Napier: "We believe in everything we do"
Anticipation is building for what should be a terrific national championship game on Monday night.
UConn has never lost a national title game, winning in 1999, 2004 and 2011. Two of those victories came in Texas.
Beating Kentuckywill be difficult.
But never doubt these Huskies. They are a confident bunch.
"I've just got all the confidence in my guys and we believe in everything we do," senior Shabazz Napier said.
Some news, notes and quotes from Sunday's press conferences at AT&T Stadium in Arlington:
-- Napier was named the winner of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award. He is the second UConn player in four years to receive the honor, joining former teammate Kemba Walker (2011).
“It is an honor for us to award such a worthy athlete of this prestigious award," said Bob Cousy in a released statement. “Napier has fought hard in the NCAA Tournament and has stood out all throughout his college career as a dominant force in the game and a remarkable point guard.”
-- Few Huskies got a good night's sleep after Saturday night's upset of top-seededFlorida. Coach Kevin Ollie and his coaching stayed up to prepare the scouting report onKentucky.
Ollie received a text from his former NBA coach, Larry Brown who's now at SMU. They talked on the phone Sunday.
"He just gave me some sound advice – have fun, don't make it complicated," Ollie said.
Junior DeAndre Daniels received 168 text messages after the game and barely slept.
"I was tossing and turning all night just thinking about Monday," Daniels said. "I can't wait to get back on the court."
Kentucky coach John Calipari also was up late.
"I was up until about 3:30 (a.m.) and got up about 7 o'clock," Calipari said. "We're working on fumes now. It's not like we're not tired, but your adrenalin gets you through all of this."
-- The Kentucky media asked several questions about UConn's 33-point loss atLouisvillein the regular season finale on March 8.
"I'm glad that happened, because we went back and I had to evaluate myself as a coach and I hope every player went to their dorms and looked in the mirror and had to evaluate their effort," Ollie said. "Down times like that just promote you.
"So I'm glad it happened. … We got better from that."
UConn has won seven of its last eight games since the defeat.
-- Napier on Kentucky: "We all play the game of basketball to compete against the best. This is one of those games."
-- Ollie pointed to his team's defense as a big reason why UConn is playing for the national title on Monday. "We've been doing that the whole year. It hasn't been our offense, it's been defense. And that's what we hang our hats on."
-- Daniels was asked about his impression of Kentucky freshman star Julius Randle, who averages a double-double.
"We're not focused on one player, we're focused onKentuckyas a whole," Daniels said.
-- Napier spoke about his close relationship with Ollie.
"The four years we have been together, it's been tremendous. He's been where we all want to be, a point guard in the NBA. A guy who's never pointed fingers at anybody but himself through all his trials and tribulations and everything he's been through. You can learn from that.
"We all believe in each other, and no matter what's going on, whether I'm laughing or joking with him or when I was a sophomore and I was crying on his arms because I was upset the way I was playing, he was always there for me."
-- The Huskies have been asked numerous times the last few days to compare this team to the 2011 national championship team.
"I think one of the similarities you can see is we have a great backcourt," senior Niels Giffey said. "Otherwise, I would say this is a very different team. We've got more seniors, more juniors on this team than we had our freshmen year. So think we have our own identity."
-- Ollie was born in Dallas and lived there for five years before moving to Los Angeles with his mother. He returned to Dallas during the summer to work for his father's landscaping business. He'd mow lawns.
"Pop used to get me up at about 4 o'clock in the morning and he didn't pay me a lot. … But it really taught me how to work hard, getting up at 4 o'clock, trying to beat the heat. He still cuts today. He still has his landscaping business.
"So I always see that determination and fight in him. He really established that work ethic in me with the combination of my mother, too, working hard, raising three kids on her own in South Central California."
-- Kentucky freshman Andrew Harrison on the mindset of his team: "It is an us against the world mentality. We just try and go out there and play as hard as we can."
-- The Wildcats have staged second half rallies to win in each of the last four NCAA games.
"It is the fact that we just kept battling," freshman Marcus Lee said. "That is one thing we tried to intensify throughout the season. That is what we got better at."
-- Seventh-seeded UConn and eighth-seeded Kentucky represent the highest combined seeds ever in a national championship game.
"Well, I don't think we were an eight seed and I don't think Connecticut was a seven seed…," Calipari said. "But that's what they seeded us."
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