March 17, 2012
THE MODERATOR: We’ll start with an opening statement from coach and then take questions for the student-athletes.
COACH BREY: That’s just a tough one for us. I’m so proud of our group. We battled and gave ourselves a chance to win. It was a great basketball game. They made some more plays. I thought their veteran guards made some really big plays to escape with a win. But it’s a tough one for us because we felt we were in pretty good position to close it out. THE MODERATOR: Take questions for the student-athletes.
Q. I suppose this could go to either one of you but, Jerian, you had the ball. What was the goal and the play with 12 seconds left coming out of the timeout? What was the plan on that play?
Jerian Grant: It was just use a ball screen, but they were in the zone. And I seen Tu Holloway just sitting behind it, and it was an open look. And usually I knock it down, so I took it.
Q. What was kind of the reaction when you saw the lane violation get called?
Jerian Grant: Just shock and disbelief. You always hear that you never — you can’t call that at the end of a game or it’s just let the kids play the game out. And it hurts to lose on a call that — I mean, we didn’t lose on that call, but it hurts to end the game like that.
Q. Jack, you ended up 8-8 with 18 points. I know it’s tough hearing 8-8 and you still come out with a loss, but what were you able to get going today? And not very often you shoot a hundred percent from the field. Where did that come from?
Jack Cooley: Really just Jerian and Eric getting me the ball when they saw mismatches and them just making great passes when I’m open. Their penetration is what got me all open looks. I was just making dump off layups. I mean, it just– they were all just going in for me today. THE MODERATOR: Okay. Thanks, guys. Take questions for coach.
Q. Tu Holloway was able to get loose and he played like the preseason All-American that people expected him to be. How tough was it to stop him getting into the lane when he was going like that?
COACH BREY: I almost– you were waiting for it to happen. He’s so good in end game situations. I sat here yesterday and talked about I saw him do it to Vanderbilt, come back and beat them there, saw them come back and beat Purdue. So you know it’s coming, you’re just hoping you can weather it. I thought overall we did a pretty good job on him and challenged some stuff and took some charges. But he is– he’s a great guard. And he loves those end game moments, and he’s done it time and time again. Our young guards can learn something. They played against some veteran guys tonight and I thought for the most part they held their own. But their experience kind of played out at the end of the day.
Q. Halftime lead by two, the game hadn’t really broken either way. It was small runs, nothing major. Coming out of halftime, what were you hoping to switch up, slow down, speed up, anything?
COACH BREY: Well, I think the last eight minutes of the first half, we finally were really burning clock and we played the whole game that way and that’s how we had to play to have a chance to win it. They’re just too fast and there weren’t as many possessions for Holloway and Lyons to get their hands on the ball which helped us. But end game, they made some big plays. We made some mistakes. We couldn’t close it out. I love the tempo, the tempo was exactly where we needed to have it. The first 10 minutes, no way, it was just too fast.
Q. What were your thoughts of the last minute with the lane violation as well as the turnover?
COACH BREY: We had a few things happen. We told them to look to drive it, but he had hit some big shots, so I don’t mind him taking that behind there with 12 seconds to go because he made some big ones for us and he really felt it. We had some turnovers that really hurt us. Before the lane violation that put us in a tough position and that’s a tough one. I mean, Mike Stuart’s a big time official. He refs in the Big East. And we must have snuck in there a little too early. It’s too bad that happens, but there was a lot of plays, we missed some free throws. There were a lot of plays that culminated in not being able to escape with a win. And that’s what we were going to have to do tonight.
Q. Kind of awkward to ask about Scott Martin because there’s the slim chance he’s back next year, but presuming he’s not can you reflect on what he’s brought and then how tough it must be today?
COACH BREY: Well, I hope we can get him back. We should know something in the next two weeks. But I don’t know if I have had a captain do a better job and have to do it in crisis with his partner going down, Abromaitis, us not being very good, and him not playing well. It’s hard to lead in that situation and he did a great job. He was great tonight. At least I hear him talk and how he talks to our guys, he was steady tonight. And I talked to our team I said, you know, we probably have everybody back in here. So let’s kind of use this as a learning experience and see if we can get back and see if we can advance past the first round. But he’s been fabulous. He’s a coach on the court. I hope we can have him back.
Q. I understand with the lane violation that the letter of the law operates a certain way, but in terms of like the spirit of the way it should work in a close NCAA tournament game, do you feel like– same thing that happened to Asheville, seems like the refs are maybe pulling the trigger a little too quickly on that sort of thing?
COACH BREY: No. That was a veteran official who’s had a lot of games. And so I, you know, I rely on his judgment. I will watch the tape later. And I guess we must have had– it’s all advantage gained. And we, I guess we must have had a heck of an advantage there with him running down the lane. And I would like to look to see if the ball was in the net, but again Mike Stuart’s refed a lot of games he’s had a lot of Big East games. I think he’s one of the better officials around. They’re worn out from a day of hoops. They’re worn out from a day of hoops. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, coach.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll start with an opening statement from coach and then take questions for the student-athletes.
COACH MACK: Well, it’s what the NCAA tournament’s about. An exciting finish, a game where Notre Dame really tried to take the air out of the ball, but to our kids’ credit we were able to stay with it mentally more than physically because that’s what we needed to do. And I thought that our perseverance through that time — we were down 10, and it just seemed like seconds were going off the clock every time they had the ball. But we made some adjustments on ball screens, thought our kids played pretty hard during that time.
And Notre Dame’s a really, really good team. Got a lot of respect for them. They were running a clinic there for a while on the offensive end. But down the stretch we made some huge plays, and Tu’s shot off the glass driving down the lane to give us the lead was big. And he’s been doing that his whole career. I’m proud of our kids. We have gone through a lot, and we continue to fight another day.
THE MODERATOR: Take questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Tu, something like 25, 30 seconds left and you’re down one. You go and don’t even hesitate not really in the lane but down the line. What’s going through your head then and when your shot’s in the air? TU HOLLOWAY: My team has faith in me. Coach Mack called my number and at that point, we were down. I just wanted to make a play for my team. It was my time to step up and be a man.
Q. Tu, how much has your experience in big games and willing Xavier to win and not only doing that but in playing in NCAA tournament games helped you on this stage tonight?
TU HOLLOWAY: After awhile it becomes just another big game. So I would say that it helped me out a lot being a senior in college playing over, I believe, 100-something basketball games. So we know — I know what I had to do at that time and I was just ready for the opportunity. Luckily the shot went in.
Q. When you guys were down by 10, what was coach’s message to you or what did you guys say to each other to pull yourself out of that?
KENNY FREASE: We knew that we just had to really work hard on the defensive end. They were really taking up a lot of the shot clock and we had to be able to guard what they were doing at the end of the shot clock there and that was the game. He was able to make shots at the end of the game, like he said. And everybody really did. Rob made a couple big plays at the end. Offensively we really answered the bell at the end, but defense was the real reason we won the game, because we were able to stop them from running that pick and roll that was really killing us and then our guards really did a really good job from the post when they would switch on to Cooley. And they deserve a lot of credit for that.
Q. Were you guys able to see the end of the first game and did you have any impressions right off from that?
DEZMINE WELLS: No, because this is the NCAA tournament, so anybody could lose on any given night. And that’s the beauty of being in the NCAA tournament. You don’t have to be the best team in the tournament; you just have to be the better team that night. And Lehigh was tonight. So we look forward to playing against them. And Duke is a great team, so it was no shots at them, it’s just a really good team and Lehigh got the win.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thanks, guys. Take questions for coach.
Q. Could you talk more about what Kenny said about what your goal was against their burn offense?
COACH MACK: Well, you go back and forth as you watch tape preparing for the game and you want to really pressure them. But then you look at their assist-turnover ratio and it seems like you’re wasting energy.
We decided to at least going into the game, to really try to pump our kids up, that you don’t have to defend for the first 24 seconds of the shot clock. Just have to defend in the last 11, which is easier said than done because they’re a very high IQ team. They spread the floor with guys that can shoot and they roll the bull down the middle of the lane. And it’s it puts you in a pickle.
We didn’t solve that riddle in the first half. And in the second half even though it was tough, tough to swallow in the timeout that we were going to switch with 12 seconds or less on the shot clock, because you have Cooley rolling in the post against a guy like Tu or Dee or Mark who are just small guys. We just felt like at least we would have a body on somebody when they tried to spread us out. And I thought it was very effective and we pressured the ball, and I thought it stagnated them a little bit. But they still made some big plays.
Heck, Jerian Grant with some of those threes at the end, I mean, you know just came down to a couple plays here and there and our kids made some and so did they, and we’re just fortunate to come out on the winning end.
Q. You obviously scouted the burn pretty well. Was there anything Notre Dame did that did catch you off guard or you were surprised by the effective necessary of?
COACH MACK: I think their size in the back court, that was really effective. I don’t want to say it’s something we haven’t seen before, but when Jerian Grant’s six foot five and he’s coming off that ball screen, it’s like our guards aren’t even there. It’s what magic did back in the day. Just sees over the defense and throws it to who is open.
Our guards have been able to really hound guards using ball screens this year and not necessarily let them pick us apart but he’s got such good size, so does Atkins. Their assist-turnover ratio, like I talked about, is excellent. So it’s a tough matchup.
But I think the main message to our guys was just stay with it. Mentally don’t break. Don’t let the fact that they’re playing sort of like an old man’s rec game get you down and we were able to keep our mentality.
Q. Did you happen to pack your home jerseys? And what are your thoughts on facing Lehigh?
COACH MACK: I don’t pack the jerseys, so it’s not my responsibility. We have a great managerial crew and so we don’t take anything for granted. We packed both sets of uniforms and it will be a chance for both teams to advance to the Sweet 16, which is why you come here in the first place. So like Dez said before, you just have to be better on that particular night and we’re going to have to be better on Sunday if we want to advance.
Q. Can you talk about how Andre’s feeling after he got hurt and came out in the second half?
COACH MACK: He’s a little woozy. I don’t necessarily have an official prognosis, but doc looked at me and said he’ll be fine, but he just wanted to hold him out, felt like it wasn’t the right thing to do to put him back in the game. Andre’s a big part of our team, especially on the defensive end. But it was good to see Jeff step up. I think he’ll be fine but I can’t be certain.
Q. Tu has carried you guys in so many games. Was there a point tonight where you just felt like he’s a senior and this is the tournament and he just flipped on the switch and went?
COACH MACK: Well, Tu’s — he’s made such big plays throughout the course of his career, you know, you followed him and he’s — the moment’s never too big for him. We were very fortunate, he tried to split a ball screen late in the game and it became a loose ball and fortunately Kenny picked it up and we were able to call a timeout. But that’s who he is, he’s extremely courageous. He’s never one to let somebody else take over. He doesn’t do it selfishly. He just has a huge belief in himself. And his teammates do, as well as does his head coach.
Q. Kenny scored all of his points in the first half, did they make adjustments on him in the second half?
COACH MACK: He didn’t play as much in the second half. Part of that was if we were going to switch ball screens, that was going to be a really tough challenge for Kenny to be able to keep Jerian Grant or Eric Atkins in front of him, that’s — he did a pretty decent job the couple times he got isolated, but they still knocked a couple shots over him. So we didn’t play him as much. When we really started to get stops, Kenny wasn’t on the floor and there’s certain games where certain guys — it’s just — it just isn’t as advantageous for our team for them to be out there and Kenny’s a very team oriented guy. He doesn’t take any offense to it and we wanted to do whatever we could to win the game. We thought it best that we have a little bit quicker lineup out on the floor.
Q. I was curious about that the lane violation at the end and I know — not to take away from y’all’s win obviously, but it just seems like a weird call. It’s happened twice in this tournament and I was wondering if you have a feeling one way or the other about how that works into the spirit of the game in terms of it being a close game in the NCAA tournament?
COACH MACK: Well, I could say there was some weird calls in the last minute or so that went against both teams. And that doesn’t mean they were the wrong call. You’re awfully biased when you’re on one side of the floor, but I didn’t necessarily see it, but we had a great officiating crew tonight and they called the call the way it’s written in the rule book. And I’m not here to decipher the spirit of the game or that. They made some calls that went against us tonight and they made some calls that went against Notre Dame. I thought our kids persevered and did a good job to earn the victory.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you.