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March 17, 2018
Villanova - 81, Alabama - 58
COACH WRIGHT: Really good game for us. We played well. A lot of credit to Alabama. That's a young team that is going to be really good. I would not like to see them in next year's tournament. Avery did a great job getting a bunch of young guys here. And in the first half, they're really tough defensively. They really extended on us and really couldn't get it going on the perimeter, couldn't get to the rim.
And then second half our defense picked up, got us out in transition. That kind of opened up the game, got us some open looks. We were much better obviously in transition than we were against their half court defense which were very good. We give them a lot of credit and we're very happy to beat a very good team.
Q. Donte, can you just kind of take us through the first half, Omari and Jalen are on the bench with two fouls. Did you feel you had to step up offensively there?
DONTE DIVINCENZO: Jalen got two fouls early just being aggressive defensively. That's what we want to do. I just came in and my job was to just defend and rewound. I felt like I was defending at a high rate. We were just running things and I found myself hot. We kept running and I was just trying to make the right play, whether it was a pass or a shot.
Q. At halftime, you were in the locker room, what was going through your mind? What were your teammates saying to you, what were the coaches saying to you, and what was your mindset coming out after halftime?
MIKAL BRIDGES: My teammates and coaches they pick me up and kept confidence in myself to go out there and just play, play like how I play, just play good old basketball. Just try to be everywhere.
They were just staying on me, you know, just attitude, just go out there. We know what we have to do. I mean, if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have played how I played.
Q. Donte, what's it like when you get in a situation like that in the first half where you sort of get it going a little bit and then you've got a license to keep letting it run through you a little bit. Is that a great feeling or you just --
DONTE DIVINCENZO: Just more responsibility to make the right play. I just know that when I got it going, a couple shots were going down, they were loading to me, they were trying to deny me the ball. I just tried to make the right play; shot or passes, I tried to make the right play.
Q. Mikal, after watching Donte hit all those threes in the first half, did you come out in the second half thinking I want to defend and rebound?
MIKAL BRIDGES: That's the whole thing was to defend. Coach was telling me to be aggressive and stay ready, play off your jump shot. My teammates found me open and I kept shooting.
Q. Seems like you guys have pretty much the green light to shoot from outside. Just what does it mean to have that, you know, that green light, especially when they are falling like they are today?
MIKAL BRIDGES: I mean, Coach has confidence in us, even if we miss, to go back and get a stop and defend. And that's the beauty of it. You know, we get -- sometimes get away with some out-of-control shots, but we know that, you know, we don't really care about offense. We care about defending and rebounding on the other end. So that's the main thing.
Q. Donte, this has probably been asked a thousand times but where did you get your nickname?
DONTE DIVINCENZO: I believe Gus Johnson, in one of my games from my freshman year, but I'm not a hundred percent sure.
DONTE DIVINCENZO: I have no idea. I assume because I'm Italian and have red hair. That's my guess.
Q. A lot was made about the way you guys made baskets, but the big part of the second half, I guess, for you was the defense. What was it about your defensive play in the second half that was better than in the first half?
DONTE DIVINCENZO: We were just all together. We knew that they weren't just Collin Sexton. They are an amazing team throughout the whole team, and we just had to make sure that we were all together. And one little breakdown, they exploited it right away. We had to make sure we were defending at a high rate.
Q. Mikal or Donte or both, in the first half you had 27 shots. They were making you all work really deep in the shot clock with your defense. Mikal, I think you took a shot with 12 seconds and then after that, the next seven were within 15 seconds of the shot clock. You went up 50-something. Was it important to push the pace of the game?
MIKAL BRIDGES: We was just playing -- the feel of the game. If we get a stop, we kick it up. We attack. But it wasn't just mainly go out there and just try to score real quick, but it all came from our defense. A lot of quick shots came from early shots, long rebounds, kick ahead, and find an open shooters. Our defense started that.
Q. This is not specifically about this game but for both players. What do you think of about what happened to Virginia against UMBC, and what does it say about this tournament and college basketball in general?
DONTE DIVINCENZO: That any team can beat any team. Virginia brought it last night, but UMBC brought it for a longer time. We had to make sure coming in today -- there was a lot of attention with that, we're a 1 seed so it was more attention for us. We just had to make sure we play Villanova basketball.
MIKAL BRIDGES: Every team in the tournament, no matter if you're 1 seed or 16 seed, they're really good teams. They want to be here for a reason. They won the tournaments. They won over 20-some games throughout the season. So they're really good teams. You got to bring it every night. You can be beaten. That's why we played Villanova basketball for 40 minutes against anybody. You could be a 16 seed, could be a number 1 seed. We play our way. We won't take anybody lightly.
Q. With that said, the first ten minutes, it's a close game, you guys are missing threes, foul trouble. A couple shot clock violations that your coach didn't look too happy about. How did you not let that get away and did you feel, given the second round, was there any sense of tenseness at all?
DONTE DIVINCENZO: I don't know. I just say it's 40 minutes for us. We know they were going to make a run and they were going to hit us early. So we just had to withstand that first initial hit, and then once we got comfortable out there with each other, we started defending at a higher rate, and I just think we wore down their men.
Q. Could you talk about what you want to do defensively against Sexton. He's the kind of guy that gets their offense going and you really limited what he typically does today.
MIKAL BRIDGES: We were just playing team defense and it's kind of hard just to worry about him because he's has a lot of good players surrounding him.
So we just played team defense together. It wasn't just one guy. I think Omari played really good job on ball screen, so did Dhamir, and it was team defense right there.
Q. What did you guys see other than trying to stop Collin Sexton? What was your game plan coming out that you wanted to establish?
DONTE DIVINCENZO: I mean you're not --- Collin Sexton is a player that you're not just going to stop. You got to make it difficult for him. Like Mikal and Coach said, they have a lot of good players around them. We had to make sure we were making it difficult for him and limiting the other guys' opportunities.
Q. Guys, a lot of talk was about the second-round thing. But one of Coach's highlights came from we being up in Boston in the regional final. Have you guys talked about that last time Villanova went up to Boston?
MIKAL BRIDGES: No. I didn't even know that. But we haven't -- we don't talk about it. It's really, you know, game by game, day by day. We never look ahead. We always -- whoever our next opponent is, that's who we look at, we locate and get locked in on. We don't even think about -- I think -- I didn't even know we played in Boston until like 20 minutes ago. We don't think about that stuff. We go out and play whoever we play and play away.
Q. Mikal, you had, I believe, 19 of Villanova's first 24 points in the second half. Did you feel the need to kind of get, you know, the ball going a little bit more in the second half after the first half you had?
MIKAL BRIDGES: I just had to play aggressive, play tougher, and my teammates, you know, they found me. It wasn't any of my shots were -- wasn't off, you know, taking it up full court and shooting it. I was moving out the ball. My teammates, you know, they just found me.
Q. Jay, could you go over your halftime speech and just talking to Mikal, and did you peel any paint off the wall?
COACH WRIGHT: No. Really. I actually thought we did a lot of good things in the first half I knew that we -- with Omari and Jalen in foul trouble, I thought we'd be in good shape because those guys were going to be fresh, and I thought our young guys, Da-Da and Collin, and obviously Donte off the bench really held us in there. Without those two -- those two are big parts of what we do. And Mikal didn't have a great first half. We just told Mikal, Don't worry about it -- don't worry about your shots, just do what we do. Just do the little things, and he did. And obviously he got hot. But he was doing a lot of good things defensively at that time. The defense got us going in the second half.
Q. Jay, I don't know if you noticed, but with today's win, you have 32 wins, and the first team in Division 1 history to have four 32-win seasons in a row. Can you talk about what that says about the consistency of this program? A lot of these guys have been through three of them but just the consistency of this run.
COACH WRIGHT: Thank you, I count on you guys for those stats, John. Thank you. That's good to know. I'll pretend like I did.
It's the consistency of very good players over four years that stayed in the program and each class, you know, got better and better. So, you said it was four years? That -- I don't know exactly which group that was, but I guarantee you, there was some really good seniors, and then the guys -- the next year we had seniors that are really good. Just guys continuing to get better and having very good players. You don't do that without very good players. That have passed down their knowledge to the classes behind them.
Hoops it in the house. It's official.
Q. Two questions, pal. When did your kids learn about the UMBC upset, and secondly, the 17 threes today?
COACH WRIGHT: It's funny. We do a thing the night before the game. We have a little snack, we watch film, and they eat all kinds of healthy food and we hang together. I actually went up to bed early, because the night before I stayed up watching film because we had a 1:00 practice. And I said to the guys -- first time I ever did it -- I said, I'm going to bed, I'm tired, man.
So, I don't know when -- I don't know, when I went to bed, I watched it, then I couldn't go to sleep because I had to watch the end of it. Then in the morning, when we came down for breakfast, everybody was talking about it. That's the first time I know they talked about it.
And 17 threes, some nights, we're going to have them; some nights we're going to have to sleep in the streets and we're going to have to do it with our defensive rebounding. I think this team is good with defensive rebounding.
Q. When you started the game through Donte in the first half. He gave me the right answer his job is make plays. But he's got license there. He's the guy that understands what that means and did not have to have a conscience for a while. That's a heck of an attribute you've got on the team to be able to pluck him off the bench?
COACH WRIGHT: He is. He's obviously a sixth starter, but he bring whatever we need. If need a scoring punch, he brings it. If we need defense, he brings it. If we need a rebound -- last Thursday night, we didn't start with great energy. He brought it. It was all defense and assists Thursday night. And then he plays starter minutes, you know? It is very, very valuable. It's what makes our team -- you know, a lot of teams have a great starting five especially with teams that get this far. To have a sixth guy like that is invaluable and we appreciate it and evaluate it.
Q. And it's lack of conscience?
COACH WRIGHT: He's smart -- knows we have certain plays when a guy can go and they know it's for them. But just like he said, it doesn't mean you just shoot it. Because the other team knows you're making shots, too. You got to make the right decision, are they loading to you like they said? That was, you know, I didn't get to talk to him about it. But it was great to hear him say it and he did it. He threw a bounce pass to Omari Spellman who it was wide open. It was really intelligent on his part.
Q. Congratulations, Coach, on your win.
COACH WRIGHT: Thank you.
Q. What's your message to players when you're rolling like that, especially younger players to keep them focused on attention to detail and keep Alabama from getting back in the game?
COACH WRIGHT: Just keep playing one possession every time. When you hear those guys say 40 minutes of Villanova basketball, we say that because a lot of times you're down and it will take you 40 minutes to win it. When you're up, the only way to do it is do it every time you play. When they're saying that, one possession at a time, we've got to play the whole 40 minutes.
Q. The players talked about defend and rebound being the mindset. You talked yesterday about the affinity for the three-pointer. How does that translate? How do you get guys to translate from defending rebound to making the threes because people might see it the other way around?
COACH WRIGHT: I think Mikal explained it well that we have the freedom to shoot because we're not really worried if shots go in or not. Some nights they are going to; some nights they are not. But we can't control how well we play together defensively. How hard we play defensively. It's a challenge for this team because we've got a lot of young guys and we're getting better as the season goes on. What is exciting about this team, we're playing the best defense and rebounding the best we have now than we have all year. Sometimes you get that spot in January where you get a little stale. But this group, it's exciting with this group.
Q. Jay, do you get good vibes about going to Boston other than the fact that the entire school's going to drive up there?
COACH WRIGHT: I -- it's more about the game. My good vibes are coming from how this team's playing, how unselfishly they play. How Jalen Brunson will attempt to take a charge when he got a foul on him, when he got a second foul taking the charge. It was a good call, but he almost had it.
When you see your leaders doing those things, Mikal has a bad first half. He doesn't get into himself, he just comes out and concentrates on defense in the second half. Phil Booth, great leader, that gives me good vibes. Honestly, we don't care where we play. Boston is a great town, old Big East town like Pittsburgh. We stir up old Big East feelings. We like that.
Q. Jay, I think it was after the second shot clock violation, you seemed very animated. Any other words, foul trouble, a lot of threes. Do you get a sense there was a slow start or nerves, you weren't ready for it?
COACH WRIGHT: I think you and I talked about this yesterday. When you play a 1-16 game, it's not the same intensity as when you play an 8-1 game or 9-1 game. And the team you play against played in that kind of game, so, we talk about that.
We've learned that over the years that you are in that game, all of a sudden you get smacked in the mouth with physicality that that first game didn't have. And I thought that was part of it. I'm trying to just get our guys going. Come on, we got to wake up. This is what it's going to be. I thought it took us a little bit of time.
That's where we've got to give Alabama credit. They were physical and played great defensively. It's not that they slipped defensively, it's that we kind of picked it up. In the second half we got out on the open floor. That's how we got our threes. We did not get good threes against their half court defense. It was in transition.
Q. Mikal, you said gave credit to his teammates at halftime for keeping him focused and keeping him up. Do you have any concern after a half like that that Mikal will get down on himself and not go out as focused as you like?
COACH WRIGHT: I used to with Mikal last year because he's not -- he's a confident kid. He's a nice kid. He used to be too nice where okay, I'm not making shots. I'm not going to shoot anymore. I'll let everybody else do it. I will defend the rebound.
When I came into the locker room, Jalen was talking about it. And he said you've got to keep -- stay aggressive. It's a little thing with him. You got to let him know, don't -- we need you to stay aggressive, and he's right. When he gets going, they love him and they respect him. When he gets going, they respect him. The handoff Phil Booth gave him with the crazy three, they know if he gets it going, they're going to find him.
Q. Coach, I know I keep going on this, but we're stretching for stories this point of the year. Does this team remind you anything of the Final Four team that played in Boston with that Scottie Reynolds team?
COACH WRIGHT: No. This is a different team, man. This is a really different team. I don't know if you guys can see it, but there's a youthful exuberance with this team that is exciting me. You know, last few years we just had veteran, veteran. We had no seniors. We just had veterans, veterans, been through it every step along. They are business-like.
These guys get so excited, and like Mikal, they don't know '09. They barely know '16. It's fun. It's really a lot of fun, and I don't -- that '09 team was a veteran team. That was a veteran team, too. This is a unique squad. It really is. It's fun. That's why I think we're getting better every day, because they still have a lot of room to grow.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports