Post-Game Quotes: Louisville 56, Georgia Tech 53
"We played a very talented, well-coached, hard playing team tonight man, that was a battle from the get go. Proud of the way our guys competed and played. Unfortunately when you play Rick's teams, and especially this team you have to perform exceptionally well for 40 minutes and I thought the first half they really hurt us on the offensive glass. I thought defensively they were really, really good as we were also. But we have played three games against them in this league - played against them two previous times and every game’s a knockdown drag out, physical battle. They just did a little more than we did tonight and give them credit. I thought we got some good looks there at the end in the last four or five minutes. What they do is with their physicality and their pressure they knock you off your timing just a little bit. Even open shots are a little more difficult than they appear, but we need to bounce back and be ready to go on Saturday. You've got to give coach credit and his team credit, they’re still in the fight for the ACC championship obviously. But with all this stuff that's going on it’s a credit to him and those guys and the character of his players to be able to continue to fight and stay focused even though their ultimate goal and aspirations aren't going to be made available to them."
On Louisville's run that tilted the favor in the opposite direction
"You know, 17 turnovers is tough to handle and seven by your starting post guys is really tough to handle. We have to do a better job if we are going to feed the post and you have to play the post against them, you can't just play on the perimeter because your defense extends out so much. And they pressured as a little more than maybe they have in some of the games in the past, but during that stretch, we missed two free throws, we missed a dunk, had a couple good looks, but again, give them credit. It's not just us missing shots, they have something to do with it. We did a great job on the glass in the second half, obviously, during that stretch. If we could've, maybe, broke down their defense a little bit more, which we did after that. I thought we broke down their defense with some penetration and even if we missed it, we were in a better rebounding position."
On Charles Mitchell's play
"He did a great job, and we are going to need him for the rest of the year, like that, to play with that kind of reckless abandon. Now, at the same time, that was created by our offensive execution. We were able to get in the lane, we were able to get some plays. Obviously the one play he made of the steal was all him, but that's the type of energy that we need and it makes us a much different team when we are able to get that from him."
On team and Quentin Snider’s pressure on the perimeter
“That’s what they do, that’s what they do and we’ve done a good job of handling that in the back court. Their pressure really hurt us a little more in the half court. You got to be able to make plays, that’s what they force you to do, they force you to make plays. When you get open shots you’ve got make them, because when they show you’ve got to be ready to put them in. We were down three and I thought we had two really, really good looks at the rim. Two wide open 3’s by two of the best 3-point shooters, so you’ve got to live with that. You’ve got to live with the shots that we got at the end of the game for Adam (Smith), the shots at the rim that we got for Marcus (Georges-Hunt and the 3’s that we got for Quinton (Stephens)as well.” On how his guys accept this outcome after making such a strong comeback at the end
“Even when they took the lead, we were never out of the game, I never felt like we were out of the game. We talked about making sure that the last four minutes that it’s a couple possession game. Our defensive kind of tuned up a little bit and they took some forced shots during that stretch as well. There’s two evaluation points; one is the competitiveness that you play with and I thought both teams were off the charts in that; and then there’s the performance piece and they were better in the performance piece tonight. How much better? Three points better. That’s disappointing, because we’ve been playing obviously extremely well and to come in this place in this environment on senior night and to compete the way we did, we’ve obviously shown that we are a pretty good team. They had to make some big plays, the and-one that (Damion) Lee got was a big play for them, obviously making a couple of those free throws was critical as well.”
LOUISVILLE COACH RICK PITINO
“Almost everything that I thought would happen, happened tonight. I thought our seniors would be very nervous because they’ve never seen or been through anything like our Senior Nights. I knew they’d come out and be nervous and they’d take some quick shots. Sometimes in this type of environment it happens, but we settled down. I said ‘all it takes is one good run, and we’ll win this game.’ This team has been very hot. We knew we were down most of the game there. We’ve been banged up. Ray Spalding’s playing hurt, and that’s why he made the flagrant foul because he was hurt. He couldn’t draw the charge because of various reasons in his mid-section, without going into any detail, but he tried to go for the ball. Really, really proud of the guys. It’s been a great journey with these three seniors. We are hoping that they go on to great success. I was real excited when I called Jim Haney and asked him to consider naming these guys right away to the Senior All-Star Game. I told him about them. I sent the stats, and I said, ‘they are not only deserving, they’ll be the greatest two kids to represent the NABC.’ He checked with his people, and he said right away, ‘We’d love for you to announce it, and we’d love to have them.’ I’m very excited. Friday of the Final Four, they get to experience the Final Four even though it’s not on the court. Very excited for them. The rings came out really cool. We had to do this in less than two weeks and because one of my managers who became a player when I didn’t have enough players at Providence and became a player, Ryan Ford, is one of the VPs for Jostens . He got it done. I want to thank Ryan for expediting that and getting us two beautiful rings because of it. So we’re very excited. Great night, great night for the fellas. You know, I think I was at Senior Night one night when you lost, and it’s not fun, with all that emotion, it’s not fun. So I told the guys in the locker room after the game ‘I never pray before a game. I don’t believe my prayers are going to… I know Georgia Tech’s praying.’ You always pray that nobody gets hurt and everybody comes out in good shape, but I said two prayers tonight. I said one before the game. I said, ‘Let these two seniors go out on top.’ And the last prayer I said was ‘Please, Nanu make those last two free throws.’ It just goes to show you that here’s a guy that was willing to make a change in his free throw where very few players are willing to do that. He worked on it and swished it twice. Those last two free throws, both were dead middle. And that’s exciting for me as a coach, and I’m very excited for him that somebody who changed his free throws could ice the game like that for us.”
How much better will this young team be in the years to come because Damion and Trey came this year?
“Damion and Trey taught them how to be men. Not young men they taught them how to be men, how to act around other people, how to treat people with kindness and generosity, how to carry themselves with class, how to articulate the right way. They are special guys. They don’t come along very often like this. I can say I have been coaching 41 years and there are very few like these two.”
On “one shining moment”
“If we go to the Final Four, it could’ve been me. We thought we could get there; now look, there’s 20 teams that think they’re going to get there this year. The first time I watched that I cried like a baby because none of us are going to get the experience of fighting. You know, my favorite times in the pros was March Madness. I just missed it so darn much. I’m going to get the brackets, do one show and I’m not turning it on. I’m not going to watch, I’m just going to hope for the best and some of my friends maybe have a chance to win it.”
Did this team surpass your expectations?
“They are one of the best over achieving teams because Ken Pomeroy does such a great job, for most of the year we lead the nation in defense and we weren’t even a defensive team. You can’t teach 11 new players the defense we play but they played hard with great effort and become a very good passing team at the end of the year. Just played with great heart and great effort. It’s amazing that they never got bitter, never complained, never said ‘the university let us down,’ they never did any of that. They always said the right thing. We understand and I told them some people do the wrong things and unfortunately we have to pay the penalties for it. But they never hung their heads, they did the right things.”
On having chance to share conference championship Saturday
“Well, we had a shot at Miami. Virginia has been our nemesis a little bit trying to score. It’s their senior night and there will be a lot of emotion, and I know these guys will give it everything they can. To be in the hunt at 23-7 and the No. 11-ranked team in the country is awesome. We would love to be in the top 10 to finish the season. We just want to continue to give great effort. It was an invaluable experience for our young players – Donovan, although he has miles to come on defense, Deng, although he has miles to come on defense, and Ray, miles to come on defense, they are terrific offensive basketball players and all three of those guys will be great ones. Ryan McMahon can really play, he can really score. He shares the weaknesses of the other three.”
On what Coach felt giving the speeches
“I thank Ralph Willard, he’s been my best friend for life. He’s needed surgery three or four times and I kept saying when we self-imposed ‘now go get it done so you can enjoy your summer’. He said ‘no I’m going to stay with you’ and I said ‘Ralph I’m going to be fine’ he said ‘I’m staying with you, I’m staying with the team’. In life, you all know if you have a best friend like that it’s pretty darn special and I’m very lucky. The shining moment thing really got to me when Kenny (Klein) showed it, I had to see it first although I would have been crying like a baby. Everything that Kenny does and everything that the staff does is always brilliant, has great taste. The fans have been absolutely great. Our players always speak about the fans and how much they love them, and they give their love back which is something that is really something we won’t forget as a basketball team.”