Kansas Postgame Quotes vs. Davidson

March 30, 2008

Recap | Box Score | Notes |

THE MODERATOR: We’d like to have Coach Self start off things with a brief comment. <?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

COACH SELF: Well, I apologize for my attire, but our team thought we just won a football bowl game in the locker room. They got me pretty good with the water jug.

But needless to say, I’m proud, happy, relieved. There’s a lot of adjectives to describe it. I’m most happy for our players that have played so hard, won so many games. Really feel like without a win today, you know, their careers would be incomplete.

Now we have a chance to go play for the highest of stakes.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. <?xml:namespace prefix=”st1″ ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags”?>Brandon, you probably have taken the ball up court many times in your career with the crowd behind you looking to score to win. How did it feel today to be the defensive player in that situation at the end of the game?

Brandon Rush: I felt good. I felt confident out there. We had a great team out there. We were switching ball screens. So that was easy for us to defend. Managed to take a tough shot. That’s what we did, got a win. It feels good.

Q. Talk about being one of the first groups to be all No. 1 seeds in the Final Four, what does that mean to you guys?

Mario Chalmers: That means a lot to us. It makes us part of history. We wanted to come in here and be part of history and be part of our first Final Four, and we was able to do that tonight.

Q. Brandon, you fell on that last defensive possession. Did you trip over a foot, slip? What were you thinking when you went down?

Brandon Rush: I was thinking, we was already switching, so it was easy for me to get back up and recover. I did slip on somebody’s foot, but I managed to get back up. Get back into the play, switch back on Curry, make Richards take a tough shot.

Q. Brandon, you have spoken very openly about wanting to do this for Coach Self. Can you talk about the significance of coming through for him.

Brandon Rush: It feels good. Just for him. He’s been stuck in the Elite 8 for the last few years. This feels good just to make that push into the Final Four for him.

Q. Sasha, pretty dominant performance. Did you feel you could take advantage of your height advantage going into this game?

Sasha Kaun: I mean, Coach Self was kind of emphasizing before the game, we’re bigger than them, we need to get the ball inside, take advantage of the size. I thought the guards did a pretty good job of getting us the ball and using that height advantage to our game.

Q. How tough a game was that to play? It was obviously five-point differential the whole time. Was this one of the more tense games you have had this year?

Mario Chalmers: It was a very tough game out there. We had to focus in, guard two players. Two players had a great night tonight in Curry and Richards. Their bench did a good job, too.

It was a very tough game for us. I think it was one of our toughest games we had this year.

Q. Brandon, I know you said you got up quick when you fell down. When you saw him with the ball in that spot, did you think he had a pretty good chance to hit it?

Brandon Rush: No. ‘Cause Sherron was on him for a while. We managed to switch back. My man set a pick. We managed to switch back, tried to get a stop. We managed to get a stop at the right time.

Q. What did you think when the ball was in the air?

Mario Chalmers: That last shot, I kind of had a feeling in my heart that it wasn’t going in because the way he shot it. It looked like he was leaning to the left a little bit. His shot kind of faded to the left. When I turned back, I seen it hit the backboard, I was just relieved.

Sasha Kaun: For me, I was just watching from the bench. As soon as he shot it, probably the longest shot I’ve seen in my life, just being in the air for so long. Just relieved when I saw it hit the backboard. Just happy after that.

Q. Mario, watching them on tape, did your respect for Davidson grow throughout the game?

Mario Chalmers: Definitely. Watching them on tape, you don’t get to see everything they do. You don’t get to see as many times as they do it. They came out, executed their plays very good. Coach Manning did a very good job of going over the scouting report and preparing us for this game.

Q. What did you do on Steph to hold him to a poor shooting night?

Brandon Rush: We just made him take tough shots tonight. We forced him into some bad shots. He still managed to get his shots, 25. That’s his average.

I think we did a pretty good job on him tonight.

Mario Chalmers: I agree with Brandon. We just tried to keep somebody on him the whole time. Keep him frustrated. Keep somebody in his hip pocket. Brandon did a good job of that. Sherron did a good job of that. I did a good job of that, too.

Q. Whose idea was it to get Coach Self with the water and is that guy going to San Antonio?

Brandon Rush: He’s from San Antonio. It was Chase Buford.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, student-athletes. Now we’ll continue with questions for Coach Self.

Q. What was your strategy guarding him? Did you have a specific amount of time you were going to keep one defender on him before switching?

COACH SELF: No. Initially we were going to put Russell on him because we thought it could wear Brandon out if he guarded him too much. Put Russell on him and then when Russell went to the bench, switched and put Brandon on him. That was initially what we were going to do.

Then, you know, it really helped us during the stretch after he got off to the great start the second half, we went, we call it airplane, but a box and one, then we went triangle and two. When we went triangle and two, that’s when Barr lit us up for two straight.

We tried to guard him based on personnel in the game. The guys did a pretty good job on him. When you’re not scoring points like we weren’t because our offense wasn’t very good at all, it puts so much pressure on your defense. So when a guy makes a shot or makes two shots, you feel like you’re not guarding anybody. Well, that wasn’t the case at all. We made him work to get his points.

If you told me before the game he’d go for 9 for 25, I’d say our chances would be pretty good. But he’s a fabulous player. I think something else, our big guys for the most part did a really good job of — you know, Darnell didn’t switch out once, and Sasha didn’t switch out once, and they came away with six points on that. They did a really good job of showing, to take away that initial shot when he caught the ball in the perimeter, to let our perimeter defender recover.

Q. Security found an 800-pound gorilla with your name on it.

COACH SELF: I thought it was 1200 pounds. 800 may have been a little light.

Q. Did you have a second to think about the game in addition to the pressure that you’ve talked pretty frankly about, the three other No. 1’s advance before your game?

COACH SELF: I was really, really wanting Texas to win big time. You know, I like Rick. They’re in the same league. But there was one other reason: ’cause it’s never happened before. So when Texas (sic) won, I’m like, Good gosh, we got to make history today.

But, you know, you can believe in those things or not. But I don’t think that had anything to do with how we played today. I do think this: I don’t want to say we played poorly, because that takes away from Davidson. They muddied up the game for us very, very well. They did a good job defensively against us. We actually did a good job defensively against them. They’re good. But it was a hard game for our guys.

This game has a different feel to it than a lot of other games. I thought that we were loose. I thought everything was great. Warmups, everything was great. But I even talked to our guys in there afterwards, it just has a different feel because everybody knows the stakes are so high. Playing Davidson, you know, even though it’s not — even though they’re as good, but they don’t have the same “wow” factor with the name of their school, not being from a BCS conference or whatever, I think in some ways maybe put a little subtle pressure on you, as well.

Our guys didn’t handle it great, but we were tough enough to get the win, which is all that matters.

Q. Can you take me or us through the last 16.8 seconds, what’s going through your mind, specifically the shot that goes up?

COACH SELF: Well, Bob called timeout. We went small. So our whole deal was, you know, I just told them, We are not going to let them shoot a three. We’re going to make them be drivers. Do not let them shoot a three. From my standpoint, that’s the only way you could lose the game.

It surprised me that Steph brought the ball up. I figured they would run him off screens to try to get him to catch it. If you do that, there’s a chance he won’t touch it. They made sure they put the ball in their best player’s hand. We did a good job of switching.

At the end, when Richards shot the ball, from my view, you know, it looked like it had a real good chance to go in. Of course, it was wide left. Then the horn blew. It was like, Why is the horn going off? I can’t believe that 16 seconds has already passed.

But our guys did do a good job there late.

Q. You look at Sasha’s numbers, 20 minutes, 13 points, perfect from the field, had a big free throw down there at the end. Talk about his performance.

COACH SELF: If we’re going to give Player of the Game, you give it to Mario the first half. ‘Cause Mario carried us when we didn’t have any offense, made three or four shots. Then you’d give it to Sasha the second half. I think he’s played very, very well for the last three or four weeks. He played good against ‘Nova, as well. He had a great tournament. I’m happy for him to make the all tournament team. Nobody’s represented themselves or the school anywhere any better than Sasha has. It’s great to see him having some success.

Q. You talked about the different feel, the “Wow” factor, all that. Was Sasha immune to all that?

COACH SELF: He’s just been really focused, really focused. I don’t know how you guys viewed it, but it didn’t look like we had the same quickness or speed tonight as what we’ve had in other games. Trust me, it wasn’t a game plan. Our deal was, Let’s run, let’s pressure. When those things weren’t allowed to take place because of Davidson, the way they played, I felt like we got pretty stale or stagnant.

I don’t think it was the atmosphere or the game as much caused us to play that way. I think it was more the way Davidson played against us and how they controlled the tempo and some things like that. And then the longer the game goes on, and you can’t do your deal that you want to do, then it gets a little frustrating.

You know, we had control of the game in the second half, up four or six. Then they go up four. But that’s when we played our best ball, when we went from down four to up whatever we were.

Q. I’m sure you’re aware that the media will make a huge thing of the game with North Carolina for a variety of reasons, first and foremost Roy coaching against Kansas. How do you plan to handle that mania this week?

COACH SELF: Well, they probably will be asking him all the questions about it as opposed to me.

I can’t speak for Roy. But it’s a game against — North Carolina’s players against Kansas’ players. It’s been five years since Roy went to Carolina. I’m sure I’ll say this again, I’ll say it now: as Kansas fans, representing Kansas, we should be proud of the time that Roy gave us, because excellence was definitely the standard while he was there.

There may be some talk about it, all those things. But our focus will not be on that. Our focus will be on their team. When fans get upset, all that is is a backhanded compliment because they didn’t want you to leave. I’m sure Roy knows that.

But this should be about players instead of coaches.

Q. You said yesterday you think every day about going to the Final Four. What are you going to do with all that time now?

COACH SELF: Think about winning it now (smiling). Yeah, we’ve had a great run. At Tulsa, you get there once. You think, We’ll get back. The next year at Illinois, we got back. You know, it’s not that hard, we’ll get back. Next thing you know, it’s hard. Lot of things have to go your way.

This is one of those games where basically the game did not go as scripted, did not go our way in large part, but we did catch a couple breaks. Of course, the last missed shot was the biggest.

But I think from my vantage point, I’m just speaking off the top of my head, I don’t know how I’ll feel, but I think we should have a great week because, of practice and preparation, the hard part is just beginning, but in our guys and minds there’s been a weight that has been lifted which should free us up a little bit.

Q. After having won a regional final, was it tougher than what you thought it was going to be to actually get it done?

COACH SELF: Well, we’re 1-4 in these games, so it’s pretty tough.

You know, I knew today’s game would be a tough game. I thought if we could play the way that we want to play, could get up and down, those sorts of things. There was only about a five-minute stretch in the first half where that actually occurred, where there was good rhythm on both teams. I thought we would be okay.

I thought it would be a tough game. But one thing about doubt entering into the picture with me personally today, I felt good about — I felt good about the situation because going into the tournament, I thought this was our time. I thought this was the most prepared team we had, the best team we’ve had. I just thought this would be our time.

Q. I think you watched that last play on one knee down there courtside.

COACH SELF: Yeah, trust me, I was on both knees (laughter).

Q. Can you recall your immediate emotions when the shot misses and the horn goes off.

COACH SELF: I would say instead of jubilation, it was probably more relief. You know, you picture the way you picture winning a big game like that, you make a shot, you celebrate, or something happens, you’re able to go congratulate all your coaches and your players. This was not one of those deals. I just wanted to make sure that I hurry up and shook hands, and the officials left the court so they couldn’t put any more time back on the clock (smiling).

Q. How much relief did the players express to you in the locker room?

COACH SELF: The whole thing in this situation, we never once talked about not being successful. We never once talked about bad things happening or whatever. All we’ve talked about is, you know, you got to go take what you want. You have to go attack mode. You have to be the aggressor in everything you do, everything you do. So that’s how we’ve talked.

To be honest with you, the first three games of the tournament, that’s how we played. But when things did not go great early, you know, we got good looks early, didn’t make shots. We’ve been making those shots all tournament, and didn’t make them. It was kind of like, Okay, this is going to be a grind-it-out game.

But I don’t know if there was relief with the guys, maybe for the seniors, because there’s no safety net for them. But, you know, it’s a pretty proud group. You can’t operate in a relief mode or hope mode. You know, you can’t hope things to happen; you have to make them happen. I think our guys have had that philosophy.

But still, with all that being said, you know, definitely, you know, there was some hoping and praying going on in there late.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

COACH SELF: Thank you.

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