Moderator: We’ll go ahead and get started with an opening statement from Coach and then take questions for the student-athletes.
Pitino: Well, we’re very excited to move on. The first round is very difficult. We knew it would be a fight. These two young men down the stretch made big plays for us, and we have been calling it Madness for years, but out of my 20 NCAAs, I think this is the craziest I’ve ever seen it opening up early. There’s a lot of reasons for it. Give you just some examples, I thought Jim Calhoun on television today made an excellent analogy. He said, you know, if you limit Tom Brady, the quarterback of the Patriots, to a few throws per game and keep his numbers way down, then the possessions don’t go…don’t favor the Patriots.
That’s what’s happening in college basketball. The possessions are down, so when you get running teams like Notre Dame scores 69 and Carolina, 67, you’re in dogfights. So that’s what’s happening on teams that are able like Kansas and Arizona and Kentucky to get out there, well, they’re probably a lot better than their opponent and their possessions are greater, and then you see some blowouts. So it’s very exciting to see, but these two guys had to make big, tremendous plays. You know, Quentin had to get a big rebound down the stretch, he got fouled and stepped to the line as a freshman and makes two big free throws. Wayne played great the whole night. So when the two stars of your team — the reason they didn’t play well, our two stars, were because of UC Irvine. You got to give them all the credit in the world. But these two guys stepped up, and that’s why we got the victory.
Question: Quentin, yesterday Coach mentioned that you had to step into a larger role than maybe you anticipated at the beginning of the season. And it seems like today a lot of the offense when you were on the floor at least started through you, whether it was driving and kicking or kicking some of those Tony Parker-type floaters in the lane. So I was wondering if you felt that extra pressure and how you kind of stepped into it.
Quentin Snider: Pretty much I just tried to have confidence in myself. Come through the game, coming into the game, just have confidence. It is my first NCAA Tournament, you know, just try to be confident.
Question: Wayne or Quentin, how much does having a 7’6″ guy in the middle of the defense actually alter what you do? It seemed like it really had a significant impact today.
Wayne Blackshear: It was a little tricky, but we know that, yeah, he’s the tallest player in college basketball. But our thing was just to get reversals and just try to attack. We know that his reaction was kind of slow, so Terry drove one time, and obviously I drove to the basket a couple times. But we just had to attack those guys in close outs, and that’s what we did.
Question: Wayne, you probably have been criticized and scrutinized more than any player on that roster. How does it feel to have a big game in a moment like this and everything you were able to do today for this team?
Wayne Blackshear: I don’t pay attention to anything like that. As long as my teammates and the coaching staff believe in me, I don’t care what other people say. So, I take it as it is and I just let my game do the talking.
Pitino: I want to interject something on that question. It’s very easy to criticize, it’s very easy. It takes no talent at all to criticize. But the coaching staff, every coach that’s coached Wayne Blackshear, thinks he’s the greatest kid in the world, thinks he’s one of the hardest workers. So we have never one time criticized him. We all think we have been tremendously blessed by his presence at the University of Louisville. So it takes no talent to be a critic.
Question: For Coach Pitino, you looked a little bit in the postgame interview as though you got a call from the governor and a reprieve. You were pretty elated there. This was sort of addressed to Wayne; I’d like to ask you the same question. How much of it is physical and how much of it is psychological or mental when your guys have to go up against a guy 7’6″?
Pitino: Well, why don’t you answer that. I didn’t have to do it. He looked eight feet to me.
Wayne Blackshear: It was tough. It was a little tricky, like you said, because I was getting a couple midrange jumpers, and I noticed after I shot that I could have got to the rim. And then I did it at the end. So it was a little tricky, so you just have to pick and choose on which one to attack on.
Pitino: I will say this: On film sometimes he doesn’t look as good, but one of the coaches in their league who I was talking to said pay no attention to what you see on film because when you see him in person, he protects the rim as well as anybody. So don’t watch film and say you can beat him laterally. It was — that coach was 100 percent correct.
Question: Quentin, you’re going to the line with the game tied and still in the balance because they get the ball back no matter what happens. Just take us through that and what goes through your mind. That’s a big situation for anybody no matter what class. You’re a freshman. What were your thoughts on what you were doing there?
Quentin Snider: Well, going to the line I wasn’t really — I didn’t really think about it. I just got up to the line and just shot it. I just knew my team needed these points, so I just knocked them down.
Wayne Blackshear: We all believed that he could knock them down, too. We had all the confidence in him, too.
Quentin Snider: Thank you, Wayne. (Laughter.)
Question: Quentin, you’ve not been afraid. Coach has talked about your willingness to take big shots. It just doesn’t bother you. Where does that come from and what’s made you just kind of not worry about taking the big shots no matter what the situation?
Quentin Snider: I think Coach P believed in me. That’s the thing. All the players and the coaching staff believe in me, so I just had to step up and take big shots.
Question: Rick, especially in the second half, it seemed like Montrezl didn’t quite get as many attempts as he normally does. Was that just a function of UC Irvine’s interior defense, or how can you get him more involved?
Pitino: Well, it was a possession game. They’re playing zone, and Montrezl, to be honest with you, was not moving enough. He was standing still too much. They played a box and one on Terry, which was a great move. Then these two guys had to do something about it. But Montrezl obviously has to move more because, like I told those guys after the game, the other coach on the blackboards, they say we have no chance of winning if we don’t keep Terry Rozier from scoring and we don’t keep Montrezl Harrell off the backboard. So you got to give all the credit. They were well prepared, well schooled to take away our strengths.
Fortunately for us, these two guys stepped up and we made big plays defensively down the stretch. Like besides Quentin and this guy, if you pick up a stat sheet, you’re going to say right now, well, these two guys played great, but who won the game for us? At the defensive end was Mangok Mathiang. He made all the big plays down the stretch that we needed to make. And that will never show up. You’ll never write it. You will now, but I mean if I didn’t say it you, Kenny Klein wouldn’t have written that. You know, we have coached this young man, one of my children coached him at seven, another child coached him at eight, another child coached him at nine, I’ve had him since he was eight years old at camp? How old were you first time?
Quentin Snider: Seven.
Pitino: Seven years old at camp and he won the MVP every single time at camp. All my children coached him. Every time he does something well, I get texts from them that say: It was my coaching at that time that did it. But he really doesn’t have any fear. He was thrown into a very difficult situation. But he makes our guys better, he gets into the lane and he doesn’t have any fear at all. And he’s getting better at the defensive end and doing some good, real good things. I’m very proud of him. It’s been a long relationship with him.