Postgame Quotes: Miami 63, Illinois 59
March 24, 2013
ILLINOIS PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
COACH GROCE OPENING STATEMENT: Well, couldn't be more proud of our team throughout the course of the season. And I thought it was exemplified in full fashion today.
I thought we battled, I asked them to play with courage, they played with a high level of courage. I thought their poise was tremendous. They were resilient. We had several guys make plays. We had our opportunities. I want to give Miami credit. They're a really good basketball team. You don't win their league and their tournament championship unless you've got good players and you're well coached and you play well.
It was a battle. It was like a heavy weight boxing match out there. Unfortunately, we came out on the short end of it. The worst part for me is that I've got these guys up here, two of the seniors. I got three more back in my locker room and we don't get to go to practice on Monday and Tuesday. That's the part that's hardest to swallow. Because these guys are high character guys, I loved being around them from day one, they have laid a foundation for where we're headed and as I told them in the locker room, I'll be forever grateful for that. They represented the university well. Proud of them. Questions?
Q. Brandon, you kind of slumped over there at the end of the game and just wondering what your thoughts were at that moment. You guys were so close probably seemed like you were within reach there.
I've had a great career at Illinois, I've done a lot of things, and just looking back I'm proud of the way we fought tonight like coach say. We made plays and it put us in position to be successful. Miami played a great game and they never gave up and they're a good team.
Q. Nnanna, with about 40 seconds left you were battling for the ball I think with Kadji under your basket. And it looked like you guys thought you were going to get the inbounds play and then they gave it to Miami. Just how surprising was that to you? What was?
Q. Nnanna, just talk about the way you guys came back at the end of the game and just the feeling when you get that close and it doesn't work out.
Q. Tyler, just a thought about what happened down the stretch and how close it was and how it didn't come to pass the way you guys wanted it to.
Q. Just talk about that inbounds play there. It looked like everybody was really surprised that it went the other way.
That's how he saw the play in life speed, and certainly respect him and respect the call that he made.
Q. You kind of touched on it a little bit with the guys, we have talked about this all year, but what do those guys mean to you and how hard is it right now sitting here right now knowing that you're not going to have those guys any more.
Biggest thing though I said this is I just said this to them. I hope it's a great life lesson for them that don't put self imposed limitations on yourself. And believe in your self. And when times get tough, they're going to get tough, they're going to get tough when they're married some day, when they have kids some day, and they have got to pay bills and all those life lessons that you learn, that's what sports are about. To be resilient and to grind and find a way. And they did that all year.
I'm proud of them for that. I'm proud of our staff. Felt like we got a lot out of them. Our staff deserves a lot of assistant coaches deserve a lot of credit for that. I thought today we played really, really well. I thought they played well also and they're a good basketball team and it just didn't go our way.
Q. You touched on it sort of in general, but specifically Brandon gave you some big threes down the stretch, Tyler early, just talk about some of the individual contributions, Tracy to the hoop.
We had Nnanna with 12 rebounds, I mean you could go right down the line. I felt like everyone that played contributed in some form or fashion. That's kind of how it's been all year, we have been kind of a committee of guys trying to do it together. And I think our guys have, for the most part, they have done that, they stuck together through thick and thin and for that I'm proud of them.
Q. How tough is it to see D.J. Richardson shoot so poorly in his final game?
And the great thing about D.J. is he found other ways to impact the game with how vocal he was, his leadership, the way he defended, I thought he was really locked in and engaged. I was proud of him and the way he handled himself all season.
Q. Kind of reflecting, can you talk about how lucky you were to inherit a group that was this resilient all year long.
Q. Building off that, how much does this help you, the success and getting to the tournament for those young guys as you look to take further steps here?
ILLINOIS POSTGAME LOCKER ROOM QUOTES
Illinois G Tracy Abrams
On the difference tonight: We fought hard all night. I felt like we were the toughest team out there. It was a good game, those guys played pretty hard. Those guys made plays and our guys made plays. It was a hard fought game.
On the senior class: Those guys are half the reason I became the player that I was this year. I learned from those guys and fed off their energy and their experience. It definitely helped me out on and off the court just to have those guys around and showing leadership.
On Illinois going further than expected this season: This is a new beginning for us and our program. This is coach's first year and that was the foundation here for us and it just shows you have to be resilient.
Illinois G D.J. Richardson
On how they stayed in the game: We made plays, they made plays as well. They punched and we didn't flinch. We kept making plays, Brandon [Paul] made some big plays for us, Tracy [Abrams] made some plays, Tyler [Griffey] made some big threes. We just kept fighting, that's basically what it was. They were fighting and we were fighting at the same time.
On going 1-11 shooting: Shots weren't falling, I was obviously taking shots that I'm capable of making. They fell in the last game, I was missing this game. My teammates did a good job of getting me the ball in the right spots I've just got to knock them in. But obviously my career is over so I have to look forward to my future.
On Nnanna Egwu: He played great tonight. He made some shots and those free throws at the end were clutch. He's going to be a great player. At about the middle of the season he became the captain of the team, next year he's going to have a bigger role for the team.
Illinois F Sam McLaurin
On whether playing in the tournament lived up to what he'd dreamt it would: Every minute of it, especially the way it went down to the wire. It can't get any better than that.
On how fun the game was against Miami in that atmosphere: It was so much fun, we had been here the last couple days hearing about how much they were going to beat us by, and for us to hang in like we did and have it within our reach it was just a great game.
On the younger guys coming back next season: Oh they're definitely a building block. I talked to all the younger guys and told them "just soak it all in, soak it all in because next year you'll get your chance to be back in a similar situation." They have a lot of good talent returning so I think they have a good chance to be in a similar position [next year].