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March 16, 2016

Tim Cluess

A.J. English

Aaron Rountree

Isaiah Williams

Denver, Colorado

THE MODERATOR: We are ready to begin with the student-athletes of Iona.

We'll take questions for our student-athletes.

Q. Aaron, you guys are going against a really good offensive team tomorrow. You've played much better defense the last 10 or 12 games. What do you do to kind of defend Iowa State?
AARON ROUNTREE: I think their biggest thing, they have really balanced scoring. They're a really good team. I think we have to stick to our defensive principles and let that take care of itself. We can't change our defensive game plan to match them, we have to do what we do and play Iona basketball.

Q. Isaiah, what is it like to play with A.J.? You have been together a while. He's had one of the greatest careers in Iona history.
ISAIAH WILLIAMS: He's a really good teammate. He looks to get his teammates first before he get going. Sometimes me personally, I don't like that, I like to see him get going first. Our team follows behind him. Real good teammate. I just like playing beside him.

Q. A.J., what do you know Iowa State to do specifically in guarding you tomorrow?
A.J. ENGLISH: I don't really try to particularly worry about me. I try to worry about how they've been playing defense as a whole, as a team. I'm sure they're going to maybe send some double-teams, like how we would do with their better players, if I had to guess.

At the end of the day, I'll just try to play Iona basketball and do what I've been doing during the season.

Q. What do your teammates need to do?
A.J. ENGLISH: Do what they've been doing, which got us here. We have a lot of versatility, a lot of guys that make shots. That's what we do at Iona.

So, I mean, just play Iona basketball. That's basically what they need to do or we need to do.

Q. A.J., it's been a while since Iona has won an NCAA tournament game. Do you see tomorrow as an opportunity to kind of put your name in the school's books and have a chance to be remembered forever?
A.J. ENGLISH: Oh, no. You just got to wait and see what happens. I don't know the future. Like I said before, just get out there and play the defense we've been playing. Just try to play Iona basketball.

Q. I see a lot of times that teams get hot shooting the three-pointer. Is that something y'all implement and look forward to be y'all's calling card?
ISAIAH WILLIAMS: I think we just go out there and play, take open shots like we've been doing, try to just play defense and rebound and just keep playing how we've been playing.

Hopefully we come out with the win.

Q. Isaiah, you guys are the 13 seed. You come in here as an underdog. Would you look at it as an upset? Do you consider yourselves an underdog and how does that change your mindset going into the game tomorrow?
ISAIAH WILLIAMS: I do feel as though we the underdog. But I don't think it's going to change our mindset. We're going to go out there and play hard against whoever we going to be matched up against. We going to have that same mindset: play hard, hopefully you come out with the win.

Q. A.J., you've talked about you have to play Iona basketball. What is Iona basketball?
A.J. ENGLISH: Just up-and-down pace of game. What people might think of as bad shots are good shots for us. Just try to take the first available shots.

But also, you know, if somebody gets it going, it's like we don't just look to get them the ball right away. We might run a set, run three, four passes, then get them the ball. Try to speed teams up defensively.

We've been really been playing really good defense the last couple games. Just try to play a fast-paced game.

Q. Aaron, you haven't won an NCAA tournament game in 35 years. You come in here as the underdog. What's the belief you have that you can win tomorrow?
AARON ROUNTREE: I think me or my teammates, our coaches, we haven't really thought about the seed. It's just another game. Like I said earlier, they're a really good team. We think we're a really good team. We're just going to go in there and play as hard as we can and hope to come out with a win.

It's not about whether we're an underdog or a lower seed on people's brackets or didn't get chose. We're just going out there to play.

Q. A.J., I know you've been sick. How do you feel? Does the altitude affect that at all?
A.J. ENGLISH: I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm just ready to play basketball. I'm fine.

Q. How about the altitude, do you think it will be harder to play because you've been sick?
A.J. ENGLISH: I don't know. Just have to wait and see what happens. Of course, altitude affect everybody.

I'm fine. I don't feel sick anymore.

Q. A.J., what is it like for you, this is your last year to be on this stage? You've done a lot of great things at Iona. To get to this point in your senior year with this opportunity, what is it like for you?
A.J. ENGLISH: I mean, it's great. I'm thankful. I thank God we were able to be able to play, you know. I mean, these guys sitting right next to me, too. Ibn Muhammad is not up here. You never know what is going to happen. This may be the last chance to Iona gets to play in the tournament. Just go out there and you just give it 110%. Try to do whatever my team needs me to do. Continue to play Iona basketball and try to keep winning games.

THE MODERATOR: We'll dismiss the student-athletes at this time. Thank you.

We have Iona coach Tim Cluess. Coach, maybe with an opening remarks about how you feel being here in Denver.

COACH CLUESS: Real excited to be here and have my team out here. Our guys are thrilled to be playing in the NCAA tournament against a great team as Iowa State. Really looking forward to the challenge.

Our guys worked really, really hard to win the league championship. To have this opportunity, I'm really happy for them and all the Iona faithful.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the coach.

Q. Tim, for people who aren't familiar with A.J., what are they going to see tomorrow?
COACH CLUESS: I hope they're going to see A.J. at his best obviously. You're going to see a player who is very unselfish, who competes as well as anybody out there. He can shoot the ball, handle the ball, pass the ball, rebound the ball, defending much better this year. He's just an all-around player. And he's the leader of our team.

Q. Isaiah was just saying that sometimes A.J. will look to get his teammates involved first, and he admitted that bothered him. Is that something you ever have to bring up to him?
COACH CLUESS: You know what, he's so good right now that you don't have to bring it up to him. He does it automatically. He looks for his teammates. He knows what schemes are of different teams defensively and studies it. He knows where guys are going to be open on court, tries to get them involved, tries to get their confidence up right away.

Q. You've had some really good players at Iona. Where would you put AJ's career against some of those other guys?
COACH CLUESS: I've had some, like you said, very good players, very talented. I would have to put A.J. in my book as the best player I've coached there because of the fact that I think he's got ice in his blood late in the game. He makes more game-winning shots and plays and leads teams late in the game better than anyone we've had.

Q. Your thoughts after looking at tape on Georges Niang.
COACH CLUESS: I love him. I think he's just a tremendous player. To me he's a throwback. A little Larry Bird like, maybe not quite as athletic, but does all those things. He passes the heck out of the ball, handles the ball, shoots the ball, posts you up. He just lets the game come to him. Whatever is available, he takes. Doesn't really force the issue at all. Plays at a great pace and plays under control the whole time.

I think he's the X-factor in the game. Obviously he makes your whole team go. You surround him with really great players as well, I think he's just tremendous and should hopefully be playing in the NBA very shortly. I wish he was there already.

Q. Tim, you talk about A.J. He never played in an NCAA tournament game. You said he was a big part of your team when he was a freshman. He's been such a key part of your team, you've been good for four years. How do you feel about the fact that he's getting an opportunity to play in this kind of setting?
COACH CLUESS: I think it's tremendous. I'm so happy for him because of the work he's put in. He's been so dedicated since that freshman year to get us back to the NCAA tournament so he could taste it. Not just him, that his teammates could taste being a part of it. I don't know that anyone that has been more driven than him for this opportunity.

As a coach, when you get something like this that happens, you're happy for your players at this time, because this is the one time in their lives that they get to experience this and to be part of this tournament.

Q. Is there any concern that with this altitude your up-and-down offense could exhaust your players in the process?
COACH CLUESS: There's always concern when you put two teams that run in this altitude. It's going to be interesting to see how this game does play out.

We played in Denver in 2011, it can have an effect on the game, especially the first half. I thought the second half, our team got their legs better than earlier on.

Being here yesterday, today, getting a workout in, we'll be a little more accustomed to it.

Q. A.J. was describing your team. He said sometimes the bad shots you take are good shots for them. How is that for you as a coach?
COACH CLUESS: I have a little different coaching philosophy. If you can make the shot, take the shot. If you don't take the shot, I want you on my bench. It's not about as much as you missing, it's taking the right shot. If you're guarded, share the ball. If you're not guarded, shoot the ball.

We kind of earn the right to shoot with what we do in practice. We have shooting tests and different things like that on our team. Our guys kind of know where they're allowed to take them from. Certain guys have the green light once they step over half-court. Other guys have the green light 15 feet and in. They've earned it.

If they want to expand their role, they have to expand their own game. It gets them into the gym more to work on their game. I'm good with our guys getting the shots they put up because most of the time they get very good looks.

Q. What has this team shown you that they can win a game in the NCAA tournament versus teams you've had in the past? Is it the experience?
COACH CLUESS: I think A.J.'s leadership definitely has helped. I think the guys are probably one of the more cohesive units. I think my first year in we had a unit like this as well. Didn't play as well defensively as our guys played over the last 13 games.

This team has really gone through a lot. It's a team, they found a way to just continue to compete and play hard every possession of every game.

We know we're going against the top-20 team in the country, a loaded team, but we're up for the challenge and we're looking forward to it.

Q. Tim, because of the way this team is built, is it better suited in any way to win a tournament game that wasn't something you were able to do in 2012 and 2013?
COACH CLUESS: I just think a lot of it's all about matchups and your depth. I think that's what it really comes down to. When you're a mid-major, low-junior, playing the top teams in the country you have to have that special day to beat them. They may be better than us 364 days of the year, we just have to be better than them one day, and we're hoping that day is tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for your time, coach.

COACH CLUESS: Thanks, everybody.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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