And we'll see where it goes. We made up for it with heart. Shabaaz made a couple of rebounds. Kemba gets rebounds. It's one of those games where Pitt says we're tough, tell me how tough you are and if you're tough enough you can beat us, and today we answered that challenge.”
Q. Coach, yesterday you mentioned the magic being in this place the first two wins. Do you feel the magic is still hanging around?
COACH CALHOUN: “Pittsburgh is one of the best teams in the county. Not only in the conference but in the country, and we're a team some of our kids down the stretch weren't playing as well as we had down the middle of the season and I think those wins, I heard someone say they were kind of meaningless. Personally, no win is meaningless to me, number 1. Number 2, it is never meaningless to get your player playing. I mean guys got to feel good about themselves and I thought we did in the DePaul game. And they're still a very good team and for us to be able to do the things we did offensively against them, we felt better about ourselves. And I think it allowed us today to feel good about ourselves and hopefully by tomorrow we will feel even better about ourselves and in the midst of a tournament. You have to have things happen to you, sometimes seeding, sometimes seeding that you don't like. Pittsburgh was a tough third game for anybody and our kids did a great job and they're to me as good as anybody in the country, we matched them today with focus and I will say a little bit that I've never been a favor of -- in favor of sitting out two days, but I don't think it affected them because they came out of shoot really good but given our league they came out early so I don't know that that was a factor, I think down the stretch we were able to make a few more plays and we had No. 15 with with us.”
Q. Coach, Ashton Gibbs made it difficult for you to come out with this win can you comment on him?
COACH CALHOUN: “It's a set shot to some degree. He gets it off so quickly, the only thing we can't get give up is the 3, Shabaaz, getting nudged on the screen. He is a terrific player, they're a terrific team, they're very, very good, I think it helped us, I'll be honest it helped having McGhee in foul trouble I am a big McGhee fan for all the small things that he does but it helped us, bullet conversely our front court was in foul trouble the whole game so it created itself, somewhat.”
Q. Coach, will Roscoe be ready to go tomorrow?
COACH CALHOUN: “I really don't know, probably best to talk to the doctors afterwards, our trainer, James, will give a statement but the stitches and I'm sure they'll check him out but right now it's just that they were concerned about the -- he was opened pretty good and they were concerned about bleeding during the game and that type of thing, anything else we will be able to answer later on.”
Quoting Connecticut’s Kemba Walker:
Q. Kemba talk about that the process of the 18 seconds left, you want to make sure there was no time for Pitt to retaliate, right?
KEMBA WALKER: “The play before I missed a shot and my teammates told me stay aggressive, and anybody in the world knew that ball was coming to me. I wouldn't take that shot and I called it out in the huddle. I wanted to take that shot. I knew McGhee was going to switch and I knew if I had him it was going to be time to go and that's the way it was and I was able to break him down and get a clean look at the basket.”
Q. When you're facing a 6-11 center is it your instinct to drive the ball instead of taking a jump back?
KEMBA WALKER: “I was going to go to the basket on him. I was going to penetrate and get a layup or get a foul for a teammate but he fell so I was able to get a clean, clean look at the rim so I took my shot.”
Q. Kemba, how does someone from New York City sum up hitting a buzzer beater in the Big East tournament?
KEMBA WALKER: “It's special, especially because I missed a couple of shots before that shot and my teammates had the confidence in me. They told me take this last shot and win the game are for us, and that's what I did, and there is nothing like doing it in your hometown.”
Q. Kemba it looked like the entire team smothered you?
KEMBA WALKER: “Everybody was excited. We came into this game the underdogs, everybody saying we were going to lose but everybody stayed with each other and we stayed together and we came out with this victory and my teammates was excited to get this W, they all jumped on me so it was a fun time.”
Q. Kemba, you've done this before and you've done it in other pressure-packed situations. Why do these moments not overwhelm you like they do other guys?
KEMBA WALKER: “Well, you know, like you said I did it before and I'm one of the more experienced guys on my team and I've been through a lot, you know, I've been through a winning season as a freshman, a losing season as a sophomore and I'm that guy on this team, so everybody know that and I'm going to be the one to take that last shot or make the last play, so that's what I had to do for my team. Everybody knows that.”