Illinois - 54, Chattanooga - 53

MODERATOR: With that, opening statement from Coach Paris.

LAMONT PARIS: Not sure where to start, but I guess just with the game, you know, I don't know how many minutes we led during the game. It was more than it was less, I do know that. And so we just were -- we were grinding and executing fairly well defensively.

We had a couple bursts offensively that allowed us to get going and take or extend the lead, and then -- but we didn't play well -- I take that back. We talk about playing well and performing well. I think we played well. I do. I think we played well. We were where we were supposed to. We did what we were supposed to. We didn't perform great. We got a shot and didn't make it. We didn't snag a rebound.

So we didn't perform well, but I thought we did play well. And we got a competitive team now. I said it before we started this. At face value, our team is pretty good. Not compared to the SoCon or any other league. At face value, if you want to watch a good team or play against a good team, we got a good team.

And so I believed it. Some guys don't get a chance to watch them very much, so maybe they don't know that, but hopefully people could see what this team collectively came together and got accomplished.

So tough, tough way to go out, obviously. The last game is always going to be a hard one. But under those circumstances, I think it was -- I think it was even tougher for our older guys and just for our group together, tight-knit group. I've done this 26 years. This is my favorite group, maybe it's not that close, but this is a great group.

MODERATOR: Questions for student-athletes.

Q.Malachi, take me through the last seconds of the game.

MALACHI SMITH: Coach called a play where a double high ball screen, and my mindset was I just got fouled the last possession, so I tried do it again, and just going too fast. And then luckily got the rebound, and then got a shot that I felt like if you're gonna get a shot for the win, that's a shot you'll take.

And it's frustrating because a shot I work on a lot, and it didn't go in. And that's all I can say. I just let my teammates down, and I just missed a shot that I usually make.

Q.Silvio, not the end you want, but when you look back on your time here in Chattanooga, what are you going to think of?

SILVIO DE SOUSA: I'm going to think about my brothers, I'm going to think about the coaching staff, and I'm going to think about the community, just everything that's involved in basketball -- with the basketball and the love they have showed to me.

Oh, man, just a few minutes ago I was just looking back, my past two, three years in college, and looking where I'm at now, I don't know if I have the words to say how much -- how thankful I am for the opportunity Chattanooga has given me.

And, man, it just crazy, looking back, felt like I didn't have a chance. Coach Paris, he showed me love. My brother, my teammates, they showed me love every single day.

And I'm just thankful. I'm thankful. I'm thankful for everybody that were involved and wanted to see my best.

And I'm just forever thankful. That's all I can say about it.

Q.Malachi, you're not a senior, so what's going through your mind right now as you're kind of processing like the finality of this particular season?

MALACHI SMITH: Even though I'm not a senior, still hurts because every day is not promised. And just these type of moments don't come all the time.

And like it just -- this is what you dreamed of, the games you dreamed to get to as a kid. And like I said, I'm not a senior, I feel just as bad because we gave everything we had out there, and we came up short. And that's the worst feeling because you can't get it back.

Q.Looking at the season as a whole, especially how you played in this game today, you as a team played in the game today, what kind of message does it send to college basketball?

MALACHI SMITH: There's good basketball everywhere. And obviously you see it all the time with mid majors, but there's talent in a lot of places that you might not think there's talent.

And just because the school might be bigger, the name or the coach or -- you know, you don't go into a game fearing anyone. And I think we came in not fearing them, and we kind of attacked them first. And we just wasn't able to do sustain it for 40 minutes.

Q.Malachi, finished 4 of 20 from the field. You're one of the most efficient shooters in the country. Was there something Illinois did with Frazier or Williams that made it difficult for you to get your shot to fall tonight?

MALACHI SMITH: They're a very physical team. And some shots I felt like I forced, and then obviously you get frustrated if you feel like there should be a foul called or something.

But the frustrating part is I feel like the shots that I shot that I usually make, I didn't. And that's why it's hurting me really bad right now because, like you said, I am efficient, and today just wasn't that day. And it hurts because I can't get it back. And you don't want to have this type of game on this type of stage.

chattanooga MOCS Postgame Quotes - NCAA Tournament - Illinois

MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen. Appreciate it. We got questions for Coach Paris here.

Q.Lamont, I've never seen you this emotional before. What's going through your mind?

LAMONT PARIS: I don't know. Just this group is a different group. They're abnormally close and connected and abnormally fun to be around, and they let me coach them.

And so, anyway, just I've done it a long time. I respect that every team is different. Some in great ways, some in not so great ways. But this is an incredible group to be around.

And honestly, when I say that, it has less to do with what they do on the basketball court. They're good. They have a good team. They play well. They play well together. They let me coach them. They let me come along.

So, anyway, yeah, that's what it boils down to, is just the group that we have. We got a lot of older guys, some guys that took chances on me and us and this university.

And so I'm thankful. I'm not sure that that word really does justice to how I feel about it, but I guess it's as good a word as I have right now. So I am thankful to be around them every day, and it just was hard.

Q.Coach, what a ride it's been. What do you think you'll take away the most from this season?

LAMONT PARIS: Yeah, just the interactions that guys had with each other. It's always -- 20 years from now, it's what I'll think about. It will be more of that stuff, guys' personalities and just all the -- all those things that it has to do with just the team coming together.

And that's why we did what we did. I think we have good players. Certainly there are teams that have better players than we do, here or there, individually. But collectively as a group, there's 358 teams, I feel like a lot of guys would want to coach my team.

So that's what I think about. It's very hard for me to even look at the future, honestly, and what that's going to look like. But I'm really entrenched and focused on these guys and what they've done and how they'll respond to this.

Q.Lamont, what do you feel like led to 16 offensive rebounds against Illinois? And going into this one, did you feel like that was going to be a strength for you guys to be able to maybe go get it off the glass if you had missed?

LAMONT PARIS: Yeah, we did. It was on the board when we -- we put a couple things up on the board before we go out in a game that are specific things that, in this game, we want to try to get accomplished. And that was one. That was one of them, was to get to the offensive glass, attack it, be relentless as we do it, be physical and strong as we went, and then try to generate some other opportunities.

And so we did. We did a good job with that. I just thought it was a good -- I thought it was an advantage for us, just watching them. And a lot of games it has been. I just, in watching them, know. I thought if we were committed to going on a consistent basis and laying a body on a guy and pursuing the ball relentlessly, I thought it was an area that we could have some success.

Q.In your eyes, what was the difference maker in this game that flipped the switch?

LAMONT PARIS: They made some shots. We didn't rebound the ball well. There were a few things. We turned ball over too much. Typically we don't do that. But we gave them some offensive rebounds too in seemingly critical situations that allowed Plummer to get going. Maybe his first three was -- definitely one of the two threes was off of an offensive rebound. So that kind of got him going. He went bang-bang on a couple. But we fought back.

But it was, there were some very untimely offensive rebounds, including late in the game, we don't get it, we end up fouling them, we send Frazier to the line for two free throws he makes.

So the rebounding, on that end of it, we weren't great when we needed to. But also we turned it over. We turned it over too many times. We're normally fairly efficient. Malachi leads that. He struggled today. We had a couple other guys that struggled today as far as our efficiency.

But we did enough that we still could have been in position to win the game had we just -- whatever our percentage was. I haven't even looked. In those 18 possessions that we turned it over, let's say we cut that down into half, so in those nine possessions, let's say we were shooting 10 percent on those, right, in a game like this, obviously that makes a difference.

Q.Coach, despite the untimely offensive rebounds that you were just discussing, talk a little bit about the big men. I know you talked about it this season, how that group has been really strong for you and the depth is depth that normally a team in your position doesn't usually have. And all three of them had to play and play big minutes tonight. Just talk a little bit about what they brought to the table and how they battled Kofi in this one.

LAMONT PARIS: He's a big, strong guy. I don't want to minimize any other impacts he has or qualities as a human being, but as a basketball player, I do know this: He's really big and strong.

And so it took a lot of people to get in there and guard him different ways. Sometimes we used quickness, other times we literally laid on him. And it was a stalemate that way, and we were fighting for dear life.

But, yeah, guys had to use fouls.Josh Ayenion his fourth foul, that was a calculated decision that he made to foul there. We were not in the bonus. He had got caught in a bad spot, so he fouled. So it was very smart for him to do that. We talk about that oftentimes.

So, but, yeah, all those guys.Avery Diggsis the longest guy we have probably overall. So it's a different look when you have him going there.KC Hankton, even our fourth big, five man, did a good job of being active. He's a little quicker.

And so it was just trying to throw a lot of different looks at him, trying to make him earn stuff that he got. He got a couple easy ones, but I think for the most part, he earned a lot of the stuff that he got. And he's a good player. We held him below his average, I think, or whatever that was.

We did enough. We definitely did enough that if we have a reasonable day offensively -- not to go in another direction with it, but that's what I always hope for when I get a team that I think is really good and it's going to defend at a high level, I just pray for a reasonable day offensively. It doesn't have to be the best, that's for sure, but let's just not have two guys have one of the worst days they've ever had.

That's all I ever want. And if you do that, typically you're going to be right in the mix to get some stuff done. And we've done that all season, and that's why we're here. We did it again today. We just happened to have a day where a couple guys didn't perform great offensively.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Coach.

LAMONT PARIS: Thank you.