Final Four: Louisville vs. Wichita State Team Stat Comparison

Louisville Wichita State
Strength of Schedule 6th 91st
Points Per Game 74.3 (27th) 69.8 (104th)
Avg Scoring Margin +16.2 (4th) +8.9 (28th)
Field Goal % 45.6% (52nd) 44.1% (114th)
Rebound Rate 52.8% (54th) 55.6% (7th)
Blocks Per Game 4.3 (70th) 4.5 (49th)
Steals Per Game 10.9 (2nd) 7.5 (67th)
Assists Per Game 14.6 (37th) 13.6 (105th)
Turnovers Per Game 12.5 (105th) 12.7 (125th)
Team Fouls Per Game 17.9 (198th) 17.9 (198th)
2-point FG% 51.0% (43rd) 49.7% (79th)
3-point FG% 32.8% (218th) 34.0% (157th)
Free Throw % 70.9% (121st) 69.8% (167th)
Opponent Shooting % 39.2% (24th) 39.3% (27th)
Opponent 2-point FG% 43.0% (29th) 43.4% (37th)
Opponent 3-point FG% 31.5% (58th) 32.1% (80th)
Opponent Block Per Game 3.4 (163rd) 3.0 (73rd)
Opponent Steals Per Game 5.7 (53rd) 5.6 (43rd)

Updating the Louisville Basketball Record Book Pre-Final Four

Russ Smith

-Russ Smith’s 718 points is currently the 2nd Best Scoring Season in Louisville Basketball History. During the NCAA Tournament games in Indianapolis Russ passed Wes Unseld (1967-68), Jim Price (1971-72), John Turner (1960-61), Reece Gaines (2001-2002), and Charlie Tyra (1955-56) to climb to #2.  Darrell Griffith’s 825 points in 1979-80 will remain #1 All-Time.

-Russ currently has taken the 5th Most Field Goal Attempts for a single season in Cardinal Basketball History with 527.  During the Regional Semi-Finals & Finals Smith passed Bobby Brown (1951-52), Darrell Griffith (1978-79), Jim Price (1971-72), and Chuck Noble (1953-54).

-Smith’s 2012-13 season continues to build on his #1 All-Time Single Season Made Free Throws mark and now stands at 215 makes on the year. Russ also moved up the list from 6th to 2nd in Free Throw Attempts in a Single Season with 261 passing Bud Olsen (1961-62), Charlie Tyra (1956-57), Ellis Myles (2004-05), and Charlie Tyra (1955-56).

-Russ Smith needs just 2 steals to move into Louisville’s All-Time Career Steals Top 10.

-Russ set Louisville’s Steal Record in a Single Season last year with 87, currently Russ has 81 takes good for 8th All-Time in one year.

-Russ Smith now has 1205 career points and during the Sweet 16 & Elite 8 games passed Charles Jones, Juan Palacios, Tony Williams, Cornelius Holden, Larry O’Bannon, Felton Spencer, Bobby Brown, Jerry King, Peyton Siva, Bud Olsen, Greg Minor, and Jerry Smith on the All-Time Scoring list.  Smith is now 37th in Scoring All-Time as a Cardinal.

-For his Career in the NCAA Tournament Russ Smith has scored 166 points 5th All-Time.  Milt Wagner holds the All-time Career Mark in the NCAAs with 224 points.

-For this NCAA Tournament Russ has scored 104, 4th all-time in a single tournament at UofL.  Russ needs 12 points to tie Darrell Griffith’s 1980 Tournament tally for #1 All-Time.

-Russ Smith has 20 Career Steals in the NCAA Tournament, 2nd in schol history behind Charles Jones’ 24. Russ has achieved the single Tournament Record in school history with 13.  Lancaster Gordon previously held the school record with 11 in a single tournament.

Peyton Siva

-Peyton Siva will finish #2 All-Time Career Assists for Louisville Basketball.  Siva currently has 669 assists and trails only LaBradford Smith’s 713 dimes.

-Siva also passed his own personal best for Single Season Assists (last year’s mark) and in 2012-13 has 220 assists which is the 2nd most assist in a Louisville Basketball Season.  Peyton trails LaBradford Smith’s 1989-90 tally by just 6 for the best mark in school history.  Siva owns 3 of Louisville’s Top 6 assists marks in school history.

-Peyton Siva continued to build his lead as Louisville’s All-Time Career Steal Leader with 248.

-Peyton’s 84 steals during 2012-13 is tied with Alvin Sims (1995-96) for 6th All-Time in a Single Season. Siva needs 3 steals to tie Russ’ single season mark last year.

-Siva is now tied with Herbert Crook in Career Most Games Played with 142.

-Peyton Siva moved up to 41st on the All-Time Scoring List during Regional play and now has 1190 points.  Siva passed Felton Spencer, Bobby Brown, & Jerry King during Friday & Sunday’s games.

-Peyton Siva is #2 All-Time in NCAA Tournament Assists for Louisville with 55 assist in the Tournament.  The school record is 69 set by Milt Wagner.

-Siva’s 20 assists in this NCAA Tournament is 7th in school history in a Single NCAA Tournament.  The record is held by 1975’s Phil Bond.

-Peyton Siva has 12 career steals in the NCAA Tournament, that’s 11th in school history for NCAA Tournament games.  Siva has 8 steals in the 2013 Tournament, currently 8th best in a single tournament for the school (tied with Gorgui)

Gorgui Dieng

-Gorgui Dieng is currently #2 All-Time in Career Blocks at the University of Louisville with 262. Gorgui trails just Pervis Ellison with 374 swats in his career.  Dieng will need to return for his senior season to make a run at the “Never Nervous” mark.

-Dieng’s 2012-13 season is currently tied with Samaki Walker’s 1994-95 season for Season Blocks at 78.  During the Sweet 16 & Elite 8 Gorgui passed Felton Spencer (1989-90) & Cliff Rozier (1993-94).  Last year Gorgui set the single season block record with 128.

-Gorgui Dieng has 843 career points & 787 career rebounds.  Dieng needs 26 rebounds to move into Louisville’s Top 16 All-Time Rebounders & 157 points to score 1000.

-Gorgui is currently #6 in school history for Career Rebounds in the NCAA Tournament with 76.  Pervis Ellison holds the All-Time Record with 121.

-Also in Career NCAA Tournament marks Gorgui is #2 in school history in Career Blocks with 29, trailing just Pervis Ellison’s 32.  In a single tournament Gorgui’s 2013 Tournament is 4th All-Time with 10 swats.  Dieng set the school record for blocks in a single NCAA Tournament last season with 17.

– Gorgui has 15 career steals in the NCAA Tournament, that’s tied for 6th in school history for NCAA Tournament games.  Gorgs has 8 steals in the 2013 Tournament, currently 8th best in a single tournament for the school (tied with Siva).

Final Four Cards Advance Without Kevin Ware; Beat Duke 85-63

Initial Thoughts: 

The University of Louisville Men’s Basketball program clinched their 10th Final Four in school history and the 2nd in as many seasons Sunday evening at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. The game was a second half run away after leading the 1st half 35-32, but the story of the game is as much of the Cards making the Final Four in Atlanta as it is losing Atlanta native Kevin Ware to a broken leg at the 6:33 mark in the 1st half.

The scene was unlike any I’ve ever seen in college basketball.  Ware’s foot planted after defending a perimeter jumper and gave way.  The injury really is too graphic for replay, but unfortunately the injury happened right in front of the Louisville bench and several players reportedly were immediately ill at the sight.

The crowd was rowdy, supportive and loud.  Many didn’t believe that a dome setting would provide the Cards with much of a home court advantage but there were several LONG stretches where the crowd affected the ball game and gave the Cardinals some needed support.  After Ware’s injury it took the Cards some time to get their minds back to playing basketball.  Louisville led 21-20 at the time and found themselves down 26-23 two minutes later.  But March is about BROTHERHOOD, and the team quickly rallied around one another and their bond proved too strong to shake.   Louisville went into halftime with a 35-32 lead and held Duke guard Seth Curry to ZERO points at the break.

The 2nd half started with some back and forth but with 16:18 remaining and the game tied at 42 the Cards took over and continually built their lead until the eventual final margin of 22.  Think about that.  Louisville outscored DUKE 43-21 in the games final 16 minutes!  The crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium LukRuss Oil Stadium was amazing tonight.  Russ Smith was named the Midwest Region’s Most Outstanding Player, and rightfully so, but this was Peyton Siva’s night.

Siva led the Cards through a difficult time and sliced the Duke Blue Devil defense to shreds in the 2nd half.  It was a half of brilliance from the Senior Guard who continues to more firmly establish an already impressive legacy at the University of Louisville.  Siva found himself on the All-Tournament Team and finished with 16 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal & ZERO Turnovers in 33 minutes.   Siva also made things difficult for Duke Point Guard Quinn Cook with finished 3 of 11 from the floor also Tyler Thornton who would eventually foul out trying to guard Siva & Russ Smith.

Duke was forced to go to their bench early when Forward Ryan Kelly picked up his 3rd foul in the 1st half.  In the second half though, Kelly was back & someone decided to wake up Seth Curry.  Curry got to the line 7 times in the second half and finished with 12 points.  Mason Plumlee and Gorgui Dieng was an unbelivable match-up.  Both players patrolled the lane for their team, but Gorgui was able to hold up his end longer than Mason.  Still the stat lines for the two big men were outstanding:  Plumlee 17 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 turnovers, 1 block in 39 minutes; Dieng 14 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 4 blocks, 2 steals in 25 minutes. In the end being able to put Stephan Van Treese & Montrezl Harrell inside paid off inside for the Cards.

After the game the post-game celebration was jubilant but thoughtful towards their injured teammate Kevin Ware.  Ware was in surgery by the time we were allowed into the post-game locker room and every player seemed eager to get news either from him directly or about him from the training staff.  During the trophy presentation Chane Behanan displayed Ware’s jersey and Rick Pitino asked the crowd to start a “Kevin” chant.  In the post-game locker room Peyton Siva was wearing Kevin Ware’s jersey.

Now the Cards move on to Atlanta to play Wichita State in the NCAA Final Four.  The program’s 10th in school history and first back-to-back appearance in the Final Four since 1982-83.  Atlanta is Kevin Ware’s hometown and fans are already dubbing the venue:  “The Gorgui Dome”.

From UofL SID:

Ware Has Successful Surgery To Repair Broken Leg

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — University of Louisville guard Kevin Ware underwent successful surgery at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis on Sunday night to repair a broken bone in his right leg.

Ware had the bone re-set, the wound from the injury closed and a rod inserted in his right tibia during approximately two hours of surgery.  He suffered the injury with 6:33 remaining in the first half of the Cardinals’ 85-63 Midwest Regional Championship victory over Duke.

Ware will remain in Indianapolis until at least Tuesday, when he is hopeful to return to Louisville and then join the Cardinals as they advance to the NCAA Final Four in Atlanta.  A timetable has not been set for a return to basketball competition.

Ware was a key backcourt reserve for the Cardinals, particularly during the last third of the season.  He scored a career-high 11 points against Oregon on Friday in the regional semifinals and handed out a career-best five assists against Colorado State in the third round of the tournament.  He has averaged 4.5 points and over 16 minutes a game for the 33-5 Cardinals.

Midwest Regional All-Tournament Team 

Russ Smith, Louisville (Most Outstanding Player)
Peyton Siva, Louisville
Gorgui Deng, Louisville
Mason Plumlee, Duke
Seth Curry, Duke

Louisville Transcript

THE MODERATOR:  We have been joined by the University of Louisville coach and student‑athletes.  Coach Pitino, we’ll ask you to make an opening statement and then go to the student‑athletes, please.

COACH PITINO:  I’m real proud of the team.  I don’t think any of us, with what we had to witness, could have overcome it, if it wasn’t for Kevin Ware 12 times saying to the guys:  I’ll be fine.  Win the game.  And he kept saying it over and over and over.  I had to get the guys all in.

It was very difficult to look at and watch, but he’s a brave young man, because all he kept saying was:  Win the game.  We’re real proud of him.  It’s the same injury that Michael Bush had, from what Fred told me, in football, and he’ll come back.  We’ll get Kevin back as good as new.

That being said, it takes a heck of a ball club without backups to do what they did tonight.  Real proud of our guys.  Real disappointed for Kevin, but we’re getting him home to Atlanta.  That will be a consolation for him, certainly.

THE MODERATOR:  We’ll take questions for the student‑athletes.

Q.  Russ, you seemed particularly shaken by what you saw.  Can you just describe how you saw and what you saw and how long it took you to sort of normalize your emotions?

RUSS SMITH:  Well, we’re playing on the stage, and I was really into the game, and I was just looking close, and I got ‑‑ Thornton might have been open and I might have yelled and got up, and I seen Kevin go out there and challenge it.  When he landed, I heard it.  I’d heard it, and then I seen what happened come out, and I immediately just ‑‑ just like fell.

And I almost didn’t feel nothing, and it was, it was really hard for me to pull myself together, because I didn’t ever think in a million years I would see something like that.  And that happened, especially, to a guy like Kevin Ware, I was completely devastated.

Q.  Gorgui, your coach said after the Oregon game he wasn’t too happy with your defense.  Was this more like a Louisville defense today?

GORGUI DIENG:  Like we just ‑‑ Coach say was not happy with our defense, like you say, but all he been saying like yesterday was just like we need to play defense to win this game, because you are a very good basketball team.  If you play together and play good defense, we can come up with a victory.

And I think we did it tonight, and the guys did a great job.

Q.  Peyton, I was wondering if you could speak about the resolve and the focus of this team, about how you guys decide we’re not clipping down the nets because we have a bigger prize in mind, and one of your best players takes an injury like that, and a lot of teams would have been shaken and you guys are able to go blow out a great team like that.

PEYTON SIVA:  First, when Kevin went down, it was devastating for all of us.  Like Russ said, we would have never thought in a million years any of us would have seen that.  I didn’t get a chance to see it actually happen.  But when I looked over, I saw his leg.

We just came together and Kevin Ware really was the reason why we pulled this game out.  Like Coach said, he told us countless times:  Just go win this game for me.  Just go win this game.  Don’t worry about me.  I’m fine.  Just go win this game.

I don’t know how he did it.  I don’t know how he got the strength to do it, but he told us to go out there and win.  These guys really came to play.  Gorgui really stepped up.  He had a double double.  Russ really got going.

Everybody on the team just wanted to step up for him.  For us to show that focus and that determination is ‑‑ we just tried to do it for him.

Q.  What was your coach’s message to you at halftime, just to kind of get you refocused?

RUSS SMITH:  I’m going to make it like real simple and short.  Let’s not lose.  Don’t lose this game for Kevin Ware.  That was the main ‑‑ that was the summary.  That’s it, really.

Q.  After the locker room talk at halftime, when you finally walked out, what were your first feelings going on to the court?

PEYTON SIVA:  We had to do this for Kevin.  That’s our whole thing.  Coach told us that we need to get him back home, and I think it would have been a tougher loss for us if we would have went out there and lost.  I think that would have hurt him more than the actual injury.

So when we went out there, we tried to go out there and play together as a team.  We hit a little run, they hit a run, and we just made our last run.  And everybody really came together.

And we just tried to stay together as a team.  That’s all we could do when we went out there.  Not seeing No. 5 throw to Montrezl before the game was something different at halftime.  But everybody pulled together and we got it done.

Q.  Chane was wearing Kevin’s jersey at the end of the game.  Do you know whose idea that was and what did you guys think when you looked over and saw him wearing No. 5?

GORGUI DIENG:  Like Chane and Kevin are very close to each other.  They were like ‑‑ we all feel like we’re family, but Chane and Kevin, they are very close.  So I don’t know how he got the jersey, but to make short you can say just that they are very good friends.

RUSS SMITH:  Pretty much the same thing there.  Everyone looks at Kevin like a little brother, and he’s our brother, but the relationship that Chane and Kevin has is almost completely unmatched by anybody on the team.  They’re on another level of brotherhood.

And for Chane to do that, it was almost expected of him to do that.  And that’s a great way to go out.

Q.  Either Russ or Peyton, would you comment on Hancock’s work on Curry?

PEYTON SIVA:  I think he did an excellent job.  In the first half, we held him to zero points, and he couldn’t really get going.  And second half, I gave him a couple 3s and Coach P told me I wasn’t a great defender so I had to get off him and Luke had to get on him.

Luke did a great job in the second half, really containing him, not letting him go by him.  Luke is a great defender.  Coach P is actually pretty funny, because Coach tells Luke he’s the worst defender in the world, but Luke wanted to show him up today and did a great job in the second half.

Q.  During the three‑game losing streak in January, the Oregon, Notre Dame game, the five‑overtime game, did you envision going on a run like you’ve gone on and getting to the Final Four again?

RUSS SMITH:  We knew all along that we were good, and we knew how great of a team we are.  Coach knew it.  The whole staff.  We had faith in each other.  All we had to do was put it together.  Once we put it together, everybody got their confidence back.  The rotations were back to normal, and everyone locked in to say, hey, let’s set our goals, let’s win seven straight, win the conference.  Let’s win the Big East Tournament.  Let’s get the No. 1 of the No. 1 seeds, and now we’re here.

We’ve had confidence in ourselves all along.

PEYTON SIVA:  A lot of people counted us out, just like they did my junior year where we lost four of our last six games.  In our locker room, we knew what we were capable of.

We figured out what we need to do from our losses.  We learned from them.  We learned from the Villanova loss that we had to make free throws.  From the Syracuse loss, that I can’t turn the ball over in that situation to end the game.

So we nitpicked every little thing we did and came together as a team and decided that the team is more important than us individuals.  That’s what we just wanted to go out there and prove.

Today, it really showed what an actual team can do when you really play together.

Q.  Peyton, I don’t know if you can put it into words or not.  The tenth tie of the game was at 15:15 at 42‑42.  Then you went on a 13‑2 run.  Can you put into words what took place to get that double‑digit lead and you never gave it up?

PEYTON SIVA:  I think at the time, I had just given up two 3s.  We was in foul trouble.  Gorgui had three or four fouls.  I had three fouls.  Coach P continued to tell us we’ve got to keep the pressure on them.  We’ve got to keep being aggressive on offense.

We were getting out‑rebounded at halftime.  By the end of the game, we out‑rebounded them.  I think hitting the glass and really attacking them, being aggressive on the offensive end helped us spark the run toward the end.

It was a great victory for us.  Because we had one common goal, and that was to get it for Kevin.

Q.  The Duke guys said that you guys were maybe setting more wing screens and trying to force you guys baseline early and then you adjusted and maybe were setting more higher screens at the top.  What was the strategy behind that?  Why do you think it worked so well?

PEYTON SIVA:  Just a great job by Coach.  He’s the best coach out there to me, and he watched countless hours of film.  So he’s not doing anything over there.  Like he tells us, he’s just seeing the game as he sees it.  We’re the ones doing all the work.

At halftime, he told us ‑‑ he was actually telling us how to adjust, and I was trying to cut him off like, Coach, they’re playing like this.

He’s like, Can you listen to me?  I got this.  In the second half, he told us to set higher ball screens.  He’s just a master at what he does.

Q.  For Peyton and Russ, this is obviously your second straight Final Four.  How different is this one going to feel, and do you guys now feel like you’re going there on even more of a mission than you might have, say, yesterday?

RUSS SMITH:  Since being here, going to the Final Four again for the second time, it was really hard to do, because everyone had to put all the other stuff aside and focus and have one main goal and one main objective.  That’s very hard to do especially with the unit coming back.

I think we did a tremendous job just giving it our all.  And Coach did a great job of keeping this team together and getting us to reach our goals.  Without Coach, I mean, it wouldn’t be possible because he got everybody to play their A‑game, play hard, and also be a cohesive unit on both end of the floor.

And it’s so hard to get here, and it’s really no comparison.  This year is definitely special.

PEYTON SIVA:  This year is really special because everybody came back.  We had a lot of guys come back.  And this year’s message was ego.  You got to throw your egos out the door.  I think that’s what everybody did.  Humility is the key thing for this team.

This bracket this year, the NCAA Tournament, was a lot of people called it the death bracket.  Playing against Duke, playing against Oregon, playing against Colorado State, North Carolina A&T.  It was a tough road, but we pulled together.  Now that Kevin’s not with us, he’s always going to be with us.  He’ll be on the sidelines like he always is.  We want to do this for him.  We know how much it means to him to be out there, and how much he wants to be out there.

But we’re going to come together as a team.  We’re going to continue to fight through this and continue to go out there and play for Coach.  The name is on the front of the jersey, not the back.

THE MODERATOR:  Thanks, guys.  Congratulations.

We’ll continue with Coach Pitino.

Q.  Seth Curry said you guys did some things defensively that they hadn’t seen all year and it was almost like a box and one he felt in the second half.  Can you talk a little bit about what the game plan was against Curry and then those adjustments in the second half?

COACH PITINO:  The first thing we had to do against them was take them out of transition.  When you play against a Duke team and they only get two transition attempts, you take away the 3.

We felt if we would take away the 3 and trap him in the zone after trapping him match up man, we could keep them out ‑‑ they did a very good job of driving it.  But I felt that if we could keep them out of transition and keep the 3 away from them, we had a great chance of winning.

We just ‑‑ we wanted to take Kelly and Curry out.  Our offense was just as much lethal.  Now, we had 30 deflections at halftime.  We’re trying to get 35.  Only ten in the second half.  But we were trying to wear them out with our offense as well as our defense.

My son gave me a great suggestion on yesterday’s practice on two different isolations off our pick and roll.  He felt that Plumlee was very, very good.  Kelly was very good.  If we didn’t create some screening before we went into the pick and roll, they would be able to play it.  And it worked to perfection.  I owe him dinner tonight.  That’s about all he’s going to get from me.

But it was two great suggestions.  And then our defense was very complicated to go against.

Q.  You’ve been around this game a long time.  Have you ever seen anything on a court harder to look at, and what were your emotions the first couple of minutes after?

COACH PITINO:  Well, I went over and I was going to help him up, and then all of a sudden I saw what it was.  And I literally almost threw up.  And then I just wanted to try to get a towel to get it over that.  But all the players came over and saw it.

And I don’t think we could have gathered ourselves, I know I couldn’t have, if Kevin didn’t over and over kept saying:  Just win the game.  He kept saying it.  I had to bring everybody over, take Chane out of the game.

It was a gruesome sight.  Nothing like I’ve ever witnessed before in my life or a basketball game.  But I think when he kept saying that, we were in serious foul trouble.  But I don’t think we could have gone in that locker room with a loss after seeing that.

So being in serious foul trouble, Stephan Van Treese gave us a big lift.  Luke has gone from a guy who never even got in a defensive stance to someone who just stopped them cold there.  That’s an amazing tribute to his fortitude.

So it was terrible to watch.  I felt awful for the players, felt awful for the fans.  But we had to gather ourselves.  We couldn’t lose this game for him.  We just couldn’t.

Q.  Rick, you guys play off of energy so much.  When the game restarts, the last six minutes of the half, do you expect the same energy at that point?  Do you see?  How do you deal with that as a coach?

COACH PITINO:  I just said to them over and over and over, and at halftime, I said:  We know our game plan offensively and defensively.  If we let up for a second, then Kevin Ware doesn’t mean how much he means to us.  I said:  We’re going to dig in.  We’re going to play this game to the end.  We’ll get him back home, nurse him to good health, and we’re going to get him to Atlanta.

Q.  Rick, is this the hardest thing that you’ve had to go through as a coach?

COACH PITINO:  No, it’s not the hardest thing.  I think 9/11 and losing a child were probably the two most difficult things in my life.  This was the most difficult thing to see in front of the players because when personal tragedy hits, you personally have to get your family.  But when it’s a team thing like that, and all the players had to see that, it’s just how you respond from that moment, and they responded in an unbelievable way because they had to overcome serious foul trouble.  They had to overcome a great team.  They had to overcome someone they loved.

This is a very close, close basketball team.  The three losses we had were no big deal.  They really weren’t, because we were in every game.  Every game.  And when you play in the Big East, you’re going to have your share of losses.

But this was very traumatic for us to overcome, because all of us witnessed it right up close.

But that young man just screamed for ‑‑ he was okay, and I looked at his leg and he looked at his leg and he screamed.  And I told him:  You’re going to be fine.  You’re going to be fine.  He kept chanting:  Just win the game, just win the game.

And we did for him.

Q.  Can you elaborate on those two suggestions your son made and how you were able to make ‑‑

COACH PITINO:  We were in a lot of pick and rolls for Peyton and Russ to free up the other guys.  He said:  You’re going to have to create some screening for those guys, because Peyton and Russ are not great laterally.  They’re great north and south.

And he said:  Create them where they have to run at you, create the screen first where they have to run at you so while you’re going north, they’re coming at you.  And don’t set lateral screens with these guys with the way they’re playing.

We wanted to get Kelly in foul trouble.  As soon as he came back in the game, we went right at him and got it.

Q.  Do you plan to see Kevin over at Methodist?  Will you spend the night?  And have you been in touch with his family yet?

COACH PITINO:  We have ‑‑ my son, Richard, myself and the equipment manager are going to stay overnight.  We’ll see him late tonight when he comes out of surgery and we’ll see him first thing in the morning.

Q.  Rick, you and Mike Krzyzewski have a very close relationship.  This was obviously an emotional game.  I was just curious if you could share what he said to you afterward.

COACH PITINO:  I’m not sure.  He just said great game.  Good luck.  And Mike’s not only the best coach in our game, probably the classiest guy in our game.

So for me, we know how hard it is to beat Duke.  If you let Duke shoot, if you let Duke get in transition, you’re going to lose.  We took those two things away.

He was a class man when he beat me 21 years ago.  And he’s a class man in defeat.  He’s just a special guy.  We’re lucky to have him in our game.  We say he’s the modern day Coach Wooden.  And Coach Wooden is the one man I looked up to all my life as a teacher of the game of basketball.

All of us in the game are lucky to have Mike as our Olympic coach and as the most successful man in our game.

Q.  Rick, can you talk a little bit about getting back to the Final Four and how tough it is to do it back‑to‑back like this team has?

COACH PITINO:  It really is, because last year, I never had injuries like that happen.  We had 13 concussions.  Fred did the minutes.  We missed more minutes last year than all the other years, ten years I was there combined.

And we set a goal to get there last year.  We tried like heck to beat Kentucky.  We play them really well.  So we knew we had guys coming back.  Last year our message was to stay focused through all the injuries, work hard.  We’ll get healthy at the right time.  This year was about humility.  The one thing that could beat us was a lack of humility.

The guys were great at that.  They all bought in.  They know what it is to play for Louisville, and we got the job done.

It really was a death bracket.  It really was.  I’ve been in this business a long time.  I’ve never seen the likes of a Colorado State with five seniors, two fifth‑year seniors.  Oregon was great.  A&T, we overmatched them, but we had great respect for them.

You play Duke.  I mean, to get to a Final Four.  Now you’re going to play a Wichita State.  I wasn’t President Obama, but I picked Wichita State to go to the Final Four.  I watched them play VCU.  I thought they had the ability.  It was an amazing job that they did with five new players.

They’re a special team.  We’re a special team.  We already know all about Syracuse, and certainly Michigan is as good as it gets.

So it’s going to be a heck of a Final Four.  I’m just really, really pleased that it’s Kevin’s home and we can get him back home.

Q.  Kind of what I asked the players.  Did you envision a Final Four team after the Notre Dame loss, the three losses you said were close games?  Did you see they could do this when you challenge them to win seven in a row?

COACH PITINO:  I never think about the Final Four.  I only thought about it one time in my life.  It was 1996.  I said if we can just say unselfish, we can win it all.  There’s never been another period in my life I ever thought that way.  I thought Colorado State would be life and death.  I thought Oregon and Duke would be life and death.  So I’m a little surprised and humbled by the way our guys played.

But our offense, during that run, caught up to our defense.  We started shooting these amazing percentages, which we hadn’t done all year.  And we knew we weren’t a 3‑point shooting team.  I told the guys:  Look, when March comes, a lot of people get conservative.  I said:  We got to go the other way.  With we got to take more chances, more risk, push the pace.

And we started scoring about eight points more average than we have, because we were risk takers.  I believe in that come March, and now we’ve got to just shore up, probably play Luke more at the two guard in the back court.  We’ve got to get more out of Tim Henderson because Russ was dead tonight.  Russ was dead.  He had very little left, because he’s not only working so hard on defense, Peyton and him, but he’s got to go down and work on offense as well the way he’s working.

So we’ve got to make some adjustments right now.  We’ve got a week to do it.  To go to back‑to‑back Final Fours, it’s special.  We want a chance to win a championship, certainly.  The attempt to win one will be very special for us.

Q.  Rick, you didn’t cut down the nets again today.  Was it the same reason for when you didn’t do it at the Big East Tournament?

COACH PITINO:  First, let’s address Notre Dame.  We lost in five overtimes, and we’ve gone into Notre Dame and lost by 25 and 30 points.  A lot of teams do that.  Anytime you play Notre Dame, it’s very difficult to win there against Mike Brey and they’re a great team at home.  Great home‑court advantage.  It was no big deal.  We did lose in five overtimes.

I gathered the guys and said:  Look, we mentally lost this game tonight.  We didn’t physically lose it.  We mentally lost it.  If the mental aspects of our game catch up to the physical, let’s set a goal and win the next seven.  Then let’s go into Madison Square Garden in the last year of the Big East, the most special tournament, which I’m going to miss personally more than life itself to not go to Madison Square Garden.  It meant so much to me as a Knick coach, as a young man growing up.

I said:  Let’s win that tournament.  If we do everything, we’ll be the No. 1 of No. 1 seeds, and then let’s get to the Final Four and win it all.  We set our goals.  You don’t always achieve your goals.  When I said seven in a row, I would take five in a moment, be very happy.

But we did it.  We got here.  And I’m real proud of our players.

Q.  Coach, a lot of conversations on the table up there when the other three guys are there.  You and Peyton kind of talking back and forth.  Peyton says he interrupts you during halftime.  They talk about playing for Louisville.  What’s on front, not what’s on back.  Peyton gives Russ the trophy for the MVP.  This must be a special group.

COACH PITINO:  It is.  I’ve said it over and over about Peyton Siva, Billy Donovan and Peyton Siva are two young men I’ve coached that don’t have a characteristic that I would call a weakness as a person.  They’re both outstanding basketball players, but it really is fun to coach guys that just think about Louisville.  In the ‑‑ Montrezl Harrell is having a great game and Chane Behanan, I’m looking at them, and he says:  Let them go, Coach.  Let them go.  In the Syracuse game.  Let them stay.  Don’t worry about me, I’m fine.  In this culture in this day and age, you don’t see that.

Chane wanted to go back in the game tonight.  He said:  I’m ready when you are, Coach.  Peyton at halftime said:  Coach ‑‑ I said:  I’ve got it, Peyton.  I’ll say it a different way.  I said:  I’m not doing anything, Peyton.  But I see what’s going on.  You’re paying the price.  I’m doing nothing.  So here’s what we’re going to do with that pick and roll.  And he said:  I gotcha.

I’m getting old, but I’m not blind yet.  I said:  I see it.  I know exactly what you’re talking about.

And his play was magnificent tonight.  Russ’s play was magnificent.  We were running a lot of things for Gorgui to get a foul line jump shot because he’s mastered that very well.  I thought Chane was big on the glass.

I told the guys tonight:  If this is the Russ Smith show and you don’t all chip in, we can’t go to a Final Four and have a potential championship.  I said:  It was Gorgui and Russ last game; if everybody doesn’t play their part in this game on offense and defense, you can’t beat Duke.

And they all did.  And I’m real proud of that.

THE MODERATOR:  Thanks, Coach.  Congratulations.

COACH PITINO:  Thank you.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

#21 Chane Behanan
On relationship with Kevin Ware:
“Off the court, we are real, real close. I was just lost. I just broke down to tears. I think everybody has a relationship with Kev, but I think it touched me more than everybody. Everyone will tell you that. Me and Kev are the closest. We are always together. When I go somewhere, he is always coming with me. You can ask around the locker room and people will tell you that.”

On what Ware was saying:
“He was telling us he was good and to continue to play well. Just win it for me and I’m good and you all continue to play and we were crying. Coach told me to sit out for a while because coach knows we are real close.”

On how tough it was to get it together after the injury:
“I don’t think we went anywhere. They came out and made a little run after halftime. We stuck in and we all kept saying let’s do it for Kevin. He broke his leg for us and we would have felt really bad if we didn’t come out with the win. I am just happy we got this win for him and I am just ready to see him. I mean, that’s my brother.”

On what it means to be in the Final Four:
“I mean, two years in a row, that is real big. This program is all about serious hard work and dedication and just sacrificing yourself. Just to come out and play hard for this man because he is going to bring everything out of you and look at the results you get.”

#11 Luke Hancock
On Kevin Ware’s injury:
“I mean, it’s even tough to talk about. I kind of watched the guy shoot it and he stumbled a bit for a second and fell, and, you know, his leg wasn’t where it should be.”

On what coach immediately said after the injury:
“Kevin Ware is a soldier. He is one of the strongest people I have seen in my life. The only thing on his mind and the only thing he was worried about was winning the game. But honestly, we were in shock. I don’t think we did re-group for the rest of that half. I think we were still in such shock. I mean, you could imagine how a team would feel if one of your brothers had this happen to them. I don’t think we were really ready until the second half. That was all for Kevin right there.”

On the shock of the injury to Kevin Ware:
“You could see it on every person in the arena’s face. Every single person had a look of almost sickness and feeling bad for Kevin.”

On what Ware said to the team:
“He just said he was going to be all right. He was going to get through it and we were going to get through it together. We said a couple of prayers and he’s a strong guy. All he was talking about was winning the game. It was pretty unbelievable.”

On the injury to Kevin Ware:
“You just wanted to help him. You just wanted to help him out. Help relieve some pain. Do whatever you can and there is nothing you can do. It was a really tough moment. It’s tough to talk about right now. We are just praying for him that he will get taken care of.”

On what Ware said:
“Just that he wanted to win. The only thing he said the whole time was win this game. He said it over and over again. That was all he said. He just kept saying he was going to be all right and that he was going to get through it, but he was just worried about the game.”

#20 Wayne Blackshear
On the team’s second half performance:
“We know Duke is a good team and we know that their two best players, Curry and Kelly, were the main two guys we needed to focus on. We focused on them in the second half. We didn’t give up any open threes or open looks and we made it tough on them all night.”

On the importance of having Kevin Ware’s presence in the post-game:
“It’s just good for us. I am pretty sure we are going to go see him later. We are just going to keep praying for him.”

On cutting down the nets in Indianapolis:
“No. We are not planning to cut down the nets until we win the championship.”

On Kevin Ware’s and the team’s toughness:
“Kevin is a tough dude. He’s one of the tougher guys I know. I have known him for a long time and if I know anything about him he is going to try to bounce back from this. We are just a tough team. Even last year coming into this year, even in the Big East Tournament, we were down, had to come back and push. Tonight we had to push as well.”

#44 Stephan Van Treese
“That was a great victory. I am really proud of the team.”

On what Kevin Ware said after his injury:
“He was saying win this for me. Don’t forget about the game, let’s win this. Let’s go to Atlanta. We all were saying we wanted to take him home. I mean, that’s where he is from so we wanted to win it for Kevin.”

On holding up Ware’s jersey post-game:
“Chane held up his jersey and we wanted to start up that chant. That was all for Kevin. It was a crazy, freak accident that happened and I am really feeling bad for him.”

On the locker room bonding together:
“We are always together. We live in a dorm and we are all in the same dorm. We are all together. This is my family outside of my regular family. Everyone is here for each other and we all have each other’s back.”

On Ware being in Atlanta:
“If I know Kevin, he will be there for sure. Definitely, he will be there one way or another.”

#24 Montrezl Harrell
On what Ware said on the sideline:
“Win this game. We had to take it upon ourselves and do it. For him to be laying there hurt like he was and the only thing on his mind was for us to win this game, that is what we had to do.”

On the morale in the locker room at halftime:
“We smelled blood. That’s what we did. With Kevin laying over there hurt telling us to win this game, we came into halftime, fixed what we were doing wrong and we came out there and put it on them.”

On the relationship with Ware:
“Brothers. I mean, we were close before I even came to Louisville. When I came on my visit, that is who I was with. I mean, basically, we are like brothers.”

On focusing on basketball after the injury:
“When it first happened, yes it was tough. All I did was shed tears. For him to lay over there in the predicament that he was and look me in my eyes and tell us to win this game, it was something I felt I had to do.”

On the team’s depth going forward:
“It’s a good feeling for us to have depth and be able go to the bench like that for somebody to come out and give us a big lift. Tim came out and gave us the great lift we needed at that point in time. I mean it felt pretty good. We just have to go on the next game and handle business.”

Duke Transcript

THE MODERATOR:  We will begin with an opening statement from Coach Krzyzewski and then we’ll go to the student‑athletes.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  We want to congratulate Louisville on winning this regional championship.  They played a great game.  They played so hard.  We tried to match them, and we couldn’t match them.  And they wear you down.

Their two guards just set an amazing pace, Siva.  I don’t know if he ‑‑ didn’t look like he was even sweating today.  He just was so smooth.  And then Smith is terrific.

We feel so bad about youngster Ware.  I don’t know the extent of his injury, but Godspeed to him.  I hope he’s going to be okay.  But congratulations to them.

I love my team.  I wish we could have played better today.  We needed to play a great game to win, and we couldn’t do that.  I’ve had a great team, and my three seniors, my three seniors have been the epitome of Duke basketball seniors.

Winning 124 games over their four years, just representing us so well, and it’s been a joy every day to be with them, and for all except one team, it’s going to be a sorry ‑‑ it’s a tough ending, and so it’s a tough ending whenever it comes, and today’s the day it came.

Q.  Seth, could you address the quickness of their guards and their ability to get to the basket?

SETH CURRY:  Yeah.  I mean, they just come at you for the whole game.  I mean, they’re attacking you and putting pressure on you.  You try not to put them on the line, the foul line.  If you do that, they’re going by you.  So they’re a great back court, and it was a tough test today.

Q.  Either of the athletes, just from where you were standing just when Ware went down, what did you see?

MASON PLUMLEE:  I was on the other side of the court.  I didn’t see anything.

RYAN KELLY:  I just saw him, obviously, in some pain.  I didn’t see what happened.

SETH CURRY:  I didn’t see anything.

Q.  Seth, you seem kind of passive first half, much more aggressive second half.

SETH CURRY:  They were throwing two bodies at me.  I was trying not to force it.  My teammates were getting good looks in the first half.  And like I said, I wasn’t trying to take bad shots and force anything.  But they did a good job in the first half of just being conscious of where I was at at all times and switching a lot of stuff.  Credit them.


Q.  Ryan, you got off to a really good start, and then got into foul trouble and spent 12 minutes on the bench.  You just didn’t seem to have that same rhythm in the second half.  How much did that long stretch on the bench the first half kind of change things for you?

RYAN KELLY:  That’s part of the game.  It happens.  I certainly didn’t want to be on the bench, but that happens and I don’t think that affected my performance whatsoever.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, fellas.


Q.  Mike, is that the best team you’ve seen so far this year?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Again, I don’t watch all of college basketball, but it’s the best team we’ve played.  And they’re obviously better than we played in the Bahamas.

What they do, and Rick’s done an amazing job with them, because they have depth and they keep coming at you, but they make you have multiple decision‑makers.  You have to have more than one guy making a decision out on the court.

And in switching their defenses and their quickness and their athleticism, you have to ‑‑ it’s tough to run plays.  You have to make plays against them.  And we were doing that when we didn’t turn the ball over in the first half.

The thing with Seth, which we tried to change and did at the start of the second half, he was bringing the ball up too much.  We needed he and Mason to be finishers for us, and that’s how we started the second half.  We got that.

And then they played well, and then we missed some shots, and then they just spurted.  And then the game changed.

I thought we had a chance there, and then boom.  And that’s what they do to teams.  They can boom you.  They ‑‑ whatever.  My vocabulary isn’t very good, but you I hope you understand what I mean.  It’s a positive thing for them.  Not for us.

And Rick’s done a masterful job with this team.  He’s as good as they get, and this team’s as good as we’ve seen.

Q.  Coach, as a defense in particular just exceptional?  Is that the best defense you’ve seen in a while?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Well, it’s a different defense.  You don’t see it on a day‑to‑day basis, because it’s not just running a zone press.  They run multiple defenses.  But all of them are played hard.  They’re all played really hard.

They’re very athletic.  They’re more athletic than we are.  They were terrific today.  We would have to play great to beat them today, and we were playing pretty well.  And then, boom, there’s that.  Now I’m going to say that for the rest of my life.  Hopefully, we’re booming somebody else next year.

Again, I’ve been doing this for a long time.  Man, they were good.  Bottom line, they’re really good.  And they were good.  They were terrific today.  I love those two guards.  And then Dieng has become a great player.  Not a good one, he’s become a great player.

So you get a lot of great players out there, it’s going to be tough to beat them.  And it has been tough to beat them.  The only way to beat them is to take them to a fifth overtime.  I think that’s the only way to beat them, and we weren’t going to do that today.

Q.  Mike, the injury that the Ware kid suffered was so gruesome ‑‑

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  We didn’t see anything.

Q.  I was going to ask you how it would have affected your team.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  We didn’t see anything.  The only thing we said, take as much time.  I deferred to Rick, like if he wanted the teams to warm up again or whatever.  Whatever decision they made was going to be okay.

I mean, I could not feel worse that a kid gets hurt in a game.  For us or for them.  And, again, I have no ‑‑ I don’t know the extent of the injury, but obviously it was horrible because they had to ‑‑ took so long and they got a stretcher.

So, again, our prayers are with him.  Hopefully, if he’s not going to be able to play this year, that he’ll be able to come back.

Q.  Despite all the turnovers and Ryan’s foul trouble and the fact that Seth and Rasheed had not scored, you were still only down 3 at halftime.  Did you feel pretty good at your chances at that point?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  No, we did.  We felt that ‑‑ you get in a little bit of a frenzy when you’re playing them.  And here ‑‑ and we’re going to get the ball to start out the half.  We just made that one adjustment to try to get Rasheed to bring it down more with Quinn, and that got Seth some shots and it got Mason some.

But then it was I think at 42‑42, and we had that under out of bounds and Seth either blocked it or whatever, and whether he got a piece of him or blocked it, and, boom, the game changed from there.

And we missed a couple inside, and they just kept scoring.  When you’re not ‑‑ when you don’t score, you have to prevent them from scoring, or else these games get away from you.  We weren’t able ‑‑ our defense was not able to do that.

Q.  Coach, on an inspirational level, how do you think that injury kind of changes the game?  Does it spur on Louisville?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Yeah, I think you should ask them.  I don’t know how ‑‑ they played hard the whole game.  I don’t know.  Rick and their kids would be able to answer that.

Q.  Mike, you pointed out that only one team’s going to end this thing happy.  Can you just sum up ‑‑ you’ve had teams go farther; you’ve had teams go shorter ‑‑ how you feel about this team and what it accomplished?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Yeah.  I think we’ve had an unbelievable season.  I didn’t like our season last year, not just the way it ended, I just didn’t like it, even though we were 27‑7.  I loved this season.  I love my three seniors.

Every day ‑‑ at the end of a year you do this, there can be a little bit of you that wants it to be over and you fight it.  And in some years, every once in a while, not too often, you just want the damn thing to be over.  And there’s not one part of me that wants this season to be over.  I’m fresh.  I love my guys.  They were terrific, and they won 30 games with an unbelievable schedule.

We got beat by a better team, and we beat a lot of really good teams.  I just think that they did a great job this year.  I’m proud of my team.

Let me just say one last thing.  I really would like to thank all the people in Indianapolis, all the volunteers and the committee and how they set ‑‑ this cannot be run any better than what they do.  I don’t know how you in the press feel about it, but the people here have done an amazing job in making it just a first‑class event.

So from our program, we want to say thanks.

And, again, for Rick and his kids, congratulations.  Great, great job.  I’ll enjoy watching them now that we’re not playing them.

And, again, I want to thank my seniors.  Thanks very much.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

#14 Rasheed Sulaimon

“Louisville is a great team. We knew we had to take care of the ball coming into it. I thought we did a good job of that in the beginning. In the second half, we kind of let it get away from us. We didn’t make our normal shots and I think they did a great job of pressuring us. I think we kind of let that affect our defense. They got on a run and they had the crowd on their side. It was just a very hard team to stop.”

On the game changing so quickly:
“With a team like that, they can get on a run anytime during the game. It was kind of the same thing that happened against Syracuse in their Big East championship. They are just a great team and I give all credit to them.”

On the guard play by Louisville as compared to Miami’s:
“Miami has two of the most talented guards in America as well. Russ Smith and Peyton Siva are a different type. They really attack you. They are smaller, but they are very quick. They put pressure on you. They were a load to handle especially to keep them in front and keep them out of the lane. They, along with the Miami guards, are two of the tougher guards we had to face this year.”

On what it was like to be beaten:
“I mean this team worked so hard. From the beginning since I walked on campus, we had one goal. We worked so hard. We have nothing to be ashamed of. Just for our seniors, that is what is hurting the most. As much as they have done for me and this program to not walk out as champions, it really hurts me. Like I said, we have nothing to be ashamed of. Everybody on this team worked their butts off this year and, you know, for the seniors, I just want to thank those guys. Those guys are going to have a hell of a career. It’s just hard. It’s just really hard to take.”

#2 Quinn Cook
On if they ever got back to the level they were playing at the beginning of the year:
“I think we had glimpses like the Miami game and the Carolina game. I don’t think we ever got back to where we were. But, you know, we play hard. That’s the thing. Our chemistry was faded a little bit, but I think we fought every game this year. We took a couple games off, but it’s been a great season for all of us. We were one step closer to the Final Four, but all of our guys coming back will use it as motivation and, the three seniors, it has been joy playing with those guys.”

On what they were able to do successfully in the first half against the pick-and-roll:
“We just switched up. We sent them to the baseline and it was working. They got out in transition and they got going in the second half.”

On what was going their way when it was tied 42-42:
“Seth got going. Seth got some looks. They went to a box-and-one, kind of a box-and-one on him. So, he got some looks in the second half and all five of us were rolling. They went up 49-42 and we couldn’t really get it back.”

On Louisville’s plan for Seth Curry:
“Coach Pitino did a good job of doing whatever he did. The guys also did a good job on him.”

#3 Tyler Thornton
On the injury to Kevin Ware:
“My heart just dropped when I saw it. It was just a regular basketball play. I didn’t expect anything like that when I looked over and saw him on the ground. Prayers go out to him and his family because you don’t want to see anybody experience anything like that, especially making a hustle play. He was closing out my shot and, unfortunately, he came down wrong on it.”

On actually seeing the injury:
“I was freaked out. I looked over and thought he rolled his foot. He lifted his leg in the air and I saw where his leg was broken. It was bent in a weird way that it shouldn’t have been.”

On staying in front of Louisville in transition and in the half-court:
“It’s hard. For guys like that, you have to try to make them play one against five. I think we did a pretty good job of controlling them in the first half. In the second half, we kind of got loose on our ball screen defense and they were able to penetrate and score. Despite that, we just weren’t able to score on the offensive end. We got a lot of shots we wanted and a lot of open shots, but we weren’t able to knock them down.”

On the frustration level rising when shots don’t fall:
“Definitely, especially in a situation like this where you can see the end coming. You get anxious and you want those shots to fall and they come down and score, it’s just demoralizing to a certain extent. They played really well and with a lot of energy. Our seniors did a great job of leading us this year and we really wanted to win this for them. We weren’t able to do that so I guess that’s that.”

I’ll have more reaction later.  Stay tuned to this post for post-game video, quotes, pictures, and notes.

Preview: Louisville vs. Duke For the Final 4

Rick Pitino, Mike Krzyzewski, Regional Final. We’ve seen this before.  The two coaches had a chance to discuss the epic 1992 East Regional Final between Duke & Kentucky prior to Louisville & Duke’s match-up in the Bahamas’ Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament.

“We were in a moment in ’92 and he recognized that even though he was on the losing side. It was incredible, It’s really one of the more incredible things I’ve seen an opposing coach do. One of the things that I really respect about Rick is we both understand that the game is bigger than us.”  Krzyzewski said in November, “Sometimes the basketball gods you realize they put you in moments as long as it’s not your moment, it’s the game’s moment, they might put you in another one.”

The 1992 game is a staple featured clip for March Madness and makes it’s way into the broadcast, commercials, and even inside the venues as a part of college basketball history.  Louisville fans did not have to endure the sting of defeat, but Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino took the on the full burden.  Elimination in the NCAA Tournament, regret of not guarding the in-bounds, Cawood Ledford’s final broadcast.  Now Pitino gets  his first chance at Duke and Krzyzewski in the NCAA Tournament since that game, and he has one of his best Louisville teams up to the challenge.

The Cards are on an impressive 13-game winning streak since their 5 Overtime loss to Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Louisville won the final 7 games of their regular season, 3 games in the Big East Tournament Championship to win that title, and now has beaten North Carolina A&T, Colorado State, and Oregon to advance to the Elite 8. The Cards are 3-5 against the Blue Devils all-time.

Duke is an impressive 30-5 this season from the Atlantic Coast Conference and have been proven difficult to beat.  4 of Duke’s 5 losses have been single digit defeats and most were without the services of Ryan Kelly.  The Blue Devils fell to Maryland in the ACC Tournament but have beaten Albany, Creighton, and Michigan State to the Elite 8.

But for this game we were blessed with a preview back in November’s Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament.  The Louisville/Duke match-up in the Bahamas was the 3rd game in 3 days for both teams.  Duke had just taken down Minnesota & Virginia Commonwealth, while Louisville had just dispatched Northern Iowa & Missouri.  However, November 24th was “Wristpocalypse” when both Louisville Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater broke his wrist vs. the Connecitcut Huskies AND when it was discovered that Louisville Starting Center Gorgui Dieng had broken his wrist against Missouri.  As a result the Cards took the floor against Duke without their biggest defensive presence with less than 18 hours to prepare.

The game itself was played in front of 3511 lucky fans which will stand in stark contrast to the anticipated crowd Sunday of 35000+ fans.  The Blue Devils emerged victorious in a 76-71 final score after Russ Smith gambled late in a crucial late possession that allowed Duke to score with 29 seconds on a Quinn Cook jumper.  Also a run out on an in-bounds play with 1:15 remaining also made things much more difficult as Luke Hancock (who was on Mars defensively at the time) allowed Cook to get behind for an easy lay-up.

There were other plays as highlighted in the video below that allowed Duke to get the victory.  In the end the Cards just did not execute late in the game.  Card fans would like to think that having Gorgui Dieng would have made a huge difference, but Stephan Van Treese provided 8 points & 8 rebounds off the bench in 21 minutes of play. Zach Price started the game and is not part of Louisville’s current regular rotation, Price played 19 minutes.  Also the Cards collected just 6 steals in the game (all from Peyton Siva) and got very little from Luke Hancock & Wayne Blackshear.  Combined Luke & Wayne played 40 minutes and scored just 2 points, had 5 rebounds, 0 assists, & 0 steals.

Louisville was a good team in November.  They are even better now.  The same could be said for Duke.  Ryan Kelly fouled out of the first ball game (late with 1:00 remaining) & Duke got almost nothing from their bench with just 3 Tyler Thornton points.  Also it is important to note that the Cards shot 11 more times from the floor & hit a higher percentage than Duke, but the difference was made up from the foul line.  Duke shot 27 free throws (made 23) while the Cards shot just 14 times from the charity stripe (made 9).  The 13 free throw shot disparity is surprising because Duke actually had 3 more fouls than Louisville in the first meeting.

Rick Pitino vs. Mike Krzyzkewski is a classic coaching match-up that we really should see more often.  Krzyzkewski is 957-296 (.764) as a head coach and is 82-24 in the NCAA Tournament with 4 NCAA Titles, 11 Final Fours, and will be making his 13 Appearance in the Elite 8.  That’s right Krzykewski is 11-1 All-Time in Regional Finals, with the lone exception being 1998’s Tubby Smith led Kentucky Wildcats knocked off the Blue Devils 86-84 at St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field. Krzyzkewski was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 and also was the Head Coach for two Olympic Gold Medal teams.

Rick Pitino hasn’t been in one place as long as Mike Krzyzkewski and has also spent 8 years coaching in the NBA.  Still Pitino has managed compile a record of 661-239 and is 45-16 in the NCAA Tournament with a National Title (1996) and 6 Final Fours.  Pitino is still waiting on his call from the Hall of Fame, though he is nominated for induction this year.

Team Stats

Louisville Duke
Strength of Schedule 6th 1st
Points Per Game 73.9 (30th) 77.8 (5th)
Avg Scoring Margin +16.3 (3rd) +12.9 (7th)
Field Goal % 45.2% (65th) 47.7% (15th)
Rebound Rate 52.8% (55th) 49.2% (193rd)
Blocks Per Game 4.1 (86th) 3.8 (121st)
Steals Per Game 11.0 (2nd) 6.6 (159th)
Assists Per Game 14.9 (27th) 14.6 (40th)
Turnovers Per Game 12.6 (111th) 10.6 (8th)
Team Fouls Per Game 17.8 (187th) 17.8 (187th)
2-point FG% 50.3 (56th) 51.3% (40th)
3-point FG% 33.2% (202nd) 40.3% (5th)
Free Throw % 71.1% (115th) 73.2% (56th)
Opponent Shooting % 39.1% (20th) 41.3% (94th)
Opponent 2-point FG% 42.9% (27th) 45.7% (98th)
Opponent 3-point FG% 31.5% (59th) 29.5% (12th)
Opponent Block Per Game 3.4 (161st) 2.9 (53rd)
Opponent Steals Per Game 5.7 (55th) 4.8 (6th)

This game is going to be a real treat.  Just looking at the stats it is clear that these two teams are two of the best in college basketball.  With the teams remaining the argument can be made that this could have been the NCAA Championship game, but instead it’s the last roadblock to the Final Four.  Trying to find tangible differences in the stats is difficult.  Duke’s SOS advantage is negated by Louisville’s Scoring Margin difference. Field Goal % is cancelled by Rebound Rate.  Louisville steals the ball quite a bit, Duke doesn’t turn the ball over.  Both teams are very good passing teams, but the biggest difference I can see is Duke’s 3-point %.

Louisville has been famous in 2012-13 for holding their opponents to reduced shooting percentages all year.  In November, without Gorgui Dieng the Blue Devils were able to win the game despite shooting below their normal rate.  Duke DID, however, hit 85.2% of their free throw attempts (23-27) which is much higher than 73.2% on the season.  Based on paper and what I’ve seen with my own eyes watching these two teams all season I think we are in for a whale of a game.

Player & Bench Match-Ups

Peyton Siva vs. Quinn Cook was an excellent battle last time out.  Siva had 19 points on 8 of 15 shooting with 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 6 steals, 6 turnovers and 2 fouls.  Cook, however, was clutch & really sealed the game scoring the game’s final 8 points (all under 1:16 to play) and finished with 15 points (4-8 FGS) with 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 4 turnovers and 4 fouls.  Siva’s line was better, but Cook won the ball game for the Blue Devils.

For the tournament Cook has just 11 points on 4 of 21 shooting.  Cook does have 19 assists through 3 games (11 against Albany) with just 6 turnovers. Siva has 20 points on 9 of 26 shooting with 8 rebounds, 16 assists, 7 steals and 10 turnovers.

Peyton Siva Quinn Cook
6-0, 185, Sr. 6-1, 175, Soph.
Minutes 31.3 33.9
Points 9.9 12
Field Goal % 41.00% 42.70%
3-point % 30.80% 40.10%
FT % 86.30% 86.60%
Rebounds 2.3 3.9
Assists 5.9 5.4
Steals 2.3 1.5
Blocks 0.1 0.1
Turnovers 2.7 2.2
Fouls 2.6 2.6

Russ Smith vs. Seth Curry BUCKETS?  Seth Curry has scored 72 points in the Blue Devils first three NCAA games on 23-46 shooting.  Russ Smith has 81 points on 26-47 shooting.  Both are red hot and coming off huge performances in the Sweet 16.  Russ beats opponents with his lightning quickness, Curry has a killer jump shot and shoots 42.6% from 3-point range.  Curry is more careful with the ball, but this could end up as a back and forth battle of two high-scoring guards.

In the last meeting in November Curry struggled from the field hitting 3 of 11 but did manage 14 points, while Russ scored 17 and was 7 of 19 from the floor. Russ gambled a lot on defense trying to turn the Blue Devils over and really forced things on the offensive end.  I’m going to be interested to watch how many open looks either of these guys get on Sunday.

Russ Smith Seth Curry
6-1, 165, Jr. 6-2, 185, Sr.
Minutes 29.9 31.9
Points 18.4 17.3
Field Goal % 41.60% 46.70%
3-point % 34.10% 42.60%
FT % 82.60% 81.20%
Rebounds 3.5 2.6
Assists 3 1.6
Steals 2.2 0.9
Blocks 0 0.2
Turnovers 2.6 1.2
Fouls 2.5 1.7

Wayne Blackshear vs. Rasheed Sulaimon was lopsided in the Blue Devils favor last time out.  Even with Hancock off the bench Sulaimon took on the Louisville wings and easily came out on top.  Sulaimon finished that game with 14 points on 6 of 13 shooting with 4 rebounds and two steals.  Blackshear on the other hand had 2 points in 21 minutes with 4 rebounds.

Wayne has been playing better of late.  He’s not shooting a high volume, but he’s been taking and hitting the limited looks that he has had.  Wayne is also much better defensively now than he was in November.  Meanwhile Sulaimon has been consistent thanks to his ability to get to the Free Throw line.  Sulaimon has 30 free throw attempts in the first 3 games of the NCAA Tournament hitting 24.  The Cards will be smart to not get beat off the dribble by Sulaimon and keep him off the charity stripe.  Sulaimon is 8 of 17 from the floor in the NCAAs.

Wayne Blackshear Rasheed Sulaimon
6-5, 230, Soph 6-4, 185, Fr.
Minutes 20.4 29.1
Points 8 11.7
Field Goal % 42.30% 43.60%
3-point % 32.10% 38.90%
FT % 70.70% 80.00%
Rebounds 3.3 3.4
Assists 0.7 1.9
Steals 0.9 0.7
Blocks 0.3 0.1
Turnovers 0.7 1.3
Fouls 2.5 2.1

Chane Behanan vs. Ryan Kelly is a really strange match-up as juxtaposition on the basketball court. Kelly is a big body who is known for his outside shooting while Behanan is an undersized power forward who does most of his work inside. Kelly missed some time down the stretch for Duke with a foot injury and the Blue Devils lost a few games while he was out.  Kelly has been COLD from 3-point range during the NCAA Tournament and is 0-8 with just 18 points during the 1st 3 games. Meanwhile Behanan’s struggles have been on the backboard as Chane has just 8 rebounds in 3 games from the Power Forward position. Behanan isn’t off his scoring average very much but does have just 20 points so far in the NCAA Tournament.

Kelly had 14 points , 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, a steal and fouled out in the first game while Behanan finished with 7 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist on 2 of 11 shooting.

Chane Behanan Ryan Kelly
6-6, 250, Soph 6-11, 230, Sr.
Minutes 26.5 28.7
Points 9.7 13.3
Field Goal % 50.60% 46.40%
3-point % 9.10% 45.90%
FT % 50.60% 81.00%
Rebounds 6.3 5.4
Assists 1.1 1.7
Steals 1.4 0.8
Blocks 0.4 1.5
Turnovers 1.6 1
Fouls 1.7 2.4

Gorgui Dieng vs. Mason Plumlee is probably the 2nd best marquee match-up of the evening.  Many were anticipating a high-profile contest between Dieng & Plumlee in the Bahamas but were robbed of that when Gorgui broke his wrist a game earlier vs. Missouri.  Without Dieng Plumlee had 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting with 7 rebounds a steal and a block working primarily against Zach Price & Stephan Van Treese.

For the tournament Plumlee has 47 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and 5 steals. Dieng has 30 points, 19 rebounds, 3 assists, 6 blocks, and 5 steals in the 1st 3 games.

Gorgui Dieng Mason Plumlee
6-11, 245, Jr. 6-10, 235, Sr.
Minutes 31 34.5
Points 10 17.2
Field Goal % 51.90% 59.80%
3-point % 0.00% 0.00%
FT % 69.60% 67.20%
Rebounds 9.5 10
Assists 2 2
Steals 1.3 1
Blocks 2.4 1.5
Turnovers 1.8 2.9
Fouls 2.4 2.5

Louisville’s Bench & Duke’s Bench really aren’t comparable. Against Michigan State only guard Tyler Thornton played more than 10 minutes (26) and forward Josh Hairston played just 6 while buying time.  The Blue Devils will play Amile Jefferson at times, but he did not play against Michigan State and has logged just 15 minutes during the NCAA Tournament.

Meanwhile the Cards’ bench has been a catalyst and a major reason for several various runs.  The amount of pressure that the Cards are able to apply to teams is greatly enhanced when they can bring in a long and athletic Montrezl Harrell & Kevin Ware. When an evolved Luke Hancock can come in and make athletic plays and hit big-time jumpers, along with a never-ending motor of a Stephan Van Treese.  Louisville’s bench allows the Cards to keep the pressure up on any opponent whereas Duke reluctantly has used theirs in 2012-13.

Montrezl Harrell Josh Hairston
6-8, 235, Fr. 6-7, 240, Jr.
Minutes 16.6 12.9
Points 5.9 2.6
Field Goal % 57.00% 44.30%
3-point % 0.00% 0.00%
FT % 50.80% 65.20%
Rebounds 3.7 2.2
Assists 0.2 0.2
Steals 0.6 0.2
Blocks 0.7 0.2
Turnovers 0.6 0.5
Fouls 1.3 2.5
Luke Hancock Amile Jefferson
6-6, 200, Jr. 6-8, 195, Fr.
Minutes 22.1 12.9
Points 7.4 4.1
Field Goal % 40.60% 54.30%
3-point % 37.30% 0.00%
FT % 76.20% 61.00%
Rebounds 2.6 3
Assists 1.3 0.2
Steals 1 0.4
Blocks 0.1 0.5
Turnovers 1.1 0.4
Fouls 2 1.7
Stephan Van Treese
6-9, 245, Jr.
Minutes 11.5
Points 1.9
Field Goal % 66.70%
3-point % 0.00%
FT % 66.70%
Rebounds 3.3
Assists 0.3
Steals 0.5
Blocks 0.3
Turnovers 0.4
Fouls 1.2
Kevin Ware Tyler Thornton
6-2, 175, Soph 6-1, 190, Jr.
Minutes 16.7 22
Points 4.4 3.5
Field Goal % 43.10% 39.20%
3-point % 41.70% 38.20%
FT % 66.70% 65.20%
Rebounds 1.8 2.3
Assists 0.9 2.2
Steals 1.1 1.3
Blocks 0.1 0.1
Turnovers 1.1 1.1
Fouls 1.6 2.6

My Prediction

I predict that this game is going to be a major….MAJOR ball game. The starting match-ups  are really close to even while the Cards have an obvious advantage in their bench.  In the Bahamas the Cards really had some breakdowns defensively and also had a lot of untimely fouls.  Duke is deft at getting to the free throw line.  Bottom line, whoever executes wins.  We could sit here and split hairs over the disadvantages & advantages and go back & forth.  Louisville is going to want to pressure.  Duke is going to want to play in the half court.  Louisville rebounds better. Duke doesn’t turn the ball over & shoots the 3.  Louisville is deeper.

I see this game very close.  It’s hard to sit here and predict overtime, but it could very well happen.  I don’t see this game outside of 5 points. I think the foul situation will be one to monitor as the Cards will have more available fouls but will not want to send the Blue Devils to the line for easy scores.  Curry, Plumlee, & Kelly’s health could come into play, and so could Louisville’s overall team health.  Someone has to check Curry and keep him from getting open looks, Gorgui & Plumlee probably neutralize one another.  Russ is going to get into the lane & to the line.  Will Chane keep Kelly 0-for from 3?  Can Luke & Wayne stay in front of Sulaimon? How big is the rebounding advantage for the Cards?

I think if you add it up the Cards go to Atlanta.

Louisville 72-Duke 68

Elite 8s

1959, 1972, 1975, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1997, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013

1959-Beat Michigan State 88-81
1972-Beat Kansas State 72-65
1975-Beat Maryland 96-82
1980-Beat LSU 86-66
1982-Beat UAB 75-68
1983-Beat Kentucky 80-68
1986-Beat Auburn 84-76
1997-Lost to North Carolina 97-74
2005-Beat West Virginia 93-85
2008-Lost to North Carolina 83-73
2009-Lost to Michigan State 64-52
2012-Beat Florida 72-68

Louisville Transcript 3-30-2012

THE MODERATOR:  We are joined by the University of Louisville, and we will have an opening statement from Coach Pitino, and then we’ll go to questions for anybody up here for the first 20 minutes.


COACH PITINO:  Well, we’re very excited to be in the Elite Eight.  We did not play one of our better games out of the last 15 or so yesterday, but I think that was due to Oregon.  We played very good offensively.  It was just our weakest defensive game.  And the guys basically defensively had a night off, so they’re going to be very, very fresh against Duke.

THE MODERATOR:  Questions?

Q.  Gorgui, can you say a little bit about how and when you began playing basketball and how you came to the U.S.?

GORGUI DIENG:  I was just like ‑‑ my brothers was playing basketball in the beginning and I went and watched them play, and I fell in love with the game.  And I waited for it to play.  And I start playing when I was like 7, 8 and I think serious play when I was 16, 17.

Q.  How did you come to the U.S.?

GORGUI DIENG:  I went to SEEDS Academy, and they had a basketball in South Africa, and after that camp, I think one of the high school coaches was there, and he just asked me if I wanted to come and play here, and I came to high school and came to college.  Coach came and recruited me and I just play for Louisville.

Q.  I guess for any of you, as it happens, how is the team’s health and how are you guys feeling health‑wise?

RUSS SMITH:  I think we’re getting better.  We’re all getting better.  We’ve been getting treatment and stuff, and this day off is going to give us a lot of time for our bodies to recuperate.  So I think we’ll be good heading into Duke.

PEYTON SIVA:  I think the game last night helped us out a lot by Oregon running so much ran it out of us all.  Our trainer, Fred, has done a great job of taking care of us and seeing us.  We’ve been taking antibiotics and I think everybody is getting their energy back and everybody’s become more upbeat.  And Russ stopped coughing on everybody, so I think we’re doing better.

Q.  Wayne, you’re the only guy from Chicago in this game.  What does that mean to you?

WAYNE BLACKSHEAR:  It’s no different from nothing else.  I got a lot of family coming in tomorrow.  So it’s no difference from playing with nobody else on the team.

Q.  For any of the players, a lot of the national media are making a big deal about Duke and Coach Pitino and Christian Laettner.  Does that name mean anything to you?  And if so, what?

CHANE BEHANAN:  I wasn’t even thought of when that game was going on.  But I have saw the same highlight over and over on ESPN every morning ‑‑ I mean, since this morning.  And it’s a new era.  Coach, he’s much older now, more wiser.  So we know we’re going to do a little things differently now.

PEYTON SIVA:  It was a great shot.  I just saw it, one of those shots that you just love if you’re a coach and hate if you’re another one.

It’s a great game, probably one of the greatest games in history for Coach P and Coach K to coach in.  And we didn’t watch the film on that game, so we don’t really know that one, surprisingly.  But it’s a great game back then.  We’re in the future now.

RUSS SMITH:  Well, obviously, it was probably one of the greatest games ever, and it was a tremendous shot.  And like Chane said, I wasn’t even thought of so I couldn’t even really comment on the game.  I just seen highlights.

But it’s a new game and hopefully, history don’t repeat itself.

Q.  Coach Pitino, how has your relationship with Coach K grown and changed since that shot?  Because you two now are forever linked by that.

COACH PITINO:  Well, we’ve been friends from that point on.  Both of us looked at the game a lot different than the Kentucky fans or, for that matter, the Duke fans.  Both of us just sat back and coached and watched an incredible offensive display.  Even when we played the overtime without Mash, it was a great game.  Anytime you write a whole book about one game, it’s kind of special.

We came on the losing side, but I’ve had the Kentucky fans always say it’s one of the worst losses.  To me, it’s one of the best losses I’ve ever had.  A bad loss was Providence last year by 31 points.  A bad loss is something where you guys play terrible, you don’t play.  It was a great loss because my guys played almost a perfect game and just had the wrong ending for us.

But it was one of the greatest basketball games ever played because it was so high‑powered with great play.  One great play after another.  That was fun to be part of, and I’ve always loved Coach K from before that moment to today.  I think he’s everything our game stands for in a good way.

Q.  I just want to ask the players to talk about when you met Duke back in November, Gorgui wasn’t there.  How much difference does that make, and is there something else that’s changed from the first meeting?

WAYNE BLACKSHEAR:  Yeah, like you said, we were not with Gorgui.  And it was a tough game, and we still competed and we came up short.  But we came out aggressive and played them very well.

CHANE BEHANAN:  Like Wayne said, without Gorgui, it was real tough for us.  Limited us from offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding and also blocking shots.  That’s it.

PEYTON SIVA:  I think it was a great game.  Both of us have improved a lot more since that Bahamas tournament, and it was a great opportunity to play against them at that time.

Who would have known we’d be playing right now for a chancing to the Final Four.  Nobody would know that.  With Gorgui back in the lineup, it definitely gives us another dimension to the game.  V.T. and Zach and Montrezl has helped us out a lot replacing Gorgui in the game.  But you can never really replace Gorgui.  He’s playing good right now and is definitely going to help us out a lot.

Q.  Rick, when you guys first started ‑‑ announced to be going to the ACC, how quickly do you immediately think about a chance to play Duke every year, multiple times, possibly?

COACH PITINO:  It was on the top of my list.  Now, you know, I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t even really think about it at all, because we’ve got another year to play.  One thing I can tell you I don’t do is I really never live in the future.  I really don’t.  I just live for today, coach for today.  I don’t take anything for granted.

My wife’s got a great expression:  Make a plan for the future and you’ll make God laugh.  And that’s pretty much ‑‑ I believe in that.  So I don’t really think about it.  That’s a long way off for me.

Q.  Rick, in what ways do you feel like Duke has ‑‑ if there was any big area of improvement, that they’ve made since that November game?

COACH PITINO:  Well, I think Curry’s gotten healthier, obviously.  He had a stress fracture.  That’s the biggest thing.  He’s gotten healthier.  They learned to play without Kelly and we learned to play without Gorgui.  It made us play better without him.  It made them more efficient in other areas.  Now he comes back and they’re better.  Gorgui comes back and we’re better.

We played a very good game that night, had a chance of winning.  They were just a little bit better down the stretch.

Q.  Rick, what type of challenges does Plumlee present not only as an offensive player, but a defensive factor around the basket?

COACH PITINO:  Well, he’s very long.  He’s very skilled.  He jumps ‑‑ the whole family jumps extremely well.  So he’s someone that understands the game real well.  He hits his cutters the right way.  He’s a very good rebounder, very good outlet person.  He runs the floor well.

He’s a very good athlete as well as being a very good basketball player.  So he poses a lot of problems for us with one day of prep.

Q.  Coach Pitino, tomorrow will be the fifth anniversary of Bill Keightley’s death.  I know you two were really close.  How tough did he take that first loss to Duke and how much would he really enjoy seeing you beat them, especially on this stage?

COACH PITINO:  Well, he enjoyed beating Louisville.  He enjoyed beating Tennessee.  He enjoyed ‑‑ that game hit him really, really hard.  And it did hit all of us hard for about 24 hours until I watched the tape.  Then I just sat back and I said, darn, that was some helluva basketball game.  I got the guys together and I said, man, that was a great game.  Really was a great game, especially playing without Mash.

So I always remember it in a positive light.  Bill wouldn’t remember it in a positive light.

Q.  Coach, Seth Curry hasn’t fared well this year in games where he’s got one‑day rest.  Is that something you incorporate into a game plan is really trying to effectively defend him out of the game?

COACH PITINO:  I don’t know what his health status is.  I don’t know why that would be.  I know he’s playing good basketball.  We battled, we’re getting healthier.  We battled, about five or six of us, a bad cold for the week.  And it showed on our defense last night.  But I think it was more Oregon than it was having colds, and we are getting better.

Our guys, I think we’re well rested, because ‑‑ I really mean that.  We didn’t play a stitch of defense last night, so we’re well rested.  Especially Russ.

Q.  I want to ask Chane about what it’s like to match up against Ryan Kelly.  Have you faced another guy who can play kind of the European Stretch 4 the way he can with his size and ability to move the ball?

CHANE BEHANAN:  Well, it’s going to be real tough.  But I got four other guys behind me that’s going to contribute and help.  Russ digging, Peyton digging, Gorgui trying to block shots.

Just go out there, give it your all.  Playing for the Final Four.  That’s basically all I can say.  Coming to bring it.

Q.  Rick, the first time you guys played Duke, you didn’t have Gorgui.  How is he playing right now and what kind of luxury is that to have him this game?

COACH PITINO:  Gorgui has really ‑‑ the good thing about Gorgui, Russ, is as the season’s gone on, they’ve been like a great stock.  They just keep adding to their games.

Russ, as a freshman, it’s been well documented that he thought about transferring.  I thought about shipping him to a different planet.  And he stayed and really studied his game and said, okay, I took 18 shots last night and 17 were bad ones.

Now he’s evolved into a basketball player that maybe takes one difficult shot per game, plays good defense, makes good passes, makes good decisions.

And the two of these guys, probably out of ten guys I’ve coached, have improved dramatically as much as any two basketball players I’ve coached.

I said, Gorgui, we’ll work on your mid‑range jump shot.  He takes it from not having a good mid‑range jump shot to being flat to being great, not being good.  Everything he does, he doesn’t believe in being good; if he’s going to master something, he wants to be great at it.

So both of these guys have improved tremendously.  And Gorgui has become an outstanding passer, he’s become an outstanding shooter.  We all do shot blocking, become a better rebounder.  He’s always been very smart.  He’s a highly, highly intelligent person.

But he struggled a little bit in the beginning, because, as you may know, he goes from being able to say hello and good‑bye to me in late November to seeing him again late February and being semi fluent in English.  That’s pretty incredible.

I know when I was named the Puerto Rican National coach, I bought Rosetta Stone and was working on it two hours a day.  And all I look back on it now, because I had such great difficulty, is how did he do it?  He’s highly intelligent and picks up things quickly and knows what you mean.

Q.  Rick, what did you think of Duke in the preseason?  Did you feel like they were one of the teams that could be right up with you guys competing for a national title?  And what’s it like to have to play them in an Elite Eight when they were number two in the country the last week of the season?

COACH PITINO:  I think when you looked at our bracket with us, we looked at Colorado State and said five seniors and two of the seniors ‑‑ two fifth‑year seniors?  It’s going to be a heck of a basketball game.  And then obviously, last night, Oregon.  Oregon made us not look as good as we are.

And then now you’re playing a team like Duke or Michigan State.  So we knew our bracket was going to be a highly, highly difficult.  It was a bracket that you weren’t going to see a whole lot of upsets in, because the teams were so good.

Our respect level for Duke is as high as it gets.  Not only for their players, for their coach, for the way they represent ‑‑ their program is run.  We know that.  We played them a great game there.  We know we’re going to have to play a great game to come away with a victory.

But we feel after last night’s game, I think our guys are disappointed in their defense and I think tomorrow they’ll play it much better.

Q.  For Peyton, Coach Krzyzewski was in here a little while ago and said this is like a national championship game tomorrow.  Do you have that sense?  Do you feel as if you beat Duke, you’re likely to cut down the nets?

PEYTON SIVA:  Right now, every game is a national championship.  You got to win to survive.  And that’s how you have to play it, because if you lose, you go home.

So right now, there’s potentially three games left, and each one you have to play like a championship.  That’s how we look at it, and that’s how we’ll go out and play.  We have to leave it all on the line.  We’re trying to play for a potential spot in the Final Four.

Duke’s a great team.  They’re playing really well.  Like you said earlier, number two when the season ended and he was really hot.  They had a couple mishap games, but they’ve been playing great.

We’ve got to come out and play our hardest and play like it’s a national championship game.

THE MODERATOR:  We’re going to dismiss the student‑athletes to the meeting rooms.

Q.  Rick, as much as you value this game, how meaningful is it to be attached to one of its great moments of all time, speaking about 1992?  And everyone else revisits that game often.  Do you ever allow yourself to think back when you have a few moments offseason?

COACH PITINO:  I do, and I’ve watched the game about five times.  The fascinating thing about that game, we lost and it cost us the Final Four.  When we got back, four of those guys had their names retired to the rafters the day after that game, which was incredible when you think about it, because Kentucky always puts All‑Americans up there in Farmer, Feldhaus, Woodson and Pelphrey.  Were put up there because of the ‑‑ that they all stayed, they didn’t leave, scandal hit Kentucky and they stayed, and they went from a scandal‑ridden group that didn’t play to having their jerseys retired in a loss.  So it’s pretty darn special moment for those guys and me.

And it was just a great, great basketball game that I think most of the Kentucky fans just don’t realize when you play in such a great game against a group of guys that didn’t boast, didn’t go out there and make you look bad, all they did was praise their opponent, so they were gentlemen, and I just have such great memories of that game.

But I do think about it often.  Not in a revenge standpoint, but just in a great game that I was happy to be part of.

Q.  Coach, this has been talked about as a national championship game, but really is a prelude to what the ACC is going to look like in the future.  Coach K said when all the teams get in the league, it will be the most powerful basketball conference ever.  Can you talk about joining something like that and how this is going to kind of be the norm, playing in that league?

COACH PITINO:  Well, I really don’t think about it.  I have to be honest with you.  I’m sure everything he’s saying is 100 percent correct.  But I don’t allow myself ‑‑ it’s just a rule of mine ‑‑ to think about the future.  I just don’t do it, because I don’t know what the future holds for me.  So I never think, except for the next game.  My players know that.

I don’t think ‑‑ I think Peyton gave a great answer.  We said it last night.  You’re going to play four national championship games, starting with last night.  That’s basically it, or you’re out.

And every team left in this tournament is capable of winning a national championship, including Wichita State.  I mean, you flip a coin between Wichita State and Ohio State, I’ve watched them play.  They’re really, really good.  Duke’s tremendous.  Florida’s tremendous.  Michigan’s great.

Anybody can win this thing.  So we’re looking at it starting with last night as four chances.  Peyton really said it the way we believe.

Q.  Coach, have you thought much about sort of the accidental nature of this team, how many guys that you’re using who committed elsewhere, even signed elsewhere in some instances, and they all wound up in your roster?  Is that sort of a reflection of where college basketball is now, how many different guys came from so many different angles?

COACH PITINO:  I guess you’re alluding to Luke and Montrezl?

Q.  Yeah, Luke and Montrezl, Kevin as well.

COACH PITINO:  Yeah.  Well, it’s a little bit different, the circumstances were kind of incredible, because most of it was because of Kevin Keatts.  Kevin Keatts placed Montrezl at Hargrave’s.  So obviously, when Seth got fired, he knew Kevin, and we were lucky enough to get him.

Luke, Kevin coached at Hargrave’s and his brother lived in Louisville.  So we got lucky there as well.

With Kevin, he just ‑‑ Central Florida got in a little trouble.  He had to go somewhere and that was the only time we really recruited him.  We didn’t really recruit Montrezl or Luke.  We’re lucky that Kevin Keatts knew them.

Q.  Rick, you mentioned the other day that you consider Coach Wooden the greatest there ever was.  If Mike’s team should win tomorrow, he would match Coach Wooden with 12 Final Fours.  Given how much the nature of basketball has changed over the last half century, is it possible to look at Mike and say, you know, for his era, he’s done as much as Wooden did?

COACH PITINO:  I’ve said it about 50 times.  I’ll make this 51.  Coach Wooden, I felt, was the greatest teacher of any sport of any game.  And Coach K is the modern‑day John Wooden.  I’ve made that statement over 50 times, and I believe that.

Just in the way he carries himself, in the way he teaches values, in the way he coaches basketball.  He’s a fierce competitor like Coach Wooden.  You’ll both see their intensity on the sidelines, and it will be saved for a lot of timeouts.

They’re just great coaches, great people, great teachers.  They would both be great teachers of biology in the classroom.  Obviously, Mike being a West Point grad, has tremendous discipline in his life.  Mike is the modern‑day Coach Wooden.  There’s no question about it because of the character that they both possess.

There’s more to coaching than just teaching basketball Xs and Os.  It’s what they stand for as people.  And both of them, I couldn’t put anybody on any higher point than those two gentlemen.

Q.  Rick, for those of us that were there in Philadelphia, I think you could realize how good that game was.  Over time, it has held up as maybe the best game ever played.  Does it surprise you at all to look at the film and say that was really as good as we thought?

COACH PITINO:  I think it was such a high‑scoring game with so much perfection in the way the players passed and shot the ball, that’s what made it stand the test of time.  It wasn’t a slowdown game.  It was a game where two coaches could sit back and watch great players perform at the highest level.

It was like being in Carnegie Hall and just seeing the best musician or the best singer, and just sitting there in amazement of what they were doing out on the basketball court.

Q.  Rick, you don’t want to talk about the future.  I wonder if you’ll indulge me and talk about the past.  If you had never gone to the NBA, you’d probably be 800‑plus victories at this point.  You’re six years younger than Mike.  Do you ever wonder about what your legacy might have been if you’d done what ‑‑ taken the path he did?

COACH PITINO:  Well, I’ve heard that many times from ‑‑ Dick Vitale tells me all the time, every time something happens when we lose:  If you’d never left Kentucky, you would have had so many wins.  He has it down to the win.

But I’ll say this.  I don’t think I could have enjoyed four years more of my life in coaching than New York Knicks.  As an assistant coach, I learned more in two years than I have in my lifetime working under Hubie Brown.  Then I had a blast as the head coach of the Knicks.  I grew up six streets from the Garden.  I enjoyed that.

The Boston experience wasn’t great for me, because, like Pat Riley says, it’s winning in misery.  But I learned something more valuable from the Boston experience than even working for Hubie wrong.  That was humility.  It took me goddamn long enough to get it.

To me, humility is the key to achieving any sense of accomplishment, because you really know why you win.  And it’s the guys that are to my right, and you really appreciate when you lose ‑‑ like I thought that Dana Altman and watching the film and everything ‑‑ I didn’t know him real well.  I came away with the sense of he’s a helluva basketball coach.  He’s a great one.  Maybe because Creighton wasn’t as high profile, he’s a great basketball coach.

I get a great appreciation when I watch film of other people out there.  I’m not sure I would have done that if it wasn’t for the Boston experience.

Q.  If you’re watching a game on TV and as it seems to happen a thousand times, the Laettner shot is in a commercial or a promo, do you even look at it?  Do you change the channel?  How long did it take before you could watch that shot without having some sort of emotion about it?

COACH PITINO:  You know, a lot of people thought in that game you should have had a guy on the ball, but you can throw the ball out of bounds.  Bob Knight always said he never puts a guy on the ball.  I made a mistake in that game, and that’s what I think about.

The mistake I made is I said we’re going to sandwich him, it’s going to him.  But watch out, they may shoot a guy on the sideline.  He may pass as they’re running down the floor.

But then I grabbed Pelphrey and Feldhaus.  I said:  Whatever you do, don’t foul him.  He hasn’t missed a shot.

I shouldn’t have done that.  That was the mistake I made.  I should have said:  Whatever you do, bat down the ball.  I don’t care what the contact is.  But go for basketball.  And you saw my guys freeze a little bit.  So that was ‑‑ it wasn’t on the ball because you remember all the ‑‑ what’s the guy doing the commercial with the astronaut on the sideline?  Bryce Drew.  And then you remember Tate George when they had the guy all over him on the ball.

So I shouldn’t have said that.  Looking back, if I could have one thing over, I would have said to those guys:  Bat the ball down, whatever it may be.  That’s the one thing I look back on the game, I wish I could have done differently in that game as a basketball coach.

But I did a Vitamin Water commercial with Christian Laettner.  A lot of Kentucky fans don’t like him.  I got to know him and still don’t like him.  I’m only kidding.  I’m only kidding.  He’s a good guy.  I’m joking.

Q.  I apologize if you’ve answered this question already a little earlier.  How much does the addition of Dieng into this game change the dynamic of things from the first matchup of these guys back in November?

COACH PITINO:  I’m not sure, because ‑‑ I’ll tell you why.  I know he’s obviously better than Zach Price and Stephan Van Treese.  But both those guys played terrific in that game.  If one of those guys would have played poorly, you’d say it’s going to be a big difference.  But both those guys played very well in the basketball game, especially in the defensive end, the way they screened.

There’s so much at stake at this game because it means the Final Four, that really past performances don’t mean a whole lot.  So it’s going to be a hard, hard fought basketball game, and we know that.

The thing about Duke is you got to keep them off the foul line, because they make every free throw.  And that’s ‑‑ any team like Duke that plays defense like they play and rebounds and if you put them to the foul line, you’re probably not going to win the game.

Like last night, what was it, 26 times, made 24 out of 26.  Michigan State’s not going to beat them letting them shoot 26 and making 24.

Q.  Coach, one more about Gorgui.  From a personal standpoint, how has it been these years you’ve had with him?  What about him is so disarming and appealing to people?

COACH PITINO:  His culture is far different.  We were talking the other day to Eric Crawford, who was with us, one of the writers.  He said that he goes home to his country, and if there’s a 25‑year‑old that doesn’t have a seat and he’s sitting there at 23, he’s got to give the seat up for the 25‑year‑old.  And he says his culture is you listen to anybody who’s older than you.  Anybody.

And that’s why he’s able to grow so much, because there’s nobody else in his ear.  Like I said to him after the season, Gorgui, I want you to put your name in.  We’ll see if you’re a first‑round draft choice and we’ll go forward.  We’ll decide from this.

He said, I will listen to everything you and Amadou say.  Amadou is a young man who works in the NBA from Africa.  He says, Whatever you guys tell me to do, I will do exactly.  I said, Gorgui, some agents or runners may try to talk to you.  He said, I don’t listen to runners.  I don’t listen to agents.  I’ll listen to Amadou and you.  That’s what I’m taught to do.  He’s far different than the young kids today.

I took this other guy named Mangok from the Sudan through Australia just because of Gorgui.  And then I recruited a young man from Kansas City who has African descent.  Anybody from Africa, I go after.  I didn’t even see Mangok play.  I take them because of their culture to learn.  It’s unbelievable how humble they are, how much they’re willing to learn.  They soak everything in.  And the way they look at adults, they revere adults and the wisdom that they may have to make them better.

Q.  Rick, because Russ has played so well in this tournament, and even last night you were saying he basically carried us, do you worry at all that the team becomes overly dependent on him and that if his performance, which has been exceptional, goes down even a little bit, other guys are going to need to do a little bit more?

COACH PITINO:  I told Russ this morning, I said, Russ, Duke trapped you every time on a pick and roll, and Duke is going to try to take you out of the game early on.  I said, You’ve got to get the other guys the ball.  Our guys know that.  There’s no jealousy.  They know Russ has bailed us out of a lot of tough situations.

We’ve got a lot ‑‑ Russ knows that.  We have a lot in our favor.  The guys texted me and said, What’s wrong with this Undertaker?  He keeps picking the other team.  I said, He’s been doing that since I’ve been at Kentucky.  Don’t worry about it.  They said, Why?  I said, Because if he picks the other team, he picked Oregon, we have a great chance of winning.  I said, It’s our key to our game and you must understand that Digger, I’ve known him a long, long time.  He picked every single game until Vitale told him to pick the Washington Generals over the Globetrotters.  It took him a year and a half to realize that they weren’t supposed to win and he still kept picking them.

For us, the Undertaker is going to pick Duke.  We have major, major advantage in this game.

Q.  Rick, you were talking about the kind of the beauty and the level of play in that ’92 game.  And at the time, obviously, you had upperclassmen and older players.  Can we see that again because players leaving?  Can you match that sort of intensity?

COACH PITINO:  Well, you saw what Colorado State ‑‑ they had five seniors.  I think the game is better today because of the one and done.  Much better.  Because you have so much diversity.  Here, you have Kentucky who they didn’t win because of the one and done.  They won because they had Miller, Lamb, Jones, and then two of the best one‑and‑done guys to ever play the game.

So that’s fine.  They’ve proven success doing it that way.  But then you have a Colorado State that has five seniors.  You have an Oregon who has upperclassmen mixing in with young.  You have Butler who always gets seniors.  So there’s so many different ways of doing it that you really can’t pick the winner.

Would I be surprised right now if Wichita State won the championship?  Absolutely not.  I would not be surprised.  I would have been surprised if Florida Gulf Coast won it.  That would have been a big surprise.  But I would not ‑‑ what’s left?  And I think that’s what makes it so exciting right now, because nobody really knows.  We’re the No. 1 of No. 1 seeds.  But I know if we played the remaining seven teams ten times, one team would win six, the other would win four.

That kind of parity is great, because it makes fun games.

Q.  Coach, Quinn Cook was terrific against you guys in the Bahamas earlier this season, but his play has tailed off a little bit down the stretch.  How do you game plan for him, seeing what he’s capable of, versus what you saw from him last night?

COACH PITINO:  I always tell the guys, in March, anybody referring ‑‑ let’s say you’ve taken a ‑‑ 90 3s on the year and you’re shooting 28 percent.  The fact that you’ve taken 90 and your coach lets you take 90, we consider everybody a big‑time 3‑point threat.  That’s the way we look at everybody.

We don’t look at the fact they’re not playing well or playing well.  If they have played well and they’ve taken a volume of shots, we consider them a big threat.  One of the reasons we won last night is Oregon was winning with a 3‑point shot.  They were 8 for 11 against St. Louis.  They won by 20.

We held them to four made 3s in the game.  That’s why we got beat off the bounce a lot, because we were pushing up.  We were going to take away the 3.

So we consider, although he may not be playing well right now, and the fact that somebody said that he hasn’t played well with one day’s rest, we don’t pay any attention to those things.

We consider Cook a valuable, valuable asset.  We’re going to try to stop him as well as Curry.

Q.  Rick, I know ’92 was a while ago, but when you look at ‑‑ when you break down the film and prepare for Mike’s team now, compared to the way he was in ’92, are there any differences?

COACH PITINO:  There’s lot of differences on offense.  There’s not too many differences on defense.

I think Duke has been pretty consistent.  You’re not going to see a whole lot of full‑court pressure.  You’re not going to see a whole lot of zones.  I think you may see subtle changes in the way they defend the pick and roll.  I think Duke is pretty much the same type of defensive team ever since Mike started coaching.

Q.  Rick, as many upsets as there have been during the season and as unpredictable as things have seemed, seven of the eight teams that are left have won an NCAA championship, everyone but Wichita State.  What do you think the state of parity is in the men’s game at this point?  And do you think that there really are that many teams that can compete for the title?

COACH PITINO:  Like I said, I think the game is much better today.  And it’s much better for a lot of reasons.  Because we have young coaches in the game ‑‑ like Shaka Smart, like Brad Stevens ‑‑ who now say that money really don’t mean a whole lot to me, my program, my players do.

So the coaches are really staying and building something special and staying part of the organization.  During my era, everybody was leaving.  When I started out, including myself.  Now, today, all these coaches, they really don’t care.  They make more than enough money.  It’s the program that counts.

I really admire that in them.  I think the game is much better today because of the way it has evolved with the young coaches.  The young coaches are so good, so talented.  I think the game has become much better, the consistency of Colorado State being able to have all those really good players.

Going into next year, you’ll probably rank everybody on how many great players they have coming in.  I’ve always ranked it how many great players they have coming back.  That’s the way I’ve always ranked it.

And when the rankings started this year, I think Indiana was 1, probably, right?  And they more than deserved their ranking because of the players coming back.  And then the fascinating thing about this game is I’ve seen Syracuse now have almost three different lives.

Going into the Big East Tournament, they’re losing.  Their self‑esteem is really low, not playing well.  Then they go the finals and are playing great.  They get it back.  Then they go into the tournament.  They lose to us and they had a big lead and they’re not playing well.  Looks like they’re going down again.  Now they come back again.

It’s fascinating to witness for me.  But I think all these programs with great tradition have an unbelievable chance of winning this thing.  I think it’s going to be a matter of, for us, if we put Duke to the line as many times as they went last night, we’ll have a difficult time winning.

Q.  Rick, you mentioned Hubie a couple of times this weekend.  After all these years, are there a couple of things that have really stuck with you from your time under Hubie that really translate into today’s basketball?

COACH PITINO:  He taught me not only so much about how data can help you in a basketball game, what’s important and what’s not important, but he really taught me ‑‑ it doesn’t help me too much today ‑‑ about the pro mentality.

He got me to ‑‑ he understood the pros.  He understood how to break down the statistician.  He understood how to put the game together, and he taught me about the professional athlete and what’s important to him and how to handle the professional athlete.

Now, from that point on, what the professional athlete was like during the Hubie days and I was his assistant, that’s pretty much how the college athlete is today, that mentality.

So he taught me so much.  Really, I don’t think ‑‑ it was the best two years of my life as a basketball coach.  I wouldn’t say the ‑‑ maybe the two years at Providence because it was a Cinderella story.  Outside of that, it was the two best years of my life because I learned the most about basketball, handling players, all the statistical data that went into things being significant on the offensive and defensive end.  The man just taught me so much.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach.  See you tomorrow.

COACH PITINO:  Thank you.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

 DUKE Transcript 3-30-2013

THE MODERATOR:  We will go to Coach Krzyzewski for an opening statement and then we’ll take questions for anyone who’s up here.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  We’re trying to adjust to a kick turnaround.  We left here about 1:00 in the morning, and we’re back.  So I’m glad we’re back.  We would have been up all night, no matter what.  It’s better to be up all night this way.

One good thing about last night, besides winning and playing well, is we didn’t get anybody injured, and we’re trying to get to know Louisville in a very piecemeal fashion.  So we’ve watched a little bit of Louisville up to now, and we’re going to do more this afternoon and more tonight and more tomorrow.

When it’s turned around this quickly, you have to kind of do it in stages, because they’re a great team.  I think they’re the best team and playing the best right now.

So our guys have done a good job, and we’re going to have to play a great game in order to beat them.

Q.  Coach K, you guys played in November, and I know teams change over the months, but what is the benefit of having played Louisville this year?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  I think the fact just that you were at the same party together.  This is a bigger party, so you know how big they are.  Even though Dieng was not with them, you have great respect for them.  Their guards lived in our paint and they’ve lived in a lot of people’s paints over the years.

They’re better and we’re better.  They were interrupted early, and they haven’t been interrupted since then with injury.  We’ve been interrupted since then.

But the fact that we played, the fact that we won I don’t think is significant.  The fact that we have some familiarity with them helps.

Q.  Mason, what does Dieng bring and what kind of things do you need to do to combat him?

MASON PLUMLEE:  Well, I think he does the best job in their team of protecting the rim.  Obviously blocking shots, but also altering shots.  And then offensively he gets buckets around the rim, and then he has a nice little face‑up jump shot.

So I think he gives them a different dimension, but he’s not one of those guys that are 260, 270, where they can just move you on the block.

Q.  Coach, same question.  Where is Dieng on the list of priorities?  How will he change this game?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Well, he’s one of the best players in the country.  I think it helps their defense to have a great rim protector, because they hit you with different types of defenses, and you can be even more aggressive knowing that your basket is protected.  I think any team in the country would love to have him.

But then offensively, he’s improved.  He’s a legitimate threat to get ‑‑ he’s the second leading scorer and can hit free throws, can make buckets inside and can hit from 15 feet.

His game has really expanded.  He’s a terrific player.

Q.  Quinn, in the Bahamas, you kind of carried the team down the stretch.  You won the MVP award.  Is there any carryover, anything you take from that leading into the rematch, how well you played against them the first time?

QUINN COOK:  I’m coming to the game with confidence, just playing against two great guys in Russ Smith and Peyton Siva.  Our guys know we have to be at the best of our game.

In the Bahamas, it was a battle.  All 40 minutes.  Guys stepped up at the end of the game, and I was fortunate enough to hit a shot down the stretch and hit some free throws.  But my teammates carried us the whole game.

So we know it’s going to be a battle all 40 minutes, so we just want to fight all 40.

Q.  For Quinn and Rasheed, what makes their guards so good at getting to the paint?  What can you maybe try to do a little differently to prevent that quite as much?

RASHEED SULAIMON:  Their guards are tenacious on defense to start off, and their defense leads to easy buckets on the offensive side.  And both of those guys, Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, are great at getting into the lane and creating opportunities for themselves and for the rest of their team.

And when you have two guards like that, that can create so much havoc, puts a lot of pressure on your defense, and they really are the bulk of their team, and they’re two important pieces that we have to contain.

QUINN COOK:  Just like Rasheed said, it starts on defense.  Those two guys pressure the ball better than anyone in the country.  It starts with defense, and their defense leads to their offense.  And they’re tenacious getting to the rim creating for others.  So they’re two of the best.

Q.  Mike, this is actually the first time since the 1992 East Regional where you and Rick have teams that are going against each other in the tournament.  Two parts to the question.  One, can you just talk about your relationship with Rick, if there is one.  And, second of all, what memories do you have from that game?  I guess, obviously, Christian’s shot seems to be the paramount one.  Is there something you think of primarily when you harken back to 1992?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Yeah, Rick and I are real close friends.  I think he’s one of the best.  One of the best ever.  And our relationship was good before that game.

After the game, it’s grown exponentially.  I think when the basketball gods deem you worthy enough to put you in a great moment, sometimes you’re placed in that moment as a winner, and sometimes you lose.  But sometimes the loser shines more than the winner.  I thought his ‑‑ how he reacted and has reacted since made him shine.  And I respect that.  I think he ‑‑ if I’m placed in that situation, I would hope that I would be able to do it at the level that he did it.

Rick’s the kind of guy that he knows he’s good and it’s okay for someone else to be good.  And then if the other guy who’s good wins, you shake his hand and you know you’ll be good and you’ll get another chance to be good.

I like that about him.  Tom’s like that.  Tom Izzo’s like that.  And they’re two of the guys that I really respect a great deal in our profession.

Q.  Mike, what were your thoughts when you saw that Louisville would be joining the ACC and what does that mean for your league?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Well, for all these schools that have joined, it makes us the most powerful basketball conference, I think, ever.  And I hope our league is able to understand the assets that we’ve accumulated and what it does to the assets we already have.

I think if positioned properly, it sets us apart from anybody.  And we shouldn’t look at where football is or whatever.  We have the best asset as a result of Louisville, Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame, and the assets we have, we’re joining together.  I mean, we better know how to make use of it.

Q.  Seth, how much, if any, has the condition with your legs improved over the course of the season until now?  And does it concern you that in quick turnarounds, where you play in a day or two, that your performance or your production in the second game has dropped off?

SETH CURRY:  It’s felt a little bit better as the season’s gone along.  The biggest thing is to be able to get used to when I’m at practice and just getting able ‑‑ being able to get in a routine of preparing for games and things like that.  That’s the things that’s benefitted me most down the stretch of the season.

I don’t think this next game off short rest is going to be any different.  I feel ready to go.

Q.  For Rasheed, Quinn, and Seth, as players, how much does it help that you have played against Louisville and you kind of have physically seen them and gone up against that pressure before?

RASHEED SULAIMON:  It helps a lot.  Like Coach said, they’re a great team and they’re different now.  But to have the familiarity that we had playing them earlier in the season is a great help.  We know how they are defensively, and we know one of the big keys of the game is to handle that pressure.

And it’s very hard to prepare for a team like Louisville.  But knowing that we played them earlier in the season does help a lot.

QUINN COOK:  Like Rasheed said, we’ve experienced their defensive pressure and the guards’ pressure.  I think they’re a better team now and they’re playing the best basketball in the country, especially with Dieng there.  We didn’t see how they played with Dieng.  So I know our coaches are doing a great job preparing for those guys, and I think we’ll be ready.

SETH CURRY:  You just get the up‑close look at how they attack for 40 minutes.  It’s not only playing them, but playing other teams that pressure like them, like, say, VCU or other teams like that, just give us a better idea of what we’re going to see tomorrow.

Q.  Coach, are Smith and Siva any ‑‑ are there any similarities that they have with the Durand Scott and Shane Larkin that you faced of Miami?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Well, you’ve got four really good players.  Scott and Larkin are two of the best also.  Now, the styles of play are different.  The Louisville team really attacks you well in transition.  And they play with such a verve and heart when they push the ball up the court.

There’s not a better transition guard in the country ‑‑ I’m trying to think of one in recent memory ‑‑ as Smith.  He is courageous, plays with great heart.  I’m getting old.  If I need a transplant, I hope he would give me his.  He could give me part of it and I’d have more courage than I have right now.

But they’re exciting guards.  And Miami doesn’t play that way.  They’re more in the half court.  But these two guys put incredible pressure on you.  The whole court, both offensively and defensively.  They used the whole court in putting that pressure on you, on both sides of the ball.

Q.  Coach K, Rick has said that in the tournament teams don’t get tired because of the number of television timeouts.  Do you feel, though, that fatigue could be a factor against their press?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  We’re concerned about our turnaround from last night more so than their press.  I think if you have ‑‑ just because your normal clock has been screwed up.  In other words, you don’t get to bed ’til 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning from the late game.  And then we had drug testing afterwards ‑‑ which is a question to ask for another time, I guess, why you would do that to a team that plays the late game.  But I guess I shouldn’t ask that question right now.

That’s what I’m concerned about, is ‑‑ there is enough time in the game to rest.  It’s just how do you enter the game.  And so we have to make sure our guys enter the game with fresh legs, whatever we can do.

Like we can’t do too much on the court today, and get them off their feet and there won’t be much practice time, as much walk‑through time today.

Q.  Ryan, the rest of your teammates kind of spoke of their role.  What do you see your role being in tomorrow’s game?

RYAN KELLY:  I think it’s going to be huge for me to help handle that pressure.  I intend to be the guy that takes the ball out of bounds, and that’s an important position to be in for ball reversal and to help bring the ball up the court.

I think both Mason and I did a pretty good job last time we played them, and throughout the season, handling that type of pressure.  But that will be a big part of the game, having poise from that position.

And then rebounding the basketball is going to be huge.  Their four‑man, all their four men, they throw multiple guys at you who really attack the boards and are athletic guys.  So those will be two huge parts of the game.

Q.  Coach K, I was wondering in what ways has Rasheed improved from that November matchup to now?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Well, he’s had a great freshman year.  Playing games like that in Atlantis helped him become better.  When you’re playing Minnesota, VCU, and Louisville three consecutive days.  He’s a veteran player now.  And in the last two games, has really played a complete game, both offensively and defensively.  His defensive rebounding the last two games has been a huge factor for us advancing.

He’s our best driver.  So last night he was able to take the ball to the basket.  And he gives us another ball handler, really good ball handler.  So when you’re trying break the press, we feel we have five ball handlers, because all five of these guys can handle the ball.

But Rasheed is an attacker when he has the ball and he can finish, whether it be with a score or with a foul.  So he’s become an outstanding player.

Q.  For Ryan or Mason, can you describe how it’s different, kind of the role you play against the pressure against VCU against the pressure that Louisville has defensively?

MASON PLUMLEE:  I think VCU is quicker to run guys to the ball.  Louisville brings it to you more.  When you take it to them, they’re going to be aggressive and try to get their hands on the ball.  So you just have to be smart.  I think you have to be aware of what area of the court you’re in.  You don’t want to be thrown into corners, crossing half court in the corners.

You really have to think before you get the ball, where you want to get it.

RYAN KELLY:  I think another thing, you have to be very strong with the ball, have great hands, love reaching for the ball, getting steals.  And at any point some guy can come running at you.  That’s part of the game.

Like I said, I think we’ve done a pretty good job, and we’ll certainly have to play at a high level and do that at a high level tomorrow.

Q.  For any of you guys, Ryan said last night that this team realized that after last year maybe you weren’t good enough defensively, maybe not tough enough.  How do you make that transformation to be better defensively, to be tougher?  And how important is that in a game against a team that wants to treat you that way?

MASON PLUMLEE:  I think the first thing is we’re getting better late in the season with our defense.  This is a new team.  Guys have gotten better individually defensively.  But we didn’t have Rasheed last year.  Quinn didn’t start for us last year.  So I just think our defense as a team has improved greatly, and a lot of that has to do with communicating, knowing where the help’s coming from, and then these guys do a good job of putting pressure on the ball.

SETH CURRY:  I think our mindset is better now than it has been middle of the season, beginning of the season.

Defensively, we’re tough coming into games.  We’ve been setting tones early in this tournament of getting off to good starts.  And that’s just what we have to do going forward.

Q.  Mike, would you go back to your comments on the ACC for a second?  Obviously, you and Carolina are the only ACC teams to make it this far in the tournament since ’04.  Curious, when you say about making the most of those assets, is that as a league or is that sort of getting some of these other teams in the league to keep up with these new teams that are coming in?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  I think how you use your assets, how we position them TV‑wise.  Does our conference develop its own TV network?  Where we play the tournament.  When do we play the tournament?  How do we position our regular season?  How do we make ‑‑ how do we have the teams that are playing play schedules that are worthy of being considered for NCAA consideration.

In other words, to take a real close look at our league with the new members and say:  Why are we different, why are we better, and how can we be the top league?

And if we don’t do that, then we’re negligent, to be quite frank with you.  We’d be negligent.  We’d miss out on a great opportunity.  These schools shouldn’t be coming in just because we want to do football.  Our league was founded on basketball, and that doesn’t mean football isn’t important.  It is important.  I like it.  I want it to be great.  But I want ACC basketball to be the best.  And we have a chance to do that again.

Q.  Mike, I’m curious what your thoughts are on the transfer rules as they’re currently constituted and then the proposal that would allow players to move on without sitting out if they get a 2.6 GPA.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  I’m not a big proponent of that one.  If there was a players’ union, these kids would go at any time, anywhere.  Just like coaches.  And they’d get benefits.  You couldn’t use their images.  I mean, it’s a complex issue.  So I don’t have a stand right now.

I think it has to be equal, and right now it’s not equal.  We have a kid sitting out who transferred for all the right reasons.  They lost their college coach.  And he’s not eligible to play.  You have a lot of free agents right now.  The fifth‑year guys are free agents.  That doesn’t mean they’re bad kids, but they’re free agents.

And then there’s not a set rule where every transfer has to do the same thing.  And so whatever we decide, every transfer should be treated the same.  Not because they’re going home or because of sickness or because their father was fired or anything like that.  It should be you’re a transfer, this is what’s allowed to do.

And we as a ‑‑ who do you think talks about those things?  Who’s in charge?  Well, who, though?  No, President Emmert is in charge of the entire NCAA.  He’s got a huge job.  There should be somebody in charge of college basketball who does this on a day‑to‑day basis and understands everything about it.

And, again, I’m beating ‑‑ just so you know, when they put the dirt on me, inside, underneath the dirt, I’m still going to be yelling for somebody to run college basketball.  And for reasons like this.  It’s a complex issue.  But it’s one that needs really to be studied and be treated in a very equitable manner for all kids, and we should take a look at everything that we’re doing for kids and try to make it as good as possible.

I mean, these guys give a lot.  Not just these guys, the Louisville guys.  They give a lot, and they’re taken advantage of.  They really ‑‑ they are.

THE MODERATOR:  We’re going to let the student‑athletes go to the meeting rooms.

Q.  Mike, going back to ’92 for a second, as a basketball guy, have you always been able to appreciate just how important that moment was to this sport?  Also, when you and Rick have gotten together, have you ever just sat down and talked about that game, your thoughts, your emotions?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Well, I have thought about how important it is.  It’s one of those moments in time that helped define our sport.  When I’ve talked to Rick about it, we realize we were the lucky guys.  We had different roles at that time, but we were both lucky to be there.

And, to me, even though his team lost in a very heartbreaking fashion, the most heartbreaking fashion there could be, it really ‑‑ that group that had gotten them there was elevated even more.

Like they had started in dirt, you know, and all of a sudden they were in the highest moment and they were knocked back.  And Kentucky honored them forever, forever.

Just some amazing things have happened as a result of that game.  Again, I feel privileged to have been a part of it.

And he and I have ‑‑ it’s like one of those things where you have this ‑‑ you shared something that no one else could share.  So we’ll always be real close as a result of that.

I really like that about our relationship, that we both realize that.

Q.  Coach, since the topic of transfers came up, what does it mean for Rodney to be here with the team even though he had to travel on his own.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  It’s great.  That’s one of the things about the transfer rule, that you’re not allowed to travel with the team.  Even though it wouldn’t cost you anything more.  And he practices every day with the guys.  He’s part of the scout team and whatever.

It’s cruel.  It’s cruel.  That aspect of it, no matter what they do, as far as keeping everything else equitable ‑‑ if you’re one of the scholarship players, you should be allowed to travel, suit up.  You should be on the bench.  You’re part of the team.

The other thing that happens over the year, when we have traveled, he wasn’t able to travel with us during the year, so when we leave, where does he go?  Who’s responsible for him?  I am, supposedly, but I’m at Virginia or Maryland.  He’s back in Durham.

Something happened to him or whatever, people would say, Well, what were you doing?  I’ll say, Well, I was following a rule.  No, you’re responsible for him.

It’s not right.  I mean, that aspect of it is ‑‑ even if we don’t change a whole bunch of things, that aspect of it should change.  No question.

Q.  Mike, what is it about Rick ‑‑ you’ve talked about the ’92 game.  What is it about Rick as a coach that made you respect?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  I really respect everything about him as a coach.  One, he’s brilliant.  He’s got charisma.  His players play hard all the time, and he’s evolved.  He keeps evolving his system.  He’s not the same guy that he was, and two years from now, he’ll be a little bit different.  He’s always looking to get better.

Rick and passion go hand in hand.  He’s just a passionate teacher and he’s passionate on the sidelines.  I really admire what he does.

Q.  Mike, Quinn did not play particularly well yesterday.  As a coaching staff, is there anything you guys can do to kind of help him turn it around when he has less than 48 hours to do so?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Players don’t play well sometimes.  He didn’t have a good game last night, but Tyler had a great game.  So that’s having each other’s back.

A really important thing for any competitor is to be able to forget.  Not just forget when you play bad, but forget when you played well.  In other words, get on to the next thing.

He’s played really well this season, and I would expect him to play really well tomorrow afternoon.

Q.  Personnel changes from year to year, but ‑‑


Q.  Well, with any coach.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Some more than others, believe me.

Q.  Are there fundamental differences in your philosophy than Rick’s?  Anything that you would point at that he does a little bit differently than you do?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  I don’t study it that way.  That’s for you all to figure out.  I don’t look at it like what am I doing different than Rick.  I’m just trying to ‑‑ my philosophy is always to adjust to the personnel that I have.  I’m not a system coach.  We play a different way every year based on the people that we have, even if it’s the same people, because they change.

And the things that stay the same is we usually play man to man, but we do it in different ways.  And how we run our offense, we change our offense every year to get our best players shots.

To me, that’s what I’ve tried to do my entire career.  I do what that with the Olympic team.  Each of those teams was different.  China, Beijing, Istanbul, and London, they’re different.  They’re different.

Q.  Mike, in the moment in ’92, do you realize the significance of the moment, or how long does it take to hit you?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  No, I don’t think you can realize the significance at that time.  Although you saw the ‑‑ to me, I will always remember the stark ‑‑ the difference in emotion, the result of the game.  Because really right in front of me Richie Farmer collapsed.  And I see our guys jump and I see him fall.  And really I was more taken by Richie.  And I understood by looking at him ‑‑ I could never understand completely, because it didn’t happen to me, but just how tough that was.

And so the fact that it was that tough and that happy, you knew you’re in this crazy ‑‑ it was kind of crazy.  And then it became bigger because we also won the national championship that year.  So it led to the top prize.  We would not have won two in a row.

I mean, it could stand on its own, but adding that made it that much better.

Q.  For as good as your teams have been and for as good as Rick’s team has been, this is only the third time you’ve played each other and the first time in the tournament since ’92.  Is that surprising to you and have you guys tried to schedule ‑‑

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  That’s why we got them in the conference.  Got to start doing this a little bit more.  Those things don’t surprise me as much, because there’s only so many non‑conference games you play.  I guess when you say it, you say, wow, that should have happened more.  But you don’t sit around thinking why you haven’t played Louisville.  I can’t remember ‑‑ well, we played UCLA.  Like the top programs.

I do think it’s cool, the thing that we do at the start of the season with the four teams, Kansas, us, Kentucky and Michigan State, so, you know, they probably should expand that if you’re looking to ‑‑ if you’re looking to see what would promote basketball even more.

Q.  Mike, should your team win tomorrow, you will match Coach Wooden for numbers of Final Fours.  For those of us of a certain age who grew up thinking nobody would ever come close to a lot of what Coach Wooden’s done, what would that mean to you?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  I don’t really think of history while I’m coaching.  If you do, I think you’re looking in the rearview mirror, and I got to be in the moment of my guys.  So for Quinn and Rasheed, Seth because he wasn’t a player, he was a transfer on the team in ’10, it’s important just to be in their moment.

So I don’t want to count championships or games or Final Fours or anything like that, Elite Eights.  That would be a mistake, and I’m not going to do that.

Q.  Mike, I know by seeding you’re the underdog in this game, maybe by other means, I don’t know.  It’s for the first time in a long time you guys have been in that situation.  Anything helpful or liberating about that?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Liberating?  No.  No, we know going into every game that we’re a target, and we’ll be a target tomorrow.  And Louisville has been.  So you’ve got two programs that are accustomed to people playing their best against you all the time.  Now we’ve got a chance to play our best against one another.

So it’s ‑‑ for an Elite Eight game ‑‑ Elite Eight games are huge anyway.  But this one, I think it’s like a national championship game.

Both teams have had great years, and the two years ‑‑ the two seasons of the two teams could match anybody’s in the country.  And to have ‑‑ just to have it work out that we’re playing right now against one another, I think it’s great for college basketball.

I hope we both live up to the game.

Q.  You were talking about the quick turnaround.  In ’86, when you were in the Final Four, you talked at that time about you weren’t experienced enough to help your team make that recovery after a tough game with Kansas.  Can you talk about what you’ve learned and how you are better suited now to handle this?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Yeah, that’s a good question.  Again, you don’t know if it will work, but we’ve just been in a lot of these situations.  And what I’ve been doing for the last seven years with the National Team helps you too.  Quick turnarounds and learning from different people what they do, the players like at that level, what they do.  The mistakes and the good things that you’ve done over the years, and you come up with a plan.

So you never know if the plan is the right thing, but it will be better than the one we had in ’86.

THE MODERATOR:  Coach K, thank you.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Thank you very much.

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Elite Cards Advance Past Ducks 77-69

The Cards may have had an entire locker room full of players with the cold, but it wasn’t enough for the Ducks to stop the University of Louisville’s Men’s basketball run.  Peyton Siva also played just 5 minutes in the first half after picking up his second foul early in the first and the Cards still handled the Ducks going into halftime with a 45-31 lead.  Louisville went on several runs during the game and endured a slow Oregon crawl back into the game late in the second half.  The Cards were able to close the door and advance to the Elite 8 with a 77-69 victory.

Stay tuned to this page as I bring you post-game video, transcripts and a full preview of the Duke/Michigan State match-up for a chance to go to the Final Four.

Pitino Post-Game Transcript

THE MODERATOR:  University of Louisville has joined us in the press conference area.  And we’ll take an opening statement from Coach Pitino, and then we’ll go to the student‑athletes.


COACH PITINO:  I sort of had to prod our guys the entire night.  Unfortunately, Russ has infected our entire team with a ridiculous cold, and all our guys are really sick.  And it took a lot out of us because Oregon’s so good.  When Peyton got in foul trouble, Russ had to play way too many minutes, and everybody’s coughing and hacking at every timeout.

We just had to get our guys through it, and hopefully we’ll get better.  The only problem is on every timeout Russ is hacking in our faces.  Every 30 seconds, just like this.  So keep your distance and you’ll all have pneumonia by the morning, like Gorgui and me.

THE MODERATOR:  Questions for the student‑athletes, please.

Q.  For Russ, first of all, do you have a rebuttal to that?  Second of all, did you see anything on the tapes that made you think you can drive past their big men in terms of your speed?

RUSS SMITH:  What Coach said is right on cue.  I’m terribly sick.  I just kept coughing.  But we go through scouting a lot, and I talk to Coach a lot about where can I find any gaps or where can I look good on the court, what could I do to help the team win.

And Coach always gives me the answers, and I just try to go out there and just find any gaps and any spaces I can to create shots for myself and my teammates.

Q.  Russ, is there ever a time you don’t think you can get to the rim?

RUSS SMITH:  I don’t know, honestly.  When I’m on the court, I just see little spaces and I try to get to that spot before another defender does.  And if I can beat them to the spot before they slide, that’s how I create some contact.

And I always try and create contact, because I feel like if I get to the free throw line, that’s the highest percentage shot that I can have, and that’s particularly my main goal.

Q.  Russ, can you talk about Kevin Ware and the lift he gave you, especially in the first half when Peyton was in foul trouble?

RUSS SMITH:  I mean, Kevin plays so hard and he just wants to do good, contribute, and he was very focused before the game.  I spoke with him, and he was just telling me how well he’s going to do.

I mean, he was so overconfident today, and I’m so happy for him.  His lift was just big, and for Peyton to go out and Kevin Ware to step up like that, that just goes to show you how deep we are.

Q.  Russ, can you just define how terribly sick you ‑‑ define “terribly sick” and how did you manage to play through it?

RUSS SMITH:  Well, I wouldn’t say I’m terribly sick, because there’s like people more terribly sick than me.  But I was pretty sick where it affected my conditioning to a point.

But Coach been telling me to fight through it, fight through it, dig in.  My teammates as well.  I mean, I’m not the only one.  There’s been a few.  Peyton’s got a cold, Chane’s got a cold, and we’re fighting through it and just do whatever we can to get a win.

Q.  Russ, during the National Anthem you’re standing with your hands on your hips and you’re staring at Oregon instead of the flag.  What was going through your mind at that point?  Were you trying to make a statement?

RUSS SMITH:  Oh, man, honestly, I was daydreaming.  Then I just turned around and said, oh, then I looked at the flag.

But normally, when we do the Pledge of Allegiance or the American Anthem, I like ‑‑ we face the team.  So I just got caught up in something I shouldn’t have been caught up in.  I was daydreaming.  I apologize.

Q.  For Russ, the three games that you’ve had in this tournament, scoring‑wise, how can you describe ‑‑ how does it feel when you’re on the court right now?  How do you describe what you’ve been able to do defensively in the three games in the tournament?

RUSS SMITH:  Well, to be honest, we have great bigs and great forwards who are able to get the rebound and outlet it quick to me.  So when I’m able to get in transition, I think that’s when I’m at my best.

But, overall, it’s really a team effort.  They’re like finding me in transition, coming off screens and throwing me like on point passes where I can create.

So a lot of times it’s not the actual scorer, it’s the person setting the guy up for it.  And I’m getting great outlet passes, great curl passes, great passes fading off screens.  I think we’re just doing a tremendous job just trying to win it, doing whatever you can to win.

Q.  Gorgui, this one’s for you.  Just the last two weeks, you guys have played against good rebounding teams, Colorado State and today Arsalan Kazemi had a couple of very big rebounding performances.  Was that kind of a point of emphasis to keep the guys off the boards and concentrate in on that?

GORGUI DIENG:  Yeah, coming to this game, we knew rebounding would a big factor in this game.  We just try to keep them off the glass and try to dominate the glass.

But I think we did a good job as a team rebounding, everybody getting to the glass and rebounding the ball.

Q.  For Gorgui, can you talk a little bit about what Russ said about the outlet pass?  And are you always looking up first as soon as you get the ball to see if he or Siva are taking off down court?

GORGUI DIENG:  Oh, Russ, like he’s a great basketball player, so anytime we struggle, anytime we grab the ball, he’s the first one I’m looking on the floor.  Sometimes, like when I’m on the floor talking, I’m always like, Give him the ball, because once he got the ball in his hand, he’s going to score, get a foul or both.

So he’s doing a great job in this basketball team, and I think we really need him, so we throw him a good pass.  And he’s just a good basketball player.  We just need to give him credit.

THE MODERATOR:  Fellas, thank you.  See you tomorrow.

For Coach Pitino right here.

Q.  Peyton was telling us that you’ve called Russ a poor man’s Allen Iverson.  I was curious what prompted you to say that, why you make that comparison.

COACH PITINO:  You know, sometimes I don’t ‑‑ I spent eight years in the pros, and I don’t read a whole lot what goes on.  I look at Chad Ford’s list, and I don’t see Russ Smith, I don’t see him on the All‑America teams.  Truly, I’ve been coaching a long time, I’m baffled, just baffled, because it wasn’t like he’s no Johnny‑come‑lately.  He carried us on his back to a Final Four last year.

And Allen Iverson was so good at the pro level because it’s tough in the pros because you really have a 16‑second shot clock, and now Allen always had the ball with five seconds to go and he had to create.

And that’s what Russ does.  Russ is in some difficult situation ‑‑ we didn’t have it tonight.  We really were ‑‑ and it’s a tribute to Oregon.  Oregon’s a great basketball team, one of the best we have played.  They’re about as well coached as any coach I’ve seen.  They’re really, really a well‑drilled, coached team.

And we were short of gas tonight without Russ Smith.  We couldn’t win.  We shot 61 percent in the first half.  Our defense was porous at best, and that’s carried us.

So Russ, I mean, as the next pro guy, I look at him and say colleges today is much more physical than the pros.  When you watch the pros today, they go right away, hand check or anything like that.  And Russ is able to get to the foul line, get a shot off, make the play, turn around and guard.  I’d have him in the top twelve in the draft because of the way his game transcends to the next level.

I’m very happy that everybody’s missing the boat because I’ll have him for another year.  But I really, I really can’t believe what I’m reading sometimes of this kid, because he’s ‑‑ to me, I thought he was a runaway Player of the Year.  Runaway.  And that’s no knock on the other guys, because they’re great too.

Q.  Coach, everybody’s talking about Russ Smith.  But that was a career high for Kevin Ware.  And Coach Altman talked about how his shot in the second half ended a run that they were having.  So could you talk a little bit about Kevin Ware?

COACH PITINO:  He was terrific tonight.  We played him at point guard.  Peyton didn’t have it tonight.  He’s been sick.  I try to tell our guys.  Guys, we don’t have it tonight, it’s obvious.  We’re winning with offense, and that’s great, but we’ve got to start digging in and getting stops.

We did at the end.  We had a good run and they immediately came back and made big plays.  But Kevin gave us a big lift.  Every time we needed a bucket, he got it for us.  Gorgui did a great job.

We’ve been a great defensive team ‑‑ not a good one, a great one ‑‑ all season.  Tonight their quickness was so good, all it did was wear us out defensively.  But we had Russ Smith and Kevin really bailed us out of some good situations that could have gone either way.  We never let them come back, because we kept attacking offense.

The first time ‑‑ our offense has really grown in the last few weeks.  We’re shooting an amazing percentage, which we didn’t do all season.  That’s why we’re in the Elite Eight.

Q.  Rick, can you just kind of expound on Kevin at the point?  How valuable is it to have that maybe in December?  Would you have even thought to have him at point guard in a situation like that?

COACH PITINO:  Well, I think he’s learned how to run.  He was one of the poorest I’ve coached at running a pick and roll.  He always went too wide.  He never ran his men into the screen.  He always looked to pull up a mid‑range jump shot rather than take the guy to the rim.  When we moved him to point, he got much more work at probing the lane and attacking the rim.  And you see how long he is.

And he’s gotten so much better at the pick and roll.  Where he’s got to improve is defending the point guard.  He gets on the side of the man too much.  Tonight he did that.  But he gave us a tremendous lift because Peyton was in foul trouble, wasn’t playing too well, and gave us a big lift.

THE MODERATOR:  That’s it.  Thanks, Rick.  See you tomorrow.

COACH PITINO:  Thank you.

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