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March 17, 2016

Mo Alie-Cox

Melvin Johnson

Korey Billbury

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

THE MODERATOR: We're joined on the dais by the VCU Rams. We have student-athletes Melvin Johnson, Mo Alie-Cox, and Korey Billbury. Gentlemen, questions.

Q. Mo, when Coach Wade arrived, he made it pretty clear that it was going to be an inside out attack and that the ball was going to be coming into you. Can you talk about the things -- well, can you talk about how you felt about that, and the things that you have done to become a better offensive player once the ball comes into you?
MO ALIE-COX: Well, I like that approach and that the offense is going to start with me, and I can just be a decision maker on offense, if I have one-on-one, I can go score. If I get doubled, I'll kick it out. Becoming a better offensive player and just being more patient in the post and being more confident in my post moves and my hook shot and my counter moves and then just kicking it out to Mel, Korey, and JeQuan when they're open for a shot.

Q. Melvin and Mo, Melvin, first, Shaka's going to be here. I wonder how much interaction -- you're already annoyed -- how much interaction have you had with him since he left and do you plan to talk to him or see him this week?
MELVIN JOHNSON: I haven't had quite interaction with him. I was just more so worried about getting healthy and enjoying this with my teammates. This has nothing to do with Texas.

MO ALIE-COX: Yeah, what Mel said. We haven't spoken to Coach Smart. No communication has been made.

Q. Korey, you're a Tulsa native. Can you talk a little about your journey. Your one year at VCU and what it means to play so close to home this weekend?
KOREY BILLBURY: It's been a blessing all the way around in my life. Just being able to be part of a winning program, a winning tradition, just playing with these guys has been a pleasure. It's a group of very talented guys, and I've always had to carry a lot of the workload at my old school, and I can just kind of sit back and be a part of a bigger scheme of things here at VCU.

As we get to the NCAA for the first time in my college career, it's just been a real blessing all the way around.

Q. You are making your sixth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and you're facing a team none of the players have ever been to an NCAA Tournament. It's been 26 years, in fact, since the program has gone. So I would like each of the three of you in order, we'll start with Melvin, tell us what you've learned from your experiences of being in the tournament that gives you an edge over a team that's never been there? What sorts of things that you know you have to expect that they don't even know about yet?
MELVIN JOHNSON: Oh, that's a tough question. I mean, once you make it here, you're here. I mean, anything can happen for the most part. Anyone can be beat, so we don't want to necessarily say we have a huge edge over them. They have great players, great individual players as well. For the most part, the atmosphere may be different, outside of that, there is nothing else. It's still basketball. It's still five-on-five in between the lines, so I feel like this is going to be a great game as far as that goes.

MO ALIE-COX: What I learned is just you've got to be the more aggressive team coming out the gate. Starting the game, it's going to be emotional, both teams are going to be happy to be here. In the past few years we've lost in overtime here, so we're just trying to play VCU, be with our formula and what's worked to get us here, and hopefully play well in the game.

KOREY BILLBURY: I've never been to the tournament, so this is a new experience for me.

Q. Melvin, you guys played a difficult non-conference schedule early in the season and had some tough losses. What was maybe something you did to avoid letting doubt creep in? How did you guys bounce back from that and what kind of confidence does that give you here?
MELVIN JOHNSON: It gives us a ton of confidence. It gave us a lot of confidence going into conference play as well. We lost some tough ones in there, but for the most part, the approach we had from it was you win or you learn. Not necessarily losing. We learned a lot from all the games we lost. We watched tons of film, understood why we lost or why we won the game. So for the most part, I think we're prepared and we've been prepared for the past two, three months now, outside of the Cincinnati game where I think that was our last non-conference game that we really, really were pushed to the limits. So now we're finally just happy to play against another opponent outside of the A-10 and really go against their team.

Q. Mo, I'd like to get a comment from Melvin at the end of this. Mo, you had to develop counter moves. Could you talk about how much work you put into it? Did you come in early and work before practice? Did you stay late after practice? What type of things did you do and just the time and effort that you put in. And Melvin, could you comment after he does on the changes you've seen in Mo as an offensive player?
MO ALIE-COX: First thing, Coach Wade, when he got hired, he text me like we're going to try to get the ball to you a lot more and stuff like that. So over the whole summer we had our bigs group, it was me, Hamdy primarily, and we'd work on our post moves all the time and compete every day. Then during the season we had them details we had to complete every day before or after practice, and mine was making 100 free throws every day and working on my post moves. So I'd work on my hook, and work on my counter and up and unders and different moves like that for when I play like bigger guys or guys that are bigger than me or smaller, so different moves to work on against my opponents.

MELVIN JOHNSON: It's been a sight to see. I think he was just playing primarily off his athleticism and his natural ability to play the game. Then to see him actually beat up on his craft over and over again, I think that's kind of why he became an All-Conference player, and he is who he is today.

I mean, I think he's our first option. I'd like to think of it like that. I love throwing him the ball in the post. I love when it's a single side with me and him in the pick-and-roll. That's one of my best friends, so as I see him gradually get better, it was a joy, because now he's unstoppable to an extent. Not unstoppable, but he's a pretty good player in the post.

Q. Korey, I'm sure part of the excitement of coming home is reconnecting with family and friends. Have you been able to do any of that yet, and are you going to have a good crowd here and support group from back in Tulsa?
KOREY BILLBURY: Yeah, I haven't interacted with a lot of people. Nobody's come to see me. But tomorrow's going to be a lot of my family and friends from high school, and I was at Oral Roberts, and they kind of kept up with me at VCU but weren't able to come to the games. But, yeah, it's going to be a pretty good crowd for my hometown.

Q. This is for whoever wants to give me the best scouting report on Gary Payton, Jr. Tell me what you guys have noticed and where the biggest challenges will be in facing him?
MELVIN JOHNSON: He's active. He's really, really, really active. I've been impressed from the time we got on the flight earlier yesterday, I watched film on three of their games: Cal, USC and their win against Utah at home. And one thing I got out of it is just how active he is. He doesn't wow you with too much on the offensive end, even though he's extremely talented, more so about how he rebounds, how he defends and how he's probably the best shot blocker. A lot of times the transition, he's the guy chasing down blocks. He is their best rebounder in my opinion, and he's just that guy for them. He's a heck of a player. I mean, he's a next-level caliber player as well.

KOREY BILLBURY: I played him last year when I was at Oral Roberts. And like Mel said, he's a great defender. He's not too extravagant on the offensive end. He does what he needs to do to get them to win or get them a better chance to win. He's a team player. He gets the ball moving on both ends. He plays the passing lanes really well.

He guarded our leading scorer last year. He did a pretty, pretty good job on him. He actually led the nation and was one of the leaders in the nation in scoring this year on my own teammate. I watched him do a number on him. It was a sight to see to watch him play defense.

Q. Melvin, with as much as you guys have been here, I'm wondering if you knew the whole schedule for the week before a coach or someone told you before you got here or does it make it less exciting coming here year after year?
MELVIN JOHNSON: No, this is earned. This is not a given. We expect to be here. But we're extremely fortunate to be here. It's something that's been on our mind since conference play started. We didn't get the wins we wanted in a non-conference slate. But we understood in order to get there, we had to play well in our conference and win our conference and things of that nature as well.

So once we saw our name, even though we lost the conference championship game, our frowns were smiles again. We were extremely excited. Korey was excited to be back home. It's one of the experiences that you never get tired of. If I had another four years to go to another four NCAA Tournaments, I would, and I'd be just as happy as I am now.

Q. Could each of you talk briefly about what you've seen that Oregon State does well?
KOREY BILLBURY: They play a pretty good match-up zone. We've kind of seen it against Richmond in conference, but it's a little better than Richmond's match-up zone, I would say. Their guard actually, Gary Payton, the leading rebounder, he rebounds very well. So that's kind of an oddity to have a guard leading you in rebounding. They run their offense pretty good. They execute well on the offensive end. So that's what I've noticed from Washington.

MO ALIE-COX: They're great shooters, all of them can shoot, so we have to do a good job of containing the three.

MELVIN JOHNSON: Yeah, every game they got off to the great start was because of the three ball. So we really just try to contain the three ball as much as possible along with their best player and just trying to make it an even game as much as possible, but they do what they do well.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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