Here is what Kansas State coach Bruce Weber had to say after his team’s win over University of Maryland-Baltimore County Sunday that sends the Wildcats to the South Region semifinals to play Kentucky Thursday.
Q. When we talked to you yesterday, I don’t know how much you had seen UMBC or broke them down or talked to your players about them. What did you have to say to them kind of to make sure they knew they were playing an opponent that was dangerous and could get after them a little bit, one they hadn’t heard of maybe before?
BRUCE WEBER: I think if it didn’t get their attention that they beat Virginia by 20, the number 1 team in the ACC, in the conference, that they won the conference and the tournament that had the most teams in the tournament, it had to catch their attention. I told you guys yesterday, I called them back about midnight and we had a little meeting and I just said guys, one, I joked, I told you Virginia wasn’t very good; and then, two, I said this other team is really good and — I thought we forced some things early, they jumped on us, 7-0, guys trying to make plays, you know. It was a big game for our guys and, you know, then we settled down and grinded it out. We got lots of stops after that 7-0 run. Finally got the lead. Kept the lead at halftime. All we talked about at halftime was positive energy, you know, stay the course, keep doing what we do, we got to keep guarding. And then — in the huddles I kept saying somebody step up and make a play. And you know Xavier stealing the dunk, the tip dunk. Kam hit the little pull up, Barry hit a pull up. Cartier got a steal. And Mak blocked a couple shots in that stretch, and there was a lot of big plays, and, you know, they’re good kids. They really care. They want to do well and they just stayed the course, and you can’t be more proud of them.
Q. Bruce, Barry Brown clearly does not like to talk about himself and his performance. So could you please speak to the effort that he turned in and how he ought to feel about it?
BRUCE WEBER: Yeah. I said since the beginning of the season, he’s if not the best defensive player — Carter is really good at West Virginia in the Big 12. You know, maybe one of the best in the country. He takes a lot of pride in it. He’s got a lot of confidence. When he was a freshman, I said who is going to be our defensive stopper? I would hoping some of the older guys would step, you know, up and Barry said I am. He’s taken on that role. He got crocked a little bit when he was young. But now he studies the game. To do what he did to Marcus Foster the overnight is — it takes energy, it takes courage, but it also takes being a student of the game. And he knew where he was going.
You know, Lyles is so dynamic, can score in a lot of ways. Got him on the 3. The other part with Barry he was so tired. He was so, so tired and he kept fighting it. And we were asking him to make plays on offense, make his free throws, guard the best guys. You know, he just grinded it out, gutted it out, and, you know, he’s been our leader. When you have great leadership and guys that care, it makes it so easy for the coaches.
Q. Coach, every time we ask something like this, you always praise the players and talk about it’s for them. I know that’s sincere. I’ll try it one more time. For you what does this win mean?
BRUCE WEBER: Again, I’m happy for these guys because they worked so hard. I threw this at them way back in April last spring. I said guys, we won a game. The next step is to get to the Sweet 16. I threw it at them a couple weeks ago. Again, just put that little vision in there. You know, just obviously we didn’t think 16 was going to make — beat a 1. You thought it would be a little different situation, but we just said we could write history tonight. No 9 has ever beaten a 16 to go to the Sweet 16, so we wrote our own history tonight. They wrote history the other day. And, you know, our staff an unbelievable job. I challenge them. I’ve told you guys my most — one of my most disappointing losses was LaSalle for Rodney, for Shane, all those guys, I didn’t think they prepared, I didn’t think we did as good a job as we would should. We had our chances down the stretch, but it was so disappointing and I just — I challenged our coaches. They were up till 6:00 yesterday morning. I went to bed about 4:00, tried to go to bed at 4:00. And they did a great job and Barry talked about it. They buy into the scouting report, they believe our coaches. They all had part of it.
So, between the coaches, the players, it’s just a nice reward and for our fans, too. It’s great. They all — always talk about Jacob Pullen going to the Sweet 16. We got another group that did it without our best player, and I think you talk about that. That’s pretty good that they were able to do that.
Q. Coach, was there any point in the second half when you felt the pressure was getting to your guys, because this was a team that wouldn’t go away. Did you feel like they were feeling a little bit of the pressure of the world against them?
BRUCE WEBER: Big thing we tried to do, stay in the huddle, stay confident and poised. No matter how dumb we played or how bad we played, I just kept saying we’re fine guys, we’re still winning, keep guarding and somebody step up and make some plays and we did down the stretch and we didn’t execute a whole bunch.
You know, the thing you guys, you got to realize, in less than a week we had to change schemes that we’ve run for five months. And Xavier sometimes he’ll look at me, I’ll call something. He goes, “Coach, I don’t know.” So in the middle of the play I have to yell something else. Even today we stayed at shoot-around about an hour and a half because they kept saying, “Coach, I got to know the out-of-bounds plays, I got to know this.” Even the other guys, not only Xavier but now you put Kam, Cardy, and Barry together, they haven’t run all the stuff. So, sometimes we looked a little ugly but they found a way to win.
Q. Coach, you talked about the unpredictability of a 16 beating a 1. Obviously that’s never happened before this weekend. This will be the first regional ever where there’s no top 4 seeds in Atlanta next weekend.
BRUCE WEBER: Is that where we’re going?
Q. Yes. From that standpoint —
BRUCE WEBER: I haven’t looked at it. I’m being honest.
Q. From that standpoint, what is it about this tournament that just lends to this or the sort of unpredictability?
BRUCE WEBER: We told the guys before, look at today alone, Michigan State, North Carolina at home, basically at home losing today. You know, just shows the balance in the tournament, the vulnerability ability of every team. You got to come to play. You got to stay away from injuries. Obviously Virginia gets an injury, Purdue has and injury, we have an injury. So many injuries down the stretch here. It’s what makes March Madness special and it kills the coaches because it’s so hard and you think you have a great team. Matchups are important. Making the plays, having the right mojo at the right time. And, you know, again, why does everyone watch it? It’s March Madness and you never know what’s going to happen.