Cards discuss Sweet 16 victory over Arizona

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino and players discuss the Cards impressive 103-64 win over Arizona in the Midwest Region semifinals Friday night in Indianapolis.

BILL BENNER: We'll take opening comments from Coach Rick Pitino, then questions for the student-athletes.

COACH PITINO: Well, obviously our team played fabulous, unselfish basketball tonight. I do want to apologize for us dunking the balls at the end of the game. Exuberance, the guy's never playing, score in the NCAA tournament. We do want to apologize. Besides that we have great respect for Arizona. They were playing terrific basketball at the end of the year. The most noticeable thing about them is that in the first seven to 10 minutes of the game, they'd been the aggressor against both Utah and Cleveland State, taking them out of what they do. They play very similar to the way we play defensively in terms of pressure, both in zone, man and full court. We wanted to win that battle of pressure. But the key to us playing so well was not turning it over and passing. Our passing was great tonight. Arizona has been giving people a lot of problems with their tenacious defense, slapping down, creating turnovers. We didn't turn the ball over tonight. We had nine for the game, shot an incredible personal. Real proud of the guys. Thought Earl and Jerry, I thought that Earl played as passionate. He always does in the tournament. He always seems to raise it to a new level. Now he's an old man, so he really now brings it up with high basketball IQ, as well.

Q. Jerry, 29 assists on 38 baskets. What does that say about how well you were working offensively?

JERRY SMITH: Says a lot. Guys had open shots. They were giving it to guys that had an even more open shot. Says a lot about our team, how far we have come. I thought we did a great job doing that.

Q. Jerry, you went on a 9-2 run about three minutes to go, then a couple threes by your opponent, you knocked down a couple threes right at the end of halftime. Your thoughts on getting that lead back up in the low 20s there.

JERRY SMITH: You know, the main thing was I just wanted to space. Terrence I think it was, he drove and fouled me on one of those and I think Andre did on the other one. If I space, I knew the guys would give me the ball in an open shot and I was able to knock it down.

Q. Earl, getting over a hundred points, the school's biggest point total in an NCAA tournament, how well were you playing offensively out there?

EARL CLARK: I think we played great. We looked for each other. When we passed the ball, we knocked down shots. When we look for the other, share the ball, we can have great shooting nights every night.

Q. Jerry, why do you think it was such great passing tonight?

JERRY SMITH: It was just guys being unselfish. Like I said before, somebody would have an open shot off the first pass, they would just go ahead and find the next guy that was going to have an even better shot. We were able to make the open shots.

Q. Starting that second half, went on about an 18-6 run, Budinger scored six points for them. Your thoughts on opening that big run in the second half? You shot very well, your shots in this open stadium?

EARL CLARK: We definitely didn't want to come out and let them back in the game. Coach told us that. Just get out, hop on 'em, basically just get the game over with. I think we did that today. We came out with more intensity. That's what you got to do when you up big, because it's hard to play with a lead.


Edgar Sosa - Getty Image

Q. Any apprehensions about trying to duplicate this in a Sunday championship game?

JERRY SMITH: You know, you can't do that. You just got to focus on the next opponent. Hopefully we can come out and play great basketball again. It's going to be tough to duplicate playing as well as we did tonight. I think this is the best we played all season. Hope we can just keep it going and play well again.

EARL CLARK: Every game is a different game. It's a new strategy, a different style of play. So we just focusing in on the next game and we see what happen.

Q. Considering this wasn't a first-round game, where would you rank this performance as far as your teams you've had in the tournament?

COACH PITINO: We've had some really good Sweet 16 games. But this was a dominating offensive performance, fed off of defense and passing. Arizona was playing terrific basketball. We were really concerned about that. We wanted to take away their big three, and we did that. We would switch up our defenses from zone to man based on where the ball goes. And the guys did a great job of making sure Hill didn't get off, because he's a tremendous player. So is Wise. He was shooting 44 from the three, averaging 22 points a game. We wanted to make sure we were good at every phase of the game. They were turning people over a lot because they're very quick with the hands. Only having nine turnovers, shooting 57%, getting on the glass, shooting free throws well. That's the great myth for us. People say you're not a good shooting team. We're not when we take challenge shots. When we pass, we're a great shooting team. Our press feeds off the passing and the scoring. So this was a brilliant performance by our players, no question about it, because Arizona was playing terrific ball.

Q. 13 of 14 from the line. Did they run laps because T.J. missed the free throw?

COACH PITINO: I think the biggest thing with our free throws, you know, you look at the percentage, it's the obvious question. But I think that we made some adjustments. Samardo, we showed him on tape how he's falling back and leaning back. When you do that, you're always a back-rim shooter. Our guys paid attention to the film work. Did a tremendous job. Relaxed on the foul line. With the exception of just dunking the ball at the end, I can't find fault in anything they did tonight.

Q. Do you have any theory as to why there have been so few upsets in this particular tournament? In the Sweet 16 so far, virtually every game has been very one-sided.

COACH PITINO: You know what happens, like Pittsburgh could have lost any of those three games, but the cream rises in crucial situations. With Levance Fields the other night, then Sam Young. Xavier certainly is a terrific team. What happens, like Missouri/Memphis, you can say it's an upset. It's probably not because it's 2-3. But, you know, in any given year, I think what's happening is you look at the Big East this year, why is the Big East so strong? And I knew it was going to be that strong last year. What they do on the Big East tournament is they hand out these jerseys framed. The only one they were giving out to were managers and a few players speckled in. We knew there was nobody leaving when Thabeet stayed, they all stayed, we knew the league was going to be unbelievable. Arizona is a great slap-down team, great steal team. But when you play against Marquette and Villanova, they are the quickest cats around. And it prepared us to play Arizona. When you go against great zones, you go against Syracuse's zone with their length. The Big East has prepared us for every time on defense. But you see so many great upperclassmen. It really does surprise me that Kansas, I think Bill Self has done a remarkable job, along with John Calipari this year. They lost a lot of their players and they regrouped and didn't lose a step. Those two guys stick out to me, along with so many other Big East coaches as well that have done a great job. I just think we got into the junior/senior class.

Q. Your team under eight minutes to go got in your seventh foul, get them in the bonus. From that point on, you only committed one foul. Maybe that leads into the defense you were talking about.

COACH PITINO: I think we stopped pressing. We fouled. I think it was good refereeing. We fouled. We don't concern ourselves about it. That's why we have 13 scholarships.

Q. If you play like this, if you shoot like this, can you be beaten?

COACH PITINO: Well, you know, we actually play great against zones. And people look at us and say, "Let's zone 'em, they're not the greatest shooters in the world." We actually play very well against zone. I think the zones are over for us. I think if Michigan State wins, that's the best rebounding defensive team in the country. Kansas is very physical, as well. So we know that we're not going to play like this again because of the type of defense that we're going to run into now. It's going to be a totally different type of game where we got to go inside to out to the low post. You're not -- we did a great job of getting second shots tonight. Michigan State and Kansas don't give you those. Zones do. But Michigan State's a great blockout team as well as Kansas. So we realize that. I think Earl made a very good point. Every game is a different strategy. You know, so we realize that. We're not -- we played great tonight because we really passed the ball beautifully, and it's fun as a coach to watch the guys to be so unselfish.

Q. How valuable is it to win doing it that way as opposed to maybe blowing somebody out 'cause you have a great individual night from somebody?

COACH PITINO: Yeah, I think it's great. I think they all understand what passing does. Our defense feeds off of it. Everything feeds off of it. But, guys, we all know we're one game away from the Final Four. Then you're three games away from a national championship. So you understand, I think, this team has stayed grounded. They don't embrace it. Their egos are in check. I'll find something to be very upset about tonight at snack. I think a lack of humility is the greatest killer of potential. So we're not going to fall in love with ourselves because we had a good game tonight. We understand what we're up against.

Q. Could you elaborate on the quality of guards in this regional, the importance of the way your guards played tonight.

COACH PITINO: We do it by committee. You know, Edgar Sosa played brilliant tonight. Jerry Smith played great. Sometimes it's Preston, sometimes it's Andre. We do it by committee. It's the only way our style of play can work. You can't play our style and do what they do unless we do it by committee. So we have underrated guards. Sometimes they go unnoticed because of the brilliance of Terrence Williams and Earl Clark. So we're very happy with the way our guards have played throughout the tournament. You know, it's funny in this tournament, because Siena was as explosive an offensive team as any level of team that we've faced this year. They were really, really good. I was real impressed with them. After watching the game, I was even more impressed with them. We like to play against size. We like size. And we're going to run into it in the next game.

Q. You talked about the guards. Talk about Sosa specifically. Did you see him staying positive tonight?

COACH PITINO: I think Edgar played terrific tonight. He got a little frustrated at the end. I said, You got a 30 point lead. They don't call fouls. Don't worry about that. He's growing up in very small stages. He's taking his time. But he was great tonight. He made some terrific passes. He has great vision. And when he does that, it makes us a better team. And everybody was so excited about passing the ball, you see that type of result. I was really impressed with everybody tonight. I can't be happier with the basketball team. But we know what we're in for, so we'll just go to work tomorrow.


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