April 5, 2014
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UConn Head Coach Kevin Ollie
"It was a great victory. We were together, we stayed positive and productive, especially in that first five minutes when they got out to a lead. I was very happy with my student.athletes how they recovered.
We played great second-half defense and kind of took them out of their pick.and.roll motion offense. We started making shots and great ball movement and great body movement. They stayed together and they showed some true grit and toughness. I'm very proud of their effort."
Coach, was there a specific factor that made your half court defense so effective tonight?
"We just wanted to be relentless, make them uncomfortable. We wanted to challenge every dribble, every pass. They really wanted to attack empty elbows, if you understand what I'm saying, where they're coming off pick-and-rolls. They want to dive the big guy, and then they want to get and take the basketball in the middle of the court.
"So we wanted to kind of keep them on the baseline. We wanted to show out and double, have them kick it to Finney.Smith or Yeguete and have them make a play, then Scottie Wilbekin can make the play or Frazier can make the play, because they're just terrific shooters, they're also great facilitators and we wanted to kind of keep them out of the game."
There's been a clear evolution of your defense. You've talked about how well they played against Michigan State, obviously, what they did tonight. Can you recall a watershed moment maybe a particular game a practice, where you just sought light went on and every single guy was willing to subscribe to playing the type of defense you wanted them to play?
"We have been playing great defense all year. We have been holding our opponents under 39 percent, and you know that's one of our goals. So that's been throughout the whole year we have been playing outstanding defense.
"Of course we had some bumps in the road like any team has during the season, and I believe that Louisville game was a bump in the road. But I think that really promoted us. A lot of people are saying that was going to destroy us, but our team thought it promoted us to get better. When you have a big problem like that, bigger the destiny. And I know this team was destined for great, even in that downtime. We came back and worked. We made adjustments from that game and I thought we got better from it."
Not only after you're down 16 to 4, your team comes back and really races back. But also in the second half, each time Florida calls a timeout, tries to stop the bleeding, y'all come out and just come right back with that same energy. How did you instill in this team that level of energy and that level of 'don't give up' that they showed so clearly tonight?
"We got in the huddle and I told the guys, I wrote on the board, Even now faith. Even now we're down 16 and 4, you're going to have faith in each other. I knew we were going to get back in the game. They knew we were going to get back in the game. It just was going to have it take one possession at a time. Getting stops.
"How they got down, they got four offensive rebounds in that first five minutes. So we wanted to get on that defensive back board, wanted to start pushing the basketball. We wanted to have ball movement and body movement.
"I thought we started doing that, we started sharing the ball. Our guards started getting in the lane, jump stopping, finding DeAndre Daniels for three. We started penetrating and getting in the thick of the defense. I thought they did a wonderful job executing the game plan.
"But it starts on the defensive end. We heard it over and over again, Michigan State, Madison Square Garden was a home court advantage for us. We shot 34 percent in Madison Square Garden. So what kind of home court advantage was that? Our fans were there, but we shot 34 percent. We live and die on defense. You have to recognize that. Hopefully everybody understands that.
"We played tenacious defense. We played relentless defense. It's not always perfect all the time, but we're going to play 40 full. That's what I believe in my guys. They are terrific, terrific people because they do not take no for an answer. They want to play more. They are built for one more.
"We got a chance and I thank God for that. I just want to really thank Billy Donovan. He's a great, terrific coach. Florida's a great team, 30.game winning streak, great coach, Hall of Fame coach, and it's just an honor to play against him and also compete."
Niels Giffey, Senior, Guard/Forward
On how the team scouted Florida
"That is just the way we scouted that particular team. They are obviously really strong inside with Patric Young and a couple other guys are really post up well. They are amazing players down low, and we were just trying to make them play on the outside and take contested shots."
On what was said in the huddle when they were down 16-4
"Surprisingly, everything stayed positive. Those plays they did to get up was nothing we didn't expect or nothing we didn't see before. We knew what we had to do to stop those type of plays because all of them were at the rim. Everything with them was a put back, and they went right to the rim. They got a lot of paint touches and that is something that we talked about with limiting the paint touches on that team."
On when things turned around for them during the season
"No I wouldn't say that. Like I said already, we are a team that really tries to emphasize taking it game by game and playing every single game like it is most important game at this moment. We had tough stretch when we were back here in December and lost against Houston and SMU. Those losses were more important than anything else. Those losses were more important than any win we ever had because they kind of leveled us. That is when we went out of the top 25."
Terrence Samuel, Freshman, Guard
On being matched up with Scottie Wilbekin at the end of the first half
"When I was on him, I just wanted to give him a little room, but not too much. I know that he likes to hit that pull up. I know that he likes to go right, so I tried to keep him to his left hand. I feel like we did a great job of that today. He usually scores those end of the shot clock baskets and today, he didn't get any. We just played good defense as a team on him.
On jump starting the team when they were trailing 16-4
"Coach Ollie told me when I went in, `Be the game changer that I want you to be.' I feel like I did that. I came in and we got a stop, I got a lay up and then we just went from there. At half, we are up 25-22 and we just wanted to keep it going."
On giving Florida two of their losses this season
"It shows that we are under the radar. Nobody believes in us. Nobody had us getting past the first game and it shows a lot about our character. We stuck together and we don't let outsider statements affect us. We go out there and give it our all. That is what we are doing and it got us to the championship, so we just have one more game to finish it out."
Lasan Kromah, Senior, Guard/Forward
On the feelings that were experienced when that final buzzer sounded...
"It felt great. Just seeing the clock tick down over on the sidelines, it was a great feeling that you can not just put into words."
Tyler Olander, Senior, Forward
On potentially facing Kentucky again after facing them in the 2011 tournament...
"It is hard to speak on that because Kentucky just brings in new guys every year. That is their system and that is what they believe in. They are obviously extremely well coached. Coach Calipari has them peaking at the right time in March when you want it. You can not count out Wisconsin either because they are playing extremely well too, and they are extremely well coached. I am sure our coaches will be up all night watching film and deciding what we are going to do and how we are going to do it to win this game tomorrow."
On playing in two title games...
"I didn't expect it. You don't really think it is possible, but the more you grow with guys like Shabazz (Napier) and Niels (Giffey), with their determination, you can't really count anything out. I think when we put our mind to something, we go out, and we like to do it. We have all just grown so much and it is really remarkable what we are doing. Hopefully, we can be the first to win two national championships."
Phillip Nolan, Sophomore, Forward
On UConn Head Coach Kevin Ollie sitting on a defensive stance on the sidelines ...
"I feel like we have six people on the court playing defense because he (Coach Ollie) is always on the sideline. Wherever the ball is at, he is sliding up-and-down the sideline."
On the team's lob plays in the game...
"We worked on it quite a bit. We knew they (Florida) liked to throw in a 1-3-1, so we made sure we were well prepared for it."
On the offense struggling at the beginning of the game and the cause for the turnaround ...
"It's not the first time during the season that we have been down. We just kept our heads up, came together and made sure we came back. We stayed consistent and tried to play as hard as we could. It just fell into place for us."
Niels Giffey, Senior, Forward
On similarities between the 2011 Final Four run and now ...
"It's a similar run that we are on. It's kind of like that underdog role. Unfortunately, we didn't win the conference tournament this year. You can see some similarities. I think the way that this group carries themselves. Obviously, all of the freshmen that were there that year, they learned from all of the older guys like Kemba (Walker) and the seniors. The way you have to carry yourself, work as a team and build that brotherhood."
Ryan Boatright, Junior, Guard
On knowing his team is going to play in the national championship game ...
"It sounds crazy right now. Like I said before, we are blessed and are grateful to be in the national championship game. We didn't come to Dallas to play in just the national championship game. We came to win. We know we have one more game and 40 more minutes until the real celebration."
DeAndre Daniels, Junior, Forward
What did Jim (Calhoun) say to you...
"We talked Friday, and he was telling me that nobody is paying attention to you. I told him don't worry about it. Everybody will pay attention to me after Saturday. I promised him"
Did he tell you to get tougher?
"He just basically said I'm a nice kid. He was just saying he wanted me to get it going, and I promised him I would."
On Scottie Wilbekin having one of the worst games of the season...
Our guards did a tremendous job. Ryan (Boatright) and Shabazz (Napier) picked him up full court. They didn't let him get going, never laid off of him, didn't sag off of him. They were always on him and frustrating him. They kept switching off. Those two guards are hard to score on."
On giving Florida two of its three losses this year...
Coming into this game, we knew we could beat them if we executed our game plan and played the way that we've been playing. We just are a team and we don't back down from nobody no matter who it is."
On the keys to the game against Florida ...
"We tried to limit their transition points. Don't let them get wide-open threes with (Michael) Frazier and don't let (Scottie) Wilbekin get off. That was our main focus, and also to clamp down on Patric Young. It was a great team effort today and everyone was communicating and rotating and helping each other."
On the team's second-half run...
"We were playing together. Everyone was out there having fun and sharing the ball. That's what got us here. Our defense also got us here. Everyone is playing at a high level right now. We wanted to make another statement and let everyone know that UConn is for real. It's everyone's dream to play in a national championship game."