I’m not sure I’ve been more proud of a group of guys in Duke blue. This team fought through a tremendous amount of adversity and distraction. A team that went through ups and downs with losing Semi Ojeleye to transfer and Rasheed Sulaimon being released from the team. On the court there were highs and lows as well – losing to Miami by 16 in Cameron and snapping the Blue Devils’ 41-game home winning streak was a hard loss but a good lesson for this team. Sweeping the North Carolina Tar Heels was a great moment for this team especially having to come from behind in both games.
This team showed it was not only resilient, but special. Even with the top recruiting class in the country, even with good upperclassmen companion pieces in senior Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson it was always said to be the year of the Kentucky Wildcats or the year of the Wisconsin Badgers. Even as a 1 seed Duke seemed to be the afterthought. All these Blue Devils did was survive and advance, they didn’t talk, they didn’t complain they just beat the teams that were in front of them – good teams, some great teams.
It all lead to this moment it all lead and culminated with Duke winning the 5th National Championship under Coach K 68-63 over the Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin was a team I feared. A loose team, a team that was able to put the pressures of the final four in perspective having been the prior year. Senior leadership versus a team of freshmen upstarts with one senior starter.
The game was a battle from the get go, neither team could pull away and befittingly the first half ended in a tie. Unfortunately for Duke even with the score tied there was a distinct deficit in the number of fouls for each team. Duke freshman starters Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow both had to sit stretches in the first half with 2 fouls each while the Badgers committed 2 the entire half.
The second half was a battle and Duke continued to have foul trouble but got unexpected contributions from freshman guard Grayson Allen who scored 16 points off the bench and kept Duke within striking distance of Wisconsin with Duke big man Okafor and it’s most dynamic player Winslow on the bench for long stretches. The plan coming out of halftime was simple – take the ball to the hoop and put the impetus on the refs to make the call. Duke did that and it paid off. Allen alone hit on 5 of 5 from the charity stripe and hit on 5 of 8 shooting the ball. Allen provided the spark and freshman Tyus Jones provided the punch. Jones took the game over and scored a game high 23 points on 7 of 13 shooting and 7 of 7 from the free throw line. Another role play that stepped up for Duke was Amile Jefferson, the junior forward pulled down 7 boards and played staunch defense on player of the year Frank Kaminsky in the waning moments of the second half.
In the end the ball bounced Dukes way. Duke won this game, with severe foul trouble, with a short bench, with arguably their best player not playing up to his standard. Coach K was able to do something most Duke fans thought that he couldn’t do – win with one and done players. Understandably with the history of this programs success being predicated on building a team over a number of seasons and trusting wholeheartedly in upperclassmen, experience over youth. Everything after the loss last year to Mercer was evaluated, everything that the program was had to be looked at. Duke had to change, Coach K had to change. He did. The timeline usually afforded he Blue Devil coach to develop players had to be tightened. Duke had to learn to put young players in situations where they could succeed, but they had to be the right type of freshmen; smart, versatile and hungry. Duke found that in its 4 quarters ( Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Grayson Allen) and gave them the keys. Not to say these freshmen didn’t have help, the contributions and leadership provided by Quinn Cook, Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee were invaluable in the progression of Duke’s 4 quarters.
In the end it paid off, in the end they brought Coach K his 5th title, in the end they outplayed more experienced players throughout the year and throughout the tournament.
Pardon the disjointed nature of this post but my mind is all over the place, answering tweets, writing looking for pictures. In any event, Duke wins number 5 and Tyus Jones wins Most Outstanding Player so congrats to the freshman guard who showed why he was so highly coveted coming out of high school.
Enjoy this one Duke fans, let it sink in and enjoy it!!! #goduke
Some relevant tweets:
— Rasheed Sulaimon (@sheed_ctmd1) April 7, 2015
“@KButter5: every Plumlee brother has a ring. now I’m pissed” yep
— Mason Plumlee (@masonplumlee) April 7, 2015
Nobody deserves this more than Q! So happy for Young Rico lol @QCook323
— Seth Curry (@sdotcurry) April 7, 2015
Quotes: Duke 68, Wisconsin 63
THE MODERATOR: We’ve been join by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It was a heck of a game. When we got nine points down, we were in foul trouble and a little bit disjointed. Grayson put us on his back. We went to him kind of exclusively because of his ability to drive and penetrate. And he did, he finished. He got 16 points. Hit his free throws. Got a steal. It won’t show up in the stats, except for his rebounding and blocks. But Amile Jefferson was a huge, huge factor in this game. His defense and how he battled everybody, he battled everybody, put us in a great position. Then the ball screen stuff with Tyus just worked out well. My team had great grit and determination. Our defense down the stretch was magnificent. We scored. I mean, we were fabulous down the stretch. I mean, I don’t know how you can be any better than we were down the stretch, except Tyus going in for that layup when he should have taken it to the side, and I wanted to break his neck (smiling). Other than that, yeah, great, great stuff. I’m proud of my team.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Grayson, just how do you keep your mindset when you’re in a year where you play a little bit, then you get to the biggest game and you have to be out on the court for major minutes?
GRAYSON ALLEN: Well, coach has told me all year to stay ready and practice. These other seven guys have really given me confidence. They’ve been supporting me all year. You know, to be in the position where you’re coming off the bench, and these guys still support me and put confidence in me, I knew I was capable of doing it just because of what they’ve been telling me all year.
Q. Your thoughts right now on you’ve done it, you’ve won the national championship. What is going through your heart and mind right now?
TYUS JONES: It’s hard to put it into words. This is just such a special group. The best team I’ve ever been a part of. We’ve worked hard all year. This has been our one goal that we were working for. No matter if it was getting up extra shots or extra running, trying to get in better shape, tough practices, just believing in one another, believing in coach, everything they were telling us, because we knew at the end if we did accomplish this, it was all going to be worth it.
GRAYSON ALLEN: It doesn’t feel real right now, to be honest. For me, dreaming of being here, to have it my first year here at Duke, it’s amazing. You know, this group has talked about this moment since the beginning of the year, but saying it and actually getting it done are two completely different things. It’s been a tough road. To be here and to be able to do it with this group of guys is amazing.
Q. Grayson, in the first half you guys had a really hard time drawing fouls. You’re down nine, then you kind of take over. What did you see from their defense that made you able to exploit them and get them into foul trouble?
GRAYSON ALLEN: I saw openings to drive. Quinn has been a great shooter for us all year. They were really staying on him and not helping off. That was able to give us open lanes to attack the basket. I just wanted to stay aggressive and go up and try to draw a foul.
Q. Quinn, could you just describe what it felt like to be on the stage watching One Shining Moment when Coach Krzyzewski?
QUINN COOK: Surreal. Something that we’ve all dreamed of. Growing up watching Duke, watching Coach K win championships, celebrating with his great players. To be next to coach, he’s been like a father to me over these last four years. To have his arm around me and hugging me while we’re watching One Shining Moment was probably the best feeling in my life. Words can’t describe how everyone is feeling right now. I’m just blessed. I’m just blessed that coach thought I was good enough to come to Duke.
Q. Quinn, what does it mean to be able to give Coach K his fifth national championship?
QUINN COOK: All year, and especially this past week, this week of preparation, coach has been making it not about his fifth, but about our first together. I can remember when we won 1000 games for him, he was more worried about us getting our 17th win. All his players not just thinking about him, just us and our team. He’s kept us all, you know, in the moment of this team. It’s great to get him his fifth, but I know he’s happy that this is his first with us. It’s just something that you dream of, winning the national championship.
Q. Grayson, the poise, the aggression that you played with out there, is that purely an example or a byproduct of going against guys like Quinn and Tyus in practice all season?
GRAYSON ALLEN: I think definitely. We push each other in practice because we know that’s what’s going to make us better. So, I mean, that was big preparation for me to be in this moment.
Q. Grayson, you grew up a Duke fan. When did you start putting yourself in this position when you were a little kid that you would have a big part in a national championship game?
GRAYSON ALLEN: I dreamed about it ever since I think about eighth grade. I saw them win 2010, that national championship against Butler. I’ve dreamed about being in this moment since then. Never thought it would actually come true. But for it to happen, it’s amazing. I’m lost for words.
Q. Quinn, it’s obviously your team. But tonight the four freshmen scored 60 points, and every point after halftime. Can you speak to what you’ve seen in their arc this season and what they’ve accomplished and where they stand as a group?
QUINN COOK: They’re amazing. They’re amazing. I mean, they make up half our team. There’s four of them. They came so close, so together and so humble. Those guys are so humble. All the top 20 recruits, the number one class, I mean, they came in so humble. It was all about the team. All of them worked. All of them looked to the upperclassmen for advice. They didn’t think they knew it all and things like that. They worked. I mean, they worked hard. It paid off tonight. They’ve been making plays for us all year. It’s great that it paid off in the biggest game of everybody’s lives. I’m grateful for those young guys because, you know, for them to perform like that on the stage like this says a lot about those guys’ confidence. I’m just thankful that they came to Duke.
Q. Tyus, what did you say to Jahlil to get him going?
TYUS JONES: We didn’t have to say anything to Jah. He’s all about the team. Unfortunately he got into some foul trouble. But all the time everyone on this team is telling each other just stay in it. We never get down on ourselves or one another. This team is so close that it’s all about winning no matter who is stepping up, no matter how you’re playing individually, as long as the team wins. He got into some foul trouble, but he was able to come back in. Because of his positive attitude, he made some big plays for us down the stretch.
Q. Quinn, you have the unique perspective of having played at Duke for four years. You saw this team at one point in March, it just seemed to grasp Coach Krzyzewski’s defensive philosophy. It carried you to a national championship as much as your scoring. Can you talk when you saw that flip? When did it happen or how did it happen?
QUINN COOK: I think I really started to notice it after we beat UVA at home. Guys really kicked it up a notch in practice when we went through defensive things. It became fun, stringing stops together, getting stops. We knew defensive rebounding would win us a championship. A couple letups here and there, a game here, a game there. I mean, in this tournament, I mean, we played outstanding defense, all eight guys. Just our preparation, watching film, our walk-throughs, we went game speed on everything we did. We prepared so well. Our coaches don’t sleep at all during the tournament. It pays off. For us to put on a defensive performance like that against one of the better teams in the country is outstanding. I’m just so happy that, you know, the little things that count, it counted today.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Can I add one thing? All these guys have become really students of the game. They share knowledge, they talked well. If you look at the stats tonight, two of my players had combined two points, Matt and Amile. I don’t know if you could get points defensively. But they were incredible, those two kids, on the defensive end. You start taking more pride in it and they talked well.
Q. Tyus, you come from halfway across the country from Duke. You made a decision to go there based kind of on other people who were going there as well. What were you hoping to accomplish with that? How were you hoping to accomplish it? Did it play out as you envisioned it?
TYUS JONES: I just wanted to be a part of a special team. I knew the guys on the team already prior to stepping on campus. I knew Grayson, Justise and Jah even before we got to campus. I just trusted Coach K and everyone on the staff with all my heart. I believed in everything that they told me. I just wanted to help, you know, contribute to such a special group. I wanted to go somewhere where I knew we would win. As soon as I stepped on campus, you could just feel the family atmosphere. It was, you know, just always positive energy, everyone caring for one another. You could just tell that this year was going to be special.
Q. Amile, Jah got in foul trouble there. They were killing you on the offensive glass. Can you talk about your mindset on the defensive end.
AMILE JEFFERSON: For me, it was just about making positive plays. We have an amazing group. We have guys that can score, amazing talent. So when I’m out there, I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help our guys. Today it was, you know, being strong on the defensive end, trying to make a play at all times. I think all our guys, you know, are confident enough in their abilities, no matter if they’re in the game or starting that they can make a play. I was out there, I was able to make some plays. Our entire group was really huge tonight. I’m extremely proud to be on this team.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, fellows. We’ll continue with questions for Coach Krzyzewski.
Q. What was going through your head with Jah in foul trouble, how long to keep him out, when to put him back in? What did you tell him right before you put him back in?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I didn’t tell him anything when I put him back in late. We just thought that — especially on the out of bounds situation, we might get something. It wasn’t exactly what we diagramed. But he was in a good position. He’s done it all year. I think the foul trouble got to him and Justise. We didn’t play well at the start of the second half. For about 10 minutes, I thought they were really outplaying us. They’re still young guys. You know, they’re pro prospects and all that, but they’re young guys. Learning how to play hard, strong and tough when you have that foul trouble is something you learn. Thank goodness he came in and got it. I’m sure Jeff, John and Nate said stuff to him, like, Stay in with it. He came up with two huge plays for us.
Q. How does this compare? When the final buzzer sounded, you had a look of pure delight on your face. Can you rank this with the other four you have?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: All of them are great. The one you’re in this moment with is always the most current, you can feel it the best. I haven’t loved a team any more than I’ve loved this team. We have eight guys, and four of them are freshmen. For them to win 35 games and win the national title is incredible. When it’s over, and I would have the best appreciation because I’ve been in this for 40 years, and I’m the coach of that group that did this. You know, how good is that? They’ve been a joy. They’ve been an incredible joy. When you’re already happy, and you get happier, it’s pretty damn good. It’s pretty good.
Q. Jahlil, Jabari, Jon Scheyer, even Anthony Davis, Chicago continues to produce a lot of high-quality players.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Good coaches as well (smiling).
Q. How good is it to control that area?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I don’t know if we control the area.
Q. Just to be in the conversation.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: We do well with our players, wherever they’re from. Our players get better. They become — if they’re going to become pros, they all become good pros. They all become good men. So you have a great track record, so you’re going to get good players because it’s not just our program, but Duke does that. That’s why I’ve been at Duke for 35 years. Duke’s made me unbelievably good because they’re around excellence all the time with all the kids who go to school there. We’ve been fortunate enough. You missed Chris Collins from there. That’s been a good area, a good area for us.
Q. There’s a scene on the court afterwards where you’re picking up each grandchild. What does it mean at this stage in your life to be able to share this moment with the family like that?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: The best. We’ve been able to do it with USA Basketball in the last Olympics. Everyone was there. Actually in Beijing, but we didn’t have as many grandchildren then. The cool thing about it now is my grandchildren are older, 15, 14, 11. Two of them are 11, the twins. They know it more. The thing is, they live it all the time. My daughters, we talk about it. So they’ve shared it. They share it with them. It’s always been a family thing, and now we’ve got a bigger family. To see my daughters crying. We’re coming here on the cart. The one grandson I hadn’t seen is John David, Jamie and Chris’ son. We’re going by, I say, Stop, stop. He’s very eloquent. How old is he? He’s five. He says, Congratulations, Poppy. I said, Stop the cart, I’ve got to give him a hug. Just cool. It’s really neat stuff. Really neat stuff.
Q. Can you talk about the versatility of this particular team. You have been able to outscore people all year, but in this particular championship game, you out Wisconsin and people thought that wasn’t possible.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: With eight guys, we needed to be very versatile. It kind of happened over how we play. Grayson has been coming on so much, and Matt was playing such good defense, and my guards are good. In some respects the foul trouble may have helped us a little bit because I got some gritty guys in there in combinations that we didn’t have on the court very much this year. I have to look at it. I’ll look at the tape later on ’cause I’m not even sure who I had in all the time. But I know, because Jah and Justise were on the bench, and Marshall was on the bench, we were pretty small. We were playing such good post defense with that small lineup. I know Matt and Amile were the linchpins of the defense. They were so darn good. For them to take that pride without, you know, getting shots and stuff like that is terrific.
Q. Can you expand on the defense of execution down the stretch. It was really kind of a thing of beauty for those of us who enjoy defense. Dekker comes in, and you hold him. Even Kaminsky, you did a great job of denial.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: We were switching a lot. They were trying to iso in the post, but our guys fought it. Amile had one really big block I think on Hayes. Amile and Matt were like big guys defending them. They’re really good. Matt got in on Dekker and then Grayson did the whole game where he didn’t have the freedom to dribble like he normally has. Amile is a better defender against Kaminsky than Jah would be. Kaminsky is more like Laettner, you know. They’re not centers, they’re players. So that’s difficult for a guy like Jah to defend. But Amile defended him well.
Q. The players talked about being together and being like this family unit all throughout the tournament. They talked about early in the season about how much this would mean to them, how much you meant to them. What made them so close and what made you so close to them?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, you know, with guys who aren’t going to be here as long, what we’ve tried to do over the last few years is get to know them even better before they got to Duke. For all four of those kids, their families are so good. They committed pretty early, so they got to know us deeper than a normal incoming freshman. Then they got to know the guys on the team, you know, the guys coming back. I think a statement that Quinn has said a couple times this week is how humble the guys are. So here you have these four really good freshmen coming in, and they want to blend. They want to be led. They don’t want it to be about them, although it’s going to be a lot about them. They’re good guys. They had that chemistry right away. It’s been an incredible group. I’ve never had a group that has had this chemistry and the brotherhood that this group has had. Maybe because it’s so small. I don’t know.
Q. Indianapolis has been a special place to you obviously.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Right.
Q. Coach Wooden, the only guy ahead of you now, grew up 40 minutes south of here, went to college 60 minutes north of here. It’s almost like there’s some interesting chemistry going on with you and Indianapolis. Each of the three championships were unique, but to do it in John Wooden’s bailiwick, so to speak.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Whenever you mention Coach Wooden, he’s separate from everybody. In some respects, so is Indianapolis. I don’t know if you realize just how good everyone is here. All the hosts, the volunteers, the police, everyone. They’re unbelievable. I want to thank them for making this experience so good for our team. It’s comfortable. Plus this arena is the most — outside of the feeling you get at the Garden and in Cameron, this is a spectacular venue. When you walk out on the court as a player or coach and you see this arena, there’s something, there’s something here that’s magical. I don’t know. And I don’t know what it is, but it’s here. We’ve done well here. I also want to say that for basketball, this has been a great year for basketball. Somehow there’s been better cooperation in the stakeholders of the game. The stakeholders being mainly the TV people. You know, CBS and Turner have done a fabulous job with the tournament. But ESPN does a fabulous job with it in bringing it to the five yard line. For some reason, and maybe it was because of following Kentucky’s pursuit of perfection, ESPN and Turner and CBS, they were better together. I hope that keeps going. The game needs it. I mean, ESPN, all they do is promote it, so more people are going to watch it. We need those stakeholders to be team members in the future of our game. The blueprint of it was this year. I really believe that Kentucky was a catalyst for it. But I don’t know if we’re always going to have an undefeated team going into the Final Four. But it was better. If you look back, you’re talking more about basketball. Everyone’s talking more about it. Ratings are sky high. But I think it was because of their cooperation. I hope we continue to have that.
Q. When you look back at this, how much satisfaction will you take from the fact that you changed your whole approach and were able to win a title in a completely different way from the past model?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: They all have been different. You know, Jon Scheyer would tell you 2010 was different than 2001. 2001, we had a heck of a lot of talent, not that Jon’s team wasn’t talented. The ability to adapt is key in everything. I think I’ve adapted well. I really believe in the last decade, having the honor and the opportunity to coach our nation’s team has helped me adapt even more. But it’s not like you’re making sacrifices. What does this group need from you? Then you try to give that. As long as they’re giving back, then it’s a pretty cool thing. Again, I want to thank everyone in Indianapolis and all the volunteers and that. It’s been spectacular. It’s been more player-friendly, the locker rooms, the hotels, everything. There’s a big improvement that’s gone on, to include giving money to the parents to get here. Let’s keep the ball rolling. Let’s keep the ball rolling and try to find out more that we can do for these student-athletes as we go forward. Again, I want to thank my team publicly for taking me on a great ride. Happy guy.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Poppy.
On taking advantage of this team’s one-year window
“It feels amazing. (Next year) won’t be the same as this point, but as a team we just have to soak it in. Luckily, you can’t take this championship away from us. And you can’t take the bond we had as brothers away from us either. ”
On what changed down the stretch, after trailing by nine points
“We weren’t playing as tough as we needed to, and Grayson (Allen) made a point to bring that toughness, and to bring that energy. I felt like his play changed the momentum of the game.”
On the freshmen’s impact amidst Jahlil Okafor & Justise Winslow’s foul trouble
“They stepped up big time. They had our backs and we had theirs as well.”
On Grayson Allen’s impact in 2nd half
“He put us on his back and put us in a position to win. We all knew how good he was. He is always one of the best players in practice everyday. He never takes practice off and is one of our hardest workers.”
On why “Eight (players) is Enough”
“Because Coach K said it was. That is how great he is and when he says something you believe it. He tells us we are going to win and we believe it. He has been our rock all year.”
On coming back for a sophomore season at Duke
“I love Coach K and I haven’t even thought about that yet. I just can’t wait to celebrate.”
On the heart of this team
“We have a lot of heart. It wasn’t our first time being down nine….we’ve been down by more and still found a way to win. We’ve been through so much stuff this season and we’ve matured as the year progressed. “
On winning the National Championship
“It’s special. You know that’s been the whole thing. Make tonight special. I just feel special to be a national champion.”
On regrouping after going down seven points
“Just the energy, the defense went up. Grayson gave us life and that went from the offensive end to the defensive end. Just the ability for him to put a team on his back and to get us two three point plays really got us back in the game.”
On someone new always stepping up
“That’s just the way it’s been the whole season. We’re unselfish. We don’t care who’s scoring. We just care about Duke being up by one at the end of the game.”
THE MODERATOR: Coach, we’ll start with an opening statement from you.
COACH RYAN: What a fantastic job these guys did all year. They just came together to do all the things that they accomplished. Highest offensive efficiency. A team that committed the least number of fouls during the year. A team that got to the free-throw line. So these guys played 30-some games that way. It’s just unfortunate that this one had to be played out that way.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Josh, coach was alluding to it. Obviously you didn’t get the outcome that you wanted. What does it mean, the whole season, to get to this point?
JOSH GASSER: It’s hard to see it right now. But, you know, the relationships we built with each other, you know, that’s the stuff that I’m proud about. We had a heck of a season. The stuff we accomplished. Sometimes, you know, life’s not fair. This is not the outcome we envisioned. We knew we were going to win; just didn’t happen. Duke is a great team, but just didn’t do it.
Q. Josh, what did Duke do to prevent you from getting it done?
JOSH GASSER: Got to the free-throw line a lot. Drove into us. You know, you saw it. We just didn’t get it done offensively. We fouled too much the second half. They were just driving it hard. You know, that’s what happened.
Q. For the first 30 minutes or so, your offense was clicking pretty well, then it got bogged down in the last five minutes. Was there anything Duke was doing specifically or did you just get out of rhythm a little bit?
FRANK KAMINSKY: No.
JOSH GASSER: They’re a great defensive team. They’ve gotten a lot better throughout the year. That’s what happened.
Q. Frank, you guys got Okafor in foul trouble. I’m sure that’s something you wanted to do. What was the plan with him defensively and what did you feel like you were able to do to get him in that position?
FRANK KAMINSKY: He’s a great player. We knew we had to get him off the court. Just tried to do whatever we could to stop him. Was able to take a charge early on and force him to miss some shots. Came alive at the end.
Q. As seniors, hard as it might have been, did you have a chance to say something to your guys? Can you share the essence of what it was.
FRANK KAMINSKY: It’s tough to say anything right now. These guys are my family, and I mean that literally. I don’t mean that hypothetically. I’ve never been closer to a group of guys in my entire life, from the coaching staff on down to every single player on this team. It’s just going to be hard to say good-bye.
JOSH GASSER: I agree.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, fellows. We’ll continue with questions for Coach Ryan.
Q. What went into the reasoning of fouling late when there was still some time on the shot clock, game clock?
COACH RYAN: What was what?
Q. When you committed the foul on Tyus coming out of the timeout to send him to the free-throw line when it was a one-possession game late.
COACH RYAN: I don’t think it was one. Find out what the score was. But Nigel went for a steal.
Q. It was 66-63.
COACH RYAN: Went for a steal. Tyus, who is so quick, kind of drew the foul.
Q. You have gone all year without fouling. Were you surprised or particularly upset with the officiating that you got called so much?
COACH RYAN: You can’t say anything about the officiating. C’mon. Are you trying to set me up? So you want to reword that or… What are you saying?
Q. Just asking the question.
COACH RYAN: I don’t know what the question was.
Q. Did you take issue with the officiating?
COACH RYAN: Have you ever watched me during a game? I don’t think this was any different. No, we have these things that we practice, okay? We practice in our practices where if an offensive player jumps into you, we always call it on the offensive player. It’s just what we do. So there were some situations where obviously our guys felt they were in position. I’m sure they felt they were in the rights. Both teams are always going to feel that there’s a question or two. So it’s just the way the game’s played. But I’ve been with these guys a long time, and I’ve watched a lot of basketball. Sometimes games are played differently, and you have to go with the flow.
Q. What are you going to remember most about these seniors? What about them represents the University of Wisconsin, the way they played?
COACH RYAN: Everything. Yeah, when you go through an experience like this, and you get asked a question, it’s really hard to put into words the years, the hours, the travel. So it will be in their memory bank, and it will be in my memory bank. But it’s not something that you easily express. If you’ve ever played on a team, if you ever were in the service, if you were ever with a company for a long period of time, there’s things that happen and things that develop. It’s hard to describe ’em. It’s just an inner feeling that you have. But this group was so together and enjoyed each other’s company, could needle with each other. They did a lot of good things. I mean, again, if you go through all the things that this team did as a team, the offensive efficiency I mentioned, fewest number of fouls in the country, fewest number of turnovers. Do you know what it takes to have the fewest number of turnovers? A lot of discipline, a lot of work goes into that. If you’ve ever tried to play the game, it’s not as easy taking care of the ball as you think. But this group just set another standard of taking care of the ball. Playing defense with their feet. Things like that. Not their hands. Sometimes hands are allowed more than others. You know how the game goes. Like I said before, you always got to adjust. I can’t really put into words how close and how special this is. Maybe someday I will. To see them go out this way, that’s tough.
Q. Just elaborate a little more on how you wanted to deal with Okafor. When Duke made that late run, what did you feel started turning for them that swung the game in their favor?
COACH RYAN: Okafor had a lot of rest because of the foul trouble. Those two plays that he made on the potential and-one and also on the other basket that he had, I mean, he exerted his will, his influence, and got it done.
Q. A loss is a loss. But is it any tougher for you or the players when you think you were up nine with 13 minutes to go?
COACH RYAN: Anybody that’s been around basketball knows that 10, 15, 9, 8, 13 minutes to go, that’s forever. Teams make runs. Happens all the time.
Q. Frank said it’s just going to be hard to say good-bye. Can you talk about, is it going to be hard for you to say good-bye to this class of seniors?
COACH RYAN: Oh, without a doubt. All the seniors that I’ve had — hard to say the word. But every player that’s played through the program, okay, we don’t do a rent-a-player. You know what I mean? Try to take a fifth-year guy. That’s okay. If other people do that, that’s okay. I like trying to build from within. It’s just the way I am. And to see these guys grow over the years and to be here last year and lose a tough game, boom, they came back. They said what they wanted to do, they put themselves into that position, and they won’t forget this for a long time. I told them that’s life. Wait till you get a job. Wait till you start the next 60 or 70 years of your life. It’s not always going to work out the way you would like it to. But you measure a person by what it takes to discourage them.
Q. What did Duke do that didn’t allow Dekker to get going tonight?
COACH RYAN: Well, Dekker’s been played like that before. Maybe not as physical. But he just was off with his outside shot. We all would have liked to have seen one or two of those go down, but they didn’t. And that happens in games. He hasn’t had very many of those. But it happens.
Q. On Frank, I’m not going to ask you about his legacy, but his performance tonight, what was your take on it?
COACH RYAN: He was a gamer. He was getting banged around like crazy. I was kind of hoping he’d get to the line a little more. It just wasn’t the way it worked out. He was tough. He tried to play hard. Fortunately, there were a lot of timeouts so he got a chance to rest. He’s going to get even better. But what he did in his years at Wisconsin will be remembered for a long time.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Bo.