March 18, 2007
Tennessee Postgame Locker Room Quotes
Dane Bradshaw, senior guard
On celebrating after the game
"Success is so much sweeter when you struggle. Back in 2003 and 2004, I didn't think we could do it. I didn't even celebrate after the game. It was just a sigh of relief. It was great to jump around in the locker room later with the team. It feels great to advance in my last year."
On the re-match with Ohio State
"I feel like our team has gotten better since the last game. We have some things to work on in practice this week. But, we will be ready for it."
Duke Crews, freshman forward
On playing Ohio State in the Sweet 16
"We always try to take it one game a time, but you can't help but look at the brackets. It motivated us to know we could play against Ohio State again. We wanted that OSU game bad. We have matured a lot as a team between now and then, so we will be ready."
On the game today
"Everyone did their part today. We are best when everyone contributes. Right now is when we wanted to peak, and we did. We proved people wrong by getting to the Sweet 16."
Josh Tabb, freshman guard
On advancing to the Sweet 16
"It is unbelievable. It still hasn't sunk it. I guess it will when we get to San Antonio. It is a big win for us. Everyone picked Virginia to win, which just motivated us to step it up. In the Sweet 16 it is anybody's ball game. Hopefully we will win there and keep going."
Wayne Chism, freshman forward
On the end of the game
"We just tried to keep our team and our game under control. We kept playing hard and kept playing good defense."
On two Tennessee players fouling out
"We have a lot of people on our team who can do a lot of things. A lot of our guys do a good job coming off the bench and doing their job."
On advancing to the Sweet 16
"It feels great. Everyone kept saying we were a young team, too young, but we did it."
Ryan Childress, sophomore forward
On shooting 3-pointers
"Coach always gives me the ok to shoot 3-pointers. I heard `Shoot! Shoot!,' so I figured I would let it ride and keep shooting."
On the Tennessee basketball program
"I have seen what was bad turn good and now, get even better. We just want to make a good name for Tennessee basketball and do whatever we can for the program."
On the Ohio State vs. Tennessee re-match
"I am excited about it. We are a different team now and so are they. They have Greg (Oden) back now. Everyone saw a really balanced team against Xavier. It will be a good game."
Tennessee Postgame Press Conference Transcript
COACH PEARL: I think our players join me in realizing what we're trying to accomplish with our basketball program and it's unbelievable after the first round to find yourself sitting there with only 32 teams who are playing for a National Championship, and you feel so fortunate. And to know that after the weekend, only 16 teams are left, but it's a place we had to take this program. It's a step we had to make in order for us to consider ourselves a top 20 program, and then all that goes with it. Virginia played a terrific ball game. Reynolds and Singletary are clearly as good as advertised, and they were an extremely, extremely difficult cover. I think Reynolds may have tweaked an ankle at some point there and wasn't at a hundred percent in the second half and yet still fought valiantly. Our ability, both teams, did what they had to do at the foul line, shot great free throws. Talk about the poise. With all that on the line that both teams demonstrated, and for us clearly 8 out of 8 at the end with Chris' 6 and Ryan Childress' 2 was the difference.
REPORTER: Chris, on your final inbounds play, you had two guys covering you, I believe, how did you work ourselves free and were you surprised you were able to get open and get the ball?
LOFTON: I was surprised to get open as I did. I just kept on coming back and forth and trying to give Dane a clear path so he could throw the ball to me.
REPORTER: Following up on that, Dane, it didn't look like you took your eyes off Chris, is that where the ball was going.
BRADSHAW: I really didn't. We have other guys that step up on those free throws, but the time Chris was stepping up time and time again, I wanted the ball in his hand. I know he's going to work to get open and our entire season rested on him towards the end of the game and he redeemed himself on the Ohio State court that we've all kind of joked with him about, so he redeemed himself. Coach nicknamed him Buckeye.
REPORTER: You had two big threes down the stretch, talk about the first one. Did you think it had a chance of banking when you let it go?
SMITH: Not really. It was the first time in my career I ever heard Coach say shoot it with me that far out, so I just let it go, I had the green light and it was just one of those things that went in at the right time.
REPORTER: Since the Buckeyes were mentioned, beginning with Chris, each of you guys mentioned the shot you got, do you have enough left for Ohio State?
LOFTON: I feel like both teams have gotten better so it should be an interesting match-up there.
BRADSHAW: We've seen the game before and how close it was, we have to do a better job of defending Oden, he really killed us in the first half. We feel like we've gotten better but the whole country knows how much their young players have started to work as a team and they're definitely better than they were in January, so we look forward to the match-up.
SMITH: It's going to be real intense because we're the last 16 teams left and we're both fighting for our lives so I think you'll see a real intense game and good defense and they're going to be crashing the boards real hard to stay alive in this last 16 tournament.
CHILDRESS: I think it's a great opportunity. Both teams have gotten better, their guards are tremendous and have great guys inside, we need to have great communication in order to compete with these guys in Sweet 16.
REPORTER: Ryan, you made two free throws with 27 seconds left. Didn't have a great free throw percentage probably, talk about what you were thinking and what kind of history do you have as a free throw shooter?
CHILDRESS: Historically I'm a pretty decent free throw shooter, luckily I looked over to the bench, looked at Coach and he said take a deep breath and be calm and hit them and fortunately I was able to hit two free throws.
REPORTER: Chris, how intense was it out there with their defense in the second half especially, about the only time you got to shoot was at the free throw line.
LOFTON: It was real intense, they played great defense, I couldn't really get a good look. I started forcing shots and coach was telling me not to force it and be patient and just luckily I got to the foul line and came through.
REPORTER: Dane, what does it mean to you as a senior to be able to make the Sweet 16, go to San Antonio?
BRADSHAW: I can't really put it into words the way the program has changed and how quickly and I've really got to just thank the coaching staff and my teammates for putting me in this situation because I played my role for the team, but there are so many guys that led me to a memorable senior season. A lot of programs, when you get to the Sweet 16, it's almost expected and the Final Four is what they're really reaching for and we're going to continue to try to win games, no doubt, but when you reach the Sweet 16 at the university of Tennessee the way we've had to rebuild, you've really made a special place in history for yourselves.
REPORTER: Ryan, by the way the game was going in the first half and the foul difficulties, did you think you might have to play a bigger role in the last 20 minutes?
CHILDRESS: Yeah, I knew with Wayne's foul situation I was going to have to play some five and get an extra rotation in there so I focused on rebounding to help my team the best I could and luckily a few offensive shots came to me, I was able to knock them down.
REPORTER: What were your thoughts when you saw Singletary's last three go up?
BRADSHAW: Why has he not been fouled. That's what we were thinking. But after that, it really looked good from my end. I was underneath the basket trying to box out and then I just remembered once it hit off the rim that Coach Ford reminded me to just tap it out but I think the buzzer had sounded by that point anyway. He kept his team in the game along with Reynolds and he has nothing to be ashamed of, it was a great look.
REPORTER: Dane, there was a time when they got within 2 at 2:30, the last field goal for you guys of the game, I believe, you were just looking to make something happen, it looked like you kind of penetrated in the lane and kicked it out to JaJuan for the three. Could you describe what was going through your head because there wasn't a lot of time?
BRADSHAW: We ran a set play and I was actually supposed to be on the perimeter but there was an opening, I flashed to the lane and Smith did a great job of recognizing that and once I flashed to the lane, there was just a lot of traffic in there, everyone seemed to collapse, and I can always count on JaJuan to be barking in my ear in the corner, he yelled Dane, Dane, I knew he was open. He knocks down open shots very consistently for us.
REPORTER: Dane, you talked a while ago, what is the biggest difference under Pearl now compared to the previous team, why are you guys here?
BRADSHAW: It's tough to compare anybody to this staff. It really is unfair. You're going to end up on the short end whoever you are. I just think one of the things Coach Pearl and this staff really preaches is identity. They came in and told us what they were going to do and what was going to work for us and their track record spoke for themselves. We had a number of players that were ranked in the top 100, but we were just trying to make Chris have a good freshmen year. We had some problems that needed confidence built back up and Coach Pearl was great at doing that for us and along with all this great game plan and strategies, but confidence was a huge factor as was players' mindset.
REPORTER: Did you guys see the Ohio State where Lewis got off that three?
LOFTON: It seems like he's really fast with the ball and it's hard to keep him in front, when that shot went off his hands, I was just thinking, please don't go in, and it didn't go in, so I was excited.
REPORTER: JaJuan, for those of us who didn't get a clear look on who had who on that final play, who were you guarding after Virginia inbounded the ball, did you get picked or did somebody else?
SMITH: I was on Reynolds, are you talking about the last second shot?
SMITH: Yeah, I was on Reynolds in the corner. I think Josh Tabb was on him.
BRADSHAW: I think Cain had set a high ball screen and we just didn't switch out late or too late and weren't able to make the foul, and then by the time we recovered, you didn't want to take the risk of fouling the shot.
REPORTER: JaJuan could you tell that Reynolds was struggling a little bit on that ankle because he didn't make a three, I don't think, in the second half?
SMITH: Yes, one of our coaches pointed that out when it happened so we were just trying to get a lot of plays towards him, to go at him, take it to the basket and I think we did a real good job executing those plays.
REPORTER: Bruce, what's your philosophy on fouling with three, most coaches don't want to and you did?
COACH PEARL: We did twice and knowing that you've got Chris Lofton who you can get the ball to and he's going to make his free throws, I just thought it was the play. We might have done it a touch too soon the first time. It was about six seconds left. I think that the clock operator may have had some sort of an arthritic condition perhaps, but we just couldn't get that thing started fast enough. We were supposed to foul in the last one. For some reason, Dane Bradshaw wasn't on Cain and a guard was on him, it was Jordan Howell, and when he came off of the screen, Jordan didn't jump out and foul him then, and we should have.
REPORTER: Why do you do it?
COACH PEARL: You do it for four reasons, because they have to make four plays to beat you. If Reynolds makes that shot, Jordan and I still had a discussion after the game, they've got to obviously make the first one. They've got to miss the second one. They've got to rebound the miss and they've got to make another offensive play for a score versus one play and Reynolds got a great look and so I think it was a clear play, but you don't always execute it. Jordan wasn't pressed up enough and by the time Reynolds got it, he was concerned he was going to be able to pull it and maybe foul for three shots.
REPORTER: Could you talk about the contributions of Childress and JaJuan Smith?
COACH PEARL: Really glad you asked the question. Ryan Childress came to us as a Mid Major signing from when I was at Wisconsin Milwaukee, and he really was a high Mid Major player, came into the SEC and he basically saw where the bar was set, and he had two choices, he could go south and go to a level that may have been a little easier or step up physically, emotionally. He changed his body, he got lighter, he got faster, he got quicker, and kept his confidence and for him to be able to make those free throws and those two big threes and the rebounding, he kept us in there and a high major player now on a big stage. He's just young, people being patient, it's not always going to happen right away. JaJuan Smith, same thing, walk-on as a freshman. Chris Lofton is at his position. Chris Lofton may be one of the top two guards in the country. JaJuan's like what in the world am I doing in this program with him. Stayed patient, didn't leave, and found a way to play together with Chris. JaJuan, I think the big thing about JaJuan, continued to stay patient. JaJuan's not quite as creative. He doesn't -- he's not able to usually make tough shots so we want JaJuan to stay away from those tough shots. So with the shot clock being down, he had no choice so he had the confidence to shoot it because of the shot clock situation, but that last shot was one there wasn't a single will guy on the bench that -- we knew he'd make that shot, JaJuan Smith makes open shots and he makes big shots.
REPORTER: Bruce, with about 20 seconds left, you switched Lofton from the right side to the left for those last three and he got fouled all three times, what was it on the Virginia press you might have seen to get him on that side of the floor?
COACH PEARL: I asked Chris what side he wanted the ball. I asked him, what side do you want the ball so he could get the ball in that trapping situation and be able to get out of it. The big thing you don't want to do, you don't want to hold the ball and expect them to foul you, then you get a tie-up. It was important for him to get it and make an aggressive play right away and you'll get the whistle. You also get the ball in the All-American's hand. 5's going to get the ball and the shots, but he'll get the whistle. He made some tough catches as we got that question. It looked like he was covered, two guys were on him, he was all about the catch and then an aggressive play.
REPORTER: Where would the rebounding differential rank among factors in this game?
COACH PEARL: Maybe at the top. Virginia is one of the leading rebounding teams in the ACC. The average 13 and a half offensive rebounds of the game, at halftime for them to only have one was significant. Again, Ryan Childress' contributions there. And if you look at our stat sheet, you look at the balance of the minutes, Jordan played 10, but everybody else had really, really solid minutes there, that really helps our team chemistry and there was very, very good balance also on rebounding.
REPORTER: Bruce, what happened in this game to grind it out the way you did, Chris doesn't get a field goal in the second half, but you guys find a way to get it done.
COACH PEARL: Chris won't play -- Chris will look a lot better the next time you see him. As great a team as we're playing at Ohio State, that was not one of Chris Lofton's better performances. He made some open shots and he had some good looks, but he really wasn't reading the ball screens as well or taking advantage of the ball screen defense as well as he normally does and he also makes tough twos and he got the ball in at the basket and didn't make them quite as often. He played 18 minutes the first half, was probably a couple minutes too much because we were in a little foul trouble and that would be my fault.
REPORTER: Bruce, when you see Reynolds start the way he did, what were you thinking at that point? And as you did notice the injury, did that change how much attention you gave him defensively after that?
COACH PEARL: He had no assists and three turnovers, so we really try to press up on him as much as we can and try to make them more of a playmaker than a scorer. He made some tough shots. The other thing too, there was a lot of hand checking, a lot of drives to the basket and a lot of drives for those guards taking the ball to the basket. He was six for six and Singletary was 10 for 12. They were hard to keep out of the lane without fouling them.
REPORTER: You mentioned the foul situation at the end. The guy out of the high ball screen, probably anticipating that you might foul again, is that part of the chess match between coaches that goes on late in games that fans don't really understand or don't realize is going on?
COACH PEARL: I thought Virginia really executed well down the stretch. They got some terrific, terrific looks because they got to the foul line or they made the open shot. The only one they didn't make was the last one, so I thought Virginia executed extremely well. I think we had one bad defensive decision by me on the first three, when he accepted the high ball screen he was able to shoot behind it. We were trying to zone up and didn't have somebody on that big to jump out, and then the second time, I'll throw Jordan onto the bus and say Jordan should have switched out and fouled him before he got to the three point line.
REPORTER: What did you tell the players at halftime? It seemed like your whole demeanor changed second half, defensively, even offensively, you went deeper into the shot clock, what changed?
COACH PEARL: I was begging them to be more patient offensively especially when Virginia made that really nice run to come back into the game the first half and we lost confidence in our offense and started to settle for some things and it really hurt us. Wayne Chism kept us in the game the first half with his offense and -- but at halftime, we actually kind of chuckled how badly we were playing and we were down three. We felt great. We felt great in the locker room to be in the game in that situation. We also thought fatigue was a factor. We really work hard at balancing the minutes and it's hard sometimes. Tony Jones is my assistant coach and who exactly do you think is going to score out here for me, Tony. He gives me patience, and 5, he's able to make -- there's a temptation to play him more than 33 minutes and no foul trouble, you're crazy. Go back and look at the Chicago bulls and Michael Jordan and those teams, he never played the whole game. He always got his rest so he could make plays at the end.
REPORTER: Just your thoughts on keeping this going against Ohio State and wondering if you saw the end of their game yesterday.
COACH PEARL: I saw the end just on Sports Center. I'm glad to be in the Sweet 16 and still playing for a National Championship. I don't know, when we played Ohio State the first time, we played our hand. Those were the cards we had to play. And it got us within a possession of beating them. I'd have to go back and look and my guess is, I don't know how many more adjustments I'm going to be able to make because the way we played them was the way I thought we needed to beat them. I think Ohio State has changed a lot. I haven't studied them that closely yet, but there was some uncertainty for them at that time. Greg was just starting to come on and they were trying to figure out how to play with him and with him coming on. Now they're doing a wonderful, a much better job of knowing their roles, he's got his rotations down much better, and so I think Ohio State has improved a great deal. The decision for us to play Ohio State, however, was a program decision. That game was going to be a CBS game and nobody wanted to go to Columbus to play them because it was like -- it was scheduling a loss. But when you're at a place like Tennessee and you're not on the radar nationally, you've got to do things like that in retrospect, just even being competitive in that game won us some respect and in some ways helped us advance.
REPORTER: Coach, your players said that both teams have gotten significantly better since that meeting in mid January, could you just address that and how you feel it will impact the meeting next week?
COACH PEARL: It will impact it a lot. My guess is they've gotten a lot better than we have. They've changed a lot more than we have.
REPORTER: When did you or your coaches notice that Reynolds had done something, was that in the first half? Did you notice it or was it an assistant coach?
COACH PEARL: Assistant coach and it was either at the end of the first half or beginning of the second half amend I started to play -- JaJuan talked about, we drove at them but they blocked a few shots on the back. I don't know how much we finished taking it at him. We took it at him and went around him, but I don't know that we converted as often as we would have liked.
Virginia Postgame Locker Room Quotes
Jason Cain, senior forward
On the underclassmen on the team
"I think this game really opened the younger player's eyes. It shows you have to work hard everyday and you can't get too carried away with success. We are a big ACC school and won the regular season conference title. We got smacked in the mouth today and they have to learn from that."
On Virginia's second-half performance
"We came out flat in the second half. Our shots weren't falling and we got behind."
On Virginia's season
"We were picked to finish eighth in the ACC and we won the conference. I don't even think we were picked to make the NIT and we made the second round of the NCAA Tournament. We almost won this one so I think we had a successful season."
On the game
"I thought it was one of the best games of the tournament. Both teams played hard and it came down to a last-second shot. The loss hurts but we have nothing to be ashamed of."
Virginia Postgame Press Conference Transcript
COACH LEITAO: Obviously when you get to this point in anyone's season, it becomes' very cruel reality that at any moment in time it could be over. I thought especially for this group, because most of what we did during the season was with our heart on our sleeve and when you put it out there, it sometimes can reward you in the very best of ways, but when it doesn't, it could also break that heart in the very cruellest of the ways. Today was a day where we kind of got our heart broken and particularly for J. R. and Sean who have led a two-year charge that a lot of people didn't think was possible for Jason Cain who, I think for those of us -- for those who know us has evolved into not just a better player, but a better person because of the experience, so when you have moments like this, you remember that more than anything that happened during the course of this game or during the course of our season.
REPORTER: Sean, Tennessee said they planned to foul on that final possession, obviously they didn't do so, that looked like about as good a look as you could get in that situation, what did you think when it left your hands?
SINGLETARY: I thought it was good. I got a head of steam and a good pick from Jason Cain and pulled it up deep and I felt as though I got good elevation in my shot and good rotation, but it went in and out so I missed it.
REPORTER: J. R., were you hampered there? Coach Pearl thought you went out with a little bit of an ankle tweak and did it bother you after your hot start?
REYNOLDS: Yeah, in the first half I was driving the ball and stepped on, I can't remember the player from Tennessee's ankle, kind of rolled it a little bit, just didn't have the same lift or the push-off in my right ankle, so.
REPORTER: J. R. and Sean, can you put in words what it means to get this far and to have that feeling going and then, poof, it's over?
REYNOLDS: We had an unbelievable season and in the beginning of the season, didn't nobody expect us to do well in the ACC. They picked us to finish eighth, but we didn't believe it, just like last year, they picked us to finish last. And I don't think nobody in the world would ever think that we had a chance to get first place in the ACC, but the team worked hard and the coach did a tremendous job with getting us ready for every single game that we played.
REPORTER: Sean, can you talk about just the turn-around that you guys made from last season going into this season, what you think getting this far in the tournament has done for your program.
SINGLETARY: I think our program has totally turned around in these last two years. Nobody ever picked us to finish top in the ACC. We did that, made a lot of noise. Even though we're not advancing, I think we went this far for our program so we're going to look forward to next year and new recruits and try to usher them in right as soon as they get on campus, just get their mindset in a winning form and just keep going forward.
REPORTER: For Sean, when J. R. did tweak his ankle, did you feel more pressure to do more in the second half?
SINGLETARY: No, I pretty much was just trying to -- I saw J. R. making shots in the first half, I didn't look for my shot really which I should have been, but I should have been creating, but I was just trying to keep giving it to J. R., keep giving it to J. R., because I felt he was hot enough to take us to where we needed to go but when he injured his ankle, we really don't have anybody else to create, so I tried to step up a little bit and I was able to get to the free throw line in the second half, I didn't have the game I wanted to but tried my best, I feel as though J. R. and I were good in that we led our team and they put their heart out there and they played real tough in the second half.
REPORTER: J. R., before the ankle roll, how did you feel? I mean, did you feel like you couldn't miss at all?
REYNOLDS: I just wanted to get off to a good start, just being aggressive early. The first couple shots started going down for me, then I was looking for my shot just about every time down. Sean did a great job finding me and getting me the ball in positions in which I can score.
REPORTER: Dave, how much of a factor was the rebounding differential?
COACH LEITAO: It was one of three or four different things that cost us, but we didn't get as many offensive rebounds as we normally are accustomed to, but I think that that was balanced off by the fact that they didn't get a tremendous amount of really baskets on that end. So it's something that we've relied on, but I think we benefited from not having some of those offensive rebounds by getting back on D for the most part and not giving them the early looks especially from three that they were accustomed to.
REPORTER: When you commit two players as you did late against Lofton on that inbounds and he still gets the ball, is that particularly disappointing and what was the breakdown there?
COACH LEITAO: You know what, he's a great player. He's not a great player because he's a shooter, he's a great player because he's a player. They make plays at the most important time for their team and I'm sure everybody on their side felt very, very comfortable when he went to the line and knocked those shots down as he knew and I've got to get open for my team. It's not something that we spend a tremendous amount of time on and just denying balls inbounds because that's not what we do. In late game situations, you've got to be really good at things like that. One step too slow allowed him to get the ball and obviously he knocked down some shots so I guess you've got to credit him for that.
REPORTER: Two questions, I assume you were anticipating they were going to foul on the last play, that's why you brought Jason up to screen. And second, when the game ended, you went straight for Sean. It almost looked like your mind was on comforting your kid more than the fact that you lost the basketball game.
COACH LEITAO: I think, John, that I feel like anyway, and I'm sure that he would agree that we're connected emotionally to one another and I think one of the reasons why this has worked for the two of us as well as for the rest of the guys on the team is because we understand each other. And whether he played well or whether he plays well or not is of less consequence to me than what he's given to our team and our program. I understood at that moment in time, because he is so hard on himself, that immediately he would take blame, and that's the last thing I wanted him to do. So I wanted to be there for him to say, hey, let's help the guy up, let's embrace him and make him feel better, because we've all been there, I've been there, and it's an awful feeling and I wanted him to know just like I've tried to be there for him every day that I'm still going to be there for him.
REPORTER: You did expect him to make the foul?
COACH LEITAO: I did, we were on the sideline talking about should we make the first and we had six seconds to go before that play and we still had enough time to get up a three, but when they started fouling, I thought they would do it again. When we got our foul and got them to the line again, I knew with only five and some change to go, that they probably would not allow us to get a three off because they had done that twice before, so we were talking more about with only five to go to see if we could make the first and miss the second.
REPORTER: At least statistically, it seems like in your recent losses over the last month, you've gotten to some semi-comfortable leads in the first half. Is that just coincidence that you then have lost the game or is there something that happens at the start of the second half that needs to be corrected?
COACH LEITAO: No, first thing is you can't correct it now, it's over. Secondly, you play 30 some odd games, it's hard to put a script on it, unless there's a serious pattern, things that have happened recently and getting up and losing leads and, again, if I could equate that to a pattern, then that means when we got down in double figures, then we wouldn't come back. Each game is a story unto itself. You want to get off to a good start. I thought lately we've done that. And Tennessee is a terrific basketball team and we knew and we kept talking about punching and counter-punching and we knew they were going to come back after us. If it happened early, we still would have had to come back. If it happened in the second half, we still would have had to come back as well.
REPORTER: Did Reynolds' injury hurt you on defense as much as anything else the way Smith went off in the second half?
COACH LEITAO: I couldn't tell you how much defensively or offensively it hurt us. I think it slowed us down a little bit, but specifically, we got -- the baskets that hurt us were more interior and when they got up on us, Smith, Ramar Smith anyway as opposed to JaJuan Smith was driving the ball at us, our hedges weren't very good by our big guys and that's what was concerning me more than J. R., not keeping the ball in front of hip or allowing JaJuan Smith get open looks. I think what happened, and Childress was a beneficiary, JaJuan Smith was a little bit of a beneficiary, when we disconnected ourselves in two-man games which we were facing.
REPORTER: Can you talk about when you double teamed love top, were there instructions not to foul him or did you just think there was no way he'd get the ball there.
COACH LEITAO: At the end of the game? We double teamed him because we knew as the best player he was going to try to get the ball in his hands, Sean Singletary would try to get the ball in his hands for us, he did a better job of getting himself open than we did at keeping him from getting the basketball, so I've got to give him a lot of credit. We wanted him to catch it than somebody else, but even the pretty good free throw shooters weren't making free throws as consistently as he was so we just wanted to not have him touch the basketball.
REPORTER: Given the limitations in your front field particularly, do you feel this team came pretty close to reaching its potential this season?
COACH LEITAO: Yeah, I think anytime you're in year two, and I've said this before, of a program, you're still going to have some holes that need to be filled, and whether we talked about it for two years, a front court scorer or whatever the case may be, last year was depth, this year was a couple other things, you've got to make up for certain things. I thought we did a good job of amassing our flaws and playing much more to our strengths more often than not. I don't think the lack of a front court scorer hurt us as much today as it sometimes has in the past, but we obviously would like to have more balance and when you have two guys as good as Sean and J. R., you want to have the ability to take pressure off of them and we've danced with that for the two years I've been here about finding other people that can take the pressure off of him a little bit.
REPORTER: How important was the banked three pointer?
COACH LEITAO: It was momentum for them as much as it was three points. I thought he had an idea of the shot clock so he would just jump up and he's not the guy that normally plays hedge defense and we had him in there defending the screen and roll, so given anybody, and particularly at that time, the in the shot clock, some air to shoot was something we didn't want to do. In order to win in advance you're going to have to do things like that, and they made a couple more plays like that, just like they got contributions early from Chism, just like they got contributions late from Childress, or anything that may come out of the ordinary for a team is what carries you through in this tournament.
REPORTER: Coach, could you talk about the progress your program made this year and look toward the future a little bit?
COACH LEITAO: Just like I told the guys, progress is understood, obviously I think we've made a tremendous amount over two years, but what we've got to do, and the specific thing I told them is, it's very hard to get there. It was very hard for us to make that kind of progress, but it's even harder to stay, so once I take my tie off and let my hair down a little bit, then recruiting has to take over and get you are our program better has to take over and what I've always said over two years is I don't want to make Virginia basketball a one-hit wonder. I want to make sure that we stay consistent and that we've got even more work to do than we've done in the past two years.
REPORTER: After that first official timeout, it seemed like your defense really geared down, really the rest of the game, they got off to such a great start. Was there an adjustment made or what was it?
COACH LEITAO: Just an adjustment more mentally. We talked all day yesterday about what we had to do, obviously when you score 121 points, you really get the other team's attention, so they really had our attention and we knew if we were going to have an opportunity to win that it was going to be because of our defense, and I thought after they had 22 points before the 10-minute mark which I equate to halfway through if we're playing good defense or not, I thought once they got to 22 that we really buckled in and established ourselves defensively and started to zero in on our scouting report issues and got better that way. Obviously I thought that that stretch that they got the lead at the beginning of the second half, we let down again, not so much with them running and shooting, but just more methodically in the half court making mistakes, they methodically picked us apart. We made too many mental errors and allowed them to get back to the lead.
REPORTER: Coach, you may have already touched on this, I apologize, but from where you sat, did Sean's shot look like it was going in? He seemed pretty heart broken afterwards, what did you say to him?
COACH LEITAO: From my advantage point, he was a little bit behind where I was standing, so sometimes you have a view from behind, you can tell, but the trajectory was good, he had enough lift on the ball and had some momentum going into the shot and I trust him wholeheartedly, if there's a guy in America that you want shooting that shot, it's probably going to be Sean, I don't know for anybody else, but for my money, it's going to be Sean. And when he fell down, my first initial reaction was to console him because it wasn't about that shot. It was about our performance and I wanted to make sure he understood that he has nothing to feel bad about, ashamed about, or anything. We wouldn't be sitting here at all if it wasn't for his contributions and I think he needed to know that spiritually as well as verbally from me.
REPORTER: Coach, did the freshmen class this year perform kind of how you thought they would or could you assess them?
COACH LEITAO: When we take over a situation and, again, have to go out and recruit right away and this first class is a by-product of that, we were looking a tremendous amount more for character guys. And if I were to assess them from that standpoint, I think it's an A plus. They've given us a lot more than we've given them from a character standpoint. I think they represent themselves and their teammates and this university in an extremely positive way. Their physical contributions, you can debate day-to-day. Sometimes they played like freshmen, sometimes they were untrusting, sometimes they were trust worthy, and that's typical for guys that are coming in, particularly as we were playing catch-up. And you try -- we talked about the other day keeping guys like Duke Crews and other guys, we had some repair work to do, we weren't going to get the top-notch athletic guys that we'll be able to get in the future, but at the same point in time, we did not and would not substitute talent for character and I think in that regard, we hit a homerun.
REPORTER: Dave, do you feel happy at all that J. R. was able to finish his career in this tournament in a manner more befitting the way he played all season?
COACH LEITAO: Well, you know his evolution, the short two years that I've been around as a person even more than a player has been the way I look at it, has been phenomenal. Not that he was immature, but his understanding of what it takes to put himself in the position that he's in, and as I said to all of the guys, how proud I am of them, J. R., when he was a sophomore, scored 30 points in the ACC tournament game. That was probably the highlight of his two years at Virginia. Now he can talk to anybody that's worn the uniform and talk in the same circles as just about anybody that's played in this program, not just because he's a terrific basketball player, but because he represented this university in such a special way and for that, when we talked about day one becoming a family and understanding what family members are all about, he now has a clear understanding of what it is to be a member of our basketball family now and forever.