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March 15, 2015

Mo Alie-Cox

Treveon Graham

Shaka Smart

Briante Weber


VCU – 71

Q.  Treveon, can you describe the feeling after you had it locked up?
TREVEON GRAHAM:  Just relief, all the hard work that we went through this season, all the adversity we had to go through.  When Bri was out, everybody had to get a new role and everybody had to step up, and just the satisfaction to know that all hard work paid off.

Q.  Is your leg okay after the hop down the court?
BRIANTE WEBER:  Right now, my left leg will probably be stronger.  I told the guys, when I come back to practice, the next time, don't jump with me; I'm going for posters.
But my left leg is definitely getting stronger and stronger by the day.  My right leg right now, it's a work‑in‑progress right now.

Q.  You seemed very, very emotional after the game.  What was going through your mind and how proud are you of these guys?
BRIANTE WEBER:  Words really can't explain how proud I am of these guys.  It's been an emotional roller coaster for us both; when Amico (ph) h went out with an injury and then us winning, losing, everybody hopping off the bandwagon and so forth.
But just know behind closed doors we had our talks and all our emotional stuff; when we step in between those lines, from March to the last bit of February, we kind of found ourselves again and that's what we need to keep building on that right now.

Q.  Do you feel like you possibly played your best basketball of your career in this tournament?
MO ALIE‑COX:  I guess you could say that.  I played real good when I was in Brooklyn last year, also.  So I just tried to build on that.  And coming into this week, Coach was telling me he's going to give me the ball a lot and he always tells me I'm one of the best players in the conference.  So I just try to come in here and play like this.

Q.  What does it mean to be here now, rallying together for Bri?
TREVEON GRAHAM:  It means a lot.  We told Bri when he went down, we were going to do it for him.  The rest of the season was for him.  We dug down and everybody had to find themselves.  JeQuan and Johnny had to step into their role.  And coming into this tournament, Johnny really stepped up being a freshman, he really attacked and he really believed in himself and I think that really helped us and help JeQuan get to where he needed to be.  Bri was always there for us, his enthusiasm, his energy is always there.  It's great to be here now.

Q.  You guys come out of that time‑out about 1:13 and go zone.  Was that the first time you went zone all weekend?
TREVEON GRAHAM:  Yeah, we had one play zone against Davidson just to throw them all.  They kept going to the basket and getting fouls.  We needed to do something different‑‑ we practiced zone right before going into the tournament in case we needed to throw it out there.  It worked.  Just throw it down, run the clock out.

Q.  Tradition has it that usually the coach cuts the last piece of the net.  When did they tell you you were going to do it, and what did that feel like?
BRIANTE WEBER:  When I went out, January 31st, they all came together and said:  "Bri, we going to cut down the net, and you know who is going to be the last one holding the net?" 
       They told me it was going to be me, and I believed them.  And now we get here today and I was the one cutting down the net, that made me very emotional.

Q.  You guys faced a lot of doubters since Briante went down.  How do you keep proving everybody wrong and how are you going to try to do that in March Madness?
TREVEON GRAHAM:  We have to believe in ourselves.  We can't worry about what other people think.  We all believe in each other and everybody has to step up.  Mo, one of the strongest people in the country and everybody knows it; Melvin, one of the best shooters; JeQuan, one of the fastest guards in the country.  We believe in each other and we just have to play ball and play VCU way.  If we do that, it's hard to beat us.

Q.  When you at some point maybe saw Briante hopping around at mid court, did you get a look like, hey, is he okay, what is he doing out there?
TREVEON GRAHAM:  If you go back and watch, you see me try to grab him to make sure he was on the left leg instead of the right leg.  Trying to make sure he was safe.

Q.  Are you all used to being in a position, even though this may have been somewhat of a down year, less‑than‑expectations year for you all; are you used to competing for championships and playing at a high level?
TREVEON GRAHAM:  Yeah, since I've been here my freshman year, we played the championship game from freshman to now.  We know what to do when we get to the championship.  The last two years we lost.  We built off that and we knew we had to respond when things didn't go our way.
Last two years, I think we didn't know that as much.  This year we sat down, and when they went on their runs, we just sat down and played our ball.

Q.  You shot 80 percent better from three point range here than at home.  Would you like to play your home games here?
TREVEON GRAHAM:  Just got to keep shooting.  Melvin, he shot tremendous this whole tournament.  You've just got to keep shooting and got to believe in yourself and we going to believe in you, as long as you shoot with confidence and you think it's going in.
COACH SHAKA SMART:  I never wear hats but they gave us one for winning the Championship, so that doesn't happen every day.  Just really, really proud of our guys.  Want to say, first of all, how impressed I've been with Dayton all year long.  Obviously they have been under‑manned and haven't had a lot of guys, and the way they battled and played together and the job that Coach Miller and his staff have done is phenomenal.
They were a really, really tough opponent today.  Really neither team deserved to lose.  We were just fortunate that we were able to make a couple more plays at the end.  But they are a championship‑calibre team.
Also want to say I appreciate our fans for coming up here.  Our fans were terrific.  For those that came up and were part of all four games, it showed a lot of faith in us, with us being the five‑seed and knowing we're going to have to win four games to win a championship, and I'm glad we were able to reward them with that.

Q.  Basically the first game you played against Richmond, did that help prepare you for the run you made coming into today's title game?
COACH SHAKA SMART:  That was actually our second game here, and that was a really important one, because they had beaten us two games earlier in the year.  You know, they were coming off of a bye and we were coming off of a pretty hard‑fought win over Fordham.
So for our guys to be able to battle through and come back and win that game; that gave us some momentum.  I really think the momentum that we got from winning the Fordham game and then the Richmond game, that carried us into yesterday.  Yesterday was the best we've played here, and then today, our guys really fought and battled against a really terrific Dayton team.

Q.  Coming out of that time‑out, you go zone.  How many times did you go zone this weekend?  What was your feeling going into that possession?
COACH SHAKA SMART:  We played zone less than five times all year.  There's a guy on our staff named Jeremy Ballard who I think is terrific.  He's a way better assistant than I ever was.  He hates zone.  So whenever I think about going zone, he talks me out of it.
Scoochie was ripping us up in in the pick‑and‑roll action and scoring at will, so we had to change something up.  We worked on zone on Monday and Tuesday of last week, because we knew we were going to have to play four games in four days, and we thought maybe we could play some zone to conserve some energy.  We didn't really play this much this weekend.  I think we played it one other game for a possession or two.
But that's not who we are.  That's not what we do.  But it did allow us to get a crucial stop.

Q.  How proud are you of the youth on this team with Johnny stepping up big yesterday, Terry stepping up big today?
COACH SHAKA SMART:  Yeah, I thought Terry really came of age up here in New York and it just so happens he's from here.  You know, he's got phenomenal potential, we all know that.  But he played with the maturity that we haven't seen consistently, and he did it all tournament long.
So he was terrific.  And then Johnny gave us a big, big lift.  We needed him.  We told our guys, we got two point guards and they are mostly playing one, so let's take advantage of that.  And I thought Johnny at times was able to do that, but again, I've got to really mention again how good Scoochie Smith was on really very, very little rest and how good he was attacking.

Q.  Talk about your first moment with Bri after the win.
COACH SHAKA SMART:  Well, Bri is a very emotional kid.  He's been through a lot this year.  It really, really kills him every time he can't take the court and his team does take the court.  His attitude has been so good and he's been so great in the locker room with our guys on the bench.  And he gets hit with waves of emotion‑‑ and I knew he would after the game, win or lose.  I told him, we would not have done this without you, and he knows what I meant.
What I meant was, we would not have done this without him after he got hurt.  I'm not even talking about what he did on the court for us; and he's an all‑league‑calibre player.  But after he got hurt, that's no way we are able to win this championship without him.

Q.  You came up here last year, you played Saint Joe's in the final, you lost, seemed a little flat and a little down after that game.  The team went into the NCAAs and you were sort of flat playing in that first round.  Is this game going to help you going forward; do you think the different outcome?
COACH SHAKA SMART:  We'll see.  I hope it does.  I think not just this game, but really, this whole tournament, we've had to have a level of resolve and stay together, because all four games have been really challenging games.  Even the Davidson game yesterday, the final margin was a lot, but at the same time, they made that game really, really hard.
So hopefully we can build on that.  You mentioned last year.  You're right; I didn't think we were in a great place going into the NCAA Tournament.  I don't think it was so much because we lost to Saint Joe's.  I just didn't think as a team we were as connected as we needed to be, and one of our best players was out in Melvin Johnson as he got hurt up here.  One of our best players was out this year, but hopefully we are more united around each other, and hopefully we can go do some damage.
I'm really excited to see what the Atlantic 10 is going to do here in the NCAA Tournament, because obviously the league has a great history of success in the NCAA Tournament, and there are some very, very dangerous teams in our conference.

Q.  Briante had said that really, right after his injury, the team promised him that this net was going to be his.  Was that something that you prompted and started, or was that something his teammates‑‑ do you recall how that went down?
COACH SHAKA SMART:  I don't know where it came from with the guys, but I told him, I told him we were going to cut down the nets and he was going to kind of snip the final part of the net and get a chance to put that net around his neck.
I was actually talking about the regular season when I told him that.  And that didn't work out for us.  You know, we had some close losses and Dayton came into our place and beat us, and La Salle did, and we went to Richmond and weren't able to finish one off.
Teams in this league are really, really good.  It is a highly, highly competitive league, and you know, we weren't able to win the league.  I think for our guys to be able to come and produce this opportunity for Bri to cut down the nets says a lot about our team and our connection with him.

Q.  Archie talked about your team's ability to gather momentum when he can when he can when you hit a three, it feels like an eight.  How do you do that?  Do you feel that yourselves?
COACH SHAKA SMART:  It's kind of the flip side:  They say, never too high, never too low.  Our team, and it's been this way‑‑ I don't know if it's me or the people that we have brought into our program.  But we tend to get too high sometimes, and there's been times where we've gotten too low.
I talk all the time about poise and having poise in response to whatever happens.  But I think one of the positives of that is when we do make big plays, our guys do get excited for each other, and it can lead to some momentum.  Just you can't get too high because you have to be focused on the details of the process, and I think the guys did a good job of that today.

Q.  In a conference that is vastly improving, how do you continue to be one of the top teams each and every year?
COACH SHAKA SMART:  Well, I don't even want to think about it now, but it's going to be a heck of a challenge going into next year because I think the Atlantic 10 might be the strongest it's ever been next year.
It's pretty scary to look at; you can just rattle off the teams and how many underclassmen they have and how many guys they are going to have returning to Dayton, Rhode Island and GW and the list just continues.  Hopefully our young guys can get better and we can be really good next year.
It's going to be a heck of a challenge.  In this league, like any other good league, teams beat up on each other.  No one escapes through the league undefeated.  Teams go through ups and downs.  But I think as our conference continues to raise its profile and get big wins in November and December, that only is going to help us down the stretch.
I mean, think about it, last three years ‑‑ and we've only been in the league three years going into this year:  Atlantic 10 has received 15 NCAA Tournament bids.  That's more than a lot of leagues.
Hopefully our conference can continue to get a lot of attention, media attention.  We really appreciate being here at the Barclays because there's no bigger stage than this.  Just glad that our guys were able to pull out the championship today.

Q.  Can you contrast the feeling where you get to the final and you do not win two in a row and what you felt then and what it's like being a part of this?
COACH SHAKA SMART:  That's a good question.  Certainly, the goal, when you come up here to Brooklyn, is to win a championship.  We were the 2‑seed each of the last two years.  We really liked our chances.  We felt good about our opportunity.
But we came up short.  And I think in both those games, the other team out‑played us, Saint Louis and Saint Joe's the last couple of years.  The one thing we wanted to fix and do better was have a higher level of resolve and be able to respond within the game.  I thought we did a better job of that.
Last year when we lost, it's a tricky situation, because it's Sunday, you're about to find out who you're going to play.  You have to turn the page quickly and you can't be down about the loss for too long because you have to move on to the NCAA Tournament.  This year we won and we are extremely excited about the win.  You want to cherish championships, and we are so happy about that.
But at the same time, we have to turn the page.  We are going to find out in less than two hours where we play, where we're going.  We're going to get on a flight and go back home.  We're going to rest our bodies and we're going to prepare, because we're not done.  We want to go make some noise.  We want to continue this season.  Hopefully our guys can learn some lessons from today and apply them wherever we go in the NCAA Tournament.
Thanks to everybody.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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