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March 16, 2018

Chris Mack

J.P. Macura

Trevon Bluiett

Nashville, Tennessee

Xavier - 102, Texas Southern - 83

THE MODERATOR: The Musketeers are right here with us. J.P. Macura, Trevon Bluiett represent the student body. Head coach Chris Mack is ready to give a statement on the game and we'll go to questions for all three gentlemen on the dais. Chris, please.

CHRIS MACK: Any time you can advance in the NCAA tournament, you consider yourself tournament. The game was one of the choppiest ones I thought we played all year.

Texas Southern's kids never quit. We had a couple issues with fouls, specifically with our point guards. Sort of hampered us and made us a little bit nervous in terms of like how we were going to finish the game. So we played way more zone than we were used to, than we wanted to.

And then, you know, you compound that with Naji Marshall going out with his back, we had a thin deck, and so fortunately, the scorer's table corrected the error. We knew that was Quentin's fourth. It wasn't aesthetically pleasing by any means, but we will play on Sunday.

Q. Chris, Tre and J.P. looked like the Tre and J.P. of last March. How good was it to see them get in a rhythm early in this game?
CHRIS MACK: It was great. They're seniors. They've been in this moment before. We've talked a lot about experience mattering. I thought those guys did a really good job of getting us off to a great start. Something I've grown accustomed to, having coached them for four years.

Q. Coach, I think you just said this was one of the choppiest games that you've played over the entire season. I guess maybe some big picture positive takeaways that you can take away from your first game at the tournament here.
CHRIS MACK: Well, you go into a game and it's the first time in the history of our program that we're a 1 seed and everybody asks us about the pressure, the pressure.

I try to be really honest and say I didn't feel -- you can ask these guys. I didn't feel any different. But when you get asked that question a thousand times over a 48-hour period, maybe you're supposed to. I was just glad that we came out with great energy. They made a heck of a run and our guys responded.

I wish that at the end of the first half we'd have closed a little bit better, because I have a feeling the second half may have played out differently.

A year ago, we played a tough first half against Maryland, rebounded in the second half and I thought we really got going from there on out. Hopefully, we learn from this game. Some of the mistakes we made, we correct. Some of the guys that maybe didn't play as well play better with another opportunity on Sunday.

Q. You guys had talked about your desire to put two full halves together. Aside from that -- the run that they had in the first half, do you feel like you did that tonight?
CHRIS MACK: Again, I give Texas Southern credit. They made the game really choppy. Going over to the monitor and trying to get the foul situated, it just became, you know, one of the longest games I feel like I've ever been a part of. I looked up and there were twelve and a half minutes left to go in the game.

But I give our guys credit of being able to stay with it. We played a defense that I think we've probably played maybe three minutes in the last 15 games or so because of foul trouble.

It wasn't perfect, by any means, but we did the job well enough to advance on Sunday.

I thought offensively, played pretty well. Could have made a few better decisions. But we're going to have to play better, and we recognize that, on Sunday against either Florida State or Missouri.

Q. Since Chris kind of addressed this for J.P. and Tre, how do you view this as a tune-up for a game against a so-called power five -- a team from a so-called power five conference? What are your big takeaways from tonight?
J.P. MACURA: I would just say taking care of the ball. I feel like we came out and we were loose with the ball and that affected them in transition.

I feel like if we can start to take care of the ball better, it will help us.

TREVON BLUIETT: Yeah, I mean exactly what J.P. said. I think us just taking care of the ball, focusing on the little things. I think that's something that can be tuned up. But I think that's something we needed to work on a little bit this game.

Q. J.P. and Trevon, talk about the fan support. Your fans were there all game. Talk about the fan support, how that carried you on to the victory.
TREVON BLUIETT: Having the fans there is good for us. Shows the atmosphere kind of favored us in that game. We kind of looked at it, I mean, as a home game, I suppose. But I mean, it's always good when you have a lot of fans that travel, come and support you. Makes you feel more comfortable when you're on the court, rather than feeling like you're playing at a neutral site.

CHRIS MACK: Hopefully a lot more show up on Sunday from Xavier Nation.

J.P. MACURA: I would just say it felt amazing that they all came out to support us. They've been supporting us all year and hopefully they continue to.

Q. Chris, this is kind of the second year in a row you've had a major role player in the form of a graduate transfer. I'm talking about Kerem. He obviously had an incredibly efficient night tonight. How rewarding is that to see these guys come into the program and -- you know, Malcolm played a big role in last year's surge in March. Kerem has obviously put a mark on tonight's game. How rewarding is it to see these guys come into the program and do the things they've done?
CHRIS MACK: Extremely rewarding. Obviously, I love watching guys like J.P. and Tre develop throughout their four years, become better men and better players and leaders.

When you get a guy like Kerem, it's a very short recruitment. Might be three, four weeks long. And you sell a lot and I didn't feel like we sold anything that wasn't true. We talked about our NCAA tournament tradition. We talked about trying to challenge for a Big East title.

And to see it come to fruition, for a guy like Kerem who, quite honestly, no disrespect to where he came from, but they hadn't had much success in the NCAA tournament in the postseason.

That's what he signed up for, and to see him have that opportunity on this stage is very, very gratifying.

Q. Coach, you had talked about how you thought the defense improved, I guess, toward the end of the season. I know in this game, you sort of had to change what you did a little bit because of foul trouble.
Overall, what do you think that you did particularly well defensively or particularly not well?

CHRIS MACK: We have to do a better job no matter if we play man or zone, of not fouling, especially more on offense. I know we're going to offensive rebound, I get that. But we put them at the foul line maybe two or three times when it was our ball, and they didn't have to earn the possession.

We've got to be a little bit smarter with that. Right, Jack? Defensively, though, for them to shoot 40 percent, they have a lot of very talented one-on-one players. Demontrae Jefferson, as I said before we played the game, is a blur.

I thought we did a pretty good job. We blocked several of his shots around the basket. We had a lot of those guys in foul trouble. Again, he's a special player and they've got some good one-on-one players.

Q. Chris, probably too early, but do you have an idea of, with Naji, is it something to be concerned about for Sunday?
CHRIS MACK: I'm concerned, but I'm also hopeful. Outside of that, I haven't really gotten a definitive answer from Dave Fluker. He probably won't know. He felt like his back locked up. It's muscular. He dealt with it in the early part of the year. Hopefully, he can get it loose over the next couple days and be ready to go on Sunday.

Q. J.P., do you see any similarities between yourself and Demontrae? Both have a lot of passion.
J.P. MACURA: A little bit. I would just say we're both competitive.

Q. Chris, just kind of one of those nights where you'll be running on adrenaline. You'll have guys here watching Missouri and Florida State. Is this kind of that time of year for the staff where you guys are just running on fumes, getting ready for the next game?
CHRIS MACK: I wouldn't say fumes. We're excited. It's our job to make sure the guys have all the ammunition and all the intelligence that we can give them over the next 48 hours. We're going to play a really good team, and it's our job as a coaching staff, no matter how many hours we stay up, to get them as well prepared as we can. That's what we're aiming to do.

Q. J.P., you talk a lot on the court, sometimes you're smiling and chatting, other times you're more intense. In tonight's game, what are things that you talk about with the other players, or what do you say to them?
J.P. MACURA: Honestly, I kind of forgot. Maybe I said "nice move", "nice pass" or something like that.

CHRIS MACK: Hopefully he says "nice move" a little less.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. See you Sunday.

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