NCAA Second Round: No. 1 Kansas 75, No. 8 UNLv 56
March 22, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Runnin' Rebels of the Mountain West conference are with us. We're going to have Lon Kruger, the head coach, start off with a statement on the game and then we'll have questions for Curtis and Wink.
COACH KRUGER: Thank you. Just, again, couldn't be more proud of what this group has done. They hung in there today for a while against a really good Kansas club and congratulations to KU, because they've got an outstanding team.
And they're not just a talented group, but they play well. They play unselfishly and they play hard and Bill's teams always do that. This team is no different. They're also very talented and very deserving of that 1 seed.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Wink, did you go into the game with the mind set you were going to drive the ball to the basket a lot and did you guys want to not settle for so many perimeter jumpers?
Q. Curtis, after you got off to the hot start you scored the first seven points. What was the difference for you? It was quite a while into the second half before you were able to hit a field goal?
So that was working for us so we just kept going with it and Wink did a great job of carrying us in the second half.
Q. Curtis, you talked about what you've been able to do to this program, playing under Coach Kruger. A week or a month from now when you look back at the strides you've taken in this program, what do you think you'll remember most in terms of helping bringing this program back?
I'm definitely sad to have played my last game, but I'm very excited to see what these guys are going to do in the future and I know they're going to pick it up here in a couple of weeks and get right back to work and get ready for next year.
Q. Expanding on that, Curtis, can you reflect on the season a little bit? What do you think made you guys successful and looking ahead to what type of team you think is coming back here next season?
It turned into a great ride we went on in winning the conference tournament and beating a good Kent State and having a chance to take on Kansas. It's a great experience that we went through and the way we did it and nobody thinking we were going to be able to do the things we did this year that we did last year.
But for the future I see nothing but great things, definitely. I'm kind of disappointed I won't be able to have a role in it like I had in the past four years, but I'm definitely going to be their biggest fan and always rooting for them and cheering them on.
They're going to keep on going farther and farther in the tournament every year.
Q. Wink, how good was Kansas's defense out there, because they really limited the good looks you guys got, only made 12 field goals for the game?
Tonight their length was very effective against us and kind of had our shooting percentage down.
Q. Wink, can you also just reflect on the season a little bit and look ahead to next year with the guys you've got coming back, you lose two seniors and just talk about that also?
And next year we got some bodies down low. We've got some guards that's here. And we're just going to be a better team. Our chemistry is going to be there with TreVon and Beas coming and some old players. And next year we hope that we get back to this stage and come with a better team and be well equipped so we can do better in the tournament.
Q. I guess on the game as a whole, but also in the second half, did you feel like you had to do a lot offensively tonight just to keep the team in the game and to try to, like Curtis said, carry the team there in the second half?
And just our shots wasn't falling, I thought we could have shot a better percentage but it was one of those nights when guys weren't shooting very hot. But we had fun and everybody played hard tonight.
Q. Could you guys explain the frustration of the amount of fouls that were called or losing Joe and René early in the second half to fouling out?
But we played through the best we could. And it just caught up with us tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your time. Congratulations on your season.
We'll stay here a bit longer with Coach Kruger.
Q. Lon, unlike maybe other teams that you forced to go small this year, does it speak to their overall skill that it not only didn't bother them but they were obviously able to pull away and go off the dribble and score?
Q. Could you talk about Curtis and his play tonight and then overall the season, just what he's meant to the team even back to November?
He just improved each year his role grew and to think that four years ago he was going to be our point guard and leader, no one could have even imagined that.
He's done a great job. It's not just that he did it out of default, he gave us great leadership all year and great direction and kind of captained a ball club, if you will, that turned it over 10 times or so a game and took care of it and Curtis had a lot to do with that.
So, again, it's very happy for him and he meant a great deal to our program.
Q. A lot of higher seeded teams are getting beaten this regional. Are you getting a strange feeling of déjà vu?
But it's like I heard Bill mention, a lot of teams when they go smaller and more athletic, it can be a tough matchup come tournament time and pose problems for more traditional type teams.
Q. Specifically I was talking about the way seeds were falling in front of KU in '88 when you guys were set up to meet them in the regional final. Is there a similarity there?
Q. One of the questions you asked when you took the job was can you win a national championship here, and when you perceive a team as opposed to a program as teams that get back here every year, where do you think you are at now as when you took this job and are you a program more sense than a team because you've been able to show you're back here two years?
That doesn't mean more wins necessarily, because it's next year's team is a big trap. As you know the expectations are going to go up and it's always hard to win 27 games.
Next year's team could make progress and win fewer games, for sure. We've got some tough road games in the schedule early and conference is going to be better.
And all of that contributes to what may play out. But, yeah, I think this year's team really contributed to the program feeling as opposed to just occasionally coming up with a good team.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
THE MODERATOR: The victorious Jayhawks are with us. We're going to have coach Bill Self open up a statement on this game and then we'll go to questions for Russell and Sherron, the two student athletes.
COACH BILL SELF: I think from a coach's perspective, I thought it was a great game for us, because we didn't exactly execute the game plan. We didn't get the ball inside with as many touches early and those sorts of things.
But the way we got it was put in the guards hands and driving the ball, which turned out to be the biggest difference in the game.
And we really defended. Our first shot defense was really great when we didn't foul them, which was every other possession. But I thought it was a good, solid, grind it out win.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Russell, a lot's been made about the fact you don't have to be a scorer to be a factor, but how did it feel to be a scorer tonight?
Q. Russell, this is obviously the kind of game that you guys are going to have to face in the tournament, these grind it out, people slowing it down. How do you think you guys have handled that sort of team right now?
Q. When you're No. 1 seed, is the Sweet 16 do you assume that's a formality going in or is it something worth to you getting to that point and then going on, even though you have bigger goals?
Q. To both you guys, in that decisive spurt, was something said at some point that you guys decided to drive the ball more on them or was that something you guys just did naturally?
RUSSELL ROBINSON: Like Sherron said, it came natural. We took it it was open, and an easy layup was open for us. They did pressure us out, but I was able to drive the ball, played to our advantage.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen. Congratulations.
We'll stay here with Coach Self. Start right here, again.
Q. Can you talk about Russell's game tonight and he's done more offensively than he's done recently?
But he was good tonight. Defensively, as a group, we were pretty good, and our first shot defense was very good except for fouls. And offensively, you know, we haven't played small. If you followed us we haven't played small that often all year long. We went for round one and really open, spread the floor, and that's kind of placed Sherron and Russell's game as far as getting in there and making plays when you can't really help off Mario or Brandon very much.
Q. Why were you guys so successful on defense tonight? You held them to 26 percent?
And the game was called pretty close on both ends because there were a lot of fouls called and a lot of free throws. But I think we were fortunate they missed some looks when they got pretty good ones.
And I really felt like, when we we tried to pressure them and the second half, when we got the quick fouls, we backed off our pressure and played more contained defense. And I thought it probably worked out better for us.
Q. Last night both Clemson lost and Vanderbilt lost and Siena won and Villanova won. Does it register with you and does it have any meaning for you in the next round?
But it really doesn't matter. It really doesn't. Whoever we play, we know they'll be a worthy opponent. I didn't get a chance to see the Siena game, but the score was unbelievable because I think Vanderbilt is very good. And I did see the second half of the Clemson Villanova game, and I thought Villanova just played superb ball the second half.
So whoever we play it will be tough. It always is tough when you get to the round of 16.
Q. Wink Adams went to the free throw line 17 times. He was really only their only effective offensive player. Did you go in with a defensive plan to focus on him and shut him down?
We thought we really thought the key to their team, even though, you know, Darger is a great shooter and Rougeau is a great matchup and all those things, we thought that Terry and Adams were the key to controlling them. And I didn't think we did a real good job early. I think they combined for 17 of their 29 or whatever the first half.
And the second half, it looked to me like they went to Wink most every possession. And I don't know what they told him, but I'm sure it was drive it, drive it, drive it, because we'll foul. And that's exactly what we did.
So it was probably pretty good strategy on their part. But he's a very good player. He's great initiating and drawing contact and he's so strong, you know, for a guy that size, he's very powerful, too.
Q. I'll ask you what I asked Russell talking about these tournament games, seems like this is what everybody is going to try to do to you guys and slow the tempo down and make this sort of a mucked up game. How do you feel this team is handling that?
What we want to do is move the ball to get the ball inside, but their pressure was good enough that we didn't really take advantage of our size inside like I thought we could. In large part because we kind of played out some foul issues and we fumbled some balls. But if you pressure hard enough, the perimeter guys will forget about throwing inside because they're just trying to survive. And they did a real good job with that.
But these are as a coach I like these kind of games, because you feel like that you have more control because the possessions are longer, whereas sometimes when it gets like this with us, it's just guys out there playing and you've got to be able to trust your guys.
But the best we executed the entire game was when we really played slow and really utilized the clock and we set so many ball screens. They do, too, but we set so many ball screens after the third or fourth on some possessions we finally got a crease and was able to get guys in there.
Q. How well does this team buy into the matchups and ignore the seeds?
So it's I don't think it's about the seeds. I think it's about your opponent. And sometimes when you play a team like Siena, and I haven't studied Siena but I bet you they're very, very quick and play small and their 4 man can shoot. And I haven't studied them at all. But those are hard teams to play.
I know Villanova a little bit more because we see them on ESPN all the time. Their guards are as good as anyone. I don't think our guys will be hung up on the seed. It will be hung up on who we're playing.
Q. You mentioned the tournament's all about matchups, with the roster you've put together that is balanced and flexible, does that give you confidence going into any kind of matchup?
But we do have a nice blend of power, inside scoring. Guys can run. Quickness on the perimeter, that can break you down. We've got some guys that can shoot off the catch. We've got a nice blend.
The one thing that I would say is a positive for me that we haven't done much, we haven't played small much at all this year. We have more depth in size, so we've always tried to play two bigs. And certainly today we did not do that because we couldn't match up with them.
And it was encouraging to me to see us play a different way and still have success playing that way.
Q. You've been to this second, advanced to the second week in the tournament a bunch of times in your career and have fallen just short of the third. Is there something about this team, though, that gives you even more confidence than maybe you've had in some of your past seasons?
So I've had confidence every year. You know, there's no major upsets. I guess there could be a mild upset once you get to the round of 16. But nothing major. All the teams can play. I'm certainly confident with our guys and I'm getting where I trust our guys more and more.
One of my ex managers told me, sent me a message saying make sure you trust your player, which is a pretty good message at this time of year.
I'm getting where I trust them more and more. But the thing about it is I don't know if it's better than other years. But I do think we have a really good team. And I won't say it's the best team we've had, because I'm going to wait and see how it plays out. But it has the talent to be as good as any team we've had or better.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.