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March 13, 2015

Melvin Johnson

JeQuan Lewis

Shaka Smart


VCU – 70

COACH SMART:  That was another great basketball game between VCU and Richmond.  I think these games are obviously really exciting for the fans and everyone that watches.  But that win was really big for us because we've had some close games that we have not been able to finish and pull out.  So to be able to win a close game means a lot.  I'm really happy for our guys and for our fans because I know how much they wanted to win this game.

Q.  Down the stretch, the last seven or eight minutes, you were trailing and looked like the guards got you moving and into the paint.  How did you see the comeback?
MELVIN JOHNSON:  Honestly many they were up 45‑48 there was slight down but at the same time, a little bit of confidence.  Coach said, you just have to fight.  JeQuan hit a big shot, numbed the pain a little bit, and from that point on, we were able to get to the line, and Coach brought some great plays and to get the ball in our best player's hands, and Tre delivered down the stretch.

Q.  Talk about the play of Mo late in the game, he had five offensive rebounds, especially one very late after a couple of shots on one possession that led to a big bucket which gave you guys the first lead in a while.
JeQUAN LEWIS:  That was clutch.  Mo is good at coming through for us when we need a rebound and when we need a bucket on the inside.  That right there gave us a little more comfort.

Q.  Can you talk about just finding Doug Brooks for that late three that gave you the lead?
MELVIN JOHNSON:  I pat myself on the back for that one honestly (laughter) I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I think I came a long way because I was a knucklehead.  And with that offensive rebound, I would have tried to hit a home run and shoot it myself.
But I saw we were outnumbered.  I saw Deion Taylor coming and I just one more pass; and I had a lot of trust in Doug.  So I thoughtto Doug ‑‑ I was actually proud of myself; at the same time I was proud of him because that was a big shot.

Q.  How has this team been different emotionally over the past month since losing Bri and what does a game like this do for you guys to get that swagger back?
MELVIN JOHNSON:  I mean, put our backs against the wall and just redefine our identity, probably best defender in the country and of course we needed that.  But at the same time, we had to do what we can do.  So over time, we just been battling, get healthy and battling.

Q.  How do you deal mentally with being in foul trouble and then come in at the end and have some clutch place?
JeQUAN LEWIS:  The past few games, I wasn't taking it very well.  Then Coach actually sat me down yesterday and said, you can't control what the refs do.  You have to keep a clear mind and stay into it and being at a point guard, I have to be in a good place at all times no matter the circumstances.
Today I was just into it.  Coach said my time was coming, so he was right.  So followed the plan.

Q.  You guys were 16‑of‑19 at the foul line; talk about going to the line and knocking down those shots.
MELVIN JOHNSON:  That's back to November.  In order to go to a different segment in practice, there was pressure free throws and you had to complete it with a free throw.  That was actually the first thing that came to mind when it was time to step up to the line there. 
       We've been practicing pressure free throws for six, seven months now.  So I was definitely comfortable.  At the same time, I'm a confident shooter.  All that together, I felt confident (ph).
Yeah, you step up to the line, it's just about confidence.  That's the only formula you can go to when you go to the line is you're either confident you're going to make them or not.

Q.  After that injury, did you say to yourself:  Gee, this is my team now; I've got to do this‑‑ did that ever go through your mind?
JeQUAN LEWIS:  No, because actually the might prior to Briante's injury, he called me to his room about 12:30.  So we sat down and talked for like 30 minutes and he was just telling me, you know, he's hit but he's not going to be on the court anymore, so he needed me to mature and grow up a little bit and be the vocal leader that he knew I could be.  So I took pride in that, because I look up to Briante like a big brother, and so he's been there with me every step of the way.

Q.  You have Davidson as you move ahead.  Can you talk about that a little bit, and the last game, obviously.
MELVIN JOHNSON:  I think our legs are not going to be a factor because they just humiliated (ph) us on ESPN a week ago.  I think this is where we mature and say we don't care about how our bodies feel.  This is just one of those games you have to step up as a competitor.  That's a great team, so I feel it's going to be a good game.

Q.  If you don't mind, could you explain that pressure free throw deal again?  You said you have to make pressure free throws.
MELVIN JOHNSON:  Throughout practice, especially different things we do throughout the course of practice, whether it's playing five‑on‑five or executing plays, in order to get to the next thing, you've got to make free throws, and if you don't, you run.
So there's times where we ran about 20 sprints just off missing free throws.  After awhile, we literally started making 14 in a row and at that time became a pretty decent free throw shooting team.

Q.  What changed in your estimation from 48‑40 Richmond till the end?
COACH SMART:  Well, I think we were able to get a little bit more aggressive on the offensive end, and get in the paint.  We changed our scheme a little bit.  Went to more of a dribble, drive type offense, if you will, where we were just trying to drive off of one another, get to multiple drives.
And we were able to put the ball in the basket a little bit better.  We got off to a really slow start through the second half, and then the stops we were able to get in the latter part of the game, that allowed us to get a slight lead and then hold onto it.

Q.  Talk about Mo on the offensive glass, and your team has 11 offensive rebounds in the game.
COACH SMART:  Mo is one of my favorite players that I've ever coached.  His future is really, really bright as a player.  Unfortunately he's really hard on himself.  So if a play doesn't go his way, he gets so upset with himself.
So we are just trying to get him to focus on, as we say, choose to see the good.  And when there's a lot of good to see in Mo, on and off the court.  He gave us a big lift.
I kept thinking, well, I need to get him a break because he looked like he was fatigued out there.  But he just couldn't do that because Richmond is so good at making you pay when he's off the floor, when Tre is off the floor.
I have to take my hat off to Richmond.  We played them three times obviously this year.  I think they are a terrific basketball team.  And Kendall Anthony is one of the best competitors I've ever been around.  I've been coaching for 16 years, and he's terrific.  I'm just really glad that we don't have to play against him ever again because this is the ninth time we've played him, and I think eight out of the nine times, he's played phenomenal.  Just so impressed with him and their whole team.  I think they have a really well rounded team and Coach Mooney and his staff have done a terrific job.

Q.  What is different with Melvin right now?
COACH SMART:  I think he's playing with a clear head.  You know, Mel had a great start to the year, but then after that, he's had some ups and downs.  He's done some stuff off the court that maybe you guys might not know about and all those things maybe combined to cloud his head up at times over the course of the past couple months.
He hasn't played terrible.  I mean, he's averaged 12 points a game for us and he's had some games; he's really, really been a terrific player.  But he hasn't been as consistent as he wants to be.
But these last couple games, he's playing much more with a clear head.  I don't know exactly why; maybe it's coming off the bench.  Maybe it's because he finally got to the point where he said, forget all those other things, let me just do what I can do to help my team, and he's definitely helping his team.

Q.  Could you elaborate on what else was going on with him mentally?

Q.  How's the team state of mind been the last month after going through some adversity and where are they today, as opposed to a couple days ago?
COACH SMART:  I think when any team goes through multiple setbacks; if you go back, we lost to Richmond, and Bri played in the first game against Richmond.  They beat us with Bri.  He got hurt with I think three minutes left.
That was just a tough loss, and then obviously with the injury.  If a team that's I think 7‑0, we were at that point in the league; if an undefeated 7‑0 team, as much as it can be set back by one day between the loss and the injury, that's how much we were set back.
And then after that, in the course of the next, I think, month or five weeks, we lost four really close games that two of them without Tre, where we really battled and did a lot of good things.
But Marcus Posley hits a buzzer beater, La Salle gets into double overtime and beats us.  Sometimes when you're team is a little younger or you're missing a key guy or one of the other key guys is a little hobbled, you struggle to finish those games.  That did affect our confidence as a team, there's no question about it.
I think we are still in the process of kind of rebuilding and getting back to who we want to be approach‑wise and mentality‑wise.  This was a big day for that because our guys respect Richmond and how good of a team they are.

Q.  You had talked yesterday about how the double over time game, how fans were telling you it want exciting game and how it was a different perspective for coaches and players.  This was certainly an outstanding game.  Do you enjoy this game because you won or is the stress and pressure still make it impossible to really‑‑
COACH SMART:  That's a great question.  That's something that I'm really, really working on personally.  Because the conventional thinking in coaching is, if you win, you're happy; and if you lose, you're upset.
What that can do as a person is take you on an incredible roller coaster through the course of the season that isn't necessarily good for you emotionally or for your family.
So I've been trying to work on that.  I'm not going to lie to you and say I felt good after that last Richmond game or I don't feel good now.  Tournament setting is a little different because we play Davidson in less than 24 hours, so you don't really have time to get too excited.
But yeah, I think from an outside standpoint, these Richmond games have been‑‑ Richmond / VCU games have been really exciting.  Both teams have fought like crazy and battled and they have been, you know, great moments on both sides.  There's been terrific individual play by guys like Anthony.
I just throughout the game, I'm just trying to hang in there and do the right thing for our team and not try to get too caught up in why we are down eight or we went up or whatever it may be.  That's a process.

Q.  How important is it to have Briante traveling with you?
COACH SMART:  Yeah, there's nowhere else for him to be (laughter).  We're on spring break.  He wouldn't have it any other way.  I mean, actually, the two games he missed, he missed, let's say, our Dayton game and then the game at Davidson.  It definitely‑‑ not blaming the games on that, but it definitely hurt not having him there in terms of his impact.
He set the tone for our team as a player.  He was the one guy on our team that kind of like a couple of the guys that we had in the past, guys that played in the Final Four team, he thinks he's better than everyone in the whole country.  We don't really have anyone else like that.
So he can rub off on the guys a little bit with that from the bench.  Obviously it's not the same as him being out there on the court.

Q.  You were 3‑for‑20 and 3‑for‑19 from the three‑‑
COACH SMART:  That was the difference.  Let's be honest.  Everybody thinks if you win, you played well; if you lose, you didn't play well.  But the difference was three‑point shooting.  I think we were six‑for‑49, or 39, whatever it was, it was like 15 percent in those two games.
I sat up here yesterday and told that you at some point, shots are going to fall and fortunately in the first half, a lot of those balls were able to go in.  And then Doug's three was as big as any of them from the corner.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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