Kansas Postgame Quotes vs. UNLV

March 22, 2008

Recap | Box Score | Notes |

THE MODERATOR: The victorious Jayhawks are with us. We’re going to have coach Bill Self open up a statement on this game and then we’ll go to questions for Russell and Sherron, the two student athletes.<?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

COACH Bill Self: I think from a coach’s perspective, I thought it was a great game for us, because we didn’t exactly execute the game plan. We didn’t get the ball inside with as many touches early and those sorts of things.

But the way we got it was put in the guards hands and driving the ball, which turned out to be the biggest difference in the game.

And we really defended. Our first-shot defense was really great when we didn’t foul them, which was every other possession. But I thought it was a good, solid, grind-it-out win.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.

Q. Russell, a lot’s been made about the fact you don’t have to be a scorer to be a factor, but how did it feel to be a scorer tonight?

Russell Robinson: We wanted to relieve some of the pressure, like Coach said, and that was mainly driving the basketball and I was able to get to the rim and get some easy layups.

Q. Russell, this is obviously the kind of game that you guys are going to have to face in the tournament, these grind-it-out, people slowing it down. How do you think you guys have handled that sort of team right now?

Russell Robinson: I think we did a good job turning things around when things weren’t going good for us. They did a good job pressuring, give them credit. We got the job done. But main thing you gotta win games and come together as a team and be able to execute late.

Q. When you’re No. 1 seed, is the Sweet 16 — do you assume that’s a formality going in or is it something worth to you getting to that point and then going on, even though you have bigger goals?

Russell Robinson: Well, we don’t take anything for granted and we come in prepared for each game like it’s our last. We just gotta go out and work hard as a team and make sure we don’t take anything for granted.

Q. To both you guys, in that decisive spurt, was something said at some point that you guys decided to drive the ball more on them or was that something you guys just did naturally?

Sherron Collins: It’s something we did naturally. It was something, talked before the game, when we was at the hotel, Coach said we wanted to drive their pressure, play inside in the bigs. Key thing. They pressured out so far it just opened up lanes for us to drive. The guards had to get in a lane and make something happen, whether it was getting a shot for ourselves or getting our big men an easy basket.

Russell Robinson: Like Sherron said, it came natural. We took it — it was open, and an easy layup was open for us. They did pressure us out, but I was able to drive the ball, played to our advantage.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen. Congratulations.

We’ll stay here with Coach Self. Start right here, again.

Q. Can you talk about Russell’s game tonight and he’s done more offensively than he’s done recently?

COACH Bill Self: There’s a lot of games where it doesn’t appear he does much offensively because you look at points. But I think he does a lot offensively. It’s just important to make the pass to initiate the play as it is to make the pass to finish the play. He’s the best initiator we have.

But he was good tonight. Defensively, as a group, we were pretty good, and our first shot defense was very good except for fouls. And offensively, you know, we haven’t played small. If you followed us we haven’t played small that often all year long. We went for round one and really open, spread the floor, and that’s kind of placed Sherron and Russell’s game as far as getting in there and making plays when you can’t really help off Mario or Brandon very much.

Q. Why were you guys so successful on defense tonight? You held them to 26 percent?

COACH Bill Self: Well, that’s a little misleading. We weren’t that good. They missed some looks that they probably normally make. And, you know, fouling is obviously part of defense. We did a very poor job with that.

And the game was called pretty close on both ends because there were a lot of fouls called and a lot of free throws. But I think we were fortunate they missed some looks when they got pretty good ones.

And I really felt like, when we — we tried to pressure them and the second half, when we got the quick fouls, we backed off our pressure and played more contained defense. And I thought it probably worked out better for us.

Q. Last night both Clemson lost and Vanderbilt lost and <?xml:namespace prefix=”st1″ ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags”?>Siena won and Villanova won. Does it register with you and does it have any meaning for you in the next round?

COACH Bill Self: Not really. I think the tournament is so much about matchups as much as anything else. And I hadn’t even thought about it. I don’t think I even brought it up with the team or anything. I may have said something to the coaches saying: Hey, did you watch the Villanova game? But I hadn’t brought it up with anybody. And we’ll start talking about that tonight on the way home.

But it really doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. Whoever we play, we know they’ll be a worthy opponent. I didn’t get a chance to see the Siena game, but the score was unbelievable because I think Vanderbilt is very good. And I did see the second half of the Clemson-Villanova game, and I thought Villanova just played superb ball the second half.

So whoever we play it will be tough. It always is tough when you get to the round of 16.

Q. Wink Adams went to the free throw line 17 times. He was really only — their only effective offensive player. Did you go in with a defensive plan to focus on him and shut him down?

COACH Bill Self: If we did, it didn’t work very well, because he got 25.

We thought — we really thought the key to their team, even though, you know, Darger is a great shooter and Rougeau is a great matchup and all those things, we thought that Terry and Adams were the key to controlling them. And I didn’t think we did a real good job early. I think they combined for 17 of their 29 or whatever the first half.

And the second half, it looked to me like they went to Wink most every possession. And I don’t know what they told him, but I’m sure it was drive it, drive it, drive it, because we’ll foul. And that’s exactly what we did.

So it was probably pretty good strategy on their part. But he’s a very good player. He’s great initiating and drawing contact and he’s so strong, you know, for a guy that size, he’s very powerful, too.

Q. I’ll ask you what I asked Russell talking about these tournament games, seems like this is what everybody is going to try to do to you guys and slow the tempo down and make this sort of a mucked up game. How do you feel this team is handling that?

COACH Bill Self: Well, you know we played some mucked up games, I think that’s what you said (smiling), other games this year, but we knew this one would be one going in. After watching Vegas guard KentState the other night, how could it not be anything but that. They came after us. Their pressure bothered us.

What we want to do is move the ball to get the ball inside, but their pressure was good enough that we didn’t really take advantage of our size inside like I thought we could. In large part because we kind of played out some foul issues and we fumbled some balls. But if you pressure hard enough, the perimeter guys will forget about throwing inside because they’re just trying to survive. And they did a real good job with that.

But these are — as a coach I like these kind of games, because you feel like that you have more control because the possessions are longer, whereas sometimes when it gets like this with us, it’s just guys out there playing and you’ve got to be able to trust your guys.

But the best we executed the entire game was when we really played slow and really utilized the clock and we set so many ball screens. They do, too, but we set so many ball screens after the third or fourth on some possessions we finally got a crease and was able to get guys in there.

Q. How well does this team buy into the matchups and ignore the seeds?

COACH Bill Self: I think our team is pretty focused. Of course, we knew we were going to play an 8 or 9 this time. So obviously we’re going to play a 12 or 13 seed. But what was George Mason when they went to the Final Four, weren’t they 11 or whatever? We had a Tulsa team that was a 7 seed, could have gone to the Final Four, were beat by an 8 or 9 seed to win.

So it’s — I don’t think it’s about the seeds. I think it’s about your opponent. And sometimes when you play a team like Siena, and I haven’t studied Siena but I bet you they’re very, very quick and play small and their 4 man can shoot. And I haven’t studied them at all. But those are hard teams to play.

I know Villanova a little bit more because we see them on ESPN all the time. Their guards are as good as anyone. I don’t think our guys will be hung up on the seed. It will be hung up on who we’re playing.

Q. You mentioned the tournament’s all about matchups, with the roster you’ve put together that is balanced and flexible, does that give you confidence going into any kind of matchup?

COACH Bill Self: Yeah, it does. We don’t have the standing height with our starters that a lot of people have with our big guys. They’re six-eight, which is good, but there’s big guys out there bigger.

But we do have a nice blend of power, inside scoring. Guys can run. Quickness on the perimeter, that can break you down. We’ve got some guys that can shoot off the catch. We’ve got a nice blend.

The one thing that I would say is a positive for me that we haven’t done much, we haven’t played small much at all this year. We have more depth in size, so we’ve always tried to play two bigs. And certainly today we did not do that because we couldn’t match up with them.

And it was encouraging to me to see us play a different way and still have success playing that way.

Q. You’ve been to this second, advanced to the second week in the tournament a bunch of times in your career and have fallen just short of the third. Is there something about this team, though, that gives you even more confidence than maybe you’ve had in some of your past seasons?

COACH Bill Self: I don’t know about that. But I’ve had confidence every time we’ve gotten there. And we’ve gotten to this — let’s see, I think we’ve gotten here six times or something in the last nine years, something like that.

So I’ve had confidence every year. You know, there’s no major upsets. I guess there could be a mild upset once you get to the round of 16. But nothing major. All the teams can play. I’m certainly confident with our guys and I’m getting where I trust our guys more and more.

One of my ex-managers told me, sent me a message saying make sure you trust your player, which is a pretty good message at this time of year.

I’m getting where I trust them more and more. But the thing about it is I don’t know if it’s better than other years. But I do think we have a really good team. And I won’t say it’s the best team we’ve had, because I’m going to wait and see how it plays out. But it has the talent to be as good as any team we’ve had or better.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

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