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NIT SEASON TIP-OFF


November 26, 2014


D'Angelo Harrison

Steve Lavin

Sir'Dominic Pointer


NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK

MINNESOTA – 61
ST. JOHN’S - 70


Q.  Can you just talk about your second half performance, 2 for 10 going into the half, what was your mentality going into the second half and how big a win is this for you guys?
D'ANGELO HARRISON:  First of all, it was a big win for us, but we're not done yet.  Coach stressed that just now in the locker room.  My teammates did a good job of staying with me, just say, shoot the ball, you're a shooter, shoot it.  Dom was one of them, we stayed in it the whole game, we pulled it out.

Q.  D'Angelo, on the four‑point play, can you take us through that?  You Dove through the ball, what did you see on the play?
D'ANGELO HARRISON:  I saw the ball go in the basket and those kind of plays are St. John's basketball right there, a lot of energy.  Brought a lot of energy to the game.  Big play in the game.  Credit everyone.  Team win, team win today.

Q.  For both players, in the first half, you guys just didn't really do much of a job on defense on the perimeter, and then it seemed like you guys made all the defensive plays in the second half.  Can you guys tell us like what the message was at halftime or whether you guys spoke among yourselves?  Where did that come from?
SIR'DOMINIC POINTER:  We've done it for four years, we have a good team this year so it's time for us to grow up and come together.  The first half we played like little kids.  Missed some assignments.  Second half we had to man up and we got in them, stayed together and we came back.
D'ANGELO HARRISON:  Coach stressed defense and then like Dom said , it was time to get it done, and we did a good job of that.  I don't know what they shot in the second half, but I know it wasn't even close to what they did in the first half.  Team win, team win, we did it on the defensive end.  We're a defensive team.

Q.  For Dom, did you feel like it was just a matter of toughness in the second half the way you came out and provided energy and made steals and dunks, particularly in that opening stretch?
SIR'DOMINIC POINTER:  I didn't get the question.

Q.  Your toughness.
SIR'DOMINIC POINTER:  That's me in a nutshell (laughter).  Get the team he excited.  That's what my team expects from me.  I'm not a (indiscernible) I'm an all‑purpose guy.  I do what the team need.

Q.  Just going into Friday, what's your mentality?  How big a win could that potentially be?
D'ANGELO HARRISON:  We're probably going to watch a little of the game, take rest, not a day off but tomorrow is Thanksgiving, enjoy the day, be a team chemistry day.  But it's going to be a big game Friday.  It was a great win and we have to get ready for the winner of this game.
SIR'DOMINIC POINTER: Like he said, it's a great opportunity.  Our next game is always our biggest game and we have a chance to bring an NIT Championship home.  So that's the goal.  Tomorrow, get some rest and come out Friday and be ready to play.

Q.  Was there a different mentality, did things feel different coming in to night just because of the urgency?  You talked about it was going to be one of the biggest games of your career.
D'ANGELO HARRISON:  First half, we let shooters get open, let guys get open, guys‑‑ they were scoring and the second half, Coach talked to us and we talked to the senior group, time to win the game.  It got to the point where it was time to win the game and we did what we had to do to win the game at the end.  Got to make free throws, too, a lot of free throws.

Q.  Dom, you had a stretch where you helped the team get back in the game and you had a steal and an assist and you had a blocked shot and then you had a steal and dunk.  When you have those things going on, what is it like for you when like all of a sudden you are making all the big plays?
SIR'DOMINIC POINTER:  It's exciting.  I'm feel I'm a team player, so to get my team excited and a good win and to come back, that's what I live for, it's the moment, it feels very great just to help the team win.

Q.  For both D'Angelo and Dom, 16 steals tonight, you guys forced 20 turnovers as well.  Coming in against a very‑good shooting team, was there preparation to be extra aggressive?
SIR'DOMINIC POINTER:  Basketball pressure‑‑ we try to go out and pressure everybody every night.  With them, sometimes you've got to beat teams with their own game.  They came out, pressured us and we did the same thing, so they turned it over a couple times.  We turned it over I think a little more but we got the win, that's all that matters.

Q.  Why do you think you guys were so much of a better team tonight than you've been any other day this season?
D'ANGELO HARRISON:  We grew up.  Dom said it perfectly, you know, we said it all week, this was one of the biggest games of our careers, and we showed it in the second half.  So when we put two halves together the way we did in the second half, we're going to be an even harder matchup for everybody because Dom is playing the four.  There's not a lot of guys that can guard Dom at the four.

Q.  I know it's early November, but considering coming from behind against a quality opponent, did you see anything different in the resolve for this group maybe that they were in the situation now versus the past two years?
COACH LAVIN:  What I shared after the game with the kids with the group, with the team, was the fact it was clearly a total team victory.  Sometimes in coaching, we use platitudes or clichés, they call it coach speak, and it's not really, you know, accurate.  And this was a game that was a total team victory.
And so that's what stood out to me, you could feel it in the huddles.  You could feel it on our bench, even with our reserves, our manager, Father Rock, the staff.  People were locked in, and so that is what stood out to me, and I thought as a group, they really lost themselves to the game to defense to the front of the jersey, St. John's, and there was a sense that it was just a very cohesive well‑knit unit that was playing in concert together.
That's who we have to be if we are going to have a special season.  I shared with them one of John Woods's favorite quote, it's amazing what can get accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.  And I thought this was a selfless team, a selfless effort tonight.

Q.  Rysheed Jordan is starting to look for comfortable.  What's changed for him from last year to this year?
COACH LAVIN:  That's interesting.  I don't want to disagree just to be disagreeable.  But I felt that Rysheed really struggled to night to find his rhythm.  Again, I'm not saying this‑‑ I also don't want to agree with you because I don't feel that way, so I'm just trying to share.
I thought tonight he did some good things, and Rysheed is a gifted basketball player, so over the course of 40 minutes, he will show some flashes of brilliance.  But I would say on the whole when I look at tonight's body of work, while he did some good things, he clearly was not the Rysheed Jordan we know he's capable of being.
There was some forced shots, some defensive break downs, the missed free throws, the visible frustration, which is a waste of emotional fuel or energy and we can't afford to get into that funk where you relive a mistake or a missed free throw three or four times while you're pouting.  We have to get to the next play and be in the present to compete against the best competition in the country.
But I would say, to agree with you on one, I think he's more comfortable this year than he was last year, that is clear based on his body of work or the first four games.  But tonight when we watched game film and when I was pulling him aside, that's not the Rysheed Jordan that we recruited, and not the Rysheed Jordan that we know he's capable of being.

Q.  Tactically, the first half, you go zone; is that because of their size?
COACH LAVIN:  Combination.  One is we are trying to keep Chris Obekpa out of foul trouble.  So everything we do offensively, defensively, and in the foul situation is with how to keep Chris out of foul trouble.  And so if we can buy time over the course of the game by playing some zone and having him at the rim kind of like a goalie in hockey or soccer, and then in the second half we know if we get to the late stages of the game we can turn it up, play with all‑out aggression, and he has a little more room there.  If he commits a foul or two, it's not going to turn the entire game against us.
We like to press and then fall back into that matchup zone.  But we were not alert in our coverages.  We had poor shooter awareness, because man or zone, you have to know where the best shooter is, and you do that through communicating and through pointing, both nonverbal and verbal communication.  The nonverbal is the pointing; I've got ball and here is the best shooter over here in the corner.  And then talking, just verbally, the communication that blued the defense.
In the first half whether it was zone or man, we were not as alert and aggressive on our assignments in terms of knowing where their shooters were.  Second half we went man the entire half.  And also, the zone allows at times to conserve a little bit of energy.  We have a shorter bench and we are trying to develop our seventh, eighth and ninth man but those players have to produce and practice to earn minutes in the game and when they get some minutes in the game, they have to deliver or we are not going to be able to build out our bench and have the type of depth we want.
So tactically, zone is a way to buy some time and keep Chris out of foul trouble and conserve some fuel with a shorter bench.

Q.  It's only November but in terms of building your resume for where you want to go, how important is this and a chance ton Friday to play a Top‑10 team?
COACH LAVIN:  We talk in the locker room about not getting too carried away with ourselves.  I'm a big believer that you can't be in the peaks or valleys emotionally, not just in basketball but in life.  And that's easier said than done.  But that really is the key, staying on the path of progress, incrementally getting better, which this group has done throughout their career, I think tonight is another example of a breakthrough.
But we have to remain focused on the task at hand, which is to get a win here Friday and it would be the first championship for this group in terms of being able to get some hardware, cut down some Nets, bring a championship back to campus in Queens.
And this group is deserving of doing some special things this year.  Friday is another big game but regardless of the outcome we have to stay on the path of progress and get ready for the next one and that's what the journey of a season is about, and so we are careful to not get too high after a win or get too down off a loss.  That's for the fans and media and others to do.  As a staff, as a head coach and as a group of young men, we just have to keep growing because there's going to be some highs and lows over the course of a season like this.  But I thought this was a step in the right direction.

Q.  In terms of Dom's statement about they grew up today, how exactly did they grow up today?
COACH LAVIN:  I think we have got some media savvy kids who have been in New York for three‑plus years now (laughter).  They have a flair for the dramatic.
I think there was some maturity on display in the second half, and you'd rather see that than not, so that was a plus.  It's something we can build on, but if we don't come out and play well on Friday, then we'll be in here after the game answering questions about what happened to the maturity, what happened to growing up.
So again, that's okay, young people, I enjoy my work, I couldn't have better company than this group of players, just the time with them, they are really special.  But we played with great effort and we played together and we lost ourselves to the cause, the front of the jersey, saint Johns, victory for St. John's.  There was no focus on the individual and when there was we were able to nip it in the bud.
I think the kids helped one another to get out of the funk after D'Angelo missed two free throws, or something didn't go well for us; I thought their communication with each other to get back into the present and to be focused on the task at hand was the area that that I was most impressed that.  And our defense in the second half was smothering and stifling against a good Minnesota team is a really good solid half of defense.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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