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March 12, 2015

Jamal Branch

Phil Greene, IV

Steve Lavin


Providence - 74
St. John’s - 57

COACH LAVIN:¬† Obviously, we're disappointed with the results today and didn't feel that our aggressiveness‑‑ our aggressive was not the level it's been when we've had success this year, and the best indication of that is rebounding.¬† Providence was plus 13 on the glass, and they beat us to the punch, not only on the boards, but for some 50‑50 balls and really established the tone early.
We got out to a 7‑0 lead.¬† They went on a run, and we tried to get it under 10, but for the most part, after that 7‑0 lead we had, the run that they went on, we never really in contention.¬† A couple of possessions there maybe we would have had a chance if we came up with a rebound, to get it back under 10 if we'd been able to convert.
As a group, we are disappointed with the result today.  Now we've got to get ready for our next game.

Q.  Steve, Rysheed has started every game since January 31st.  Why not today?
COACH LAVIN:  Sure, this older group, and Jamal has been playing so well coming off the best game of his career against Georgetown.  Also, we look at the practice that week.  There's so many elements to go into, as our players know, what determines a starter.  There's just a myriad of elements that go into determining, from game to game, who's going to start.
So practice is part of it, and then also where a player is in terms of experience and just‑‑ Jamal was someone that played well today for us.

Q.  Steve, you guys had looked so good leading up to this last weekend and these last two games.  How concerned are you about the way the team's played?
COACH LAVIN:¬† I just shared with the team that it's one of the advantages‑‑ and it's important that they know this because they sometimes don't have the context that a coach has that's been in the business for a long period of time.
Last week we were just down two key players, Branch, who was playing the best basketball of his career, and our next game against Georgetown, didn't play.  And obviously Chris Obekpa, who's a central part of everything we do.
Obviously, Villanova has 30 wins.¬† They're not losing to anybody.¬† Last week I felt it was more of a few of our key players, two of our six‑man rotation were out, and we're playing a great team on the road.
Today we're just disappointed as a group with our performance because we didn't feel that we brought the aggressiveness.¬† I thought we were tentative‑‑ you know, tentative, hesitant.¬† There's a lid on the rim, but sometimes that comes from the nerves of the postseason.¬† There are going to be days when your offense just is not clicking.¬† You can't buy a bucket.¬† We call it being in the desert or in the midst of a drought. ¬†But the disappointing part collectively was aggression level on defense and our rebounding is where I thought Providence really beat us to the punch.
The points in the paint, the second shots, the 50‑50 balls.¬† So we're disappointed with it, but at the same time, I explained to them I probably had four or five teams that lost their first game in the conference tournament or their last regular season game, and then went on a run in the NCAA.
You also can't get carried away.  You've got to get ready and address the deficiencies and turn the focus to improving as a team, and that enhances the chances of doing something special in the postseason.
So not concerned to the point where I don't think this team is still capable of doing something special.

Q.  Steve, just to follow on that, I assume you're confident you're in the tournament, and it looks like you would have a week off.  Since you guys are banged up, is that almost good to get some rest for these guys?
COACH LAVIN:  We'd rather win the Big East Conference Tournament and be cutting down the nets on Saturday night here in New York, but given that we got knocked out and Providence played a hell of a game, deserves to advance, now we need to take this time and take advantage of it in preparation for the postseason.

Q.¬† For Phil, was there a lot of self‑imposed pressure, do you think, on the seniors?¬† And you guys felt, because you wanted this game, it really seemed like you weren't ourselves tonight?
PHIL GREEN IV:  It may have seemed like it.  Like Coach said, we wasn't aggressive.  We were tentative.  If anything, we let our offense bleed into our defense, and we can't win games like that.  When we get stops and rebounds, it would be a totally different game, but we were just not aggressive.

Q.  Usually, when you guys have gone through droughts or fallen behind, there's been some grit that you guys have gone back in the game, sometimes come back and won it.  Where was that today?
JAMAL BRANCH:  I mean, we tried a couple stretches, but we couldn't buy a basket.  We were shooting 26 percent in the first half, and they were shooting 46 percent.  We had no points in transition, and that's pretty much our game.  We like to play in transition and get the easy buckets, but we didn't have no transition points in the first half.
They capitalized on the turnovers and all the missed shots.

Q.  Steve, I know Rysheed returned.  What did he relay to you about his wrist?  Is that something that's going to linger going forward?
COACH LAVIN:  No.  We'll get more information this evening, and I think we're cautionary they either are currently examining it or they're going to examine it in terms of the team doctors.
But he was able to play in the second half‑‑ not that that's always an accurate indication, but hopefully that's a sign that it wasn't so debilitating that it's going to knock him out of being able to play moving forward.

Q.  Phil, when you guys are going through a stretch like you did in the first half where they're scoring 18 straight, you're 0 for 15, what's going through your mind?
PHIL GREEN IV:  Just get a stop.  Get a stop, shut out.  Like I said, our defense fuels our offense.  When we get stops and rebound the ball, it changes the whole complexion of the game.  But since we couldn't get a stop, they just kept it going.
So they capitalized on it, and they played a good game.

Q.  Steve, your seniors have done a lot of good, but they're going to finish their career without a Big East Tournament victory.  Why has these guys not been able to put it together in this tournament?
COACH LAVIN:¬† I don't think it's them.¬† I'm just a poor Big East‑‑ I'm a poor conference tournament coach.¬† We didn't have one at UCLA either.¬† I know we lost at Cal.¬† I was talking to Rico about it.¬† Rico has participated in some form or fashion in every NCAA Tournament appearance we've had as a player or a coach, except for one.¬† I think he missed in '96/'97.
What I shared with them is we lost at Washington on a final.¬† Washington was like a last place team, and some guy banked in a three‑pointer from 30.¬† It was Fred Brown's son, I think.¬† Maybe even fouled him.¬† It was like a four‑point play close to the buzzer.¬† We lost in that game, but then we went on a run to the Elite Eight or Sweet 16.
I know we lost to Cal in a game where we laid a complete egg, similar to this game, at Staples.  We lost to a Cal Bear team who just played horrific, and next week we were beating the Number 1 team in the country in Cincinnati or a 1 seed in Pittsburgh to go on to the Sweet 16 and play to go to the Final Four.
Probably the trend in the racing form is I don't think I've ever won a conference tournament game as a coach in the Pac‑10 or the Big East.¬† I don't think it has anything to do with our players.

Q.¬† For Phil and Jamal, you guys said‑‑ came out tentative.¬† You came out hesitant.¬† You guys had been on such a run for the last few weeks where you were very aggressive.¬† You were driving and doing everything you need to win.¬† What's the difference from these last few weeks, where you guys were super aggressive, to today?
JAMAL BRANCH:  I mean, it would have helped if we would have made some shots at the beginning and right at the end.  I think we need to get, like Phil said, we need to get rebound and stops.  They got easy points off transition.  They did a good job executing their plays and running their offense, and knocking down shots.  Something we didn't do.

Q.  Steve, Twitter says you beat Arizona in 2003.
COACH LAVIN:  That's right.  Actually, we did get a win.  So it was a couple wins, but overall we struggled.

Q.  For Phil and Jamal, to follow up on the earlier question.  I know your senior group really wanted to get a Big East Tournament win, not to go oat in your career without one.  Now that you're unable to do that, how disappointing is this that you're not going to have another chance?  [Out, not oat]?
PHIL GREEN IV:  Very disappointed.  Like you said, we wanted to get one.  We're going to focus on getting better.  We've got to move on.  The game is an open house.  So we've just got to get back to the drawing board.

Q.¬† Jamal, how much easier is this‑‑ not that you want to lose, but how much easier is this to take knowing that you're not really on the bubble anymore and you didn't have to win this game.
JAMAL BRANCH:  Say that one more time?

Q.  How much easier is it to maybe stomach this loss knowing that you didn't need to win to get into the tournament?
JAMAL BRANCH:  We'll see Sunday what happens, but good thing that it happened today than if we make the tournament and it happens in the tournament.

Q.  I'm going to cheat by getting two by asking Phil and Steve the same question.  Phil first.  The games aren't going to get any easier, and people know that you guys are a great transition team.  Can you guys score enough to win if you can't get the fast break game going?
PHIL GREEN IV:  Of course I think so because we have a lot of good players.  It starts with our defense.  The defense just helps out everything.  That's why we're going to get back to the drawing board, go back to practice, work some things out.  So next time we could play better.

Q.  What do you think, Steve?
COACH LAVIN:¬† Yeah, if you look at the scores, when we beat Xavier in a grinder‑‑ I think it was 58‑57 or 57‑56.¬† We held them to the fewest points they had all season long.¬† Or even up at Syracuse.¬† That was the game play in the 50's.¬† Kind of a grinder, methodical, kind of similar to the conditions you face when you're in the NCAA Tournament.
So we demonstrated the ability to score in the 80s and win games but also score in the 50s.  I agree with Phil.  If you're not getting stops defensively, you're taking the ball out of the net, then clearly you are playing uphill.
Seton Hall is another one?  Seton Hall is more of a game that's played at that methodical, grinding pace.
But we talk about the team.  When you take the ball out of the net after free throws or baskets, it does limit our ability to go on runs.  What's interesting is the theorys that we're an excellent transition team, but we actually are eighth or ninth in the league if you look at the metrics and analytics, in transition, we're one of the worst teams in the country.  Just in terms of the metrics.
On the half‑court, we rate very well because we shoot the three‑pointer well.¬† We distribute the ball.¬† We have so many interchangeable parts with the four guards out there.¬† But in transition, even though we still are going to push the ball, the numbers, the percentages happens to be near the bottom of the league.
It's an interesting thing.¬† I know that seems that counterintuitive to when you watch us because we do some really special spectacular things in transition.¬† When we've been our best, we've had 20, 22 assists, 18, 19 assists, and distributing the ball and really making those extra passes and executing with precision on the half‑court.
Because of that, Dom has been spectacular with dunks, the numbers appear to be good in transition team.  But we've talked about it as a team.  We do not convert well in transition.  It's one of the poorest teams I've had in terms of converting when playing at high speeds in transition.  But we make some electrifying plays that make SportsCenter, and then people think, wow, they're a great transition team.  But we really struggle in transition to work, and we often throw the ball away because we're in a hurry playing too fast.
We get on the half‑court and get ball reversal and play through the pain and start sharing that thing and making that extra pass is when we shoot so well from the three‑point line.¬† 12, 24 at Marquette.¬† The game at Syracuse, we shot the ball extremely well from the three.¬† All of our big wins, it's more half‑court execution, shooting the three, balanced with an occasional transition and getting to the foul line.
We want to keep running.  We think we have potential to be good transition, but to this point in the year, we just haven't for some reason excelled in the fast break.  The metrics and analytics, we happen to be near the bottom of the league.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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