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March 11, 2018

Mick Cronin

Kyle Washington

Gary Clark

Orlando, Florida

Cincinnati - 56, Houston - 55

THE MODERATOR: We'll start with an opening statement from Coach.

MICK CRONIN: Well, we knew it was going to be a war. We're all looking forward to playing other teams. You play these teams three times, it's every conference tournament is this way, we knew Sunday was going to be a war. So we tried to rest all week, to be honest with you. Gambled a little bit with no live practice all week. Two days off and two walkthroughs before we came here, to try to save these guys for March. We had just enough energy and fight in us today to get the job done.

But Houston's got a great team, they have had a great season, and they have really, really had a big impact on the development of our league. We need them to be good and Coach Sampson has done a great job with them. We were just one more point better than them today, but a lot of resolve from our players. I think when I watch the film it's going to be amazing how we won, considering our lack of shooting open shots and our lack of free throws, making free throws.

I'm really happy for Kyle. Obviously Gary's getting a lot of accolades but these guys, they play so well together that it's what's made us win 60 games in the last two years. At the end of the day, Kyle making the three-point shot to tie the game is really fitting, because he puts so much time in, in the gym. I was really -- I would have been shocked if he would have missed it. He's got the type of attitude you need to have to take that shot, and he's got to continue to have that type of confidence and we made the right pass on that play as well, so it was obviously a great win for our team.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach and the student-athletes, please.

Q. The last half, do you think three games, three days is does take its toll on teams?
MICK CRONIN: Oh, yeah.

Q. I mean especially at shooters. I see it a lot.
MICK CRONIN: Jake was hurt, Jake jammed his finger, Kyle's got a little small pinkie finger injury. But I agree, yeah, I would say more so the games, like the teams know each other so well that the game in the second half just kind of screeches to a grinding halt. And I kept telling my team that the game was going to be won when what happens when the ball's in the air, obviously meaning a rebound, or when the ball's on the floor. This game's not going to -- nobody's going to make a whole bunch of shots here. Devin Davis I think made a jumper late, Kyle made a huge three late, other than that it was layups and free throws. And I think a lot of that has to do with the physicality of the game, the familiarity of the teams, and then both teams are just beat up from beating each other up.

But our guys responded late because, I will say this, because you know me a long time and you've all been around, Houston remind me so much of Villanova from my Big East days, and people say what's it like to play in the Big East. There's so many great teams but I always thought that nobody, if I could get my team to play when I was building the program, as hard as Villanova played, I used to always think that, then we would be okay. We finally got to that point. And like I watched Houston play and that's who they remind me of. They play with so much heart that it's tough to knock them out. I wish them well next week.

Q. Gary, you missed those two free throws a couple minutes earlier, you missed the first one.
MICK CRONIN: Setting up the drama.

Q. How did you gather yourself to make that last free throw?
GARY CLARK: This is going to eat me alive for a while, but just focus. I always look over at Coach and he's like telling me to calm down and right behind him is his dad.

MICK CRONIN: Free-throw coach.

GARY CLARK: That's the free-throw coach, since I got here as a freshman he's always coaching us on free throws. And I look past my mom and she had this look on her face like, you better calm down. So I was able to chill and just do my routine and just try and forget about the other ones I had already missed before then and just have a short memory.

Q. Kyle, the three-pointer that you made, a lot of fans, media even, didn't know you probably when you went up to shoot that shot and thought, what's he doing shooting that? But what's your mentality in that situation when you know you can make that shot, right? You made them all year.
KYLE WASHINGTON: I just was trying to be confident. Just trying to stay confident at always times.

MICK CRONIN: Gym time. Tell him.

KYLE WASHINGTON: And the reps that I try to get up. I take these games very seriously, I don't take it for granted, like I said yesterday. And being on a team like this, having a coach like this, you just want to show that you care about just as much as he does or you care about it just as much as Gary does. So I try to show it by the work that I put in and the enthusiasm that I have.

But in terms of stepping up and shooting that shot, just confidence and just believing in myself at all times. That's what you have to do, everyone has to do that.

Q. For the players, what does it mean, this is the first conference tournament title, first conference tournament title for UC in 14 years. You've won the league regular season title, you're going to the NCAA Tournament, but what does it mean to finally for this program to persevere and win this tournament?
KYLE WASHINGTON: I'll take it. Gary's giving me the eye. It means a lot because Gary and I have had a lot of conversations just the two of us talking about how we have all the pieces, how we have the coach to help us, to guide us to this pinnacle, to this benchmark, and we want to definitely keep on going. We're appreciative of this but we want it keep on going. I think it's just a representation of how close we are together, because we created a great atmosphere of people always caring, people always being accountable, starting with us. So I was just happy that this team was able to experience that, because we do care and we and a lot of people say that in D-I basketball but not everybody shows it through action. So I'm happy that we were able to experience this.

GARY CLARK: Same thing.

Q. You had two straight games where first half you your opponent shot the ball really well, second half 18 percent yesterday, 20 percent today and 18 points. How do you do that? What goes into that?
MICK CRONIN: Well, you can have a lot of game plans as a coach, there's a lot of really good coaches out there and sometimes they -- and I refer to high school coaches because they're underrated because they coach whoever enrolls. The same guy doesn't win the state championship every year. And there's some guys in my business that are in the Hall of Fame and are in the NIT some years. It's players. You can talk about -- I can sit here and tell you about the culture and try to sell you on everything that we build at Cincinnati, and you got to have players. You can do all the talking you want, your kids got to want to win and they have got to be willing to do the things that go into winning that do not show up in a stat sheet, that people don't text message them about, that is not going to get them on SportsCenter, and it's called defensive communication, toughness, guarding the ball, helping each other, and we all practice the same stuff pretty much. And I've been doing this my 15th year as a head coach, I've been around enough to know that you're going to win when you, have you to have talent, but you've also got to have guys that are willing to do the uncomfortable things that go into winning.

So in the second half I told the guys at halftime, I mean, I could ask Houston to stop making shots or maybe we could stop letting Corey Davis shoot. Same thing as the day before. And it's very, very hard to stop good teams. The better team you play, the harder it is to be an elite defensive team against them. But I think it's a good trait to get better defensively as games go on. I would much rather play great second half defense than first half.

Now obviously sure we made some adjustments, but I think what would I tell you is, more so our kids, I'm giving them the credit because as a team, as the game goes on, our guys try to start to lock in on what a team is doing against us, okay? And teams do different things because of the way we play defense and our guys, as our guys start to lock into that, they play better. We have less breakdowns and we're more -- and we're more maybe committed to getting the job done. But I would think it's cerebral. Because we do play defense a certain way that everybody else doesn't play it. But these guys have adjusted as the game goes on. You saw it the last -- but they have done it most of the year.

Q. Seems like you were really trying to keep Gray out of the lane.
MICK CRONIN: Yeah, you could say that, but what I would really tell you is, we believe scorers need layups and free throws, okay. Shooters just need clean looks. So as the game went on we eliminated their shooters; they didn't make a three in the second half. But when they drove the ball, our guys showed great discipline to stay on their feet and not go for shot fake after shot fake after shot fake. Because they got good players. They're second in our league in offense. They average a lot of points. What did they get on Wichita State yesterday? 70-something. 80-something their first game here. Today they get 55.

Q. We don't know who you're playing yet or where, you've gone out West I think three of the last four years, do you think --
MICK CRONIN: I just want a won a hundred bucks. I knew you were going to ask me that.


Q. The fact that you're probably going to be a No. 2 seed.
MICK CRONIN: I'm glad you know that. Let's hope you're right.

Q. Does that earn you a closer place to home or what do you think about that?
MICK CRONIN: You're asking the wrong guy. You're asking the wrong guy. I'm not, I'm not on the Selection Committee and I'm not nearly as smart as Jay bill list, Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg. So those guys get paid for all that, Joe Lunardi, what a job that guy's done, the career he's made for himself. I got a lot -- I came from a working class family, dad had four jobs, mom worked, I respect people that work their way up. So that's for Joe, Jay and all the boys. I have no idea. Jerry Palm's great. You're asking the wrong guy.

Right now I'm worried about my team, I'm hungry, try to make sure everybody's healthy and let's get home. I don't really have any comments on what I think's going to happen, what I want to happen and when it comes out I'm just going to worry about our opponent.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach, congratulations.

MICK CRONIN: Thanks, guys.

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