Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski Opening statement: “It was a big time fight today. I thought both teams just played so hard and I’m proud of my guys and I’m sure Sean (Miller) has got to be proud of his, especially since they won. I’m proud of my guys with the toughness and effort they showed. It’s tough to score points, it was a physical game – really physical, they’re big and good They’re good, they’re really, really good. I thought we did a good job. They had those threes in a row … we had two that were in and then came out … that’s the kind of game it was. I thought we played winning basketball and they beat us with winning basketball.”
On Arizona defending Parker: “Jabari is going to get a lot of attention. He had a number of shots go in and out and he has to keep shooting them. We’re not going to win unless Jabari and Rodney (Hood) shoot the ball. I thought he played a really good game it just didn’t go down for him. Its physical – they have taller guys and if you do get the ball around the basket they re 6’9” or 6’10” … that’s a big time front line. We don’t practice against that. Two things you can’t practice against if you don’t have are length and quickness. We have quickness but not length.”
On improved defensive effort: “We played really well here on the defensive end we were playing our hearts out. They are a difficult team to defend. I don’t fault our team. You’re going to make some mistakes…we played a game that was worthy of winning we just play as well in some cases as they did. Our defense for these two games was very good.”
On coaching against bigger teams: “I thought we played a lot better tonight than we did against Kansas. I think my teams have improved. There is no shame in losing to Kansas or Arizona. We play a big-time schedule and when you do lose you congratulate the other guy especially when they are high caliber like those two teams. Part of us getting better is getting older together…”
Jabari Parker on Arizona: “..Getting the experience of playing against bigger guys…it’s no excuse for them to have the advantage because is not necessarily a game that requires height. It’s just about getting back in the gym and work on it.”
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: We talked all year about we don't have a center, and we have good players, and we have to figure out how to be good with the players we have. So I thought those kids played really well. I mean, I thought they played their hearts out. Josh and Quinn (ph) were all over the place but we're not going to get scoring from there. They can go in and get a score and get him the ball. We don't have that. That's just the way it is.
Q. You talked a little bit the other night about how impressive McConnell is. How much did his impact on the game and all facets of the game make a big difference in terms of how he ran things? MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: He's a veteran. They are a veteran team, except for Gordon, and that's why they are ahead and besides that, they are extremely well coached. He makes good decisions and he has good people to make decisions with. But he played well.
There wasn't a kid who played poorly tonight for either team. It's tough to single out anybody for them. I thought the biggest shot of the game scored was three when we were up by four and Johnson hit one right at the end of the clock right after that. They had two threes that wiped out our lead, the small lead that we had and seemed to give them even a little bit more life. And then we had one that rimmed out during that time.
And sometimes the game is really as simple as that. Kid is hitting good shots. He's a good player. All their kids are good players.
An Interview With: Arizona
Q. T.J., talk about your game today and how you were able to really facilitate the offense throughout the game? T.J. McCONNELL: You know, I just let the game come to me and when there was misses, I pushed the ball, drag screens, just trying to get people open. I just went with the flow of the offense and my teammates aided me with the backups, and so all credit to them.
Q. Nick, could you just talk about the difference in the second half, two points at halftime and they just came out and there's one stretch in the second half where you really seemed to take over. NICK JOHNSON: Just try to stay with it. Got in foul trouble early in the first half, kind of got my rhythm a little down but just tried to stay with it. T.J. found me on a few plays and I just knocked down the shot.
Q. How much did today kind of encapsulate what you were waiting for during the year that you sat out, and what was it like finally getting the opportunity to play in this type of a form? T.J. McCONNELL: It was tough to sit out last year but it definitely paid off for me, just working on every aspect of my game, getting bigger in the weight room and just getting familiar with the offense and building chemistry with the guys. So the year off was great and it only helped me.
Q. What do you think you showed people across the country that maybe weren't familiar with your team these two games? NICK JOHNSON: We're an all around team. Really you could see it in the box score. It was pretty even all the way around. We're a good team. Duke's going to win a lot of games this year. I mean, they have been struggling a little bit as of late but they will get it together, Coach K always does. We're a good team and we can play with anybody.
Q. What kind of difference has T.J. made for your team? NICK JOHNSON: Huge. Huge. I mean, he had eight assists, two turnovers today. Just huge. On defense, he has like a little bulldog mentality, gets up in defense and he's really aggressive. So I mean, it's been big for our team. His leadership is huge for us.
Q. Similar to the other night, are you thrilled that you have two victories and flying back to Tucson, how happy are you that you came out here and had to get punched a little bit and that you know that about your team and how they responded? SEAN MILLER: No question. One thing I learned at Xavier is the importance of non conference schedule. The days of hiding at home or ducking the parity that exists have ended. You see that in March when you see tomorrow great teams and then so many seeds that are represented only because either they challenged themselves in the non conference season, or they didn't.
So part of us, you know, already going to San Diego State, coming here to New York, knowing that both games we would have the opportunity to play in would be No. 1 in the East Coast, away from home, and number two, against two quality opponents. That's why you want to play in an event such as this one.
And it makes you better. If we wouldn't have won both, I feel like we'd have gotten on the plane knowing more about our team and been better because of it.
But two things happened both games that I think will really be with us all the way to the end of the season. No. 1, Gabe York against Drexel put behind him a bad half. You know, I think if you were watching the game, you would say, is he going to go small and maybe sit Tarczewski out. Well, in the second half of that game, he was the reason that we won and the difference.
Two days later, you fast forward to tonight's game. In this case Johnson, not only because of foul trouble but some uncharacteristic turnovers really was not playing all that well. But he was able to put it behind him, and no question, he was the most outstanding player in the tournament, and really from the 15 minute mark to the end of the game, I thought he was the best player on the court.
It's always good when some of your key players can put kind of some adversity or bad play behind them and finish so strong. That's a quality that we really gained by coming here.
Q. Just your impressions of Jabari, now having seen him, and also Aaron's defense on Jabari in the post, seemed to play really strong D on him. SEAN MILLER: Jabari Parker is just a really dynamic offensive player. One of the things that's striking in person is how big he is. He gets the ball in and around the basket. He's a load, yet he's so talented away from the goal. And I'm sure as Duke's cohesiveness starts to come their way, that he'll make the other players on his team even better than he already does. Rodney Hood is also very, very good.
Aaron Gordon, you know, just so we are talking about the freshman conversation; Aaron is not going to go score 30. He's not a volume shooter. He's a basketball player and if you really think about what he did during the game, who he guarded, he guarded Hood and Parker. He had seven rebounds and he made a couple of the best passes on offense for us. He made a big three point shot. His free throw is getting better.
And he's a basketball player. He's a guy you love to have him on your team because he's a great teammate and it seems like everything flows better when he's out there, even though he's not a point guard. So that's the difference, as you describe those players.
Q. Talk about the versatility of this team with the size up front and also as you mentioned with Aaron Gordon, how far can you guys go, especially as the season goes along, and you guys gel more? SEAN MILLER: Well, you know, I hope we can go far. Obviously we're still talking at the end of November. But the seven games that we've played, we've handled ourselves well. We do have versatility. I believe that our bench can continue to develop; players like Gabe York, Jordin Mayes, Rondae Jefferson. Rondae was as good on our side tonight as any of our players. I mean, at times, he was playing a position that he doesn't even practice. He, too, guarded Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker and I think Rondae deserves a lot of credit.
When you think about our team being versatile, two players really stand out, Rondae and Aaron, are two freshmen, because they are so interchangeable. But we can get better.
I tell you, I'm really ecstatic that we were able to win this tournament here in the Garden. Everybody here knows what a special place this is. We talk to our players a lot about it. You can see our fans, how many fans we have, being from the West.
So everybody embraced where we were because they knew it was a big stage and for us to get on a plane here and travel about 15 hours tonight, it's going to be a nice plane ride home because I think we feel good about how hard we played and what we were able to accomplish.
Q. You have a great track record of winning 20 plus games every year and making the postseason almost every single year. Again, I know it's only November, like you said, but compared to past Novembers, is this just another good Arizona team, or do you sense that there might be something different to make this team special? SEAN MILLER: I think we can be special, no question. And one of the things to watch us is we have to be an elite defensive team. We have to be able to get stops. We have to be able to use our size rebounding, and we just have to continue to develop and improve.
Injuries, they can change the dynamics of the season on one play, so we have to be on the good side of that; so far, so good. But the one thing that I know being around our team every day, and even this summer is we have a really good group of kids. Some of it's fueled by our freshmen; the humility that they have come to Arizona with.
And then the older players, T.J. McConnell, he came to Arizona for all the right reasons, to play in big games like this and to have a chance to play with some great players around him and I'm happy for him, too. He's always in the right place. The only thing he tries to do is run his team and get assists, and in today's day and age, that's rare.
Q. Can you talk about Aaron's performance in the second half compared to his performance in the first? SEAN MILLER: Oh, he stayed patient, which is one of the qualities that he has as a player. I chose not to play him a lot in the first half, because he was in foul trouble. I think he played the whole second half, right? I don't know if he came out.
So you know, he played 20 minutes in the second half so he was out there more. But we as a group have to find ways to use his offensive talent even more, and he's such a unique player, you can put him in different positions and he can really excel. And one of which is, for example, a ball screen, pick and roll action.
You would think someone 6 8 would not be good in that but he's very good in that. As we learn more about what makes him a good offensive player, I think that we'll continue to give him even more moving forward.
Q. It seemed like you guys, obviously your defense is what you build your team on. When you need a go to guy, how important is it a guy to have like Nick Johnson step up? SEAN MILLER: Nick's become that for us. He's taken big shots. He's made them. Part of being a go to guy is what I described earlier. There's a lot of go to guys that are doing well when things are going well for them and their team. True go to guys are the ones that dig their team out of a gutter or are able to put three or four bad plays behind them and make the next big play.
It's great to see Nick developing into that, because he's experienced I coached Solomon Hill who was the first pick of the Indiana Pacers this year, and Nick reminds me a lot of Solomon's track, where each year, the attitude is roll (ph) to his game. I don't know if there are more complete guards in the country than Nick, when you just look at what he means to our team and the value, the way he plays both ends of the floor. He's really turned into a terrific guard.