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March 15, 2017

Will Wade

Jonathan Williams

JeQuan Lewis

Mo Alie-Cox

Salt Lake City, Utah

Q. You guys have played in a bunch of close games this season, back-to-back games where you won with no time left. What's it like to go through those situations and win and has that affected your guys going toward, how you approach games when you're close?
JeQUAN LEWIS: It gets us prepared for big games. When you're playing good teams it's going to come down to the wire. You've got to follow through with the details and execute the game plan. And Coach Wade did a great job and we did a good job of following through with it.

Q. Do you feel like you guys just have, whether it's a confidence or belief, that allows you guys to come back when situations look like they could go the other way? What is it about this team that allows you to play well and come out with close games?
MO ALIE-COX: I would say just experience. We have a very senior-heavy class this year. So we've been in a lot of close games over time. And this year we just have that never-give-up attitude, no matter if we're down 10, 15 or 20, we have confidence in ourself that we can come back and right the things that were going wrong. It's just looking in the mirror and looking at what's not going right and flipping a switch and changing it.

Coach is good at making adjustments. And we have a lot of experience, like we see what's going on on the floor and we can adjust it, as well. We try to be positive, and try to come out on top, whenever we're in those situations.

Q. What stands out to you guys when you look at the tapes of Saint Mary's and how do you counteract that stubborn defense?
JONATHAN WILLIAMS: They're really disciplined and very patient offense. So we just try to speed them up, take them out of their normal game and make them play faster than they want to play.

JeQUAN LEWIS: They're a really good team. They're well coached. They have a lot of veterans on the team. So they know how to kind of control the game their way and play at their pace. We've just got to do a good job of cutting off their three ball. They're a great shooting team. And we've got to do our best to speed them up. We can't have mistakes on defense, because they'll make us pay for it. As long as we stay connected and follow our defensive plan we'll be in good shape.

Q. You played in this tournament every year you've been in school. What's the most fun of traveling and coming to this?
MO ALIE-COX: I would say just going to new cities you've never been to before and just getting a brand-new experience being in new places. We've gone to Portland, San Diego, we went to Tulsa and we are in Utah. We've seen a lot of new things that you haven't seen before. And the atmosphere, energy is real high. Everybody is really excited to be here. You know you're ready to have great competition in every game.

JeQUAN LEWIS: It's been better and better each year just because you're not promised to be here. And so when you hear your name called, you just get so excited and have so much excitement running through your body. You have it for yourself, your teammates, you're happy for your city, the school. We want to take it all in and do whatever we can to keep dancing.

JONATHAN WILLIAMS: I agree with what they say, a new city, new experience, and new things we probably wouldn't -- places you probably wouldn't get to go to without playing basketball. And for me, this is my third year, and this is their fourth. It's a blessing that we've been here every year that we've been here. A lot of people and a lot of teams that only go here once or haven't been here at all. So it's the atmosphere knowing how blessed you are being here that's what makes it special.

Q. You guys mentioned that obviously it's not a guarantee to be back here. But you guys have been here every year. What do you think it is about the program with different coaches, different conferences that has sort of led to the sustained success?
JeQUAN LEWIS: I would say the mindset. When you come to VCU you have to have a certain mindset, a winning mindset. You've got to be ready to work hard. You've got to expect this. We work hard in the off season and preseason for moments like this. I would just say mindset.

MO ALIE-COX: I would just say, going along with that, just the players we recruit, gritty, tough, hard working, always willing to get in the gym, always willing to do what needs to be done to earn a team victory. No matter if you score zero points or score 20 points. At VCU we're all about winning and taking steps forward to become a better program and better team.

I think we have guys that buy into the system and the culture, and it kind of traveled, even though Coach Smart has left, Coach Wade has the same winning mentality here, everybody wants to win. That is the goal. So I think with everybody having that mindset, that's what makes it so good.

JONATHAN WILLIAMS: I think the older guys do a good job of making sure that the young guys buy in. Sometimes they're coming from whatever high school programs they were at, they're used to doing whatever. It's a different style. It's not easy being where we're at. Preseason is really tough. Workouts are extremely tough. So everybody like falls in line, just buys into the process. That's one of the big reasons why we're here.

COACH WILL WADE: Happy to be here. Beautiful, beautiful city. A great host. And it's been fun so far. We're looking forward, big challenge tomorrow with Saint Mary's. Probably the best -- not probably, the best offensive team we've played all season. They do a tremendous job.

I don't know if I've seen a team in college basketball that their defense and offense match as well as Saint Mary's. The way they play defensively matches so well with what they do offensively. And they're able to kind of grind you into submission a lot of the time with what they do. I don't know Coach Bennett at all. But he's obviously a phenomenal coach. Done a tremendous job with the program, and their style of play and what they do. They recruit very well to that style of play.

It will be a big challenge for us tomorrow, but we're excited to be back in the tournament and ready to get going tomorrow.

Q. You mentioned the defense with Saint Mary's. They're No. 2 in the nation behind Virginia. What in your mind really stands out about the defense? What makes it so effective?
COACH WILL WADE: I think the first thing that they do -- well, a couple of things, one, they don't foul you. So they don't walk you to the foul line. Two, you only get one shot. The No. 1 defensive rebounding team in the country. You only get one shot, so you better make it a good one when you shoot it. And they do a good job guarding the three-point line.

It's really hard statistically speaking to be able to guard the three-point line and not foul at the same time. We're pretty good at guarding the three-point line, but we foul a little too much. Usually if you're good at one you're not good at the other. It's very difficult to be good at both of those. Then you add that with the other team only taking one shot, it's -- you've got the No. 2 defense in the country.

Q. You guys have had some success and some close games, notably a couple of back-to-back games, one with barely any time left. What's it like to go through that and get wins and also do you feel like there's anything you take from that that carries over to the rest of the season in terms of close games or late-game situations?
COACH WILL WADE: Yeah, we've been good this year when we've had leads late in games. And we've been able to execute things. I think our guys have confidence when it gets down to six minutes. We always talk about the last six minutes of the game. I think our players have confidence in those final six minutes that they're going to be able to find a way to make it happen, get it done.

And I think those two close games you alluded to, one was on a Saturday, one on a Wednesday, we won with .4 seconds on the clock both times, I think those games added to our guys' belief in how we do things late in the game, and how we do things in those last six minutes.

We were fortunate to win those two games, they were two conference games, two road games, two tough games. But I think it certainly helped get us to this point and helped our guys with their confidence in what we're doing.

Q. You touched on Saint Mary's offense briefly. Could you mention, I guess, specify what stands out to you?
COACH WILL WADE: Well, their spacing, their shooting, and their big guy. And so they have tremendous, tremendous spacing. They've got great shooting. They've got three or four guys who shoot 44 percent from three. And then they've got a big guy who's going to make a lot of money professionally playing basketball.

If you've got a good big guy and you've got good shooters, and good spacing, that's usually a combination for a really, really good offense. That's what they have.

And it's going to be a tough guard. They'll set four, five, six ball screens in one possession. There's some games you'll play and some teams you see, you won't see that many ball screens in a whole media segment or sometimes a whole half, depending on who you're playing. And for them to do that in one possession can be very, very difficult to guard. It will put a lot of stress on our ball screen defense. They're a good team, though, very good team.

Q. Every year is different. What makes this team special in your eyes?
COACH WILL WADE: Well, we found ourself as the year went on, I think we found our formula pounding that thing inside, our defense has gotten better, we've won a lot of close games. We're fortunate to be back here. It's not easy to do. It's our 7th straight tournament appearance at VCU. There's only eight teams, including us, that have done that. It's a hard spot to get to. Our guys have fought tooth and nail.

I would probably say out of the seven teams, seven straight teams, this is probably on the bottom end of some of them that we have taken to the tournament at VCU. And that's a credit to our guys for sticking in there. We've played extremely hard and we've dug out some wins. And we've won some big games when we needed to.

But I'm most proud of our growth throughout the season. We're a lot better team now than we were. We lost our exhibition game to a Division II school. We're a lot better now, I don't think many people on that night would have planned on sitting in here. I think we're a lot better now than we were then, because we found our formula and done what we needed to do to get here.

Q. You mentioned the run of success you have had making it to the tournament. And what has been the key to the sustained success with different conferences, different people at the helm of the program?
COACH WILL WADE: A couple of things. One, we've got great support from the top. Our administrative support is tremendous. From our president's office to our athletic director. Everybody is on board and in line with what needs to happen for VCU basketball to win. That's allowed VCU to build a tremendous culture. We've got great fiber to our team, good fiber in our program.

It's part of what you were asking about earlier. Our guys never think they're out of it. We're always battling, scratching, clawing to the very end. We've got tremendous support administratively which is what's made it happen. There's been three different coaches during that -- two different coaches during the seven-year run, but we went -- we went NIT and then we went 7 straight years, so we've been 8 out of 9. But there's been three different coaches in that 8 out of 9. So you don't do that without having great infrastructure and great people in high places at your university that allow you to support it at a high, high level.

Q. You mentioned Saint Mary's grinding style. If the idea is to speed them up, how do you do that?
COACH WILL WADE: Well, we'll see. When it gets into the half court that's a big-time advantage for them. When it's in the full court offensively and defensively our athleticism can really, really help us.

We've got to get the game played in the full court as much as possible and for the biggest portion. Really, it's going to come down to who can impose their will. If it's a grind-it-out half court game -- now, we've won some of those this year, we won 54-53, we won some of those. But it will be a tough road for us to travel down if it's like that. It's going to be who can impose their will. If we get the game going faster that's obviously an advantage VCU. If they get it going at their pace it's going to be a long night for VCU.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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