Dec. 27, 2011

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Notre Dame Men’s Basketball
Notre Dame vs. Pitt
December 27, 2011
Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center o Notre Dame, Ind.

Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Brey

Opening Statement…
“I told our guys that I have been a part of a lot of fun wins; wins where I have been proud of a group. This one ranks up there with any of them. We defended well, we rebounded well enough, but we got confident on our floor against a very good team, and it’s a heck of a win for us. I hope this is something that can really build confidence for this group.”

On past wins like this…
“I’ve been here so long that they all run together. Last year it was probably the Georgia game. Early, that group was ready to win at Thanksgiving. I would say this 20 minutes, or maybe the whole game. We were down in the first half and came back and battled and cut it to one. We really played off of each other. That group we start, they’re really good offensively. They moved in the second half like last years group moved, the cutting, the moving, the finding each other. We got a little different than last year because (Eric) Atkins, (Jerian) Grant, and (Alex) Dragicevich can all go off the dribble, and we didn’t have that last year. I have been trying to nurture that. I didn’t know if we would be ready to do that yet, so I’m really thrilled that we did that on this stage. We have a week to practice and after a win you always have a little more juice. It’s just great to be 1-0 in this league, especially at home, that feels good. It’s something to build on and God knows we needed something to build on.”

On the play of Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant and Alex Dragicevich
“I’m going to tell them tomorrow, can you go for 40 minutes and not play safe? They went for it for 20 minutes. I want them to attack, and they were trying. Jerian missed a couple layups. Those three guys playing that way helps Scott Martin and Jack (Cooley). Jack was a beast tonight. Jack just does what he does. We got a great lift from Tom Knight, that’s a big step for Tom Knight, in a BIG EAST game to play like that. I was pleased to see that. It’s something to build on, and unlike a lot of other teams, we need stuff to build on. I hope that can help us, and we have a week of practice before we play again.”

Notre Dame Player Quotes

Jack Cooley – Jr. – Forward

On the team’s limited number of turnovers tonight…
“Our team has been historically known for a good assist-to-turnover ratio. When we have guards like Eric [Atkins] and Alex [Dragicevich] bringing the ball up the court, you know that the ball is in good hands. If you have a three-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio and you don’t win the game then the other team must be hitting a heck of a lot of shots, so it helps a lot to have that good ratio.”

On the progression of Notre Dame’s offense…
“I think today is evidence on the steps we’ve made in practice, and it’s all coming together now. How we were playing in the second half reminded me of how we were playing last year, and that’s really good to see. We were really confident out there, and everyone was just having fun.”

On the confidence boost provided by tonight’s game…
“I mean it’s huge. To see that 1-0, especially with a win against Pitt, that’s a huge win. I mean, any time you can beat any team in the BIG EAST it’s huge, and to start off this way, to get it rolling, and then to have this bye, it’s good to have.”

Jerian Grant – So. – Guard

On Tom Knight
“Tom definitely had some huge plays. We were down or when we were up by only two or three points sometimes, he would get an offensive rebound for us and then we’d get a basket, we would go up five or seven points. Tom made some really big plays for us.”

On the strong offensive play against such a strong defensive team…
“We really moved the ball around a lot, we have a lot of forwards, and we have a lot of guys who like to play on the perimeter a lot. We just moved the ball around and guys knocked down their shots when they were open.”

Eric Atkins – So. – Guard

On Alex Dragicevich
“This is the best groove, in a game, that I have seen him in. He was confident and ready to shoot, and that’s what we’ve been preaching to him all season. I feel like tonight was like his coming out party, and I’m just really proud of him.”

On Notre Dame’s defensive intensity kick-starting the offense…
“We went over Pitt’s play as soon as we came back from break. We pretty much knew exactly what they were going to do, so getting out there on defense, even though we weren’t hitting shots in the beginning of the game, it really helped us. It really helped that we were able to stop them on a consistent basis.”

Alex Dragicevich – So. – Guard

On the pressure on playing tonight’s game…
“It’s more about just getting comfortable. You can’t look at the Pitt game differently than the IU game or the Dartmouth game. Every game you get better as a team and better individually. Coach (Brey) has been doing a really good job ‘gelling’ us because guys have been in spots and out of spots [in the lineup], guys have been on the bench, we’re shuffling lineups and this is a great win for us.”

On his high-scoring game as a confidence booster…
“It was great, but it’s more about getting a huge win. We’ve had our struggles against big six teams so far, and winning on our home court against Pitt, the win just makes it so much more gratifying.”

Notre Dame Men’s Basketball
Notre Dame vs. Pitt
December 27, 2011
Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center o Notre Dame, Ind.

Pittsburgh Head Coach Jamie Dixon

Opening Statement…
“Congratulations to Notre Dame. (They) played really well in the second half to pull away from us. We had a good thing going for us in the first half but we had bad executions, turnovers, travels and moving screens. Second half the defense just let down for us. They executed – converted lay-ups that they turned into open jump shots and they started making those. We need to play better, we will play better and that’s what we have to work on. We are a team that has a lot of things to improve on and we will get there and we know we’ve got things to work on. But give (Notre Dame) credit they stayed with their game and knocked down shots in the second half.”

On the play of Alex Dragicevich
“(Dragicevich) got some lay-ups in the second half. He was two-for-six in the first half. Then in the second half the three-pointers and the some lay-ups got him going. That’s where it really got started and then (Notre Dame’s) three-pointers broke it open. Give them credit they were patient we had some breakdowns that were pretty hard to recover from.”

On how Tray Woodall felt after the game…
“I didn’t have a chance to talk him after the game. Obviously he is not where he needs to be. We have been in this situation (long layoff due to injury) a couple different times in the past. I don’t know a good way to go about it. We have never had a good performance with a guy back after a long stretch out. (Woodall) was going to play 20 minutes because that’s what our (team doctor) said and we kept him in the time frame with him playing 18 minutes. There’s no ideal situation to come back into. I don’t think he feels any worse. Obviously he was not himself playing out there.”

Pittsburgh Player Quotes

Nasir Robinson – Sr. – Forward

On Notre Dame’s teamwork in the second half…
“They were just knocking down shots, playing harder than us and wanted it more. Simple as that.”

On finding this season’s turning point…
“We’re just at a time right now where we’re kind of struggling, but we’re going to get it together. We’re going to keep practicing, working hard, and move on to the next game. We just have to come together, all as one. It starts at practice, and carries over to the games.”

On what they’re struggling with right now…
“We’re just slowing up right now. We’re hitting a wall right now, but we’re going to bounce back off of it and move on.”

On losing to Notre Dame for the fourth time…
“They had good shots and we weren’t patient enough on defense. They got open shots, found their open guys and made plays.”

Tray Woodall – Jr. – Guard

On coming back from his injury…
“We worked so hard this summer, for me not to be able to be out there with guys that I worked hard with all summer, it hurt. But I felt like I was able to go and I told Coach Dixon and everybody that I was able to go, but unfortunately it didn’t work out for us (tonight).”

On his struggles during the game…
“I can’t blame it on [my injury]. We just didn’t play well tonight, nor did I. I didn’t play well. In this game, they made me do a lot of things that I wasn’t really doing in practice, especially with the kind of movement that they were doing, and in practice I have to limit myself. But out here, I had to play defense against the competition.”

On his team’s shooting skills…
“I think we’re all really good shooters. Everybody works real hard, everybody puts their time in at the gym, and it just hasn’t been falling for us.”