March 22, 2014
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Rick Pitino: These guys here have had a lot of wins under their belt, a lot of great tournament experiences, conference tournaments as well as NCAA. We talked about this game tonight, and they watched Pittsburgh-Florida, and I said, ‘Guys, that's the exact game you're going to be in. And you're going to have to be the prettiest team in an ugly game because that's the way it's going to be.’
The emphasis we put on taking the three-point shot away was big, and we just wanted to grind out a W. I said, it's not every game that you can play up and down like if it's Houston or Connecticut, the teams that run. So this is a team that will turn you over, they'll grind it out, they play everybody close. So we were real proud of our effort defensively. We grinded out a win, and that's what the NCAA Tournament is all about.
Q. Luke, you had four fouls about midway through the second half. Did you have to change the way you were going to play to make sure that you could stay in this game throughout the whole duration, or was it just keep on the same way?
Luke Hancock: I just thought about not making any stupid fouls. My fourth foul was not the smartest play ever, and I felt like I just needed to play smart for the rest of the half. I didn't change too much.
Q. Montrezl, with the focus on taking away the three-point line, that means you and the post are going to have to be a last line of defense and help kind of muck things up in there. What did you do to take away the scoring opportunities in the paint, and how much more pressure did them not hitting a three put on their offense to score tonight?
Montrezl Harrell: We knew coming into the game this was a big three-point shooting team and they were a big duck-in team. We knew if we took those two things away from them they'd have a hard time scoring the ball. Their plays are pretty much designed for their big man Loe to pop out and shoot threes, so every time we tried to get into our down, we made sure that most of the time we ended up switching because the guard would try to attack us and they wanted are guards to start following the other guards so Loe could pop back for a three so we did a lot of good switching. And the last line of defense really wasn't my call. It was more Stephan Van Treese, he had some big-time blocks for us towards the end when we got beat baseline, so it was really his last line of defense, and I think he did an excellent job with making some big time blocks for us towards the end.
Q. Luke, what does it say about your team when Russ doesn't have his best game but you guys are still fairly efficient and effective?
Luke Hancock: Just gives you confidence. Russ knows that he needs to play and prepare just like Russ Smith does. He's got to make a couple tweaks but Russ is one of our leaders. We have faith in him. We know what kind of player he is. We know his scoring ability and we know how he affects the game offensively and defensively. It feels great to get a win, and Russ is going to be Russ.
Q. (No microphone)?
Luke Hancock: Right, absolutely. We had other guys step up big. Chris Jones is playing well, Montrezl down low, Stephan down low, Wayne Blackshear coming in, Terry Rozier, and just playing off those guys. He might not be scoring a lot of points, but Russ found me several times. He always is looking for teammates, and he's just a playmaker. He's Russ Smith.
Q. Is there a player that Luke reminds you of?
Rick Pitino: Not really. I mean, I think he's a terrific player. I just can't think off the top of my head.
Q. Luke had two threes there right around the 12-minute mark that cut the lead to two. What did that do just to keep Saint Louis at arm's length and give some cushion there?
Rick Pitino: Well, it's important but we had to go to him at that time because he's our clutch guy. You know, the most difficult -- Russ Smith has grown so much as a basketball player, but he still has one thing left, and I tried to explain this to him at halftime, but he has a very difficult time, he's a distracted young man, understanding this. I said, Russ, there's a lot better coaches than me in the other locker room, but picture if I was in the other locker room. Do you think I would even let you breathe any time down the court? Do you think I would let you breathe? He says, no, Coach, you would double me, you would trap me. I said, so don't you think the other coaches are doing the same thing? All the great ones from Michael Jordan to Kobe, they don't try to score 20 points in the first quarter. They get everybody else the ball and they let the game come to me and the other team fatigues and things open up. So his last lesson is to play like he did in the second half and not come out. He doesn't understand the scouting of the other teams. He's all Michael, all Kobe. But he doesn't get that those guys in the other locker room are a lot smarter than me. He doesn't get it. So we're going to give him shock treatment on Monday. (Laughter).
Q. You called a time-out there when Saint Louis took the lead early on in the second half. What did you tell your guys --
Rick Pitino: I just wanted to get the right shot to the right person in two or three options.
Q. Why did you think this game would be ugly based on the way Saint Louis played, and did you have to change your style because of that?
Rick Pitino: You know, the NCAA, the one thing I've known throughout the years, being in this business, is people get very conservative, and they talk about -- I've always felt -- you hear the expression defense wins championships. A lack of offense keeps you from winning a championship. All these teams can guard. And it's really, really important -- we beat Michigan and Wichita State and the teams before that, and we were a very good defense because of our offense. We didn't win because of our defense. Every team can play defense at this stage. So you've got to have great offense to win, and you've got to really execute and make free throws, do smart things.
So it's really the offense that's going to -- if you watched Florida-Pittsburgh, you knew how that game was going to be played, and the better defensive team, both teams were going to play great defense, but the team with the best offense was going to win the game. So we looked at Saint Louis, we knew it was going to be this type of game. If you play a Cincinnati, if you play a Pittsburgh, you know what type of game it's going to be. VCU couldn't speed up Saint Louis, and so we knew that it was going to be this type of game, so we had to be as good as they were defensively, take away the three, and wear them down with pick-and-rolls, because they take the wings away.
Q. Did you talk about Chris Jones yet?
Rick Pitino: Chris Jones is playing terrific basketball. The only thing he's struggling with right now is we change a lot defensively based on what we do offensively, and he's struggling a little bit with that, and he's just struggling picking it up. Outside of that, he gives us big steals, he's playing well. I told him in one situation, I said, Chris, when teams trap you, you've got to take on the bigger guy, go by him and then make the pass. You can't back up and then try to split it because now you're 5'10" trying to be 5'5". So he did that, he lost the ball there, he took the guy on, made some good plays, made big steals. He's playing great basketball for us right now, it's just he's adjusting to all these multiple defenses.
The past three years have been one of the more wonderful experiences of my life in terms of the quality young men I'm coaching, but this is a difficult team to coach, very difficult.
Q. What sort of things does Chris do for you?
Rick Pitino: You already know those. You know, it's tough to fathom for all of us that -- I didn't grow up with a privileged life, but compared to Chris, it was very much privileged. So it's tough in recruiting when you go around and you see these young people and the danger of the areas they grow up in, it's very difficult on them. Wayne Blackshear saw his dad killed. So it's very, very difficult for them. It takes a lot of nurturing for them to become young men, and Chris has come -- from where he was, light years in the type of person he's becoming, and that's the joy of college coaching.
Look, we all teach the fundamentals, we all teach the game, but the joy of college coaching is the nurturing of young people. It's really fun to see Russ and Luke and VT grow up into young men that are really wonderful people.
Q. Your defense held them without a three-pointer and you talked about that was an emphasis. Is that a stat you allow your defense to hang their hat on or is it on to the next one?
Rick Pitino: Well, we went to a different type of zone, almost like a one-one-three, to make sure there were no bumps where they could pop out and get a three, and what we would give up at times is maybe a high-post pass. We wanted to smother the three. This team reminds me of Colorado State last year, extremely well coached in all phases of the game, and we felt if we gave up the three we could get beat tonight, so we will take that away. That doesn't mean we're going to be successful. We were just successful tonight, but we weren't going to give up the three. We were going to hang our hat on taking away the three-point shot, and VT, in crucial situations, I looked up, I said to my assistant, was that VT blocking those shots? He really got up, timed it beautifully, and we really need him to play well down the stretch. He's playing terrific, and Chris Jones -- now if I can just get Russ to understand what the other coach is saying in the locker room, we'll come of age and move on and be very successful. But that's something he hasn't grasped. That's the last hurdle for Russ Smith.
Russ Smith, Senior Guard
On what worked for Louisville to pull away in the second half...
“I think our defense got better at communicating, the rotations, the trapping - everything just went up a notch. Saint Louis is a great team and we did a good job of just locking in in the last 15 minutes.”
On advancing to Louisville’s third-straight Sweet 16...
“It means a lot. The group of guys we have here are a bunch of winners, especially the senior class. Even Wayne Blackshear’s class. Just to be a part of something like that is very special. The tradition, the bar we’ve set for Louisville basketball. We just can’t come in here and lose. That will be a smack in the face to everybody that’s put on this jersey. When you come here you’ve got to win.”
On getting rest before the next round ...
“I’m going to enjoy the next few days. I think we’ll have enough time to prepare. We’ll have enough time to get our guys back to 100 percent, get healthy again. I think that’s what we need - just a little bit of time off. We’ve been playing smash mouth basketball for the past few weeks ,dating all the way back to the Cincinnati victory. So it’s about time we get some days off and get everybody back on the same page.”
Stephan Van Treese, Redshirt Senior Forward
On mindset when Saint Louis took the lead.....
“They’re a very good team. I felt like with our press we were tiring them out down the stretch, and we knew it was a matter of time before we started getting on a roll.”
On what made Saint Louis so tough....
“They have five seniors and they’ve been playing at a high level for the past four years with great defense. Simply put, they know how to play the game.”
Wayne Blackshear, Junior Guard/Forward
On time off....
“It’s been a long stretch but it’s the end of the season and every team is going through this. For now, we are going to try and recover and watch who we have to play and prepare for them.”