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March 7, 2017

Josh Pastner

Quinton Stephens

New York, New York

Pitt - 61, Georgia Tech - 59

COACH PASTNER: Congratulations to Coach Stallings and Pittsburgh with a great win. We had trouble scoring in some areas, missed a lot of short shots, missed some of those layups in the first half. Our free throws in the first half, missed a lot of layups, which kind of has been our Achilles' heel all year long.

Our guys guarded. We've been able to hang in, stay in games, strictly based off our defense. We came in the game seventh in the country in defensive efficiency, first in the ACC, during ACC play in field goal percentage. We've hung our hat on that.

But our young men have given us everything they had. We just fell a little short today. It's a tough loss. It's one of those things.

But I'm really proud of our young men. I still believe eight wins in this league deserves to be in the NCAA tournament, being this is the best league in the country. However, I know it could still be a longshot. We're going to keep our fingers crossed. Either way, whether it's the NCAA tournament, or the NIT, to be able to play in post-season, as we're trying to rebuild the program back, to get more games, this one is going to sting.

But we'll have to get back to work. We'll give the guys a day or two off, then we'll get back to practice.


COACH PASTNER: I would also like to say thank you to everyone at The Barclays. Everyone here is first class. Tremendous place to play. Whether it's from the ACC or the people at The Barclays here, everyone is first class, have put on a great event. The ACC is obviously the best league in the country, without question.

Q. Coach, you made reference to the fact that you're hoping to get into the NCAA tournament. You made such great strides this year. Is it hard to balance now the fact that you sort of petered out at the end there?
COACH PASTNER: No, this season has been a success. Remember now, I mean, in the spring meetings, my fellow coaches told me, many coaches said, This is going to be the longest year of your life. You will lose maybe -- you're not going to win.

We scheduled Tusculum in the middle of the conference season because we were projecting, based on what I was told, that we might lose 11 straight conference games. So I wanted to stop the bleeding.

So there's no petering out. This has been an amazing year. This is my eighth year as a head coach. Even though we're on a two-game slide, to this point I haven't lost three games as a head coach. For this team to continue that during this year, based on this league schedule, is amazing.

It's a credit to these young men on how we've come together and built as a team. We have a lot of shortcomings and deficiencies, including myself and all of us, in our group. But we've really come together as a team. I'm just so proud of our young men.

It's been just an amazing season. We've had some amazing wins. But, you know, we play hard. We're going to look back, this team, this year, has set the foundation, whether in the NCAA tournament or the NIT, of what we're trying to do for the long-term to build Georgia Tech basketball back, as Coach Cremins had it back in the day when he had that run.

Q. Josh, Ben had a tough night. Did they do something in particular to slow him down?
COACH PASTNER: Two things. If Ben struggles, it's nearly impossible for us. It might not even be possible. It's very hard when he doesn't play well. It's literally impossible, because it just makes it really hard.

We do everything through him offensively, everything. We just open things up. The second thing is what they did, they really played off of everybody and just sat in the paint. We didn't make enough shots. We were four for 18. Q made big threes, especially those two in the first half, to keep us in. Had that one on that skip in the second half.

We have to make some shots. As we build the program, I said many times, we have to increase our shooting and scoring. That is our biggest area of deficiency. That's what we have to do. We have to get shooting. Shooting is just so critical for us, scoring. That's been our Achilles' heel. We've really struggled to score. It's been a struggle.

We missed a lot of layups. Obviously free throws. But you're going to have to make some shots somewhere.

Q. Josh, you finally got the lead, went up four. It looked like you stopped most everything they were trying to do. They go on this run.
COACH PASTNER: The back-to-back threes.

Q. The game changes. Is that something that you as a coach say, That's basketball?
COACH PASTNER: Yeah, you know, you look back, what could I have done? Josh Okogie had three fouls, just picked up his fourth, I think. He had his fourth foul. We were on that run with him. I pulled him right before the media timeout because we were going on defense. I figured, go offense-defense. Not that they wouldn't have hit a three, but maybe that changed with that sub. I don't know.

What I would tell us is basketball is a make-or-miss game. That's why I was sure with everybody in Atlanta that we have to get shooting. It's the difference maker. It's the equalizer. It will open things up for us offensively to spread the floor, especially the way we move the ball. I think as we moved on this year, teams just really - the second half of the ACC, it was hard to find openings. I think Quinton would agree with that.

The amount of packing in that teams did on us... I probably have never seen it this packed in on teams, whether I've been coached or even seen. It's just not normal to pack it in as much as they do. That's where we have to get some help on that. Obviously, that's my job and the assistants' job to help us in that area in recruiting.

Q. Coach, you got off to a slow start in the first half. What adjustments did you realize you had too make to be able to come back and only be down by three? What was it that you said to your team to motivate them to play so well?
COACH PASTNER: Yeah, we've started slow on the road and at neutral courts. That's something we have to examine in the off-season, why are we starting slow on the road or neutral courts.

On the timeout, on that media timeout, we made an adjustment offensively. We run a type of high-post. We went away from it, went more into motion. We tried to get more driving opportunities, which allowed us to score a little more. Got to the rim better, tried to open things up by creating some gaps. That way we were able to attack the gaps, have better spacing. We just missed some layups.

The thing that saved us is defense. Seventh best defense efficiency coming into the game. We've hung our hat on defense all year. Guys like Quinton, he's overachieved this year. He's been so good for us. But he's been so good defensively. He has another double-double. He's given us his body to just play so hard. It's all those guys.

When you get down like that, you're just playing from behind, trying to dig yourself out of a whole the entire time. That makes it tough, especially based on our limitations offensively.

Q. Coach, before the season, I'm sure there may have been a period when it came down to this time of the year, you thought, Oh, the ACC, they get everything, the benefit of the doubt, when it comes to the tournament. Being on the other side of that, having gone through the regular season, how big of a factor do you see that as now, making it through this conference schedule?
COACH PASTNER: I think if you have eight wins, you should automatically be locked in for the NCAA tournament. It's impossible not to be.

This league is the best league in the country. I just believe they should just say in the preseason, If you win eight games in the ACC, you're automatically getting an at-large. That's just how good this league is.

I've been in the other leagues, nothing against those other leagues, we had a lot of success, a lot of great memories, but there's nothing like this. It's a whole 'nother level, whole 'nother level. It's the closest thing to the NBA that's not the NBA in terms of just the competition and the intensity and the players. Everyone is so good in this league. Everyone can score. Everyone can score in this league.

Q. Was Josh Okogie supposed to make the second free throw?
COACH PASTNER: I wanted him to miss it. We were going to X on the out of bounds.

He made it. What happened was, we talk about it all the time, we had the same play set up against North Carolina State. Ben went with one hand. We always talk about the most important thing is the catch, is the catch.

But I wanted Josh to miss it. I think he tried to miss it. I told him to make sure it was soft, not just a line drive, so it would get a bounce.

He ended up obviously making it, unintentionally. Then the other guy tried to miss the second one. Artis, was it? He ended up making it. So it kind of balanced each other out.

Q. Quinton, it did feel a little bit like the NC State game. Did you feel like you were going to pull it out?
QUINTON STEPHENS: Yeah. I mean, I think with the help of our bench, they always kept us believing in it. Even them turning the ball over after we hit some free throws, I mean, I didn't think much of it.

Feeling the energy from our bench got me realizing, Hey, man, we're still in this. That's what teammates are for. So, yeah, I mean, we went after it. I think we executed pretty well. Yeah.

Q. Josh, not to be harsh or anything.
COACH PASTNER: I've heard it all, especially coming from Memphis, I've heard everything (smiling).

Q. For as hard as you played, as hard as you had to play, do you think the last few weeks, especially the last couple weeks, you kind of hit the wall, not so much in terms of effort but in terms of what you could do?
COACH PASTNER: Yeah, I mean, you know, I've talked to Marvin Lewis and Todd Stansbury about it. I've said it many times. People, like fans, would email me. I have said, We have gotten every ounce of energy and effort from these guys. Quinton, there's just nothing more he can give.

I even told multiple people, I just said, I hope we have one final push in us. I just think late in the season, in this gauntlet of a league, for the amount of minutes that we are playing these guys, and the effort that they play at, I mean, as much as we talk about our cutting, I felt towards the end of year we didn't cut as hard, in the speed of our cuts. It's hard.

Then our defense, how we fly around, move around, shift. It just takes so much energy. I'm all about energy. I just think towards the end there, you know, we milked everything we could out of the guys. Literally, every ounce of energy.

You know, if we're in the NIT, if we're not in the NCAA, these couple days will give them some rest, try to get them rested, back at it.

That's part of the recruiting process. We have to get more depth. We have to develop the guys on the bench that didn't play. That's where this depth goes. It's not having 13 guys, it's just being able to get into a seven-, eight-man rotation so you can rest some guys, so in this league you can go a little deeper, require the speed of the cut that I want us to be able to do, to play with the effort and energy defensively.

You get to that last two, three weeks, they're exhausted. Ben Lammers, like North Carolina State, Syracuse, we played so hard. Then we turn around versus NC State, and we look -- it's hard to be mad at the guys. They look so tired. I just think we maybe ran out the gas as we were coming down the homestretch.

Q. The last time you led an ACC team at the half was the Notre Dame game at home, which was January 28th.
COACH PASTNER: Right. We were down 13 to start the game. Our starts haven't been great. If you look at our defense, teams don't even get to 30. We just have severe struggles scoring.

This is new for me. It's new for me because I haven't been on a team like that. That's where I felt in the beginning, back in the summer, projecting who we'd be, for us to have a chance offensively, it was all about the pace of our cutting, the speed of the cut. It was our only chance to survive.

As I said in these last few weeks, we weren't as fast on our cutting. Just kind of caught up to us.

Q. Do you feel that way, that you're pretty tapped out at this point?
QUINTON STEPHENS: I don't really even -- I don't know. I'm just giving it my all. Who knows how I felt in November. I'm not sure.

But, I mean, I know that my guys, we're giving our all. We want what's best for Tech. I want what's best for Tech. I want to leave it a better place than I found it. Tech will be a great place to play at. I enjoyed playing here. I loved being coached by Coach Pastner. I get energy from guys like and Rand, I get energy from Corey. You don't think about how tired you are. I think that speaks a lot to our team.

Q. (No microphone.)
QUINTON STEPHENS: Exactly, you know.

COACH PASTNER: Let me say that on Quinton. What an unbelievable young man. What he said, he's been saying that in the spring and summer. How important it is to lay the right foundation for the future, that the program is very important to him.

He has given us his all. Like, he had other double-double tonight. I mean, the guy, I can't say enough about him, about his energy and effort, how hard he's played for this program, for the name on the front of the jersey. He's laid it all on the line every practice, every game.

We've gotten to the point if he wasn't getting a double-double, we were losing. That's how vital his energy was to us. I'm just very proud and honored to coach him.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.

COACH PASTNER: Thank you, everybody.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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