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How much pressure do you think Sean had taken off of him after the stressful return to Bloomington?
I wouldn't say he had any pressure released off of him or anything. We have a job to do every time we go out on the court and the lights come on--to get a win. Everybody has the same goals and dreams to get to the national championship, so we know what we have to do every game.
How much did you think about this game from a year ago, since you had a second crack at Kentucky?
I didn't really think about it at all. There's nothing we can do about last year. This year we wanted to just let everything else disappear. We really can't think about the last three or four years that we lost to Kentucky. We had to think about tonight.
How comfortable are you feeling at the free throw line now?
I struggled early. My shoulder, I hurt my shoulder early on this season. It's more of an adjustment just sitting up there, just concentrating.
Coach Williams mentioned how well this team is competing now, as opposed to last year. Do you sense that on both ends?
I definitely believe that because I think everybody else on the team has the desire to win right now. That loss [to Santa Clara] really sparked a flame in us. It just got everybody going because we don't want to have that feeling again.
Coach Williams said that he didn't think you shot the ball well yesterday. What changed today?
Coach said I didn't shoot the ball well yesterday, but I thought I did. I just missed a couple of shots in a row yesterday in practice. Coach was trying to get on me a little bit, but I knew I was going to have a pretty good shooting night, tonight. It always is a reverse kind of thing when you shoot bad in practice, you come out and shoot good in a game, so. How much fun are you guys having out there?
I think it's a little bit of fun, but we aren't really going out there like we are running through a recreational park or anything. We are out there handling business. It's never personal with us out there, it's all business. We've got a goal, and that is to make it to St. Louis.
Is your shoulder 100 percent?
Um, I would say about 91 percent.
Do you remember what it was like your freshman year when you went on the road?
I don't remember [anything] about my freshman year.
Coach Williams said that this team is competing at a different level this year than last year. What is different?
Just going through those experiences and losing all those games that were so close--a play here, a play there, a loose ball here. That's all just heart and willing to do it, and I think we are learning a lot. Right now, everything is a lot more fun because we are winning. I think that is the thing we need to continue to think about is last year there were so many ups and downs because we didn't compete as well. As long as we are competing and giving our best effort, we have a lot of talent that should take us far.
When you look at the rebounding edge you all had today, is that a lot of competing?
Definitely. Rebounding is just heart. Indiana, they came at us, they challenged us, and we didn't do a great job on the backboards, and that's why they were able to stay so close. Tonight, Coach said, 'Hey, let's get back at it. We had a little slippage against Indiana, but let's continue to work and get the backboards and that should get us going.' That's how we start our running game is getting to the backboard.
When did Coach Williams make the point that nobody on this team had beaten Kentucky, besides the coaches?
He made it a point yesterday at the end of practice. He asked everyone to raise their hands who had beaten Kentucky. The only people who raised their hands were the five coaches, and he said, 'It's about time you guys get yours. You guys are capable of doing it. It's not going to be easy, but if you work and bust your tails for 40 minutes, you guys can make it happen.'
Were you relieved to get all the off-the-court stuff past you in Bloomington?
Yeah, I was so happy after that game; we went straight to the airport, got on the plane and at 2:00 in the morning I was back here. I couldn't have been happier. It was tough, it was tough on my family. It was really, extremely tough on my father. They did a great job of supporting me. Going into a situation like that--no parent wants their kid to go through that. I didn't play well, but we had a win. It goes down as a 'W,' and I'm happy to be back.
What did this win do for the team's psyche today?
It means a lot to us. It's a great team to beat. They are well-coached. I love Tubby Smith as a coach. And we haven't beat those guys since I've been here, ever since my freshman year. This is our first win versus Kentucky.
Coach Williams said that after this first stretch of games that you all would know a lot more about yourselves. What do you think you learned from this 15-day stretch that maybe you didn't know in the beginning?
The main thing we learned is that we are a great team and that we are playing together this year as one. We are showing poise at the end of the game. We are finishing games at the end, the second half. We are showing that we are a great team and we have to continue to get better.
What happened on the play that required the injury timeout?
I just got hit. I turned around with the ball, and he smacked me on my hand pretty hard. I went down from there.
What does your wrist feel like?
Pain, pain--just pain.
Is it worse than before the game? Oh, definitely. I got it smacked on a couple of times, I fell on the ground on it that one time, so it's in a tremendous amount of pain right now.
After you suffered the injury, were you determined to try to foul him out of the game? You seemed to take it to him more after that.
Not necessarily determined to do that. I was just going at him, trying to make something happen. At the same time I hurt my arm, they were starting to make a run. I was just trying to make something happen.
Whether going at him or not, did that sequence make you more determined in general?
Not necessarily. I'm just that type player--once I get upset, I'm going at you. That's just how it is.
I got the impression that the fans thought it was a dirty play. Did you think so?
I don't think so, but I really don't know. I don't know what his intention was, but I really don't think that he was trying to hurt me intentionally.
A lot of people consider Rashad, Sean, and Raymond the 'Big Three' of this team. Do you feel like you are under-rated, or do you like to fly under the radar a little bit?
I really don't care who gets the credit as long as my team wins games.
How important was it to take Chuck Hayes out of the game, and how much of that was your responsibility?
I started off on him, but it was a team effort. He's a great player. They main thing was to try not to let him get the ball too low in the post.
He was in foul trouble in the first half. Specifically, what did you do to keep him off the boards and keep him away from the ball?
Just box out. You have to play defense even when your man doesn't have the ball, so I tried to be at the right spot at the right time.
Would it be fair to say that this is one of the most assertive games, physically, that you have played. It has looked like at times in the past that you might get a rebound and fade away and play a little more tentatively, but today you were going up strong, boxing out strong. You looked more assertive today. Do you notice a difference?
That's maturity and strength. I didn't work hard all summer for nothing. It's just another step in my game.
Can you notice a difference?
Yes, but I'm confident. Even back then when I was fading away, that was my game then; this is my game now.
Is that maturity going to help this team maintain the focus so that you don't get caught up in your records, in order to keep playing hard?
Of course. We have to keep playing hard. We realize that we still haven't accomplished anything. No one has won a championship here, so we have to continue to work hard.
Is that something that the coaches talk about--that you all haven't won anything?
They talk about it, but we know it. We've been here. We've lost a lot of games, and we've won some games. Until we put a trophy in here, none of that means anything.