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March 14, 2013

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No. 5 seed Syracuse vs. No. 4 seed Pitt, Big East Championship Quarterfinal, Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y.

Syracuse 62, Pitt 59

An Interview With PITT COACH Jamie Dixon, Lamar Patterson, Tray Woodall

COACH DIXON:  All right.  Obviously, disappointed in the loss, but proud of how our guys fought back in the second half.  We obviously dug a hole for ourselves in the first half, but I could see how hard we played and the effort. We out rebounded by 16.  We seemed to get every loose ball.  We were on the floor and showed a lot for us to come out and play like we did in the second half.  So to be down by 13, come back, and be in the situation we were, down one with the free throw.  Obviously, we battled and fought.  Out rebounded by 12 when it was all said and done.  So I could see the effort, the fight in our team, as always. Simply put, the first half we didn't play our defense.  That dug the hole for us.  That's why where we were where we're at and why we weren't able to make up the 13-point deficit. I saw a lot from our guys.  I saw what our team is made of in that second half, and we're going to get ready for the NCAA Tournament.

Q.  Coach, what happened at the end of the first half?  You had a foul to give.  You didn't give it, and they end up hitting a three.  That's the difference in the game. 

COACH DIXON:  When we fouled before, on the play before, you know that.  Obviously, it just didn't go the way we wanted it to go.  We had the foul to give, and he bounced one in. So, obviously, just didn't go the way we wanted it to.

Q.  Jamie, what, if anything, did you guys do better in the second half to limit Southerland's touches?  Coach Boeheim talked about how a lot of his shots were contested. 

COACH DIXON:  Well he only had ten shots and he obviously made treys, but he got one in the zone, the one time we played zone, and he had transition.  Simply put, our transition defense wasn't good in the first half, and that's how he got open looks.  When he got matched up on different guys, our 5 was guarding him on the one play. So it was different reasons for each one, and we didn't guard him well enough coming off a play that we knew, have seen run over and over again.  We didn't guard him twice on that play. So we did a better job -- obviously, we did much better in the second half and put us in position to win.  There's no question that was our team in the second half.  That's how we play.  But the problem is you've got to play the right way for two halves, and we didn't do that.

Q.  Coach, a lot of intensity in this game, as always, between you and Syracuse.  You guys are moving together to the ACC next year.  What can you take from this game, and what are your feelings about the Big East moving along?

COACH DIXON:  It's great.  Obviously, we wanted to win this tournament, and now we're going to be going home, and it's disappointing.  I think that was really the first -- the main focus of ours was we were here to win today and win this tournament. We've gotten better as the year's gone on.  We've improved.  I think we're a team that -- I think we're the team you saw in the second half, but the first half was not our defense, just to put it real clear. We're focused on winning this tournament, and we're focused on winning this game, and now we've got to go focus on getting ready for the NCAA Tournament. 

Q.  For Tray, as a senior, can you put into words playing the last Big East Tournament.

Tray Woodall:  First off, I want to apologize to the cameraman at ESPN.  I was frustrated during the game, and he came at me with the camera, and I moved him out of the way.  I was disappointed, obviously. We were prepared to come into this tournament and win.  I was disappointed, but I guess now we've got to focus on NCAA Tournament.  As you saw in the second half, we played our style of basketball, as the Coach said.  Now we've got to focus on this tournament.  We'll dwell on it for a few hours tonight, and then we have to move on.

Q.  When you saw the kind of physical tournament this was, do you at all allow yourself to think, is the league we're going into equipped to handle the play that you bring, Syracuse brings? 

COACH DIXON:  I think so.  When a team is playing hard, I think it's just teams being in the -- playing with intensity, and every league plays that way.  We've got bigger bodies.  I think that's probably five or six from our league and probably some other leagues.  There's no question teams are playing hard and getting after it. I think that's how every league plays.  I think we've got probably some bigger guys, and that may be something to do with it.

Q.  Jamie, does this game kind of epitomize what the league has been about?  Physical play, every loose ball is hard fought. 

COACH DIXON:  I think so.  I think it was obviously come down to last possessions and play, just I think it was a game that pretty much every one of ours has been like against Syracuse over the years.  We've been here 14 years.  This game isn't too much different. I think this is why it's been the best league, and games like this typify that.  So, again, really proud of how our guys kept battling.  That shows something too.  In our league, teams get down and keep battling.  That's pretty consistent throughout our league.

Q.  Lamar, can you talk about your last game in the Big East Tournament here. 

Lamar Patterson:  Disappointed.  I feel like I let the first half get away from us, and that was the hole we couldn't get out of.  It's sad that we had to go out like this, but I had fun playing in the Big East.

Q.  Coach, did you get an opportunity before or during or after the game to take a moment and just sort of take it in and see the experience as something beyond just a game, or was that something you can do only in retrospect?

COACH DIXON:  No, it's not.  We're focused on, before the game, your opponent, figuring out who you're going to play in the situation you're in.  It's all about preparation.  As great as it is and as great as the event is and has been over the years -- I talked to people during the week, and when you're winning and playing in the next game, it's all about preparation and getting ready for the next opponent. You don't really have time to sit back, especially during it.  Maybe at some point afterwards, I think there's no question, as I've said, that the Big East has made our program, and we've had great runs in this tournament.  It didn't happen this year.  We felt we were equipped to do it, but we simply didn't. The thing about this tournament is there's always about a dozen teams or so that believe they're equipped to win this tournament and are ready to do it.  That's why they've had so many different champions. 

Q.  For Tray, you mentioned before how you obviously maybe dwell on this for a couple of hours and try to move on to the NCAAs.  It's not like you need more motivation for the NCAAs.  Is that like one and done here?  Does this put a chip on your shoulder for you guys?

Tray Woodall:  I don't think we need any more of a chip on our shoulder.  We want to win regardless.  This game in the second half showed what kind of team we really are.  We played outstanding basketball in the second half.  I just hope from here we're building on what we did in the second half, and erase what we did in the first half.

Q.  Tray, you said before the game having the double bye worked against you guys before.  Did you feel like in this game the first half had anything to do with not having played yesterday? 

Tray Woodall:  No, I don't think so.  Just the first half wasn't our style of play.  We just didn't play basketball the way we're accustomed to playing basketball.  Had nothing to do with that.  The coach said we've got to get the loose ball and got to rebound.  We just dug ourselves a hole.

Q.  Coach, what did you tell the team at halftime so they came out in the second half with a lot more energy? 

COACH DIXON:  I just said we had defensive breakdowns and mental mistakes, out of position and not doing what we needed to do.  We had time, and obviously we did, and we had opportunity to come back and do it right.  We had to get our rebounding totals to change, which we did, and we had to do better, which we did. So we responded in that way.  But you've got to understand that this is -- you can't make these mistakes in a game at any point, and for this one it was stretches in the first half we simply didn't guard well enough.  We can't allow our team to shoot 53 percent and 61 percent from three in the first half.  You're just going to dig a hole no matter what you do. 


COACH BOEHEIM:  I thought offensively that first half we played as well as we played all year.  Pittsburgh is a tremendous defensive team.  We just had great ball movement.  Got the open guys, and James just got -- he got good looks, and he made them. He only got five shots.  That's the only shots he had really.  They defend so well.  It's so hard to get him looks.  We were able to get them.  Second half, we couldn't get him really anything.  I think he got one look, and he made it. I thought -- you know they're going to come back.  I think offensively we weren't quite as good movement-wise in the second half.  The first half, we out rebounded them four, and the second half was minus 16.  That was really the difference.  They're a physical team.  They're a very good rebounding team, and they just got on the boards.  They're very physical rebounding team.          We just couldn't get defensive rebounds, and that just allowed them to get back into the game.  I thought we played extremely hard defensively for 40 minutes, and it was a tremendous win for us.

Q.  Coach, talk about the poise that Carter Williams showed down the end of the game with those final shots. 

COACH BOEHEIM:  I think the one thing with Michael, earlier in the year he missed some against Temple in this building.  He had one other game that he missed some.  He's a competitor.  He's worked hard at it.  I could see that he was determined.  Sometimes you have to go through those bad experiences to be able to come back in this situation and be able to make them.  And they were huge.  I mean, I don't think we win the game if he doesn't go to the line and make those free throws.  They had a lot of momentum, and it would have been difficult for us if he hadn't made those, and then he makes a great defensive play at the other end too. So, again, I think those bad experiences early in the year, I think, have really helped him.  It's his first year playing college basketball, and I think he's a tremendous player.

Q.  Jim, just curious what your mindset is going into tomorrow night and how important it was to have the kind of shooting that you have, 6 for 6 from threes after I think you were going over in the last game against Georgetown facing them.

JAMES SOUTHERLAND:  I think it's very important.  Georgetown is a team that's going to play tough and physical.  So if you keep moving, getting people open and setting screens, we'll be fine. 

Q.  Jim, hearing you talk about how physical this game was -- Pittsburgh is physical, you're physical -- is the league you're going into next year ready for play like this?

COACH BOEHEIM:  Let's worry about that next year. 

Q.  For James, in the second half, how did Pittsburgh lock down on you defensively as opposed to the first half, when you got a lot of looks?

JAMES SOUTHERLAND:  They did a great job of staying with me.  Even when I was moving, they did a good job of trying to be physical, but also opened up a lot of opportunities to get the basket with guys like C.J., Brandon, and Mike. 

Q.  Also for James, what kind of feeling is that to almost hit everything that you look at?  Why do you think that was?  Did you sleep on the same side of the bed?

JAMES SOUTHERLAND:  It's a great feeling.  I didn't realize I was 6 for 6 until I looked down at the paper now.  I don't think about it.  I just go out and play and make sure I make every shot. 

Q.  Brandon, it feels like the last two games, you guys played with a ton of energy.  Does that have to do with the stage, the Garden, the Big East Tournament?  Is that where you guys are getting that from?

BRANDON TRICHE:  We have to.  After going six or seven games straight with a lack of energy, I mean, we know we have to be urgent.  We know that this means a lot to us, as a basketball team and as a program.  This can very much jump start us to the tournament.  So we know how important this Big East Tournament is. 

Q.  Coach, considering it's the final year here of the Big East Tournament, Georgetown-Syracuse Friday night, a third chance to take on the Hoyas, what's going to have to be different for you guys Friday night to win this game?

COACH BOEHEIM:  We're going to have to play a lot better than we have in the two games we played. 

Q.  Jim, along those lines, I know you've talked endlessly about that rivalry.  Does it seem fitting that you're going to go through Georgetown again in the last round here?

COACH BOEHEIM:  I don't know.  That's for you guys to figure out. 

Q.  Do you have any feelings about that?

COACH BOEHEIM:  I'm just happy.  We came to New York with the only goal to just get playing better, and we played really well here in two games, and that's important.  I think it's still important going into tomorrow night to, again, to play well. They're a tremendous team, and we have no answers for them down there.  When we played them in Syracuse, it was a good game in Syracuse for most of it.  We just didn't play well in either game.  They're too good.  If you don't play well, they're going to beat you.  Should be a great game. It seems to be -- it's a great thing to be -- the doubleheader that's going to be here tomorrow night will be a great basketball night, I think.  I think you're going to have arguably four of the best teams in the country playing here tomorrow night probably.  So it should be -- it's a good way to go out if this is it, for this league as it's constituted now. It's a great way for this league to go out.  We got to the semis in this tournament a lot, I think over 20 times, and it's great to be able to do that because it means you played pretty good, and that's what we're trying to do, play good and get ready for, unfortunately, the only thing that matters, next week. 

Q.  Coach, it seems like your team thrived in these atmospheres where you're playing back to back nights.  Have you seen that the past couple of years?  What are you telling your players about that?

COACH BOEHEIM:  We've been a good tournament team.  We've had good results in tournaments that are back to back.  Two and three days, we've always been good in those situations.  That's what we're doing now.

Q.  Jim, do you think Pitt is a team that can make a run in the NCAA Tournament? 

COACH BOEHEIM:  They're a very, very good basketball team.  They're very physical, good defensively.  We had to have a tremendous shooting game today to beat them, and it's usually hard to shoot well against them.  Even the shots James made, he was guarded. Really, I think five of them, he was fairly closely guarded on the six threes he made.  They were there.  It wasn't like he was just getting open shots.  Like last night he got some open shots.  He didn't get open.  There was somebody there.  But they switched, and there was a guard on them, so he could get up and get it off. We made shots.  Pittsburgh's a very, very good basketball team.  They've got good leadership, good seniors.  They've got some good young players.  They're a very good -- they're a really good tournament team.  They've got good depth. 

Q.  For either Brandon or James, how much do both of you want another shot at Georgetown?

BRANDON TRICHE:  I want it a lot.  Them beating us twice, not too many teams have done that.  I remember beating them twice, and the third time they beat us.  That was in the Big East Tournament.  We're trying to pretty much return the favor.  That means a lot.  Anybody that beats you by 20 points, you want revenge.

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