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First of all, I'm really happy about the end of the game score. I'm very, very happy about the way we played during certain stretches of the game. And you have to congratulate Kentucky too, regardless of what the score was. Even with 21,750 going crazy they kept competing, but that is what you will always find with a team coached by Tubby [Smith]. They made two or three three's in a row there and made us a little more uncomfortable than I hoped that we were going to be.
I can't say enough about Sean May. He had a game Wednesday night, going back [to Bloomington], people were very difficult for him. He didn't get as many breaks with the close calls that could have gone either way. He had a tough night Wednesday night, but made some big plays for us. You look down there [on the stat sheet]: 14 points, 19 rebounds. He had nine rebounds in the first half, just dominating on the boards, and then he turned around in the second half and got 10.
Rashad [McCants] made some big shots for us. I think yesterday that he couldn't make a shot in practice, so I felt like he would make some today. He didn't make very good decisions with the ball a couple of times. I look at 18 assists, 20 turnovers [for the team]. That bothers me.
We jumped on them early and had a pretty good working margin. We turned it over three times in a row and they got lay-ups on the other end. Right before half[time] we made some good plays to take it back out to 15 [points]. They came out in the second half and hit us hard, seven or eight [points] in a row. I like the way our guys didn't lose their poise and kept attacking. Sean got two or three lay-ups in a row, two or three dunks.
It's very difficult on Raymond [Felton] right now with that cast or whatever you want to call it on his hand. He's not handling the ball as well as he usually does, but this will be a good week for him. He's going to study extremely hard for his exams. That's going to make it better for his wrist. We've given them a lot of time off this week to get ready for exams. Hopefully, it will be a chance for Melvin [Scott] to get healthier and Raymond to get a little healthier.
You look down, I thought David Noel was big for us coming off the bench, Rashad shooting it in, Sean on the backboards. A key play for us when they cut it to seven or eight, we miss a free throw, Jawad [Williams] gets in, tips it out, and Rashad gets it, gets fouled and makes two and puts it back to double digits. We'd like to play better, there's no question about that, but again, you have to give Kentucky a lot of credit for coming in here and continuing to push us.
Sean May got some buckets in transition. That's something that hasn't happened a lot in the past. Are you starting to see that more from him?
It's something that every team I've ever had always does. We've done it in some of the earlier games this year. In Maui, I thought our big guys did a good job running the floor. Even at the end of the game, we always say look down the floor and keep trying to attack. You will always take lay-ups. I think our big guys can run and do run. I'd like for them to do-run-run-run every play. That's song's too old for some of you guys.
It seemed like you had an answer every time Kentucky made a run. What is the difference in this year's team?
I think our maturity, our familiarity with what we want to do. We pretty much are a veteran team. Q[uentin Thomas] and Marvin [Williams], it's a little bit at a time for them, and they will be big-time players. I truly believe that. But the veteran guys understand how we want to play better. We want to keep attacking. I've always said that if the other team makes a run at you, the best way to take care of that is to attack, not get tentative. I've always thought that our teams did a pretty good job of continuing to attack and not get to a tentative stage.
You look down [at the stat sheet]: I'd like to have made one more [field goal] so we would have shot 50 percent. I think we could have broken--Tubby's got a streak of about 800 games that everybody has shot below 50 percent against them. I do believe that we should continue to attacking when the other team is making a run.
You had one player one minute shy of having nine players in double figures in minutes.
I have confidence in nine guys. Stupidity is the reason we don't have it where nine guys had 10 minutes because it was a dump play on my part in the first half. I was going to wait to get it inside the 2:00-mark to get Raymond out. He gets his third foul with 2:09 or 2:03, something like that. That's just coaching stupidity. If I'd gotten him out, it would have been better. It would have made us feel a heck of a lot more comfortable at halftime. I should have gotten him out earlier.
What was your concern with Chuck Hayes, and what were you able to do to take him out of the game?
Chuck Hayes is one of my favorite players of all times. I recruited him when I was at Kansas. He's just a marvelous young man. He's probably a better person than he is a basketball player, and I love him as a basketball player too. It's unfortunate for Kentucky that Chuck got in foul trouble. He's extremely difficult to handle in the low post. He's 6-6 and has four blocked shots. But he gives them a great deal of leadership.
And again, we were fortunate that he got in foul trouble. We did want to keep attacking because the more we attack, the more we have a chance to go to the free throw line. We didn't shoot them as well as I would like, but the other night we made our last eight, so I don't usually get too caught up in our free throw percentage. But Chuck is big-time player.
What was the message you were trying to send Rashad when you sat him out those couple of minutes?
Pass the ball. The guy was open; he should have passed it. But I was going to take him out anyway because it was about time for him to get a breather, but I clearly thought he should have passed it at that point. It just made it look like I knew what I was doing.
After last year's game, do you think this game was special for Rashad?
I don't know about Rashad, but it was for Roy. I was really ticked off. I thought that last year at Kentucky was the least competitive, the least focused, the least energized of any team I've ever had going into a big environment, so I remembered it. I did tell the guys that last year I didn't think we competed. I drew things up on the board as I always do, and the third thing was 'Compete.' I underlined it all the way to the bottom of the board. I think that we did that.
I think Rashad was focused. He had 20 [points] at halftime, 28 for the game, so he accomplished more in a couple of minutes today than he did last year in the whole game.
A few weeks ago, you were talking about having so many competitive games and what you would learn about the team. What have you learned?
We are more competitive than we were last year. We are more attentive. I do believe that we have better depth, there is no question about that. I think it is a pretty good run, seven games in 15 days, I may be wrong, against a pretty good schedule. We stunk up the first one. Since then, I have been very happy with the way we have attacked people, and we are getting better defensively. There is hope for us defensively. We had a long ways to go. A lot of times last year I thought we had NO hope. This year, I think we have hope defensively, with what we can do to keep everyone's field goal percentage down and try to get them to turn in over as well.