STORRS – Some highlights of Kevin Ollie’s remarks, following UConn’s win over South Florida at Gampel Pavilion:
“I don’t know what to say about that first half. Fifteen points, we couldn’t make a shot, had good looks. The crowd stuck with us like no other. I thought they were probably going to walk out, but they were right there…giving us that push forward that we needed. And they were wonderful. I thank them so much for staying behind us, and staying behind this team like they’ve been doing the whole season.
“In the second half we started playing better. We started getting the ball to the rim, we started attacking. I think we made 24 free throws in the second half….We started attacking the rim and not settling for the three-point shot.
“The defense was wonderful again. Holding a team down to 34, 35 percent is wonderful in the Big East.
“It was a patient game. We had to be patient on offense and defense, and we didn’t do that in the first half. In the second half we started getting UConn shots. And it was a good thing to see.
“We’re finding different ways. Every game, we’re finding different ways. I always like that left-hand column going up high, and 15 and five, we’ll take that. We shored up our rebounding a little bit, but then it was the missed shots. At the end of the day, they started believing in each other, believing in the coaching staff, and they got it done. It’s just a wonderful team. It’s a team that takes you on some rides, but eventually they pull it together. Once again they came out on the winning side. It’s just the heart that they show. It’s not going to be perfect. You knew it wasn’t to be perfect in the Big East, but us getting wins is something they’re learning how to do.”
“[Shabazz Napier] is remarkable [pause as the UConn backdrop nearly falls] … He makes remarkable shots. He’s just got that belief in himself, that it’s a certainty, that he’s going to have confidence that it goes in. He’s committed to that shot and he’s going to knock it down. If he misses, he shakes it off. It’s a wonderful thing if you have that confidence as a basketball player, to step up in big moments. And he’s not scared to fail, and that’s the great thing about him. He’s not scared to fail. From failure comes success, and he’s not scared to take that big shot in a big moment. Actually, I think he embraces it, which is crazy. But that’s what great players do. They embrace those situations. They live for those situations.
“[For the end of regulation] I drew up a shot. I thought they were going to go man-to-man, they went zone. We thought Ryan would just take him, but we still ran the play and then Shabazz came up. It was for an isolation at the top for Shabazz. But everybody’s seen the Villanova game from last year. He can make that shot.”
“Leon has been working his tail off in practice. He deserved some minutes. They played a longer lineup, they didn’t have a ‘break-down’ guy at the two, the three or the four [positions] so I thought we could get some minutes for Leon. He plays hard, and I love the kid. He sacrifices time, not playing in the games, he still comes and give you full effort every day. I know I can stick him in there now. Hopefully, we can get some opportunities for him. ”
“This team is never going to be forgotten, not by me, not by our fans. I just told them they have a gift. To be doing what they’re doing, despite having no postseason, a situation they weren’t even involved in, to be doing what they’re doing is just remarkable.”
“At 15-5, these guys are taking care of basketball, and [with the four honor roll students] they are taking care of other things as well. I’m proud of them.”