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March 10, 2018

Ed Cooley

New York, New York

Villanova - 76, Providence - 66 (OT)

COACH COOLEY: There's a lot in my head right now. I feel for our young men. I thought we played great. I thought we played tough. I thought we played together.

I thought we had a great game plan coming in. You know, they got out to a couple of quick starts to start the half, but we weathered both storms.

What beat us today was little things, not the big picture. Rebound the ball, game over. It's really that simple. Their offensive rebounds in a critical part of the game, I think they had four offensive rebounds in five possessions. If you just get one of those, one of those four, you win the game.

Overtime, you know, they had a lot of players on the floor. I thought we got a little rattled in overtime. Just speechless on that, but I've got to give my team a lot of credit. And more importantly, Villanova is a great team. Brunson, Bridges, two high-, high-level players. The other guys played off -- they carried their team today. They more than carried their team today and made some tough, tough shots. Bridges two 3s both came off of offensive rebounds in overtime. Foul at the end of the game, offensive rebound.

We just weren't fortunate to pick it up. But credit them. They did a great job. Congratulations to them. What I told the team in the locker room is cherish this moment.

If you would have told me back in September that we'd be playing in this game with the ball to win a postseason championship, I would have signed up for it. We got the shot we wanted in regulation.

I wanted the ball in Kyron's hands. Wanted to try to bring two to the ball. It worked for us all game. We just weren't fortunate to get the last shot. But I'm proud of our players.

I'm really, really sad for our players because I thought we did enough to win the game in regulation. But little things got us. And hopefully we'll learn from it for next week's tournament.

Q. Could you talk about going to Drew to put him on Brunson and just your thought behind that and how you thought he played? Seemed like that kind of turned the game a little bit.
COACH COOLEY: Again, I coach on gut. I trust Drew. He's been in some high-level games. A year ago, couple years before he was hurt. I thought his size was a little bit bigger than Makai. I thought his overall awareness of what we do as a basketball team being a junior, new, and I thought it would work. We just came up a little bit short.

But I'm really proud of Drew and he was ready for the moment because he didn't play the whole game.

Q. Much of the offensive rebounds that you're talking about, it just seemed like they were bouncing off the baskets and finding their way to Villanova's hands --
COACH COOLEY: They found their way because they're really good players and they went after the ball. But I don't think we checked out the way we're supposed to, the way we practiced. We practice blocking out all the time. Sometimes a 50/50 ball is going to get to you.

But a couple of ones we should have had. We should have had. You are one stop away from the other coach being in this seat right now feeling as bad as I do.

I hope I do a better job for my team next time to try to get them over the hump. Because it's sad, looking at those kids there. I feel for them kids right now. It's tough watching them like that. But that's part of growing up, too. Hopefully learn from it.

Q. You said that you would have signed up for this in September or when the season started, making it. What were your expectations starting and how did your team sort of grow or get better through the season?
COACH COOLEY: Well, the expectation is always to become a great, great group, be connected, on and off the floor, build chemistry. We start with that. Start by giving accountability and discipline.

And then you talk about who are we? We had some seniors. Right now I'm thinking of Emmitt Holt who is not at the game. He's recovering.

That was a big, big, big, big blow to us, a major blow to us. And we were able to withstand that. We were able to withstand early injuries. We were able to withstand late sicknesses. The entire team went through the flu and pneumonia, bronchitis. And every team around the country weathered a storm similar to it.

But when talking about Providence we had to weather all that to get to this point. So when you look at how we developed over the year we had some inconsistent play and played well at the right time. But again we just weren't fortunate to win this game.

Q. At the risk of being personal, the towel you were fashioning, I assume there was a sartorial mishap?
COACH COOLEY: When I sat down I felt the great breeze in the crack. (Laughter) my pants ripped.

Q. To that point, the intensity of this game and the way it was, I think there's a lot of people questioned a lot of things with college basketball this season. What does this kind of game say about the caliber of what this sport can be?
COACH COOLEY: You know what, this has been a rough year for college basketball with respect to everything that's going on and the culture of it. And I think some of the national attention that's been on the negative today accentuated the positive.

We have a great game. It's unfortunate that there's some things that don't go, people are not doing the right thing. That's to be decided by someone other than us.

But there's some great players. There's some great coaches that have changed lives of hundreds and thousands of young men and women, and we shouldn't be painted in a bad light because there's a few bad apples. Don't let those few bad apples destroy the bunch of the goodness of this game, and more importantly how it changes lives.

At the end of the day we're not going to win every game, but we have to make sure we win the battle making sure we help these kids grow up.

Q. I couldn't help but notice several times during the game you had the brightest smile on your face, like, this is really fun. I mean, what was it like coaching in this game?
COACH COOLEY: My man, this is something you dream about when you're a kid -- as a player first and then when you grow up, say what do you want to do.

The coaching side is unbelievable. The atmosphere in here, I'm really, really fortunate to work for Providence College and try to help that program win a national championship. And we're trying to get there little by little.

But if you can't enjoy this moment, win or lose, on that stage, on this day, Saturday night, you got a problem. So we all should be smiling, because we're all very, very fortunate.

Q. What did the last two nights teach you about your team looking ahead to the NCAA Tournament?
COACH COOLEY: We just played two No. 1 seeds back to back in overtime. That told me my team matured at the right time. It told me my team is gritty. It told me our team is tough, resilient, passionate, really good leadership.

I saw Kyron grow up more. I saw Diallo grow up. I saw Nate Watson grow up. I saw some guys come together at the right time and hopefully next week we can continue to play that way.

I couldn't be more proud of a group who went through a lot of inconsistencies, of which you wrote about, right? I hope you write about how consistent we are right now, bro.

Q. You spoke about the leadership that you saw in terms of growth, especially with Kyron and Diallo in these last three games, OTs. What did you see from them in terms of leadership that really brought the best out of everyone else in the group?
COACH COOLEY: I think part of that -- and I think your question is great -- you know what brought that out? The atmosphere of the Big East Tournament, the energy in this building, the fans, the National Anthem. If you can't get excited listening to the last two National Anthems. The energy brought, I think, our team together. And that's what our league is all about.

It's a tough league, man, really, really tough league. And somebody had to lose, and unfortunately the Friars were on that side.

Q. Ed, the sport has a lot of especially during conference tournament times loud players with gimmicks or people who draw a lot of attention, but for Jalen Brunson to have his fourth 31-point game and be as kind of quiet and stoic as he is, does he deserve as much attention as any player in college basketball?
COACH COOLEY: I know Jalen really, really well. I've spent a couple months with him. We won a couple of gold medals together. I said this from the beginning, the best player in college basketball was the MVP of this tournament.

He's terrific. He guards. He makes big, big, big shots, big shots. And he plays on the best team in the country.

He's deserving of everything because he's a great young man. I've seen his character from his gratitude and appreciation. I've seen him compete. He's very friendly to my family. Texts my son, my daughter, texts me. We compete against each other. I'm really proud of him.

And I hope he goes on to do some great things in his life, because he's an incredible ambassador not just for Villanova but for the Big East.

Q. When you guys started the overtime, were you surprised at all with how you guys came out, given the sense you played two overtime games here already and won them? You would think you would have been more comfortable as a veteran team?
COACH COOLEY: Played a great team. And again we didn't get a couple of bounces. I thought we had a couple of early looks that just didn't go in. We didn't shoot the ball from 3 particularly well in this tournament at all. What did we make, six today and then we made 14 in three games.

It's hard to stretch any -- defensively I thought we did a good job in regulation. I don't know what the score was in regulation. But I mean we defended really, really well in this tournament. We defended really well in this tournament against the three, quote/unquote, best offensive teams in the league.

I give our defense a lot of credit. We just couldn't make -- we had how many open shots we missed. You're the writers, you tell me. We had wide open shots. We just didn't make them.

Q. The second 3 by Bridges, I think there's like maybe two or three seconds on the shot clock, Brunson has the ball tipped away and it goes right to Bridges and he steps into a 3. Is that just kind of typical of Villanova? They get maybe a little luck and they just make the most of it?
COACH COOLEY: You create your own luck. He's a great player. Great player. He lived in the moment. Just like our players.

Those kids live for this moment. And he had his moment. So I don't think it's luck. I've seen him make 100 of those 3s at the top of the key.

But if we get the rebound, they can't even get the shot. That was one of the 3s that came off of another offensive rebound. Then they juiced the clock late and he made the play. Same with us, we made some plays similar, but it just wasn't a 3.

Q. There's a couple 3s that Bridges made in the overtime period that really seemed to stifle your momentum. Overall just coming into the game and having experienced it, the toughest part about trying to guard Mikal Bridges overall?
COACH COOLEY: I thought we did a hell of a job guarding. You're not going to shut teams out. You can't throw no-hitters in basketball. You're not going to shut anybody out.

We played great defensively. So it wasn't about Bridges. They just made some timely plays. And the overtime, I think they had two 3s back to back, I believe.

I thought we defended great. I don't know what our percentages were, but you hold a team like that in the 60s in regulation, come on. I think, was it 60-60? I don't have my glasses. I can't see. 63s. I don't know what it was in overtime.

But you hold a high-level offensive team like that, come on, man. I'm pretty sure some of you are surprised the game was played the way it was, because everybody thought the Friars were going to come in here and lay down. No way, man. That team got fight. They've got passion and we believe. So it's not what he did. The ball found that basket at an inopportune time for us.


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