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March 19, 2016

Michael Gbinije

Trevor Cooney

St. Louis, Missouri

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Syracuse student-athletes Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney. Questions?

Q. Michael, I guess not many people knew about Middle Tennessee heading into this tournament. You only had a few hours to digest what type of team they are. What sticks out to you when you watch the film and on paper about the Blue Raiders?
MICHAEL GBINIJE: They've got a lot of capable scorers. They've got a guy in the high post who can shoot. Actually knew a little bit about Raymond, their point guard, before here. He's an NC State transfer. They've got some capable guys that will get after it and throw multiple defenses at us, and we've just got to be prepared.

Q. You were in the locker room when you guys saw the score, 15-2 early on. Where were you watching the end of this game, and what was kind of the reaction when you saw Middle Tennessee had this crazy upset?
TREVOR COONEY: We watched the rest of the game in our hotel. We went back, relaxed and watched the second half. They're a really good team. I was really impressed with how they played.

MICHAEL GBINIJE: Yeah, same thing.

Q. Trevor, one of the things that stuck out yesterday was that they switch a lot. They switched all five players early. Is that something that Coach Boeheim has hit on these few hours after the game?
TREVOR COONEY: Yeah, we went over it today. From watching the game we saw that, and we went over that and hopefully we can take advantage of that.

Q. When Jim was out for those nine games, how did you guys address that? And what was his demeanor when he returned?
MICHAEL GBINIJE: As soon as coach was able to talk to us again and practice with us the following day after the Clemson game, we got after it. There was a lot of energy. We felt like we had to pick things up. And we learned that we have to compete every night, basically. Coach gives us that fire and that edge. Having him back has been very positive for us.

TREVOR COONEY: It was tough. It was really tough for all of us. We couldn't base it off something that we've had happened before. So it was really tough. But we got through it and I think we became a stronger team because of it.

Q. Trevor, you mentioned the other day that I guess during the Selection Show, or before, you were thinking, boy, maybe we'll just get a play-in game. Now how do you feel, you're on the verge of getting to the Sweet 16, how exciting is that for you?
TREVOR COONEY: It feels really good. With the NCAA Tournament, you have to come ready to play. If you come ready to play you're going to advance and you're going to beat the team. Whoever is ready to play is going to move on, and hopefully we can do that tomorrow.

Q. For both of you guys, after everything the program has been through in the last month, being in the tournament, do you feel like it's, I don't know, a new lease on life, so to speak?
MICHAEL GBINIJE: Just getting to the tournament, in general, is always a great feeling. With us going through the coach situation in the middle of the year and having a lot of ups and downs, I don't know, it's just a great feeling. Feel like we did enough to get in and now that we're in, we're just having fun with it and looking to win games.

TREVOR COONEY: Definitely felt like new life once we got into the tournament. Everyone had the same record going into it. And we just gotta relax and play and that's what we did the other day, and that's what we've gotta do tomorrow.

Q. Malachi came into the program with big reputation, McDonald's All-American all that. How do he assimilate into the team, and how would you assess his season and what he can provide for you if he plays like he did yesterday?
TREVOR COONEY: He fit right in from the start. He's a good kid, on and off the floor. I mean, on the floor he's a good attacker. That's what we want him to do, just to be aggressive and make plays. He did that the other day. And when he does that, I think he makes us a better offensive team when he's getting into the lane and making plays.

MICHAEL GBINIJE: He's been that guy in our back court that's just been very successful with us. He's great off the bounce, great one-on-one player. When things break down, sometimes the ball is in his hands and he's just making plays for us.

Q. Mike, seemed like Dayton was really focusing a lot of attention defensively on you yesterday. Just how much does it help you to have another wing player out there who can take some of that pressure off if the defense is really focusing on stopping you?
MICHAEL GBINIJE: It's a great feeling, just knowing I can depend on people like Trev, Malachi and Frank when he comes in the game, or when Lydon is on the perimeter. I think the more versatility we have on the court, we're just a better team that way.

Q. Going toward after the game until now, what's the timeline of preparation you guys do for Middle Tennessee, and when did you kind of really start looking at their tape and I guess start preparing for tomorrow?
MICHAEL GBINIJE: Preparation started as soon as we realized they won. That's when I started personally just going over the scouting report, trying to remember things I watched in the game. And we had practice today. We walked through some things and we're going to watch some film later on.

TREVOR COONEY: I mean, it started directly after the game was over. I started looking at them, started looking at their schedule, who they played, those games, and went over them today during practice, read the scouting report. And then we'll watch film tonight and tomorrow.

Q. Michael, as soon as you started looking at tape and looking at a few things about them, who on that team, everybody knows about Giddy Potts leading the nation in 3-point shooting, who on that team really stuck out to you on tape early?
MICHAEL GBINIJE: It was Buford, with all of his energy. He's a guy that I think we can match up pretty well as long as we bring energy to the table. He's definitely going to come out ready to compete. And we have to try to match his intensity.

Q. A little off topic, when you guys are in a gym that you're not familiar with, what's the process like? I don't know, in terms of when you're shooting, getting used to the gym -- are the rims hard, soft, the depth perception, what's it like for you guys?
TREVOR COONEY: It's a little different. I mean, playing in a venue like this it's bigger than some of the gyms we play in in the ACC, but it's pretty close. But we're used to it. We play a lot of road games. I think playing in things like the Bahamas help you get ready for things like this. Down there it was three days in a row, and you have to get used to that gym down there. So I think throughout the whole entire year it helps you prepare for this moment.

MICHAEL GBINIJE: Yeah, to follow up on what he said, we have shootaround's, practices, and once you get enough shots up in a gym, really, you can get a feel for things and start to feel comfortable out there.

Q. Coach has been around a long time, he's quite a bit older than you guys; how does he connect with you off the court not so much as coach but as somebody who you can have a good time with?
MICHAEL GBINIJE: I think he connects with us from a competitive standpoint. We want to win as players. And no one wants to win more than him obviously. And we just follow his lead. He tells us what to do on the court, he puts us in the right spots. And off the court he trusts us as men to make sure we take care of ourselves, do the extra work we need and it's just a good fit for us.

TREVOR COONEY: To piggyback off that, he's a great guy and he's great to talk to. He is a great basketball mind. After the game was over yesterday we were just talking about other games in the tournament, and his thoughts and just picked his brain a little bit.

Q. What can you say about the balance between the true freshmen as well as yourself as veterans, and what you can say about the makeup of this team and how you're kind of balanced out and helped each other out this season?
TREVOR COONEY: I think our balance was there the other day. I think when we're offensively at our best is when we have that balance. And down in the Bahamas, a couple of games in ACC, we've had scoring from almost everyone. And I think that's when we're at our best, we're able to get in the lane, make plays for each other and find the open person. And we had it the other day. We've got to continue it and have it tomorrow, too.

MICHAEL GBINIJE: I agreed with what he said. Mentioned our seniors, our freshmen, I think everybody's playing their best right now. Obviously we can do better. But us being senior captains, we try to make the right decisions on the court. The ball's in our hands most of the time, but we have freshmen stepping up. I think Tyler Roberson has evolved as a player and should be good going into his senior year. We've got a lot of depth and just looking forward to winning games.

Q. Mike, you touched on it, but with Tyler Roberson, what have you seen from him this year in terms of how he's developed overall in his game?
MICHAEL GBINIJE: He added some dimension to his offense. He can now score. He's capable of hitting the mid-range jump shot. He runs the break. Yesterday in the game he actually dribbled up the court a little bit. So that was something I didn't expect. But he's a hard worker. He looks to improve on his game and he's gotten better because of it.

Q. After people are saying you didn't belong in the tournament, do you feel sort of like you're a favorite now or what's your approach to that?
TREVOR COONEY: We didn't listen to those people. Coach said that yesterday. We really didn't. We knew that we belonged in the tournament. I think we went out there the other day and proved it. We've just gotta continue to do that.


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