March 9, 2016
– We’ll start with an opening statement from Coach Gregory.
COACH GREGORY: Trying to gather myself right now.
Obviously very, very pleased with our guys. Unbelievable effort during the second half, during the overtime period.
We just beat a very, very good team. A team that’s tough and disciplined. To be honest with you, for 30 minutes, we had no answers for them at all. We’ve been in that boat with them many times in the past.
I think every time we’ve played them in the five years I’ve been here, the game’s gone down to the wire. About nine minutes left, we were down 16, 17 points. Had a timeout and talked about some of the things we needed to do.
Two-by-two, we weren’t going to make any five-point plays or anything like that. We wanted to get the thing under 10 with seven minutes or less, and in the last four minutes have it be a two- or three-possession game. We felt pretty good about it. We’ve been in that spot with Notre Dame, Clemson, Pittsburgh, just different times.
These two guys obviously made some unbelievable offensive plays, but it was our defense the second half that made the difference. They shot 51% in the first half, 44 in the second, 26 in overtime.
We rebounded the ball well, 46-28 on the glass. That was the difference.
Our vision of how we’re supposed to play was kind of shown today. Sometimes not the most poetic offensively, but tough on defense and tough on the glass. We got some tough kids. This group has shown more resolve and resiliency than any group I’ve been around. We were 2-8 in the first 10 games, now we’re 8-2 in the last 10.
These guys get a lot of credit. We have a great senior class. I thought James White was a huge difference in the game. His athletic ability and ability to get to the glass was incredible. Total team effort.
We beat a good team today. I feel bad for Brad. I really do. I’ve been on that other side. They have nothing to be ashamed about. Anytime you win 10 games in this league, you’ve had a hell of a year.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Coach, is that one of the most dramatic comebacks you’ve ever been a part of in your career considering it was win or go home?
COACH GREGORY: Yeah, 26 years. Definitely as a head coach. I’ve never seen anything like that, especially with the magnitude of the game. But these two guys up here have proven that the bigger the game, the more fight they have.
We keep telling each other we’re never out of the fight. We weren’t tonight. It looked like it.
But I can say stuff during the timeout. If these guys don’t believe it, it doesn’t matter. That’s been the biggest difference with this year’s team. Even when things weren’t going well, we had some disappointments, these guys kept believing in the coaching staff and the system and the purpose for why we were doing things. That showed up. You have to have that to do what we did today, there’s no question about it.
Q. Marcus, what was going through your head when you were down 18?
Marcus Georges-Hunt: Every time we huddled up, we just told each other, One stop at a time. Nothing crazy. Just one stop, one rebound, limit them to one shot, then execute on offense.
We couldn’t go on offense with an empty possession. We made sure we executed and got what we wanted or what was drawn up by coach.
Q. Marcus, I know you’ve been through a lot over the last four years. Can you describe what it’s like right now to be winning these games.
Marcus Georges-Hunt: Like you said, I’ve been through a lot. It didn’t stop me from believing or keep working hard. Trusting in my teammates. Times like this, games like this, you have to stay calm, stay poised, just believe in your craft, your teammates and coaching staff.
Q. Adam, what were you able to take advantage of down the stretch? What was the key in the last couple of possessions?
Adam Smith: Really just taking advantage of our opportunities. We ran a lot of stagger screens, things like that. We were in the bonus early as well. We tried to get as much contact as we could, get to the line, just knock ’em down.
Q. Brian, could you talk about your first game with Virginia and what you feel you need to do to get another W.
COACH GREGORY: I thought we played maybe our best, definitely to that point, game of the year against them. They can hurt you in so many different ways, obviously with the Player of the Year, great coach, great system, disciplined style. You have to be on the top of your game defensively. You can never relax on them on the defensive end because they just kind of pick you apart if you do that.
Then you got to be able to score. You got to be able to make some shots. Some of them got to be some tough shots. You got to live with some of that because they’re so good defensively.
The most important thing is, as these guys said, you can’t have empty possessions against them on offense. You really can’t. It just gives their defense more momentum into the next possession. We have to do a really good job defending the ball and not giving them second opportunities.
I thought we did that in the first game. We shot the ball well. There was times today where offensively we executed extremely well. It’s got to be a high-execution game offensively.
Q. Marcus, you had four points at halftime. What got you going in the second half?
Marcus Georges-Hunt: They just told me to go attack. I wasn’t playing aggressive enough. That’s what it really was. My teammates was just telling me I got to go, I got to be in attack mode, not cruise through the game. I wasn’t coming off ball screens hard enough. That’s all it was. Just get even more aggressive in the second half.
I didn’t go to the free-throw line in the first half. I was thinking in my head, I have to attack, attack, attack.
COACH GREGORY: I think it’s one of the biggest challenges for Marcus, what we’ve put him in, with him having to handle the ball so much and play the point guard spot. He had six assists and one turnover today.
But we need him to be aggressive to score, as well. With it only being his first year really doing that in our system, sometimes you got to keep prodding him to be more aggressive on his end, not selfish, because these two guys are the most unselfish guys around. I actually want them to be more aggressive and shoot the ball more.
You just look at that stat line and how he responded after a pretty tough halftime, it just speaks volumes. The same thing with Adam, some of the shots he made, tough shots. He knows he’s got to take those for us.
Q. In addition to Marcus being aggressive, how crucial were his 15 free throws in that comeback?
COACH GREGORY: Super aggressive, because now in the comeback, you’re able to score when the clock isn’t moving. We were able to stretch him out a little bit. It’s a vicious cycle.
Adam makes a couple frees, so now they have to stretch out a little more. Now the driving lines are open a little bit more. We’re able to hit a couple drop-offs to Nick, so now the help isn’t quite there.
To make that comeback, you got to do a couple things. You’re not going to do it strictly on the three. You have to make it to the free-throw line, put some layups in as well. At the same time you got to get some critical stops. That was big for us. We did.
I thought our chances were good. Then we gave up the three-point play to Blossomgame. Our guys never wavered. They went back and scored on the next possession, figured out a way to make that up.
Q. 45 minutes of action tonight. 21 hours from now you’re back on it. Are you planning on expanding the rotation?
COACH GREGORY: How many did they play tonight? Two, four, six, eight, nine. We played almost everybody available.
These guys can rest in April (smiling). Obviously we’ve got to get some rest. We’ll be well-prepared. These guys have been great. We changed some coverages again today. They’ve been really good with that.
You know, our bench saved us. Like I said, James White was great. Ben Lammers made some big plays for us defensively. Josh Heath, you know what I mean, he comes off the bench and he did a great job for us. He made some big plays for us, some good defensive plays as well.
Our bench needs to be ready to go tomorrow.
Q. Coach, Marcus had a slow first half, then a great second half. On the other hand, Blossomgame started strong, then you figured it out. What did you do differently?
COACH GREGORY: We changed some matchups on him. Let me tell you something, that kid is really good. I’m going to be honest for the first 30 minutes, he was the best player on the court. Luckily we had the two best players the last 15 minutes.
He can hurt you in so many different ways. One of the things we wanted to do is we wanted to take the three away from him. We did not want to give him the threes because that’s what’s been separating him from other players in the league, is his ability to knock down the three. He only made one on the game.
But he’s a tough matchup. Marcus got in foul trouble. Adam got in foul trouble. We had to put some different guys on him.
I thought Quinton, although not one of his best offensive games of the year, was really good defensively. Six defensive rebounds. He got the big stop on Blossomgame at the end. Q is not the most physical guy in the world, but he put his chest in front of him on that right-hand drive, made him make a tough drive.
The change-up on not only our coverages, but who was covering him I thought was effective today.