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March 12, 2015

Treveon Graham

Melvin Johnson

Shaka Smart


VCU – 63
Fordham - 57

COACH SHAKA SMART:  Got to give a lot of credit to Fordham.  They have gotten better and better over the course of the year, and those young guys are really making strides. 
We talked about it as a team; that Severe was going to be able to do a whole lot more than he did yesterday.  I think he only played four minutes and took one shot yesterday, and he certainly was aggressive today.
Our guys, we got some good defensive stops in the latter part of the game, last six minutes and that was the difference.

Q.  Melvin, you looked very comfortable out there; are you in a groove and do you like playing in New York City?
MELVIN JOHNSON:  I don't think it's the arena.  I think it's just focus.  I was ready to play.  He had the game plan, we knew how dangerous they were offensively.  I think just locking in more on the defensive end, science of the game.

Q.  What's going through your mind when Severe makes that long three, after several closeouts by the defense?
MELVIN JOHNSON:  Looked at Coach and he just put his hand up.  That was a deep shot.  But again, on the play, he's a tough guard and he can really score the ball.  He doesn't really care where he is.  That was definitely my bad.  And when you guard a player like that, you definitely have to know personnel.

Q.  Pretty complete game, nine out of 20, nine rebounds but eight offensive, two assists, one pass I think to Jonathan.  Would you talk about how complete your game was and when you were doing on the offensive boards?  And mention Mo, because he had five offensive rebounds.
TREVEON GRAHAM:  He's one of the type of guys that he's going to take some shots, he's going to miss some, make some.  Wanted to get him on the boards and me and Mo were over the boards.
As for everything else, I just wanted to be aggressive, came out aggressive.  And there was a point where I wasn't as aggressive as Melvin and Doug and everybody on the team told me to stay aggressive.  Toward the end of the game, I just tried to attack the glass and do what I need to do for the team.

Q.  For those of us up here who don't get to see VCU, Richmond, that rivalry, give us a sense, what's that like.
MELVIN JOHNSON:  It's like the city campus versus the private campus.  We're about nine miles apart.  It's like a different world when you cross that side of town.  I never see their fans.  They never see our fans.  But our fans generally dislike them.  Their fans generally dislike us.
But it's just a game to us.  It's just another opponent and you have to lock in and not over think it and we don't put too much emphasis on rivalries, etc.
TREVEON GRAHAM:  Same thing Mel said.  No matter what we're it is, it's going to be a good game when we step on the floor because we're competitors, both of us are competitors and when we get on the floor, we want to win, so it should be a good night.

Q.  You guys both shot great but the rest of the team really struggled, especially in close.  How frustrating is that when you're getting good looks, missing, and you made it up by getting on the boards, but did that get a little frustrating at a certain point, getting good looks and close looks and missing?
TREVEON GRAHAM:  I mean, it can, but you have got to respond.  You're going to miss shots, and the days were you miss shots, you've got to do other things that help us as a defense.  We wanted to really get stops.  And we get stops‑‑ I mean, we don't score, we have a better chance.  So we just wanted to worry about other things.

Q.  You talked about the Richmond game.  In the two previous ones, what do you think you have to do better to win the third one?
MELVIN JOHNSON:  No pressure now.  I think both times, we just weren't locked in on certain assignments.  I felt as though we won the game at their place, and of course, Coach went over their players, said they might do this, get some offensive screens, get some layups in.  That was just being on edge and not knowing their personnel.
For the most part, we just have to compete and lock in on their personnel.

Q.  Can you talk about the no‑look pass to Jonathan?  Did you see him coming down the lane, and would you mind talking about Fordham's strategy that seemed to be beat you with their guards by penetration?
TREVEON GRAHAM:  When the zone, he was open, I believe and Johnny come down the line and I saw him and pass it to him knowing he's a great finisher.
We knew going into the game that they were going to be in attack mode so we wanted to keep him in front as much as possible.  He's also a good shooter, so it's going to be a tough matchup going into the game, and‑‑ all of our guys, attack.

Q.  Tough stretch down the end‑‑ can you talk about how much being in your home‑‑
MELVIN JOHNSON:  I mean, yeah, sometimes you get into your own head and start fighting yourself and nobody to answer but yourself.  Just have to get it.  The next couple weeks is senior week, so the least I can do is just play with my head down and try to get some wins for our seniors.
You can't miss a shot you never take, so I'm going to try to be as aggressive as I can possibly be and try to win some more games for Treveon, Jarred and Bri.

Q.  Was there a point where you felt the momentum swing and you really got things going?
MELVIN JOHNSON:  When Mo went to the free throw line, they were up to five and we were able to cut it a little bit and from that point on, our huddles got a little more tighter, and our leaders stepped up and pretty much said we got more stops and guys responded.  And Jonathan he played a huge part.  He came in, pressured the ball, found the open guys and that was the big push for us.

Q.  You guys are used to sitting out Thursday and watching.  Is this an advantage for you having a game under your belt taking on Richmond tomorrow?
TREVEON GRAHAM:  No advantage, they got the advantage.  Right now we've just got to advantage.  It was different.  Unfortunately we couldn't get a bye but got to do what we've got to do now.

Q.  We talked a little about this the other day.  So much has been talked about you guys transitioning or learning to play without Briante, but you're also just not shooting very well.  And that might‑‑ does that have to do with Briante not playing, or is that just a slump that you can't seem to shake?
COACH SHAKA SMART:  We're going to shake it.  It's just a matter of when that dam is going to break.  And today, Melvin shot the ball well.  But overall as a team, somebody pointed out, if you take Tre and Melvin out, the percentage is really low.
But yeah, Bri being out had something to do with that.  He's really a good facilitator and a great assisted turnover ratio, was able to get us into offense.  But, he's not playing.  Something we've got to continue to get better at.

Q.  What did you think of the crowd today?  When you guys got on a roll, they really got loud and cheering.
COACH SHAKA SMART:  Yeah, our crowd is terrific, and our fans, we're always appreciative of them coming up to Brooklyn and supporting us.  I don't know what the numbers are but it seems like every time we come up here, we have as many fans as anybody, or more.
So I think that just says a lot about the people that support us and them being behind us and you know, obviously some people probably made plans to be up here for the first game being Friday; some people adjusted their plans as we did, and we are appreciative of that and excited about playing on Friday against Richmond.

Q.  When you got down five, it seems the intensity picked up on your end, especially on the glass.  Did you sense anything with your guys or did you say anything to them at that point?
COACH SHAKA SMART:  Did I say anything to them?  Yeah, I said a lot to them.
But it's not really about what I said.  It's about their decision to play with more aggressiveness it.  You know, Fordham, really every time we play Fordham, they play us really tough.  Usually somewhere early in the second half, we're able to break away, but today, that was not the case, and they made some shots and hung in there with us.  But I thought our guys did a good job of being the more aggressive team the last six minutes.

Q.  Did the guys in your locker room‑‑ is playing Richmond a third time significant or insignificant?
COACH SHAKA SMART:  It's significant‑‑ well, not really the number of times, but just that we're playing them right now.
We had a really tough loss there a couple weeks ago.  That one for our guys was a tough one to take because one of those games where they out played us for most of the game, and at the end of the first overtime, we felt like we had stolen the game and then they stole it back.
So it's interesting, I heard from a lot of fans after the game, that was just a fun game to watch.  As a coach or a player, it's a little bit different.  But we're excited about a chance to play them again.  They are a really good team.  I think they have gotten better and better as the season has gone on, and should be a great game.

Q.  Would you mind talking about the job Mo and Tre did on the offensive boards, and Melvin's shooting stroke?
COACH SHAKA SMART:  Yeah, I think Mel's a great shooter when he goes out there with a clear head and just shoots the ball the right way and honors the process.
I thought he did that today for the most part.  There was one that he rushed when we got down a little bit, but other than that, they were really, really good looking shots, and lo and behold, a lot of them went in.
In terms of Mo and Tre, and I would add Terry on the offensive glass; those guys were really, really aggressive.  We need to be that way because we did not shoot the ball particularly well from outside or even from two.
So it looks like we missed 41 shots, is that right, Drew?  And we got 20 of them back.  So we talk about rebounding percentage all the time, and if our offensive rebounding percentage can be 50 percent or close to 50 percent, that's phenomenal.  40 percent is really good, so ‑‑
DREW DICKERSON:  41 is correct, the math.
COACH SHAKA SMART:  Thanks.  I won the math meet in seventh grade (laughter) seriously.

Q.  You talk about Mo's impact at the right time.  Going to the foul line, he got a big blocked shot and dunk and impacted at the right moment.
COACH SHAKA SMART:  Yeah, Mo really, really cares and sometimes almost to his own detriment, when a few players don't go his way early in the game, he gets a little bummed out.  So it was good to see him bounce back and get to the foul line a couple times and also finish with that dunk.
Then I thought the block that he had on Severe, not exactly sure what the time was, but I thought that was one of the most critical defensive plays that we had because it allowed us to get a little bit more of a cushion.

Q.  You talk about Melvin needing a clear head.  Did you talk to him or did you just leave him alone and let him shoot his way out of it?
COACH SHAKA SMART:  We talk about that every day with all of our guys.  To me that's the foundational building block of playing basketball or doing anything at your best is being able to have a clear head.
We talk about it, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to happen.  I thought Mel did a good job, just once he got out there, playing free, not really worrying about the last play or the score or what might happen moving forward.

Q.  You heard me ask the kids this.  Everybody knows about Indiana/Kentucky and Carolina/Duke.  But what does it mean to have rivalries like VCU/Richmond?
COACH SHAKA SMART:  I think rivalries are what makes college basketball what it is.  I don't get into the whole ranking of the rivalries and whose is more intense and severe.  I've worked at six different schools as a basketball coach, and if you're fortunate, you have a really good rivalry that you're a part of.
We are fortunate to have that with Richmond.  When I first got to VCU, we were in separate leagues.  It was a big deal for about a week or so leading up to the game, and then the game itself and then everyone kind of moved on.
Now, it lasts longer because we're in the same conference and we play multiple times; in this case, three times.  We played three times last year.
So I think it's great.  You know, when both programs are highly competitive, when both programs are competing to be in the postseason, I think it means even more because obviously the games this time of year mean so much more.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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