“Well, needless to say, it was a weird game. I thought for about 36 minutes that they totally outplayed us, but we were still there. We were still around. At 3:28, I told the guys, we work a lot in practice being down six with three minutes to play. We hadn’t had many practice days, we’ve had six games in 11 days, three games in the last four days, but I think the last practice we had, we gave the other team the ball, the blue team the ball in practice, with a six-point lead and three minutes to go, and we did alright, so we’ve been there. I tried to tell them we had a chance, and I really felt like we did. We needed one stop each time down there, and they only could get one bad shot.
"Five-point game, they went to discuss whether the shot clock, whether (the ball) had hit the rim or not, it was 12 seconds on, I decided to run a play for Joel Berry, because in my own thinking he’d stunk it up so bad I thought it was about time he made a play. And when they put the 30 back up, I said still run the same play, and he got two great screens and made a big three in the corner, and then after that, we got some good stops. Justin (Jackson) tied it up, and then Kennedy (Meeks) gets the big steal out there and goes down and makes it. Theo (Pinson) makes a three, and we got a couple of stops on the other end and we made some free throws at the end. Justin made two free throws, Joel Berry made two, and Theo made one out of two, so we made five out of six from the free throw line.
"It was a weird game, we did shoot 55 percent in the second half, needless to say we were better offensively. But it was just a weird game, we were lucky, the Stokes kid, he was really something. If I’m not mistaken, he’d made four threes in all of their games previous to this one, he made six of them today, six out of eight. One time, I think we fouled him, and he still made it. But we were very fortunate at the end, and I thought Justin, both last night and tonight, was huge for us. The bad thing for him is I expect those kind of things a lot out of him, but I think that’s good, too, because that gives him confidence.”
What did you learn about your team tonight?
“Well, I told them at the 3:28 that I felt like we were in good shape, that our team could be made right now. The team is made during the season. It’s not made in the preseason practicing. The team, the whole chemistry of everybody, the toughness of everybody, is made once you start playing the games. I thought in the first half we had, I think we’re averaging about 10 turnovers a game, I think we had seven in the first half. I went down the line, and all seven of them were because we were just soft. They were a little more aggressive than we were, so in the second half, I thought we got more aggressive. We still weren’t doing very well until that last four minutes, but I’ve always had a tremendous belief in giving guys confidence and telling them that we’re okay. I felt like we were okay. Joel Berry, as I said, had been terrible, but I called a play for him because I thought it was time he was gonna make one, and I think he’s a tough little nut. I think that shot really gave us a big lift, to say the least, and then after that, they sort of built on it.”
Can you build on the fact that you were down that late, got outplayed, and still came back?
“I think so. I don’t want us to depend on that. I’m only so old, there’s only so many little hops I’ve got left out there, but I think that you can build on it, but what you need to build on is to see it on tape and see the mistakes you made that put you in that spot, and then change those. And then see the enthusiasm and the effort that you had there at the end, and build on that. I thought, when it was a two-point game, I thought we had a steal, and we were gonna go down and lay it up and tie it up, and they got a timeout at that point. Bruce (Weber), his club came back out and they were very focused. Bruce Weber can coach his rear end off. I really believe that, and I say that because I believe it, not because he’s a good friend. His club was really something, and then, as I said, Stokes was just off the charts, what he was doing to us in the second half.”
What does it feel like coming back here and playing in Kansas City?
“It feels a heck of a lot better after the last four minutes, I don’t think there’s any question about that. I love this place. I love the town of Kansas City, I love Kansas, the way people feel about college basketball here is something that I’ll never get, it’s something that I’ll always appreciate. I feel very flattered that I was a very small part of it for a while. I have a lot of friends who were KU people that couldn’t quite make the trip up to Maui to support the Jayhawks over there, so they were there watching our club tonight. I get to go to Garozzo’s restaurant and have some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had, and I wish my knees were feeling better, because I love walking around town, but two knee surgeries this summer and one bad jump on the sideline late, I don’t think I’m walking anywhere except the daggum bus.”
What does making this comeback without Marcus Paige mean to the team?
“It’s all conjecture, but it would make the guys see that they don’t have to look ‘Where’s five? Where’s five? He’s got to do something for us.’ Now they realize that we were able to make some plays today without him. Kennedy’s steal 40 feet from the basket was a big play for us. Everybody will have some confidence, and when the little rascal gets back, I think it will help us.”
Was there any difference in how the team’s confidence was late in this game versus how it was Saturday?
“Oh yeah. There’s no question about it, but, you know, it takes sometimes one big play, and I think Joel Berry’s three from the corner was the biggest play of the game. Then we happened to get a stop, and Justin made the floater, and then all of a sudden, our 6-9 guy that weighed 319 pounds at one time gets a steal and goes down, and I just wanted him to lay it up, I didn’t want him to hang himself up there, but everybody did some things that will help us. And Saturday’s game didn’t quite have that feeling.”