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“Well, needless to say, I feel as fortunate as we can possibly feel. It was a hairy game there at the end no question about that. On the play, Bill (Rafferty) told me that he clearly did walk. They always look like walks from our end when their players do it, but I can’t say enough about our kids. Melvin (Scott) being able to come in there and handle the point during that time period when Raymond (Felton) was out, and Rashad (McCants) and Marvin (Williams) making free throws, Melvin making free throws for us. It was one of those times that basically, we talked about at halftime Coach Robins said, ‘Let’s find a way’ and that’s basically what we did. It’s late and I’m going to shut up and let you ask questions quickly.”
No way am I trying to say that you could use this as an excuse because both teams had to go through it but how hard is it to prepare for a game that starts after 10:00?
“Part of it you answered because we can’t use that as an excuse because it was that way for both teams. But it was difficult, there’s no question about it. Sitting in a hotel room, we came over and shot around, we had two meetings. Marvin said today at, I guess his pre-game, maybe we should just play bingo. And that’s exactly what he said because it was hard sitting around there, but I don’t think it had anything to do with the way we played. I think that Villanova losing (Curtis) Sumpter, I thought they were so enthused, they went small early, they were more aggressive to the loose balls. You know, the first possession on the defensive end we think we’ve got it and Raymond (Felton) just sort of casually gets it like he’s going down to the end of the court and their guy hits it and it hits Raymond and went out of bounds but I think they were more aggressive to it than we were. And, you know I don’t think that you can count the time of the game as the reason for that. But I think Jay (Wright) did a better job with his team today than I did with mine.”
How did they slow you guys down?
“They are a good basketball team. We like to win 90’s and 100’s but the other team has something to do with it. They are very good and it is easy to see how the teams slow down in some ways because they take a lot of time on the offensive end of the floor and they kept getting offensive rebounds. There were three different times where we played defense for about 30 seconds. They got a rebound, we played for about another 30 seconds. And you slow people down with the way you play on the offensive end. I’ve never in my life thought it was any great statistic when the other team gave up a few points if they controlled the ball in the offensive end of the floor. They’re good. I mean, they were 24?7 and only had one game that -- didn’t have a chance to win within the last minute of the game. They give scholarships too.”
What was your thought process in inserting Quentin Thomas, pulling him out after the charge and you what did you tell Melvin Scott when he walked back?
“You know, it’s something that I’ve told him all season. It is not okay to turn the basketball over. It is not okay to not get your dang-gone boxouts and one play is extremely important. And I’m not going to pick on Quentin or anything but we practiced not flying in and running into people. And one possession, one turnover. I decided to go with the guy who had more experience and that was Melvin.”
Is there a point in the first half where you got a flashback to like when guys like Mobley and Tyson Wheeler in past games had huge shooting nights and these guys were doing the same?
“They did make a bunch of shots early and I told the guys at halftime, I felt as fortunate as you can possibly be. We were really lucky. We were only down four, I think it was, yeah. And I felt very fortunate to be that way. And but no, I didn’t have any flashbacks. I have got enough trouble remembering what happened this morning. What you’re trying to do is as a coach is just coach the crap out of each possession, and we were trying to do that, we tried to get in the half. We had Raymond with two fouls, Marvin with two fouls, Sean with two fouls, we went zone six times and they scored eight points off it so that was a great decision I made too.”
When does it get to the point where you realize it’s going to be the game of attrition with fouls, how does that change the way you go about coaching?
“We did play more zone trying to protect some guys because most of the time you don’t foul but Raymond’s last two fouls were about as weird and I’m not saying anything about the officials, they were just weird fouls. You don’t expect that, but we can try to play some zone to try to keep some guys in the game a little longer. But, still, I go back that one stretch in there where Raymond goes out and Rashad made a bunch of free throws, Marvin made a big three for us early in the possession or stretch and what you do during that time period is gave us the cushion and then, there was more of a panic after Raymond fouled out. When he went out the first time, there wasn’t a sense of panic, there was a sense of calmness out there I felt. But at the end, we’re making cross court passes, 30 and 40 feet, and at that point, it wasn’t as calm as I wanted it to be.”
Could you talk about survive and advance? Every national champion or a lot of them have a game like this where they win, that they maybe should have lost or came close to losing. Talk about surviving and advancing.
“Coach said just find a way when we got in the locker room. First thing I said, it’s all about survive and move on. Of course we would have liked to have won by 20. Everybody played well, we knocked down a lot of shots, holding them to 20% from the field, but it wasn’t pretty. It was ugly. They made shots and everybody is here for a reason. It’s all about finding a way to win. And we did that. And we’re moving on. And we’re going to break down film and find out the things we did wrong. We have a lot of positives to take from this because we’re still playing.”
What happened on that last inbounds play? Did the ball slip out of your hand or did someone not come back and meet it?
“When he tipped it out everybody was kind of just going back. I tried to throw it up and Allan Ray made a good play to get his hands on the ball but Jackie (Manuel) was on the opposite side. I thought it was too risky of a pass and I was about to get a five second call so luckily it went in our favor.”
Could you talk about how you took control after Raymond (Felton) went down?
“It was kind of unexpected. I didn’t think that Raymond was going to get five that quickly. Once it happened, I immediately knew that I had to take the ball handling into perspective and take the game over, drive in and get those guys in foul trouble early.”
Did you feel like at some point either during the year or after the regular season that you would have a game like this in the tournament, that you would have to find a way to win, that you would have to prepare for this kind of game?
“Most definitely coach has been telling us all the games aren’t going to be blowouts and we have to get prepared for groundout games where there’s not going to be a 60-point game and we find a way to win and we did that tonight.”
Coach Williams said that he wasn’t sure whether it was a walk or not until he heard it from Bill. When you hear the whistle blow what are you thinking?
“I knew I didn’t foul him. I felt like when he drove he wasn’t expecting anybody to be there. So I just wanted to make a defensive rotation, without a foul, and just make him be as surprised as possible. And he didn’t know what to do. So he traveled. I knew if it was going to be a foul call that it was probably going to be one of the worst calls of the game. I did think that it was a travel at that point. I didn’t wait for him to tell me. When he blew the whistle, I was hoping that was what he was going to call but I didn’t know.”
Can you assess how Melvin (Scott) played after you went down?
“Melvin did a tremendous job. He stepped up to the plate, got the job done and knocked down big free throws. He took care of the ball down the stretch. He did a wonderful job. That’s how deep our team is.”
What did Villanova do to slow down your break?
“I wouldn’t say they slowed down the break but they did a good job of getting all the guys in the paint where we couldn’t get any penetration. I think we bothered them a bit by keeping them running the whole game.”