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March 12, 2017
RHODE ISLAND 70, VCU 63
DAN HURLEY: Obviously grateful, thrilled with the win. You know, to be able to -- just everything we were carrying into the game, all the talk about us, which, you know, with the bubble and the preseason expectations and the injuries that went on during the course of the year; to be able to kind of keep ourselves, our heads above water until we got healthy, late, and to be able to go on the run that we went on late in the year once we got healthy, the resiliency we showed the whole year.
And then to get to this point, and then to beat a team or a program like VCU, one of the top college basketball programs in the country, irregardless of conference, consistently an elite-level college basketball program coached by one of the best young coaches in the country, some amazing players, VCU.
When you play in the conference championship game and you beat VCU, you just earned that trophy. We just earned that trophy, and that's because of the special group of guys that I got to coach here; a resilient, tough, group of winners.
Q. For all three of you, Coach Hurley just kind of briefly mentioned about being on the bubble all season. But for all three of you, how much does that weigh on your minds like throughout the season and even coming into the tournament?
E.C. MATTHEWS: I think at the beginning, it got to us a little bit. We were thinking about that rather than just going out there and playing basketball and just winning games.
But as the season progressed, we start worrying about that and start focusing really on each other. We came here into the tournament on a roll. We took care of business. Made history.
HASSAN MARTIN: Yeah, definitely was a little pressure earlier in the season, but as the season went along, just forgot about it and just knew we had to win games. We came here and how are focus was to win the Championship to get in and we did it.
JARED TERRELL: I think a lot of our focus towards the end of our season, started focusing on each other and just blocked the outside noise out. We were able to make plays for each other and do what we set out to do at the beginning of the year.
Q. For all the guys, was there any moment where you guys maybe doubted yourselves during the season when you had some ups and downs?
E.C. MATTHEWS: I mean, we have doubts, you know, we lose faith a little bit. But I think it just made us stronger. I think without those lumps in the season, we wouldn't be ready for what we just did, so nah.
HASSAN MARTIN: Yeah, we definitely lost a little hope with some games we lost. But the way we bounced back to come out and win this championship today just feels great.
JARED TERRELL: For me, I just think it was just a little adversity we faced. But it's nothing that we haven't seen. We were just able to bounce back and respond how we always have, and to pull this out is just undescribable.
Q. E.C. and Jared, you have just six turnovers against a team that thrives on miscues. Just talk about the patience and the ability you had to keep control of the ball.
E.C. MATTHEWS: We knew they was going to pressure us in the full court. Coach brought up a good game plan on how to handle that. We just had to be patient, make moves and just attack it.
JARED TERRELL: I think we just let the game come to us, and we didn't try to do too much with the ball, dribbling. When we need to pass it, we passed it. And when we needed to drive, we drove it and made plays for each other.
Q. I heard you say you were a little afraid of heights as you were heading up that ladder. Were you reluctant to go up there a little bit?
E.C. MATTHEWS: Thinking about it, I never did this before, so that's a good and bad thing. But yeah, scared of heights.
Q. For any of you guys, but for Hass specifically because you're going to be graduating this year, did you guys talk about the bubble in the locker room? Did you talk about the field? Did you talk about you guys potentially being one of the last teams in and one of the first teams out, or was there just a focus game by game by game to just win each game in front of you?
HASSAN MARTIN: I wouldn't say we talked about it but it was definitely in the back of our minds. Like I said, our focus was to come out and win it, so we had no choice but to get to the Tournament and that's what we did. It was definitely in the back of my mind, and I know it was in the back of their mind, too. But we really just didn't want to say much add pressure to us, so we just went out and played our butts off.
E.C. MATTHEWS: Today, this morning, we watched -- Coach made us watch a video, "The One Shining Moment," and besides that, that was probably the only time we actually talked about the bubble and everything.
Q. They were just in here saying that you guys do what they do to them, what they usually do to other teams. What is it about your style of play that you think allows you to be successful against a team like VCU?
JARED TERRELL: Just coming into the game, Coach just wanted us to play tough and just strong, because that's exactly what they do. They are scrappy. They claw, fight, scrap, do whatever they have got to do to pull the win out. I think we did a good job of handling it, rebounding, getting loose balls out on the floor, just making all the tough plays; as well as our defense being on point and being able to make shots. It just all added up.
HASSAN MARTIN: Like he said, they are really scrappy and they like to bully teams. Our mind-set was to come out and try to beat the bullies today, and that's what we did.
Q. Do you feel like with the year that you guys had last year with you being out the entire season, and you had your fair share of injuries last season, but do you feel like this moment, cutting down the nets and everything, do you feel like this is maybe a year too late to be here?
E.C. MATTHEWS: God don't make mistakes, man. That's all I've got to say.
JARED TERRELL: Everything panned out how it's supposed to. It just made us stronger and it made us more together, and it just worked out how it was supposed to.
HASSAN MARTIN: I just think it made us be able to handle any type of situation that losing two of the best players last year and coming back strong this year, we were ready for anything that we faced this year, and that's why we won the Championship.
Q. Jared's steal late in the game, how big a play was that?
DAN HURLEY: I mean, listen, Will is a great coach. Our league is filled with great tacticians. It's not a -- some leagues are filled with tremendous, you know, recruiters. The Atlantic 10 is filled with some tremendous tacticians: Will, Archie, across the board, some great coaches.
These games, get won by players making winning plays, coming over and getting a big deflection or making a big steal. You know, finishing or scoring in the last eight minutes of the game, having closers. It was kind of like, a little bit like the Davidson game. It was such a critical moment. VCU was surging and then that steal there just got the momentum back and just gave us a lot of confidence.
And that's where these games are won. These games are won by players, and you hope you're able to recruit, nurture and develop guys to become winners that make winning plays.
Q. The six turnovers, was there a tactical adjustment to that or was that the guys making plays?
DAN HURLEY: You know what, we went to school. We went back, when we played VCU the first time, we didn't see a lot of that pressure and we didn't have a lot of time to prepare for it. You know, we looked a little bit at some earlier season games, people that had success when they pressed more.
So what we tried to do is take a little bit more of like a one-three-one approach against it. So we had three guards that could handle it and we tried to put Kuran Iverson as much as we could in the middle as a big target, and we just tried to big space him out and avoid trapping situations. But for the most part this year, we have been a team hasn't turned the ball over a lot. Yeah, we've had some moments where we've had some bad games, but consistently, we've been pretty good with the ball.
Q. What's the significance of this win for the Rhode Island program? Is this a program-changer for you guys?
DAN HURLEY: I think it is. I think URI has a lot of potential. We've got some real great tradition going back to the 80s and 90s, and you know, it's a great basketball state with us and Providence and Bryant and Brown. We've got an amazing arena, and I think we needed a win like this. We needed a bid to kind of set our fan base on fire and take things to the next level in terms of everything: You know, commitment, getting donors excited.
It's huge for a place like ours that has the potential to compete with the VCUs and Dayton every year because of some of the things we do have in place.
Q. I'm sure you knew that we were going to make a run at some point; when Kuran and has soon get into foul trouble there, what's it like during those minutes just trying to weather that Storm with those guys sitting on the bench?
DAN HURLEY: It obviously wasn't ideal, because those two guys are tremendous, tremendous players. They anchor one of the best defensive teams in the country.
But we're deep. I mean, we're not a team; we're a program. This is who we are now. Seniors will graduate and the next guy is going to step up. We hope to just continue at the top of the conference. You see a guy like Cyril Langevine as a freshman, Jeff Downtin as a freshman, 24 and 27 minutes in a game of that magnitude with what was on the line; it just speaks to the strength of the program in terms of the players.
Q. Both times you played VCU, you were able to contend Alie-Cox to only a couple points. Was that the plan going in both times? Was that the plan to contend him?
DAN HURLEY: For us, it was three guys that we focused on defensively here. You know, Jon Williams and JeQuan were the two guards that we wanted to put most of our focus on. Especially Jon Williams, man. Jon Williams, he's a game changer. When he comes in off the bench, he changes things the way he attacks the rim.
And then Mo Alie, he's been a dominator in this league for years, and you know, we're fortunate that we have the front court to stand up to a guy of his pour and dominance.
Q. You said yesterday that this is who you can be when you're healthy. How much did being in sort of a desperate spot late in the season contribute, as well?
DAN HURLEY: I don't think it had anything to do with it. People -- we got off to a good start this year beating Cincinnati. Obviously we lost that game to Duke, and then beat Belmont, and then lost those tough back-to-back games at Valpo and Providence. And then listen, we got hurt. You see what injuries do to teams across college basketball. It's not an excuse. It's reality.
Just the way we've played the last, you know, six weeks or however many games, has just everything to do with has soon Martin finally being healthy and then Jarvis Garrett, at least getting to the point where we could play him 15, 20 minutes a game, which gave us another quick creator and the change of pace back, kind of at the point guard position.
We just got healthier. Our focus was great. We played hard the whole year. We got crushed after the Fordham loss. We just were inept offensively. We played hard as heck that game. They shot like 34 percent from the field and scored 52 points. We were just in a funk after we let Dayton off the hook late in that game.
Q. Similar question. If you had been healthy all year, is this the team you would have expected to see?
DAN HURLEY: Yeah, I mean, you know, the whole what if thing; we could have played that game last year, too. E.C. is a special talent. Hassan Martin, if he was healthy the whole year, I think him and T.J. Cline, would have been a heck of a race for Player of the Year, with Jaylen Adams and a couple of the other great players in this conference.
You know, so I just think we got so much resiliency from what we went through last year, what we went through at different parts of this year; and I just think that that came to the forefront late in the year when we got healthy.
And then when we got to Pittsburgh, we were loose, but man, we were locked in. These guys, every video, every practice, these guys carried themselves like pros. They weren't going to leave here without that trophy.
Q. In the three games, you only trailed for 43 seconds total. Didn't trail today, at all. You just said your guys were obviously locked in. What was it like to play from in front the whole time? How much more comforting was that for your guys?
DAN HURLEY: Yeah, it's a lot easier -- some of those road losses, you know, like PC, Valpo, Houston when we played without Hassan, we were down in those games late; down five with 50 seconds to go, and it's a much more stressful situation. You obviously played -- we played with a lot of confidence here because we were able to jump on people. We were able to jump on teams early.
We showed -- a guy like E.C., before we got out here, I texted him late, probably about two o'clock in the morning after that Davidson comeback before we got out here. It's like when he drove and dunked that ball, something changed for him. In this tournament, he's locked like that guy that NBA people love, scoring at a pretty high clip while only taking ten, 11 shots.
I think you win when you have guys playing at a first-team all-conference level or at a Player of the Year level; and in this tournament, we've had guys play like first-teamers and Player of the Year types.
Q. Just playing with the intensity that you guys have right now, you talk about competing with the Dayton and the VCUs, but do you feel like this is a team right now that can pull one of those runs off, Elite 8, Final Four?
DAN HURLEY: I mean, listen, obviously you hope to get matchups. The NCAA Tournament probably has a lot to do with match-ups. It will be the first tournament I'll coach in, or first NCAA Tournament I'll coach in. I think we're built to compete.
We are an elite defensive team, and we have the type of wing players in Jared and E.C. that have the ability to carry us for different points. We have inside strength. We have shot blocking. We have depth. We play as hard as any team in the country. I think we're well prepared.
You know, and I think we've just developed a culture that we will -- we will be ready when we play Thursday or Friday.
Q. Obviously this will be a place that will be special for you because it's where you won the A-10 tournament, but just your thoughts as Pittsburgh as a venue?
DAN HURLEY: Yeah, there's a couple things. My best friend and -- I've got my father and my brother, my coaching tree -- I didn't work for a college coach, so my coaching tree is my father and my brother. And then there were a couple interesting things here.
When I was at Wagner, we came and beat Pitt here. That win, when they were in the Top 15 or Top-12 in the country when I was at Wagner, we beat them here and that kind of launched my career, my brother's career.
And then we stayed in the same hotel that we stayed in when we beat those guys when I was at Wagner, and then my room number here was 1115. My brother wore 11 in college, and I was 15 in college. Obviously a lot more people know his number than mine.
But there was some omens, and I just, you know, I felt really good coming in about how we were playing. You know, I don't want to leave Pittsburgh. I love it here.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports