March 14, 2015
COACH BREY: Well, I’m really proud of our group. It’s a special night really in the history of our program to get to the semifinals of this tournament, to beat that program to get to the championship game. One of the things I used to say all the time when we were in the Big East, let’s get to Saturday. We went to four straight semifinals before we left the league for the ACC, but we could never get to Saturday. Darn if we’re not playing for it tomorrow night, and I’ve never been more confident of a group.
I thought we were really ready to play. We got off to a good start. A good start in the second half, and it’s the second game in a row that our defense really was the key for us. We’re a fun group to be around, and we’ve got great Karma about us right now at the right time of year.
Q. So it’s 15 at the half of the last five minutes, Duke is coming, Tyus hits that three. What is going through your mind at that point? Did you think they would get the gap closed?
COACH BREY: I think for us, we’ve weathered, you saw it last night, we’ve weathered stuff like this all season and we’ve found a way to be poised. I actually said in one of the timeouts, it’s just like last night. I think I said they’re not going to win. Let them have fun closing the gap, but we’re going to win this thing.
Our guys were really confident like that. I thought we had key defensive stops. These two guys were flat out fabulous, and we had some really key, strong drives. You know what helped us? We were driving and we got to the bonus early, because we were driving we picked up some hand checks and that helped us. Because their defense was really good, and the only way we were going to score sometimes is maybe to get to the line.
Q. You knew the zone was coming and yet Bonzie kept finding the sweet spot in it. I guess what really worked with that?
COACH BREY: I wanted him to do that against Syracuse, but he wasn’t quite ready to do that, and that’s more my fault than his fault. We got him more ready, and I thought when he’s in there in the middle of that thing he’s a scoring threat. He makes difficult shots, he can pass from there, and he can make free throws. I think he I knew he was going to play well tonight because he didn’t play well last night, and he’s a competitive dude. He gave us a great lift.
But he’s been like an X factor for us ever since the Georgia Tech game on the road when we didn’t have Zach Auguste.
Q. Obviously, the last game in Cameron, Duke had something to prove. Is this revenge for the revenge in the first half?
COACH BREY: These guys could answer that more. We didn’t get into that much. They played great. We never watched any film of it. I tore the stat sheet up in practice on that Sunday and we moved on. This was one of those nights. But what we did watch today is the last ten minutes of our game in South Bend where we came roaring back. We got into that mode tonight where we were driving and scoring and getting big, physical defensive stops.
Q. You didn’t double team Okafor very often. It seemed like you just wanted to make sure that the other guys weren’t going off and clearly they were not.
COACH BREY: That really was our plan in all three games. You know what? We just didn’t want them to light us up from the three point line, to make him work for everything, and he got 28 tonight, but he worked to get them. I thought we strategically fouled there under two minutes. Bonzie did a good job. We said let’s put him on the line because he’s hard to deal with.
But what I worry about with them, and that’s how they scorched us in Cameron, when they get going from the three point line, then you’re not going to score enough. So we gambled that way, and we’re good. We’re 2 1 gambling that way.
Q. Obviously, with UNC their size and rebounding was a big deal in Chapel Hill. How do you see your team has adjusted?
COACH BREY: Yeah, we gave up 21 offensive rebounds that night and escaped in Chapel Hill. I thought they were playing really well. I thought they were really in a groove. We had our hands full. It was a great game down there. The key was, like we’ve done in these last two games, we got off to a great start there and it made us believe.
If you look at the games in this tournament, the teams getting off to great starts are winning, and that other team is playing catch up the whole game, and can’t quite get over the hump. We’ve gotten off to good starts, two of them, and we’re going to need to do that tomorrow night.
Q. For either player, can you walk me through what your mindset was when Duke made its run to cut the lead down? Kind of finding a way to respond to that?
Demetrius Jackson: Yeah, we’ve been through it. We’ve experienced that a number of times this season. We know it’s a game of runs, so I think we did a great job recovering from those runs and staying together and having each other’s backs. We just did a great job, and Bonzie did a really great job tonight.
Bonzie Colson: Yeah, I agree with Demetrius. We’ve been there in that situation a lot this season. We just had to keep battling throughout it and keep executing on offense, and getting good, defensive rebounds and we did that tonight.
Q. We could make a long list of the things you’ve accomplished in 15 years at Notre Dame, but a conference title has been elusive. How do you describe what personal meaning you attach to something like that?
COACH BREY: Well, there would be no greater achievement in the history of our program. Again, we were an independent for a long time, but this would be as good as anything we’ve done in our history, and it’s something, personally, I’ve kind of been searching for to get to Saturday night and play for a tournament championship.
As I said, it eluded us. I think we went to six semifinals in the Big East and just had some great games and couldn’t get to the next night, but I’m thrilled.
You know, for us, I guess it’s only fitting that to get it, you’ve got to go through Duke and North Carolina down here on their turf. I think we’d put an asterisk by it if we got it and you get both of them in the semis and the final.
Q. You had various people that hit key shots for you tonight. But once again, Steve Vasturia hits a three, gets a lay up. Talk about his contributions?
COACH BREY: The guy is unbelievable. He’s one of the most underrated, unsung players in the country. Again, he’s guarding Winslow most of the night, and Winslow had a hard time driving by him, especially early. Winslow drove us early in Cameron and hurt us, that’s why we started Steve on him. I thought he put a chest on him, and then he’s really clutch. He wants to take the big one, just like last night. He’s done it over and over again.
But he’s a glue guy. He’s just so easy to play with. He’s a very confident player right now, and he’s a heck of a lot healthier than he was yesterday. I think we got him back almost to a hundred percent.
Q. Coach, you’ve been in a Saturday night championship tournament before. But it’s kind of a new thing for the ACC. How much value do you think there is in having the championship on a Saturday night where you maybe have that time to regroup an extra day.
COACH BREY: Well, let’s add the semis in a night session too. We talked about this, when we joined the league, Jamie Dixon, Jim Boeheim and I all talked about the energy of a Friday night semifinal and a Saturday championship game just for the buzz. Everybody around the country was watching our semis tonight in that night session. You know what? I felt more comfortable coming down here this year because it was like the old Big East format, quite frankly.
We’re accustomed to being up until 4 a.m. playing the late game and turning around and playing late again.
But I would think all the coaches would think it’s a great benefit. We also felt, and now that I’m in it, I sure would like another day to get my legs under me before we go into the NCAA tournament instead of playing Sunday afternoon.
It would be nice.
We’ll get back, you get your legs under you and get organized. I think that was another big selling point that many of the coaches, especially Mike and Roy, they really looked at that and said, yeah, I think that would be an advantage.