INDIANAPOLIS (WDRB) -- Comments from University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino and his players on Sunday's NCAA Midwest Regional Final matchup against Duke.
RICK PITINO, ON REACHING THIS POINT: Well, we're very excited to be in the Elite Eight. We did not play one of our better games out of the last 15 or so (Friday), but I think that was due to Oregon. We played very good offensively. It was just our weakest defensive game. And the guys basically defensively had a night off, so they're going to be very, very fresh against Duke.
RUSS SMITH, ON THE TEAM'S RECENT ILLNESS AND ITS HEALTH NOW: I think we're getting better. We're all getting better. We've been getting treatment and stuff, and this day off is going to give us a lot of time for our bodies to recuperate. So I think we'll be good heading into Duke.
PEYTON SIVA, ON THE TEAM'S RECENT ILLNESS AND ITS HEALTH NOW: I think the game Friday night helped us out a lot by Oregon running so much ran it out of us all. Our trainer, Fred, has done a great job of taking care of us and seeing us. We've been taking antibiotics and I think everybody is getting their energy back and everybody's become more upbeat. And Russ stopped coughing on everybody, so I think we're doing better.
SIVA, ON PLAYING DUKE IN NOVEMBER WITHOUT DIENG, AND THE DIFFERENCE HE MAKES: I think it was a great game. Both of us have improved a lot more since that Bahamas tournament, and it was a great opportunity to play against them at that time. Who would have known we'd be playing right now for a chance to the Final Four? Nobody would know that. With Gorgui back in the lineup, it definitely gives us another dimension to the game. V.T. and Zach and Montrezl have helped us out a lot replacing Gorgui in the game. But you can never really replace Gorgui. He's playing good right now and is definitely going to help us out a lot.
PITINO, ON WHETHER PLAYING DUKE EVERY YEAR IS A BENEFIT OF PLAYING IN THE ACC: It was on the top of my list. Now, you know, I'll tell you the truth, I don't even really think about it at all, because we've got another year to play. One thing I can tell you I don't do is I really never live in the future. I really don't. I just live for today, coach for today. I don't take anything for granted. My wife's got a great expression: Make a plan for the future and you'll make God laugh. And that's pretty much -- I believe in that. So I don't really think about it. That's a long way off for me.
PITINO, ON HOW DUKE HAS IMPROVED SINCE THE NOVEMBER MEETING: Well, I think Curry's gotten healthier, obviously. He had a stress fracture. That's the biggest thing. He's gotten healthier. They learned to play without Kelly and we learned to play without Gorgui. It made us play better without him. It made them more efficient in other areas. Now he comes back and they're better. Gorgui comes back and we're better. We played a very good game that night, had a chance of winning. They were just a little bit better down the stretch.
PITINO ON THE CHALLENGES MASON PLUMLEE PRESENTS: Well, he's very long. He's very skilled. He jumps -- the whole family jumps extremely well. So he's someone that understands the game real well. He hits his cutters the right way. He's a very good rebounder, very good outlet person. He runs the floor well. He's a very good athlete as well as being a very good basketball player. So he poses a lot of problems for us with one day of prep.
CHANE BEHANAN ON MATCHING UP WITH RYAN KELLY: Well, it's going to be real tough. But I got four other guys behind me that's going to contribute and help. Russ digging, Peyton digging, Gorgui trying to block shots. Just go out there, give it your all. Playing for the Final Four. That's basically all I can say. Coming to bring it.
PITINO ON HIS RESPECT FOR DUKE: Our respect level for Duke is as high as it gets. Not only for their players, for their coach, for the way they represent the game and the way their program is run. We know that. We played them a great game there. We know we're going to have to play a great game to come away with a victory. But we feel after (Friday) night's game, I think our guys are disappointed in their defense and I think tomorrow they'll play it much better.
SIVA ON WHETHER THE GAME HAS A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP FEEL: Right now, every game is a national championship. You've got to win to survive. And that's how you have to play it, because if you lose, you go home. So right now, there's potentially three games left, and each one you have to play like a championship. That's how we look at it, and that's how we'll go out and play. We have to leave it all on the line. We're trying to play for a potential spot in the Final Four. Duke's a great team. They're playing really well. Like you said earlier, number two when the season ended and he was really hot. They had a couple mishap games, but they've been playing great. We've got to come out and play our hardest and play like it's a national championship game.
PITINO ON MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: I've said it about 50 times. I'll make this 51. Coach Wooden, I felt, was the greatest teacher of any sport of any game. And Coach K is the modern‑day John Wooden. I've made that statement over 50 times, and I believe that. Just in the way he carries himself, in the way he teaches values, in the way he coaches basketball. He's a fierce competitor like Coach Wooden. You'll both see their intensity on the sidelines, and it will be saved for a lot of timeouts. They're just great coaches, great people, great teachers. They would both be great teachers of biology in the classroom. Obviously, Mike being a West Point grad, has tremendous discipline in his life. Mike is the modern‑day Coach Wooden. There's no question about it because of the character that they both possess. There's more to coaching than just teaching basketball Xs and Os. It's what they stand for as people. And both of them, I couldn't put anybody on any higher point than those two gentlemen.
PITINO ON WHETHER THE ADDITION OF DIENG CHANGES THE OUTCOME OF THIS GAME AGAINST DUKE: I'm not sure, because -- I'll tell you why. I know he's obviously better than Zach Price and Stephan Van Treese. But both those guys played terrific in that game. If one of those guys would have played poorly, you'd say it's going to be a big difference. But both those guys played very well in the basketball game, especially on the defensive end, the way they screened. There's so much at stake in this game because it means the Final Four, that really past performances don't mean a whole lot. So it's going to be a hard, hard fought basketball game, and we know that. The thing about Duke is you got to keep them off the foul line, because they make every free throw. And that's -- any team like Duke that plays defense like they play and rebounds and if you put them to the foul line, you're probably not going to win the game. Like last night, what was it, 26 times, made 24 out of 26. Michigan State's not going to beat them letting them shoot 26 and making 24.
PITINO ON THE IMPORTANCE OF RUSS SMITH: I told Russ this morning, I said, Russ, Duke trapped you every time on a pick and roll, and Duke is going to try to take you out of the game early on. I said, You've got to get the other guys the ball. Our guys know that. There's no jealousy. They know Russ has bailed us out of a lot of tough situations. We've got a lot -- Russ knows that. We have a lot in our favor.
PITINO ON DIGGER PHELPS CONTINUALLY PICKING AGAINST HIS TEAM: The guys texted me and said, What's wrong with this Undertaker? He keeps picking the other team. I said, He's been doing that since I've been at Kentucky. Don't worry about it. They said, Why? I said, Because if he picks the other team, he picked Oregon, we have a great chance of winning. I said, It's our key to our game and you must understand that Digger, I've known him a long, long time. He picked every single game until Vitale told him to pick the Washington Generals over the Globetrotters. It took him a year and a half to realize that they weren't supposed to win and he still kept picking them. For us, the Undertaker is going to pick Duke. We have major, major advantage in this game.
PITINO ON THE PLAY OF QUINN COOK IN THE BAHAMAS AND HIS RECENT STRUGGLES: I always tell the guys, in March, anybody referring -- let's say you've taken 90 threes on the year and you're shooting 28 percent. The fact that you've taken 90 and your coach lets you take 90, we consider everybody a big‑time three‑point threat. That's the way we look at everybody. We don't look at the fact they're not playing well or playing well. If they have played well and they've taken a volume of shots, we consider them a big threat. One of the reasons we won last night is Oregon was winning with the three‑point shot. They were 8 for 11 against St. Louis. They won by 20. We held them to four made threes in the game. That's why we got beat off the bounce a lot, because we were pushing up. We were going to take away the three. So we consider, although he may not be playing well right now, and the fact that somebody said that he hasn't played well with one day's rest, we don't pay any attention to those things.We consider Cook a valuable, valuable asset. We're going to try to stop him as well as Curry.
SIVA ON LOUISVILLE'S FRAME OF MIND: We're just a relaxed kind of group. We don't try and take things too seriously off the court. We try to relax and have fun, but rarely do you get to enjoy moments like this, rarely do you get to enjoy college. So we just try to go out there and have fun with it.
SIVA ON DUKE'S GUARDS: They are great guards, but we play all different types of guards. Everybody on our team progressed the same way theirs did. So it's definitely going to be a tough game, a fun game, but I'm looking forward to the matchup.
SIVA ON WHAT TYPE OF GAME HE EXPECTS: I think it will be an up-and-down game, to be honest. They like to push the ball and get layups. Sulaimon, Curry, they like to stretch it out. Kelly likes to stretch it out. They're going to push it when they can but when they get into their half-court set they're still going to run really good offense. Mason Plumlee runs like one of the best big men out there, reminds me of Cody Zeller the way he runs the court. So I definitely think that they can get out there and run, and we got to do a good job of matching their intensity, matching their physicality, and hitting the glass.
BEHANAN ON WHETHER THE GAME WILL HAVE A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP FEEL: It's going to be real big. For me to be this young, it's a blessing and an honor to play in a game like this. Growing up watching NCAA basketball I just never thought I'd be in this type of situation. I just want to thank God first of all, and thank Coach (Rick) Pitino for giving me this opportunity to come to this university and show what I can do.
BEHANAN ON USING THE FIRST MEETING WITH DUKE: We just revisit what we did. It was early in the season. Everybody on our team -- the freshmen and people who didn't play last year -- didn't really know about our press and where we can get steals. Playing throughout the season and just learning more about it, now that we're here, I think we've stepped it up and everyone has caught on.
BEHANAN ON FACING PLUMLEE: He's a very great player. He's scoring, he can rebound. We just have to keep him off the rebounds and try to front him and limit his touches around the basket.
BEHANAN ON WHAT IT WOULD MEAN TO MAKE BACK-TO-BACK FINAL FOURS: It would be an honor and a blessing. It just lets people know that when you come to our program it's all serious and work. . . . It feels a lot different (this year). Being the No. 1 seed, it's scary having a target on our back but it's fun at the same time. For all the people out there around the world that want to see us fail, we just have to believe in the people that are in between the lines with us and that practice with you every day – just block out the outside world and get the job done.
GORGUI DIENG, ON HAVING TO SIT OUT THE LAST GAME AGAINST DUKE WITH AN INJURY: I was talking to Russ (Smith) last night. Me and Russ were up until 2 in the morning. I never had that feeling in my life, just sitting on the bench, seeing my team losing. I think that is the worst feeling. I couldn't do anything about it. If I had my choice, I probably would have wore a jersey and stepped on the court. I just wanted to play them and see and I have a chance to play them now. I think it is time to show up and help the team win. But whatever the outcome is going to be, you never know. We can't come in and have an off game. At the end of the day what is the outcome going to be? Everybody is going to watch the game and understand that we are going to compete and that is what counts.
DIENG ON FACING PLUMLEE: He's a great player, but everybody has something they do best. I have to play great defense, so I will probably try to do something to limit his touches. I think he cannot score if he does not touch the ball.
DIENG ON THE MAGNITUDE OF THE GAME: This game is very big to us. It seems like a lot of No. 1 teams go down. Just because you are No. 1, you don't get to go to the end. We just need to show up. We really do. Everybody needs to do what he does best. It's not a game that you're going to make a lot of mistakes and win. We just have to play very smart. I watch film, I didn't see any weaknesses in Duke. They shoot the ball. You foul them or give them two points, it's the same. We just have to play great defense and team basketball.
SMITH, ON DUKE BEING DIFFERENT FROM THE TEAM LOUISVILLE FACED IN NOVEMBER: We were both pretty immature teams, especially us. Our bench didn't really develop into the weapon it is today, along with our freshmen. I think our bench has become more dangerous, along with our starting unit. Duke has gotten better along the whole season. Sulaimon has evolved. Cook has been playing really good basketball. Curry has gotten healthy.
WAYNE BLACKSHEAR, ON HOW LOUISVILLE WILL DEFEND SETH CURRY: We'll probably do the same thing we did before -- put Russ (Smith) on him. Try to make it tough on him to get his shot off and to get an open look.