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“It was the most frustrating half I’ve ever coached, the first half, and about the exact opposite the second half. I told the kids after the game that five years from now I’d be in that locker room when we’d be down and I’d be talking about tonight’s comeback for them. I’d told them that I’d been down that far before. The year after UCLA won the national championship we were down 19 in the first half and we won the game by 15. It was a 34-point swing. In ‘91 to go to the Final Four we were down 12 at halftime to Arkansas and we won by 12 so it was a 24-point swing. Last week we were down 17 in the second half and came back to take a five point lead. I told them just because I said it, it didn’t make any difference. They had to play every possession, and I think we did a much better job playing every possession in the second half.
“Now let’s be honest, they missed some shots in the second half, but also let’s be honest, they’re not going to shoot 90 percent from the three-point line like they did in the first half. They hit their first nine threes. It was frustrating because I felt like we were playing a little bit of defense, but when somebody shoots 61 percent against you and 90 percent from the three point line you’ve got to look at something. We weren’t doing it the way we wanted to do it. We weren’t being very intelligent. It was a very heated discussion at halftime, but I couldn’t be prouder of our kids for bouncing back and showing the toughness being able to come back after somebody hits you right between the eyes about 13 times like we got hit tonight.
“The big fella [Tyler Hansbrough] was unbelievable. I jumped on everybody at the half because we were 0-for-9 from the three-point line and we’ve got one guy who has 13 free throws so why ... are we shooting nine three-point shots until they stop that. He was sensational. I thought David [Noel] set the tone with his offensive rebound for a basket in our second possession [in the second half]. Again, we’re extremely lucky and feel extremely fortunate.”
On if he is surprised at the way that Hansbrough can dominate games
He works as hard as any youngster I’ve ever coached. He comes every day trying to do the best he can do. I’ve said that since day one. He has an ability. He’s as stiff as you can be, but yet he’s extremely flexible, and around inside there he can wiggle around a little bit. There was a walk called on him tonight and I didn’t think he even walked that time because he works extremely hard to keep his pivot foot down. He’s a big time player, and Poplar Bluff is one of my favorite locations in the world.”
On if he feels that the team has momentum going into Sunday’s game against Wake Forest
”I don’t know. I feel lucky. I feel like I’ve stolen every cookie out of the cookie shop and that’s the way I’m going to look at it. I’m going to enjoy ... this one until midnight then I’ll think about Wake Forest.”
On if he could think of any freshman performance’s better than Hansbrough’s
”No, not right off the top of my head. J.R. Reid had a great game. He scored 30-something as a freshman when I was an assistant here. No, it [Hansbrough’s performance] was pretty darn good.”