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March 13, 2018

Mike Davis

Donte Clark

Trayvon Reed

Damontrae Jefferson

Dayton, Ohio

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by student-athletes from Texas Southern, Damontrae Jefferson, Donte Clark and Trayvon Reed, as well as coach Mike Davis. Questions for the players?

Q. How did you guys feel when you found out you were playing in the First Four? What was the excitement level in the locker room?
DONTE CLARK: I think everybody was just excited to be in the tournament. I don't think it mattered who we played. But it was rumors that we was going to play LIU Brooklyn which was my old coach from UMass was LIU Brooklyn. I was hoping we were going to play them, but I'm sure everyone was just excited to be in the tournament.

DAMONTRAE JEFFERSON: When I found out we was going back to the tournament, it was kind of like a relief after everything we've been through this season, overcoming all that adversity. So I was very excited, very proud and very happy for my team and for the school to be going back there for the university.

TRAYVON REED: I would say it was a big relief knowing that we was going to the tournament. That's what we talked about at the beginning of the season. And I said my team was just excited. Everybody was excited. Coaches was excited.

Q. Just talk a little bit about some of the adversity you guys have faced this year and what you've done to get to this point and making yourself into the NCAA Tournament?
TRAYVON REED: It's been plenty of adversity. Starting the season out 0-13, everybody, I don't think nobody expected us to be here. So it was good that we've been able to overcome adversity and just stay together as a team.

DAMONTRAE JEFFERSON: I'd say a lot of adversity came on and off the court, just like with everybody coming in new to the team, finding roles, finding who our scorer was and suspensions early on during the season. And we didn't really have our team this full season or we didn't have our team really until the conference tournament back full.

So just those suspensions and getting everybody attitude and learning everybody's roles.

DONTE CLARK: Yeah, I'd say that to piggyback off what Trayvon said, I think the adversity came in the beginning of the season when we started off 0-13. We was kind of upset that we wasn't winning games because we were in the game. We just couldn't pull it off at the end.

But we stuck it out throughout the season and we got better as a team when we needed to get better to win the SWAC championship to get here.

Q. Talking about 0-13, was there a specific turning point in the season you can point to why you guys turned it around?
DONTE CLARK: I don't know if it was a specific point but I think within these last six or seven games we all became better as far as like scoring wise, so that's what we're good at, scoring, so we all got in the groove and just ended up sticking it out at the end.

DAMONTRAE JEFFERSON: After the 0-13 we knew we needed a new game plan, which is where we looked to see why teams was competing with us that we felt shouldn't be competing with us or why we lost games we felt we shouldn't have lost. We looked to see that we were going away from a lot of our scorers.

So late in the season we just tried to outscore teams and get stops later on and have Trayvon shut down the middle. So now I think, like, throughout the conference tournament and the last two games before the conference tournament, we might have been averaging 90 points-plus.

TRAYVON REED: Our turnaround point was when our teams started sharing the ball, we started playing together as a team. And like Damontrae said, like he always tell me just go after everything, shut down the middle. And really just made me go hard, the team made me go hard. And I'd say that was our turning point. That's when our turning point was.

Q. Damontrae, coming from last year and this year finishing in the conference tournament as the MVP, what have you learned coming into the tournament this year?
DAMONTRAE JEFFERSON: It's just getting started. Like when it happened, I got very excited but I snapped back into reality, because I came here last year still excited, still happy to be here and just came in here ready, just trying to get the experience instead of worrying about the task at hand, we came here we took a bad loss to North Carolina.

So just come here this year to remain focused at the task at hand, realize that it is a good feeling, it is an accomplishment to be here but it is a task at hand.

Q. What was some of the advice you gave to your other teammates about this big NCAA thing we have going on here?
DAMONTRAE JEFFERSON: I just told them it's no pressure, don't come in here try to do anything we haven't been doing. Come in here and let's play our game, let's score the ball, let's get stops. Trayvon, shut down the middle. Donte, score the ball throughout the game. Bruce, make shots. And I think we should be able to compete with anybody in this tournament.

Q. Donte, coming into the SWAC this year, you're playing in the NCAA Tournament, how do you feel coming in this year?
DONTE CLARK: I feel good that the goal was accomplished, because leaving UMass and coming here, the focus was to make the tournament and win the SWAC championship. It definitely feels good. I'm just excited to be here. When I'm excited good things usually happen.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, an opening statement.

COACH DAVIS: We're excited to be here, first year, great opportunity for our program. Great opportunity for our fans to enjoy our program being in the NCAA Tournament.


Q. After being here last year, what kind of advice did you give to your team on how to handle this moment?
COACH DAVIS: Well, we started from day one talking about being here and what a great opportunity it would be to play in Dayton. I love playing in Dayton. I wanted to play a game last year to give an opportunity to at least try to win a game. The matchups are always equal here in Dayton.

And unfortunately last year we had to play North Carolina in the first round. But we're excited about it and our guys are excited about it. And it's a game that we feel like we have to go out and play really, really well to win.

Q. Of course everybody knows, Coach Davis, this isn't your first time being at this tournament. What did you share with your team coming into the season?
COACH DAVIS: We just talked about being the best basketball team we can be on March 7th. That's when our conference tournament starts. If you're the best basketball team on March 7th, then you'll give yourself an opportunity to get into the NCAA Tournament.

You want to be good in November and December, January is very important. But most important thing is being that really good basketball team in March.

Q. What were your main takeaways from the tournament last year and how did you apply it throughout the season? What were your main takeaways from the tournament last year and how did you apply them for this season?
COACH DAVIS: Last year we played North Carolina who was number one in the country in offensive rebounds and we was really bad at blocking out. So we knew it was going to be tough for us in that game.

This year we just talked about sharing the basketball, playing at a nine or 10 which is as high as you can play with attitude, chemistry, effort. We just talked about being at that level and right now over the last seven games we've averaged 91 points a game over the last seven games. So offensively we're playing really well at this point.

Q. You spoke about this game being the HBCU championship. How do you feel about coming into this tournament playing North Carolina Central?
COACH DAVIS: I feel great. I know their coach well. Coach Moton. I'm not sure how long he's been there. He's a really good basketball coach. Watched his film. Really, really good coach. They run a great system, and it's going to be a very difficult thing for us just because of the system that he runs, and we only had a couple of days to prepare for the game.

That's always tricky in the NCAA Tournament when you have a couple of days to get ready for a team. And now we have to prepare for them and I've counted 18 plays, different plays that they run. And of course we can't cover 18 plays in a day or so, two-day period.

But great opportunity for us. Great opportunity for them. One team will definitely advance to the next round and it will be good for both programs.

Q. Your players talked about the rocky start you guys had. Obviously you guys have built momentum throughout the season. What's the key to continuing that momentum through March?
COACH DAVIS: Our schedule was designed for us to get to this point. People talk about us being 0-13. And there's not one team that we played in non-conference that we was favored to win. We go to Gonzaga and Washington State, Clemson, Ohio State. And always talked to our guys about training their brain.

People talk about muscle memory. But muscle memory, I don't think it really exists. It's about training your brain because your muscles do what your brain tells you to do. And I wanted my guys to be tough. I wanted my guys to be able to handle adversity and it's easy to train your brain when everything is going well.

And I designed the schedule not for us to feel good but for us to get better. And so when we was 0-5, 0-6 that's when the phone calls start coming, text messages about keep your head up, stay focused, stay positive. Well, my head was never down because realistically if we beat a Kansas or Ohio State or Syracuse or Clemson, wow, the whole country is talking about that. And that tells you how not good they are as a program.

So the 0-13 never bothered me at all and I kind of chuckled and laughed when people said, you guys struggled. No, we didn't struggle. If we would have won, the teams we would have beaten would be struggling. So my math is like 18 games in conference, we go 16-2 in conference and we go 0-13 and that's 16-15.

But the problem we had, we had injuries that really prevented us from playing well in conference where we was 16-2 or 17-1. And then we had a couple of suspensions that prevented us from having that great record in conference.

And so we've only had our basketball team, a full basketball team the last seven games. And the last seven games we're 7-0, we're averaging 91 points a game, led our conference in scoring. And we're playing the basketball that we should have been playing from day one in conference.

And so if you win one or two non-conference games, then your record is 18-and whatever it may be, and then you win the three games, now you're at 21 wins. And it worked for us every year. The last three years I haven't played a home game in non-conference the last three years.

And so it's all about training your brain. It's all about understanding that no matter what people are saying, you have to focus on what's important and what's important for us has been the best basketball team that we could be March 7th.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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