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March 14, 2015

Mo Alie-Cox

Treveon Graham

Shaka Smart


VCU – 93

Q.  Treveon, Davidson is a great three‑point shooting team and you held them to 26 percent today; how did you guys do that?
TREVEON GRAHAM:  We just wanted to run them off the three‑pointer.  We knew they needed threes, that they like to shoot a lot of threes.  So we tried to run them off as many threes as they can.  In the second half they started to make a lot of threes and we just wanted to get back to what we were doing in the first half, running them off threes.

Q.  They gave you a few zone looks in the second half.  Jonathan gets into the zone with a dribble.  How important was that for breaking it down?
TREVEON GRAHAM:  It was real important.  We worked on that a lot in practice, him getting into the lane and making a play so they can't really affect when he was in the game, come through the zone and make the right play.

Q.  You had to come back early in the first half and then hold off their comeback in the second half.  Do you feel like you absorbed two body blows and handled them well?
MO ALIE‑COX:  That's what we work on every day.  We have a drill in practice called poise or panic, and it pretty much gets us ready for game situations like that when we go down, how we are going to respond and come back.  That's something Coach always preaches to us is response, ability to focus on the next more important thing and that's what we did today.
TREVEON GRAHAM:  Not really, I mean, what mostly we always work on, so it's nothing new to us when that happens.

Q.  Very different game.  Nine days ago.  How much of an inspiration was that result from today?  You had plenty of incentive anyway, but did that also give you some incentive?
TREVEON GRAHAM:  Yeah, it did.  It was humiliated when we were down there.  So we just wanted to come out and play our game.  When we played at Davidson, we wasn't playing our game, it was impressive, stayed down pretty much.  So wanted to come out here and really just attack from the get‑go.

Q.  You had your ups and downs since Briante went out.  Do you feel like you fully adjusted without him?
TREVEON GRAHAM:  I think we adjusted to what we have.  Nobody's going to take the place of Briante.  So we just have to use what we have.  Johnny and JeQuan really has been coming through at the point guard position.  So we are trying let them become better point guards. 
MO ALIE‑COX:  Yeah, just going on what Tre said, Coach said we needed to do three things better and we would pretty much be successful, have a little more talk, energy and enthusiasm and those are things Briante does very well.  So he said if the rest of the team brought a little bit more of that, he said we would do well, and I think we started to bring a lot of that stuff.

Q.  The foul really beat up Davidson down low.  How much did you know coming in you were going to have to be a big factor?
MO ALIE‑COX:  I had the same exact looks against Davidson, last time we played them, I was 1‑for‑6 from the line and I missed a dunk and two easy layups.  I got the same look today and just made sure I finished.  Going along, we saw Steve Zack get a lot in the paint, also.  Coach just told me to go in there and attack them, they can't guard me.  Coach called a lot of plays for me to start the game.

Q.  Talk about the pace of the game.  There was one point where they started, they were on a 16‑4 run and you were on a 40‑12 run and they went on a 16‑0 run and then in the second half after that last run, there was like 31 fouls called so it was hard to get a pace going.  Talk about how that affected the attitude of the game.
MO ALIE‑COX:  We just tried to stay focused.  Coach, he had us in huddle, I think they had cut it to 12‑‑ media time‑out, he said, we're good, we're good, just focus on the next thing and control what you can control, and we just tried to go back into attacking mind‑set because it kind of went zone and threw us off a little bit and Johnny made plays.

Q.  Tre said yesterday you were in the process of getting back to who you are.  Looked like today you were back to where you are.  Y'all were playing at your pace and your style. 
TREVEON GRAHAM:  We played with a lot of enthusiasm today.  We wanted to go out there and attack from the get‑go like I said earlier.  We had our ups and downs and we responded pretty well today and we're going to have to do that the rest of the season.

Q.  Can you talk about the locker room, after the Davidson loss, what was said and what needed to be said?
MO ALIE‑COX:  Five people sat heads down ‑‑ JeQuan was the main person talking.  He started telling us:  Don't keep our heads down.  The season is not over.  Just focus on the A‑10 Tournament.  That's all we can focus on coming up.  We couldn't control our destiny anymore.  So we just focused our attention to this tournament coming up, and we've been doing pretty well.

Q.  Can you first talk about what Mo did today and what you've seen in him coming in these last few weeks?  And there was a spot, like 5:41, they were in a zone, you really wanted the ball, you called for it, called for it, finally got it, you shot it and you made it.  Did you feel like you needed to score at that point or just needed to score the rest of the way?
TREVEON GRAHAM:  About Mo, we want to be aggressive no matter what.  When he gets in the paint, I don't think nobody in the country can stop him if he uses all his muscles and strength, and that's what he did today.  And that shot right there, I felt like I was open; and if I'm open, I'm confident I can make the shot.  Didn't have to be me that had to score.  We just had to score at that moment.

Q.  VCU is in the final for the third great year.  What's the determination now to finish the job and finally win the title?
MO ALIE‑COX:  Just try to focus on next game.  Try to go 1‑0.  The past couple years, we've been playing so tight, just wanting to win real badly.  This year we just play VCU way, ACO (ph) and I think we should do well.

Q.  Your senior year you make it to the championship game again.  Has it hit you yet?  How do you feel?
TREVEON GRAHAM:  Coach and teammates have been helping me a lot with my senior year.  Just seems like a couple days ago that they were saying that the rest of the season was for the seniors, so they really helped me get through the rest of the season, just attacking and everybody believing.
COACH SMART:  It was a great game.  I thought obviously the final score really doesn't illustrate how competitive the game was and how hotly contested it was.  Davidson is obviously a terrific team, as evidenced by the way that they beat us nine days ago.
I do want to say that, I think what they did in the Atlantic 10 regular season is historic and truly amazing.  Somebody asked me a week or two ago if I was surprised, and I said no, because I know how successful Coach McKillop and his teams have been.
But we researched it; when we came to the Atlantic 10 a few years ago, nobody has really ever done what they have done in terms of going from a conference ranked in the 20s in the RPI to a top seven or eight league in the country and in the first season, won it.
What's really impressive is nobody has really talked about lately, they did it without Jack Gibbs for, I don't know, six or eight games.  Take my hat off to them and says a lot about our guys that we were able to come out and beat them today.  And now we're excited about moving forward to tomorrow.

Q.  You mentioned yesterday that the game against Richmond was a big game for you confidence‑wise.  Is today's game what you meant by that?
COACH SMART:  You mean the way we played today?  Yeah, I think the Richmond game yesterday really helped us today.  Hopefully today's game will help us with tomorrow.
But Richmond had beat us two straight games.  The second one was really, really tough one to take because we were up three with seven seconds left, and we just didn't finish it out.
So for us to be able to come back when they were out for most of the second half and beat them, I think that gave our guys a level of belief.
Bri really has provided a swagger for us for three and a half years, and when he went out so abruptly, we had to kind of find ourselves again.  Not so much in terms of how we played, but in terms of who we are and our identity.
So these two games have been big in helping reshape that.

Q.  How important was it to have Jonathan get inside that zone off the dribble?
COACH SMART:  Yeah, it was big.  I thought it was a really good adjustment by Davidson to go zone, and it threw us off for a few possessions.  He got a little stagnant.  It's always a tricky situation where when you have a lead, how aggressive you want to be, because you certainly don't necessarily want to shoot in the first five, ten seconds of the shot clock.  But at the same time, you want to be aggressive.
Johnny I thought overall gave us a huge, huge lift.  JeQuan was in foul trouble, so Johnny came in and played big minutes.  The most impressive thing he did, actually, was on the defensive end.  He didn't play perfect but he really defended their guys, for him, really, really well.  He's had issues with alertness in the past and staying aware and ready.  Today was a good game for him in that respect.  And then the way that he went to the foul line and made free throws was huge.

Q.  Nine days ago you got down early and weren't able to respond.  Today you were down 16‑4 and answered with a 40‑12 run.  Talk about what was different this time around.
COACH SMART:  Well, I think our guys have more of a steely resolve to keep playing and keep fighting.
The game also wasn't in their arena.  That game down there, it reminded me‑‑ their crowd, their team, their energy, reminded me of some games that we've had later in year where you can just feel it and there's not much the other team can do.
So this one obviously was on a neutral site.  And I want to say thank you and how appreciative I am to our fans for coming up here, and hopefully they can be just as loud if not louder tomorrow.

Q.  How would you rate Mo's performance today?
COACH SMART:  I thought Mo was terrific.  Mo's had a great year.  You know, he came into our program as a guy that we knew could be really good.  But we knew the biggest step for him was just confidence in himself and assertiveness, and he's grown in leaps and bounds in those two areas.
He still doesn't think he's as good as I think he is, but today was a big step in that direction.  This was‑‑ I think his career‑high was coming in today was 12 points.  He's just been solid and really good all year long, but this was from a scoring standpoint a breakout performance.
The way La Salle was able to score inside against Davidson, I told our guys, we have to go into Mo and at least really, really try to pound it in there.  Not only did it help us put some points on the board, but it kept Aldridge in foul trouble, and he's a really good player, so it limited his minutes.

Q.  What would you say the biggest difference is between the game nine days ago and today?
COACH SMART:  I think we played with better energy.  We defended their motion much better.  Certainly we were far from perfect.  But Davidson is a team, if you're just a half step off, defending their motion, they make you pay and they make you look really, really bad.  And they did that to us nine days ago.  They cut us up with lay‑ups and slips and wide open threes, and Sullivan is catching and eyeing us down and banging threes and smiling.  They were on a roll.  They got going early today.  I thought the way our guys gritted their teeth and said we can be better was big, and we were able to get more stops.

Q.  There was a point, 5:41 left in the game, Davidson is in the zone, Treveon was calling for the ball, calling for the ball, got it, made it.  Is that what you expect from your seniors in that situation?
COACH SMART:  Yeah, I was actually screaming for them to throw him the ball, too.  Because the way they were playing that zone, they would get a little bit distorted and if we could just make that one more pass to a good shooter, we could shoot it in.  So that was a big, big shot, because I don't know exactly what the score was at the time, but Davidson certainly was mounting a charge, and for Tre to step up and make it‑‑ really, all the threes he made today were back‑breaking shots.  You know, that's why he's a really, really good player.

Q.  You're right, it wasn't just Treveon making threes.  Jordan dropped one in and seemed like everyone had more confidence today.  Was that because Davidson was really willing to run with you or just you guys coming around?
COACH SMART:  I think seeing the ball go in yesterday a few times was big for our guys.  And the other thing, I know I sound like a broken record, but we got a lot of high‑quality shots.
So when you get high‑quality looks from outside, and it's a good shooter, then, you know, you plan on those things hopefully going in a decent amount of times.  So that was probably why we were able to shoot 50 percent from three.

Q.  Now that you've been to the championship game three straight years, which it will be tomorrow, how do you approach that game, playing with guys who have been there two straight years and have come out on the losing side?
COACH SMART:  Yeah, I think the only thing that we really focus on as it relates to the last couple years is learning from maybe what we could have done differently; not so much basketball‑wise, but with our mental approach.
I think today was a really, really good lesson for us going into tomorrow.  We had to respond.  We got down.  We had to stay together.  We had to buckle down on defense.  And those are some of the things that maybe the last couple years, we didn't do as well in a championship game.
But you know what, we lost to good teams, too.  It's not just about your team.  It's the team that you're playing against.  But we are not dwelling on those two years.  I'm sure everyone else will, but we're in a moment; we came up here to try to win four games, and as Tre or Mo said, we just want to go 1‑0 in our current game and we did that today and that's our goal for tomorrow.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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