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March 23, 2013Reaction from Ray Harper and WKU players following the loss:
Opening statement from Harper
I'd like to say how proud I am of these guys. I think the entire country got a glimpse of what they're made of, their character, their heart.
A lot of people doubted us. We went through some adversity this season, which I think adversity will tell you a lot about people. I knew I had a strong group of young men when we went through what we went through. They never blinked. They came to work every day. They allowed me to coach them. They allowed us as a coaching staff try to help them get better. For that, I'm deeply indebted to them.
I told Jamal this might be the end of his college career, but his journey has just begun. He knows we'll be there every step of the way as he goes along this journey. I can remember when he came in as a freshman, a buck‑50, how much he's grown up. He led us to two straight NCAA tournaments and helped get this basketball program back on track.
Hopefully we can continue to build and grow from here.
Q&A segment with coaches and players
Did you feel like you were able to control the tempo for the most part on both sides of the ball?
GEORGE FANT: Yeah, I believe we were, we were controlling the tempo. We tried to ball pressure them a lot.
Whenever we got the ball, we just wanted to push the ball up the court. We didn't really want to change our style of game too much because it had been working for us.
We tried to run 'em and control the tempo at the beginning. I guess it worked for us pretty good. We just fell a little short today.
JAMAL CROOK: In the first half I thought that we controlled the game a lot. They did everything that we wanted them to do. In the second half, coach told us they were going to come out aggressive. And I thought the first four to five minutes they were more aggressive. We had to settle in. We knew what was coming. Once we settled in, we got back to the way we was playing.
Kansas' defense in the second half, did you feel like you got looks that you just didn't hit or were you not able to get that many open looks?
GEORGE FANT: Exactly. We had a lot of looks; we just didn't finish 'em. I had a couple looks myself. A couple of my other players had a couple looks.
Sometimes the ball just doesn't go in for you. That's just what happened tonight.
JAMAL CROOK: Just like George said, sometimes the ball doesn't go in for you. I thought we had some good looks. I thought we had some great looks. They just didn't fall for us.
What was the feeling like at halftime going into the locker room?
JAMAL CROOK: I thought our momentum, I thought we had the momentum. I came in at halftime, I told the guys that we're going to have to be mature and we're going to have to come out and play the way we was playing the first half. Like I mentioned, they were going to come out more aggressive.
I thought the momentum was with us. I mean, the second half they came out aggressive, like I mentioned. We just had to settle in.
GEORGE FANT: Yeah, of course, we came in at halftime, we was pretty happy, of course, if you got a lead on the No.1 seed in the tournament.
But like he said, we came in the locker room. We talked about stepping on the throat and finish it off. First four minutes in the second half we came out a little slow. That's all it takes, you know. This is the game of basketball, it's a game of runs. They went on a longer one than we did. That was just the end of it.
Everybody knows a No.1 seed has never lost its opening round game. Was that on your minds at halftime, that if you won you'd make history, be the lead story on SportsCenter?
JAMAL CROOK: No, personally we knew what we had to do. We had to play basketball at the end of the day regardless of what seed we were, what seed they were. Our job was to win the basketball, put the rest in the back of our minds. We'll talk about it at the end of the game. It wasn't really a focal point at halftime for us at all.
George, how tough was it dealing with Jeff Withey in the paint?
GEORGE FANT: He's the conference defensive player in his league. I think he has the most blocked shots in the nation.
He's a long, athletic guy. I credit him a lot for how he played tonight. He's a load. He's definitely a load. Like I said, I credit him to his game. Also Kansas Jayhawks, played a really good game, had a win tonight. Win and advance.
I know this wasn't the way you wanted your career to end. When you look back the way the program was struggling your freshman and sophomore year. How excited are you to get to watch this team in the future?
JAMAL CROOK: I'm very proud of our guys. Very proud of our coaching staff. The day Coach Harp took over, I knew that this program was going to be tooken up another notch.
I'm interested in seeing them in the future because I know how hard these guys can work. I've been through it with them. When they're down, in the back of their heads, I know they got that fight in them. I can't wait to watch them in the future.
It's unfortunate that I had to go out like the way I did. But I wouldn't hang my head for anything. I love my teammates. I love my coaching staff. I wish them the best.
Coach, was that type of full‑court defensive pressure part of your MO?
COACH HARPER: Well, it's always been a part of our package. Depending who we're playing, we'll use it more than we will some other times.
Due to a lot of the injuries we had this year, we had to make a lot of adjustments. We couldn't be as much of an up‑tempo team midway through the season as we wanted. We felt like our pressure could cause Kansas some problems, and it did.
We were about a half step away from having two or three more steals. But I thought it did help us at times, got us a couple baskets, a couple turnovers. Again, we came in knowing we had to keep them off balance. We weren't going to be able to play just man the entire night. Played a little more zone than normal. Mixed in a little bit of pressure.
Give Coach Self, Kansas credit, they did what they had to down the stretch to win the game.
Just how frustrating was it to have the game right there in grasp and not be able to make shots?
COACH HARPER: It's not frustrating. I mean, it was unfortunate. But it's part of basketball. You know, our kids did everything they needed to do to put themselves in a position to try to win the basketball game. As a coach, that's all you can ask.
Sure, we didn't have some shots go in that we normally make. But that's the game of basketball, guys. It's a game of inches. You can say against South Alabama, our guys, they don't hang in there and get a steal with 29 seconds, we're not sitting here talking about this.
Sometimes it bounces your way, sometimes it doesn't. As long as you compete, play the game the right way, as a coach that's all I ever ask. That's what these young men did.