Athens, GA (Mar 29, 2009) - In Elite Eight action from the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball tournament on Saturday, Missouri lost to UConn 82-75 in the West Region final. This is the transcript of the University of Missouri post-game press conference as provided by the NCAA and ASAP Sports.
THE MODERATOR: We have been joined by Coach Anderson and the Missouri student athletes. Again, we'll ask Coach for a few opening comments on
the ball game, go to questions for the student athletes, and then
questions for Coach.
COACH ANDERSON: Obviously I hurt for our guys. I thought I could get
them to that magical place, and we just came up probably a couple of
buckets, a stop here, a stop there. Maybe we just ran out of time, a
Hats off to Connecticut and congratulations to them as they get
ready to move on to the Final Four. They are a great basketball team.
I thought our guys came out with the understanding and mind set that
we wanted to certainly try to survive and advance. But credit to them.
But I tell you what, if our guys came with what they came, they went
out the same way they came in to this season. They came in fighting,
scratching and clawing, and if you are going to go out, that's the way
you want to go out, fighting, scratching and clawing, giving yourself
Q. Matt, Leo and DeMarre in particular, toward the end of the game,
you guys were on the bench as the reserves were coming back. How
difficult was it to sit there?
MATT LAWRENCE: It wasn't difficult at all. They were playing great
basketball, and they got us back in the game. They were getting stops
on defense so they should have been out there.
LEO LYONS: Same thing he said. Those guys deserved to be out there.
We are not that type of team to just force something. The guys who
were sitting on the bench didn't have it going and they did. Plain and
DEMARRE CARROLL: The same thing Leo said. Our bench has been our key
all year. They really stepped up tonight. They were playing some
better basketball tonight. Give credit to them guys. They really came
out and played tonight.
Q. DeMarre, can you talk a little bit about the start. Connecticut
seemed like they hit you in the mouth in the first five minutes of the
DEMARRE CARROLL: Yeah, they came out, threw the first punch, and we
tried to throw a punch back but we just couldn't get over that hump.
We tied the game plenty of times but we just couldn't get over that
hump. Give credit to Connecticut. They got some great guys. Hasheem
Thabeet, he really made a difference in the lane.
We just couldn't get over that hump.
Q. Matt, can you it is early on, I realize, but can you try to put
in perspective from your own standpoint where this team came from and how it got here and what it feels like right now?
MATT LAWRENCE: Well, we came from nothing, and I'm pretty sure no
one expected us to get here except for the guys in our locker room. I
have never been a part of a team that was more cohesive than this one.
When you got guys doing whatever it takes to win, you are going to
get this far. I know we wanted to go further, and I think we had a
team that was able to. Just didn't get the buckets we needed tonight
and the defensive stops. Connecticut is a very good basketball team.
But I think the future looks very bright here for Missouri.
Q. This is for J.T. I think there were a couple of minutes left. You
guys were down by three and shot clock winding down and Kemba Walker hit that shot. I don't know how you describe it. Kind of threw it up
there. How damaging was that at that time?
J.T. TILLER: You know, sometimes you got to make plays, and that was
just one of those plays that put us back on our heels a little bit
after we played, I say, great defense for 35 seconds on the shot clock
and he put it up there. Just described what kind of day it was, you
Q. Matt, could you talk about the tempo. Did you guys get the tempo
you wanted? If so, sort of just talk about whether that part worked
out for you. Were they able to play more at your tempo?
MATT LAWRENCE: We were trying to force our tempo upon them the whole
game. They are a very good team, though. They did a good job with our
press. Usually our press wears on teams in the second half, and I
think it started to. Towards the end you saw they never really could
get away from us. We just didn't have the stops that we needed at the
I think every time they kind of looked like they were about to break
out and go up by a lot, we would fight and scratch, like Coach said,
to keep it close. We just couldn't really get over that hump. I think
we might have settled for some jump shots in the second half when we
should have been attacking a little bit.
As far as the tempo, though, I think we got it to where we wanted to
but just not quite there for 40 minutes.
Q. Along the same lines, J.T., do you think UConn handled your press
like you expected them to? Was it not as effective as it has been in
J.T. TILLER: Really, I think a lot of people think that our press is
set up for steal the ball. And they base the success on that. But
really, our press was pretty successful because it was meant to slow
them down and get them out of what they were trying to do, which was
run plays. It was pretty much successful. They just withstood it for
40 minutes, though.
Q. Leo and DeMarre, are you guys feeling like you had something in
your hands and it just somehow slipped away? What's your mind set as
to the suddenness of a season ended?
LEO LYONS: It does feel like it slipped away, that game right there
was the game that we could have won, that we should have won. Like
Coach said, it was a couple baskets, missed a shot here, turnover
there that could have changed the whole aspect of that game.
For us to lose like that, it is tough on our guys. But I think these
guys that we got back there in the locker room, they got to come in as
freshmen and see a lot of success. Hopefully they ride it on for the
next three years.
DEMARRE CARROLL: The same thing Leo said. We had the game right
there, like we said before, we just couldn't get over the hump. You
know, we lost the game, but throughout the whole season it was a great
season. To come from rock bottom and to be where we're at now, you
know, it is just I think it is a success.
So, you know, we stood and gained some positives from this our whole
year, but, at the same standpoint, we lost the game. It hurts. But
from the same standpoint, we gained some success for the year.
Q. Matt and Leo, I don't know if you can figure this out exactly,
but how much of the difficulty right now is about losing the game and
how much of it is over not playing with these guys any more?
MATT LAWRENCE: Initially it was definitely about losing the
basketball game. After you put so much into it, so much time outside
of basketball I mean, we're out there working hard, it seemed like for
a long time to get this program back to where it was. I know for
myself and Leo it has been four years, and this is a great way really
to go out, I think. But as we got back in the locker room, it was more
about it was more about those guys that I will never get to play with
LEO LYONS: When the buzzer went off, it was tough. It was more of a
loss standpoint because these guys really wanted to win that game.
Very competitive on this team. For us to lose that game, I mean, it
hit everybody in the heart.
But right now it is about us staying close. I mean, our career is
over with. All we can do is be mentors to the other guys and help them
keep a good mind set and keep working out with them until we do
Q. J.T., how much are you going to miss playing with these guys
right here and just their presence in the locker room?
J.T. TILLER: Having these guys on the team has been having a great
honor because these are some great players. We grew as a family these
last three years, especially coming from what? Three years ago, their
sophomore year, until where we're at now, we just grew together as
I'm going to miss these dudes something serious, you know what I
mean? Because without them, we wouldn't even have got this far. They
built this program up. I'm just following their lead, so I'm going to
Q. Leo and DeMarre, can you talk about the difference Thabeet made
and their other shot blockers, how tough it was to get anything inside
LEO LYONS: Of course it was a little bit tougher because they had
Thabeet in there. He is very long. I don't think that changed the
aspect of the game, though. I think we lost that game more as a team
effort. We stayed on attack. Nobody shot away from attacking. They got
a lot of blocks, but everybody kept going in there. That has been the
tale of our team, to stay on attack.
He is a great player. He did change a lot, but it wasn't just him.
You have to tip your hat to the whole team for playing great defense,
like Stanley Robinson and Adrien. They rebounded and blocked shots as
well. It was just the better team showed up today.
Q. Talking about the future, Justin and Keith both had big offensive
games today. Is that a sign of things to come for them?
LEO LYONS: A lot of people don't get to see what those guys can do
because they come in the game with the defensive mind set. Our team is
very unselfish, so nobody goes out there and tries to get it. But this
program is going to be the same or even better. I think they will be
better because these guys, like I said, came in on their first year,
second year and now they're in the Elite Eight. Now they know success
and hopefully they will keep it up. J.T. is captain. He will be the
leader of the team next year.
With somebody who works hard like he does, the rest of the team will
follow. Everybody better watch out for Mizzou basketball next year.
Q. J.T., midway through that second half, you guys seemed to be
playing with a lot of confidence. Did you sense that they were playing
on their heels at that time? Did you really feel like you had the game
where you wanted it at that point?
J.T. TILLER: Like, we came in the game knowing we could win this
game no doubt, you know what I mean? Especially in the second half
when we started making our runs and actually getting them on their
heels. When we tied the game up I don't know if we went up one or tied
the game up.
COACH ANDERSON: One.
J.T. TILLER: We could sense they were on their heels. We are used to
that, you know what I mean? In the second half, we like to get them
worn out and going at our pace. We felt like it was going our way at
that point in time, but it just didn't didn't come through in 40
minutes like we wanted it to.
THE MODERATOR: We will excuse the student athletes and keep Coach
Anderson. Questions for Coach?
Q. Can you talk about what you tried to get across to the players
when you talked to them in the locker room about the season and where
they came from.
COACH ANDERSON: First, I told them it was a phenomenal season. These
guys came out of nowhere. Even as we played today, no one gave us a
chance. Here we are, scored tied up, we are up one or tied. We got
stuck on 52, and we gave ourselves a chance to advance to the Final
I think all the hard work they put in, all the dedication, they
brought back a sense of pride at Missouri basketball that hadn't been
there for a while. For that, I thank them. For them, especially a guy
like Matt Lawrence, Leo Lyons, as a coach that did not even recruit
them, I opened my arms to them and they took me at my word that we
were going to win a national championship. I don't know when. Here we
are right on the cusp of a Final Four.
They left it on the floor. That's a locker room where some guys are
in hurt in there. There are tears. They expected to win this game.
That's okay. But hopefully we can we've had an opportunity to taste
some of it, and I think our guys can the younger guys that experienced
it, as these guys talked about, they can pass that tradition on, that
feeling, they have tasted it. Hopefully they want to work extremely
hard to have an opportunity to get back.
It is going to hurt them for a while because they were right there,
I thought. A lot of emotion in that locker room. You got some seniors,
man, blood, sweat and tears, they left it all on the floor. With the
season coming to the end the way it did, but we lost to a pretty good
basketball team in Connecticut, very good basketball team.
I thought the game went the way we want it had to go. I thought we
had the rhythm. But Connecticut probably shoot free throws like we do,
and they shoot 26 32. That's pretty phenomenal. You got to have some
phenomenal things to happen for you in this setting. The bank shot by
the Walker kid, he has a career game. Somebody had to step up for
them. We did a tremendous job on Thabeet. I thought we did a great job
You look at the stat line, I thought we did some good things. We
turned him over 17 times. We had six turnovers, 21 I mean, that's
pretty good basketball. But we just couldn't make those plays. Seem
like we just got stuck on 52 and never quite got over the hump.
But it wasn't because our guys weren't trying.
Q. How hard was it on you the last five minutes? I know you
mentioned that the bench is so important all year, but to look at the
seniors. You knew those guys were hurting. How hard was it on you the
COACH ANDERSON: We were trying to win. We were trying to win. It is
not about hurting. It is about winning. That's what we were trying to
Those guys that were out there playing, I thought they had it going
on. They were playing well, and they were going to give us an
opportunity to win. So some days, you know, guys don't have it so you
got to go with the guys that had it going on.
Of course seniors, you expect them to really step up and really
showcase what they are capable of doing. But we have some other guys
that were playing Justin was playing probably one of the best games of
his life on the biggest stage. Keith Ramsey playing extremely,
extremely good basketball.
And so those guys that were out there, they were doing their job.
Q. Connecticut took your best shot today and they took Purdue's best
shot the other day and real different approaches. Just talk about how
they're able to survive and advance, to use the phrase, just sort of
the versatility that they showed this weekend.
COACH ANDERSON: I think they got some guys that wouldn't get
rattled. I think they got some experienced guys that wouldn't get
At the same time, I thought we didn't do a very good job defensively
in the first half. I thought the first half was even though they got
off to a big start, I thought we made the run back. But I just thought
we didn't do a very good job on dribble penetration. I thought we did
a better job in the second half. We did a better job in terms of
rebounding and make them work a little bit. They shot 70 percent.
But they are an outstanding team. They rose to the occasion. They
made big plays. A.J. Price goes out and makes a big, big shot going
down the stretch. I thought the biggest one is where we had great
defense and is it Kemba Walker? He banks one in. And you go, whoa,
what is taking place.
But to our guys' credit, it wasn't over until the clock said 0:00.
Q. Mike, you did come back but the first few minutes of the game,
did you feel like your guys were tentative or was that Connecticut
COACH ANDERSON: I thought we were tentative, especially when we
attacked the hole. Zaire attacked a couple of times and they blocked a
couple of shots. You could just see Connecticut came out with energy.
They came out with great energy and they probably had three or four
straight layups. Eventually we settled down and got back into the
rhythm of how we played.
I thought the guys that came off the bench were big keys in doing
that. They actually settled us down. That's why you saw them in even
in the second half, they were playing because they were playing pretty
Q. Coach, would you comment more on Kemba Walker and how difficult
is he with his speed and ability to finish.
COACH ANDERSON: Coming into the game, we knew he was one of those
guys that liked to attack. That's what he liked to do. There are times
when of course in open court I thought he did a good job of getting in
there. We didn't fix it on defense in terms of rotating over or
deflecting passes. I thought we did a better job in the second half.
Again, he just made some big plays for them. He is a good player.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
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