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March 9, 2018

Phil Martelli

James Demery

Shavar Newkirk

Washington, D.C.

Saint Joseph's - 68, George Mason - 49

PHIL MARTELLI: I thought the -- you work so hard to get the bye, and I want to be real clear about this: This team earned the bye. I read a lot of places where we backed into the bye because of what other teams did, but we had to be in position where we had 10 league wins. The bye was important.

But I knew the first game when you play a team that's played, you can be a little -- we were really choppy in the first half. We were just all over the place. Six turnovers in the first half is not strong basketball. They had nine baskets in the first half. Seven of them were drives. And we were concentrating on trying to keep the ball -- the floor as crowded as possible. The zone, again, the coaches deserve the credit, Jeff Arnold's scouting report. But those guys stay on me about -- I like to establish a man-to-man presence and then play zone on makes and misses. The second half we went exclusively zone, and they didn't make any shots. We can play better. We'll play a lot better tomorrow.

Now, I get it, it's a level up. It's a national team. And anybody that wants to say, what do you think they're going to think about you beating -- it's another day. All we want to do is play Sunday now. We're playing on Saturday, and we're playing on Saturday a lot because of these seniors.

Q. Shavar, you guys turned that into a Big 5 game. To play that kind of defense, it's mentally and physically grinding; did you guys know you could have that because you wanted to keep the score down, and did you know your teammates had it in them?
SHAVAR NEWKIRK: Well, of course. Every day we battle in practice. There's plenty of times we almost fight each other, and Coach just told us to translate that onto the actual court when we go against our opponents. I always knew we had that grind-it-out tough mentality.

Q. Is the mindset this time of year to get another game, get another game, and for this team, how important is that to the program now?
JAMES DEMERY: It's really important. We just take it one game at a time and stand confident to the things we know we're good at.

SHAVAR NEWKIRK: Coach does a great job carrying out a game plan, and we just follow it. We trust him to lead us, and he trusts me to lead them on the court.

Q. Shavar or James, obviously when a team has beaten you twice on a buzzer beater during the regular season, is that something psychological just going into this game that you overcome, or were you all just able to not even worry about that and know if you controlled the pace you wanted, you could get it done?
JAMES DEMERY: Like I said before, we was just worrying about this game. We don't really get into the vengeance like Coach Martelli talked about in the locker room, we just try to play one game at a time.

Q. What did you see from Mason in the first half that made you choose to go exclusively zone in the second?
PHIL MARTELLI: Nothing in the first half. I mean, it was just part of our -- it's part of this run that we're on. You know, we've won seven of eight, and the zone has been good to us. We've spent a lot of time now, and this might be the first time in my career we really detail the zone offense of the other team. So when we're doing scouting report, we're doing zone, their zone offense. So we had a good feel for what they -- and in the first half we did not do a very good job of guarding it. They were 6 for 12 against the zone in the first half, five drives and a three-pointer. In the second half, we were much better, and that's unusual for this team because when they're away from us, they're like your own children, they don't listen to you.

So when they're away from us, they made a lot of -- players made a lot of subtle adjustments on their own. And then when the ball doesn't go in -- the same thing happened at Rhode Island two weeks ago. When that first one doesn't go in, then the next kid is a little bit tighter, and there was a period there where they drove the ball, drove the ball, drove the ball against the zone, and then the next time they had to take a big jumper, the ball is a little bit heavy. So nothing against them, it was just the nature of college basketball.

Q. Phil, you had said that you guys couldn't win a game in the 70s or the mid 70s. They had scored 40 points on you in three of the four quarters. They didn't get 40 until there was about six minutes in the game today.
PHIL MARTELLI: Both teams were a little tight. I think to be honest with you, I think the energy and the fierceness of the first game, there was a little bit of air out of the building. But when I saw -- when I was following the score in my head, I showed our team this morning the first 10 minutes at Hagan Arena. The first 10 minutes at Hagan Arena, they had about 21 points, so that's an 84-point game. We're not winning that kind of game.

I'm still not convinced that that's the right score for us. I think the number for us is -- we have to be in the low 70s to give ourselves a chance to win tomorrow, and I felt we would need low 70s. We got really -- we got nuts against their zone, like it was the first time we had ever seen zone. I think maybe we would have been on track to get to 70, 72, which is the number for our team.

Q. You guys really started to heat up from three in the second half. You had that stretch where Robinson, Funk and Demery all got those threes to kind of break it open. Do you chalk that up to be a little rusty out of the break with the bye and everything like you mentioned earlier?
PHIL MARTELLI: Hmm, how do I answer that? Two of the three guys that made those threes are not classic shooters, right? One is. One has to shoot quicker, not faster, he has to shoot quicker. But I thought Nick Robinson was terrific all day. He shot that ball with confidence, and I like my guys.

James shoots like he thinks it's going in, but he's the only one in our program that thinks that ball is going in when he shoots a three. You get it? You know what I'm saying? He was really skitter -- I don't think he had a very good game, James, but that was a big three.

Q. What was the reasoning behind not starting James today?
PHIL MARTELLI: James hasn't started for about five or six games. We won all the games that he hasn't started. He was hurt the last time against Mason, and we went on a run after that, so he played -- did he play starter's minutes? He played 29 minutes. And maybe earlier in the year to be honest with you when he was starting he was playing too many minutes. The plan in the beginning of the year was to start Shavar fresh and Charlie. Now, I would have to arm wrestle James to convince him, but I want him to be the best sixth man in the league in the country, not in the league but in the country. So fewer minutes, I think he can be more effective.

Q. How much of a premium did you place on defending the three and not letting them get hot from there?
PHIL MARTELLI: More, to be honest with you, their drives. They had 22 baskets when we played them at Mason, 22 for 41 on lay-ups, drives to the basket. In the first half, seven of their nine baskets were on the drive. You know, it's taken me a long time, but if I have to fall on my sword, I'd rather fall on my sword against a jumper than a lay-up. That's why we stayed zone so much in the second half.

Q. You mentioned Nick Robinson; he's been having a great last several games down the stretch, 14 tonight. What have you seen from him late in the season that's impressed you?
PHIL MARTELLI: Well, it's been with Nick since he came. He has a very high level of confidence, and he's also very vocal, on a team that is not so vocal. I'm not sure that's a thing anymore with kids. They don't like to talk about the game. Nick likes to talk about the game, talk about himself, talk about the game, and because of his confidence level, he's playing better. He just plays better basketball. He gives us a little bit of everything on a team that needs a little bit more personality, to be honest with you. They're getting there. They're getting there, and I'd like to play through the weekend with them gaining in personality, not just game, not just their game.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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