C-USA Championship Quotes

March 13, 2010

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Houston Head Coach Tom Penders
Opening Statement:
"Well obviously it was a gritty, gutty win for our kids. They just refused to die. We've had our ups and downs this year, never had a long losing streak but never had a long winning streak either. We had a lot of things that would distract most kids happen, but they overcame everything and what I mean by that is Zamal Nixon still has mono and he's playing out there. He's at the latter stages and Kendrick [Washington] and Mo [McNeil] and this kid [Aubrey Coleman] has been playing three weeks now with a badly bruised thigh with a hemotoma problem and he just keeps playing. And it's great to see different people step up. That's really great because we're really proud of our program and our kids, and it's so nice to see some of those young guys step up because they're the future of our program. So anyway we're dancing. We're dancing. I may be dancing a little slower than the last time I went but we're dancing."

On if this is any more gratifying than his other NCAA Tournament teams:
"This is the most gratifying because in many ways when I came to Houston, it was almost considered Mission Impossible and we came so close a couple of times maybe with some more talented kids but not as gutty a group. It reminds me of my Rhode Island team but we didn't have to win our way in. We got an automatic. I think an 11th seed that ended up beating Missouri and Syracuse and losing by a point to Duke and that we were picked like eighth in the league and finished second to Temple, who was No. 1, and I have that same feeling like, Wow. What heart. What heart. Heart and execution. To play against a team like that and only make eight turnovers, to battle as hard as we did on the boards, giving up height. For the most part of the second half we went with four guards and gave up the height and these little guys and whoever we had in there, Maurice and Kendrick, did a super job defensively and on the backboard, I'm very proud. You know, when you don't expect it, it's even sweeter. But the way I know I'll feel tomorrow is we ain't done yet. As Abe Lemon said, we ain't dead yet."

On having UTEP's number:
"I don't believe in that stuff. We just match up pretty well with them. We have a friendly [rivalry] in terms of the players, but I mean we go at it. I mean every game since I've been here. I think we have a 6-5 edge on UTEP. Last year was the first time the University of Houston ever beat UTEP there and it's just we know them, they know us and who executes better and we were the lucky ones. That's all I'll say. UTEP was the best team in the league but I believe in my heart the two best teams in the conference played today."

On Kelvin Lewis:
"He's always been willing to take any role I've asked of him. He's gotten better in every phase of the game since I've been here with Kelvin. I'm serious, all that's stopping him from making money on this game is his handle because he's a great shooter and a great defender. His dad was a great player at SMU but he only taught him to shoot. And he's a beautiful guy. These two guys [Aubrey Coleman, Kelvin Lewis] they should be poster guys for the NCAA. They're great kids, low maintenance leaders and with all players like this, I could coach another 15 years. These guys are just unbelievable."

On what it says about Conference USA when the seventh seed wins the tournament:
"I am so happy for the league that we're going to have at least two teams in. I still say Memphis or UAB would be great representatives too. We just don't get the support because we don't have big-money hookups with certain television networks and that's what it's become today. It's hard to get national television games. We had to go all the way to Alaska for OU [Oklahoma] to play us and that was when OU was rated in the top 10 preseason. When they found out we were going and I insisted we play them in the opening round they tried to get out of it. It's like it's nice because we have a really strong league. Now some of our problems are our own and we got to work on them. What I mean by that some of the teams that are good have got to schedule up a little bit better as much as they can. Those that are down and building maybe have to schedule [down] because of your RPI ... The RPI thing is so absurd. It was so great about 12, 15 years ago. You could go and play someone and just by playing them you gained quality points in your RPI. Some of the schools that are rebuilding need to play the very light schedule. We all as a group have to work together. This league is stronger than it's been since I've been in it except for the first year when we had Louisville, who we beat our first year, and Memphis, who we beat our first year and is still here. All those schools that we lost and I don't want to mention them because I don't want to give them any more publicity than they already get, but we've got some great coaches and ADs and a great office at Conference USA. Chris Woolard heads up the basketball. We've got a lot of great people. Now, hopefully we can all work together a little harder and promote ourselves. I can't stand it when coaches don't promote the other teams. Ah, we lost because we stink. We beat a great team today. When we lost twice to Central Florida, I said, 'Man, they just shipped us. They're a good team and if you don't' come to play against them you're going to get beat. Tulsa's a great team, but they were the marked team coming into the conference this year. They were the ones everybody was shooting for. They had some injuries and it's hard to play with that bullseye on the back. We were disappointing to ourselves and everybody that roots for us or pulls against us who live in our area and we get a lot of that in Texas because of the other schools in Texas. But I had faith in these kids and it's a great league. SMU in the last month of the season was playing unbelievable basketball. I know they lost in the opening round, but they beat Memphis by 10 and they beat us. This is now becoming a league where losses to other league teams won't hurt you if you play those kinds of schedules. It's a shame when you beat somebody with the way the RPI works. Thirty-three percent is your opponent's record or something like that. If you play a team that's played nothing but guarantee games in non-league and they're 0-12 or 13 and go ahead and win their conference with one loss, you get hurt. Something's got to be done with the RPI to straighten it out. Let's talk college football for a second. College football, if they did what we're doing in basketball, in other words, play 10 home games, all guarantee games, the whole world would be screaming about it. In college basketball they don't care if the big State U only leaves home once and plays in a neutral gym which is 30 miles from campus. That's what's going on. I coached 10 years at Texas and didn't have one guarantee game. Not one in 10 years. I hope people talk about it, write about that type of thing because it's all for the good of the game of college basketball and maybe people will start showing up in gyms in December."

On still winning with Aubrey Coleman not shooting well, big men in foul trouble, UTEP's stars playing well:
"The only thing I can go on is my daughter was born on May 13 and 13 is my lucky number. And that's all I kept thinking about all day. My wife wrote it on my mirror this morning in shaving cream - March 13 - because there's no way that I thought we had a shot if that would've happened but you can't forget about K-Lew as they call him."

On Selection Sunday:
"We don't have to sweat anything tomorrow."

#0 Kelvin Lewis, UH
On being the only team to beat UTEP in conference this season:
"UTEP is a great team, but they are one of the teams we love to play. We knew it was going to be a fight, and it was basically a pick-up game and fight the whole time. We knew if we could just square them down we could outlast them, and we got it done. "

On the 13-3 stretch late in the game:
"We just knew that we had to make stops. This is the part of the year when the little things matter. Early in the season we didn't focus on the little things and thought we could win, and we lost some games. We buckled down and won four straight by doing the little things at the end of the game and closing out. No one thought we could do it and we shocked the world."

On his breakout performance:
"I honestly didn't care about scoring. I wanted to do whatever I could do to have the opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament. Today, it just so happened that I made shots. I didn't have to play defense or rebound as much, I just had to make shots. I just wanted to do whatever I could do to make sure that my teammates could play in the NCAA tournament."

On making the NCAA tournament:
"It's an incredible feeling. This is everyone's dream. I don't even know what to say. I'm just so excited and happy. It feels good to finally be where we need to be. I felt that the whole season we were good enough, but at certain times we didn't make the right choices in the games, but right now we are clicking and we are on the right path to get where we want to go."

#12 Aubrey Coleman, UH
On his shot not falling, but stepping up in other areas:
"When I came out in the second half I wanted to see if my legs were under me, because I was kind of burnt out. So I said that I wasn't about to shoot us out of the game, I'm going to find my teammates. They were on and I wasn't going to be selfish. I wanted to do the little things, the things that I did when I first started playing. I was a hustle man, so that's what I did - got rebounds, loose balls, hit the open guy. I got some layups and big steals, but everybody came through. That is making me emotional right now. Everybody came through."

UTEP Head Coach Tony Barbee
Opening Statement:
"When you're not ready to play, anybody can beat anybody. The key to this game was when you play this early in the day, the team that's ready to play when that ball is thrown up is the team that comes out on top, and obviously, we weren't ready to play."

On Houston being the only team in the conference to beat them:
"It's totally two different teams. We were two different teams from that first loss to today. So, it's nothing they've done. Today, just particularly this game, we weren't ready to play, and that's what happens when you're not ready to play."

On not being ready to play:
"I have no idea. You'll have to ask these guys when they come in here because I told them what happens with a 10:30 start: if you're yawning at the tip, then you're losing. We were yawning at the tip, and we played like it the whole morning."

On league parity and upsets in the tournament:
"The league has definitely gotten better. All you have to do is look at the overall RPIs, and you see that reflected there. This year, everybody had just enough and was capable of beating anybody on any good night, and we got on a hot streak and were able to create enough space to get away from people. So the league has definitely improved overall."

On missed free throws:
"All those things happen when you're not ready to play. You miss free throws, you miss defensive assignments, you miss block outs, you don't execute. When you're not ready to play, that's what happens."

On the loss as a wake-up call before the post-season:
"Hopefully it does because if it doesn't, then it could be a short exit in whatever tournament we get into, so if we don't learn from this-what I've always said is 'I don't like to learn from close losses, I want to learn from close wins.' I thought we matured and grown beyond this point where we wouldn't be ready to play in a game as big as this."

#3 Randy Culpepper, UTEP
On play in the tournament after his up-and-down performances during the season:
"I had an up-and-down season. My role has changed and this has been my first year at this level. I've learned right off the bat that you always have to be ready no matter if you're playing a minute or 10 minutes or if you're starting or coming off the bench or you get in for the last thirty seconds. You always have to come in and do your part. And we do our part. And I feel like whenever we put all our parts together we can always win."

On not being ready to play:
"Like Julyan [Stone] said, Coach [Barbee] told us this morning that the first team that's awake and ready to play is going to come out and win. I guess we weren't a team that was ready."

#5 Julyan Stone, UTEP
On not being ready to play:
"I think we just came out there lackadaisically. It wasn't our 'A' game. We need to continue to get better and learn from this experience. It shouldn't ever come to this, but maybe this is a lesson we need to learn and make us more hungry."

On playing well enough in this tournament to get a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament:
"We played this tournament okay. Hopefully the NCAA sees that. But we didn't play as well as we were capable of playing. Hopefully they see that, but we have a lot of room to get back, and we didn't really show them in this last game-the game that we needed to show up and win, and we didn't win. That's just based on us. We have a long way to go still. The tournament's around the corner. Whatever tournament, whatever post-season we get put in, we have to be on our 'A' game and go back to the basics and get hungry again, and I think this [loss] did it for us."



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