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March 20, 2019

Matt Painter

Hartford, Connecticut

MATT PAINTER: Like everybody else, we're obviously, you know, really excited to play. I think it's different for each team, your experience, how you kind of finish the season. For us, we were able to finish the season by winning our league, but also getting knocked out in the first round of our tournament by Minnesota in a close game. Anytime you lose a close game and no matter what the circumstances are, you're really eager to get back on the court and play. So I know our guys are really looking forward to play, but we know we have a tough opponent in Old Dominion, that's well coached. Very talented guys, good size, good skill. Very determined team. A team that's got in a lot of close games and won a lot of close games. So we know we're going to have our hands full, we're really looking forward to playing tomorrow.

Q. Matt, last year you make the Sweet 16. How is this year's team different from last year's squad and how can it make a deeper run than last year's team?
MATT PAINTER: Well, last year's team, we started off conference play 12-0, but we didn't win our league. This year we were probably picked six or seventh in our league and ended up being a co-champ with Michigan State. After losing four seniors and then being 6-5 this year at one point, our guys have really improved. We've really gotten better, but we had to define some rules. Had a lot guys coming off the bench last year that are now starting and doing great things.

We've been very consistent here the past couple months. But I definitely think the experiences for our guys the last couple years going to back-to-back Sweet 16s, even though those did not play as big roles, outside of Carsen Edwards, can help you. Any time you can get into a lot of tournament games, I think it definitely helps you in the next tournament.

Q. Matt, I know you kind of study on your own team but as a college basketball team. Can you address what Jeff Jones is going through with the cancer and the idea of doing that and getting a team to the NCAA Tournament.
MATT PAINTER: Obviously when something like that happens, it puts everything in perspective. It lets you know that basketball is really not that important. But obviously, you're still doing your job. So when you're battling and you're going through the daily regime that he has to go through to get healthy, the team and everybody around your team is your support system and helps you.

So, obviously, you see through the highlights what we were able to watch and just the emotion of it. I'm happy for him and happy for those guys. So any time you go through some adversity and then you're able to have some success, you know, it makes it all worthwhile. For me, he recruited me many moons ago when he was an assistant at Virginia, so, obviously, I watched him play when he was at Virginia. And then to be able to get recruited by him, and -- but, you know, at every stop he's been, Virginia, American, and Old Dominion, his teams have been very, very successful. Obviously he's just a couple wins away from .500, so you don't get to that point in your career without being a successful coach. For him, I think it's kind of twofold. He's a great guy and he's a great coach. I think his players would say the same thing.

Q. When you were recruiting Aaron Wheeler, what differentiated him from someone who could jump out of the gym, versus the Purdue guy that you previously alluded to?
MATT PAINTER: Well, the thing that jumped out, you know, for Aaron right away was the skill level. I thought he could make threes. So that's something I really tried to put an emphasis on for him. As then as you started to dig as a person, we thought he really fit at Purdue. He was a good guy. He was a good student. But we thought he could be a really good piece for us. His length, his athleticism and then his skill level.

And we knew from a physical standpoint it might take a little bit of time for him. He's right there wedged in between a couple spots as a small forward in kind of that face-up four. So, I think in time, as he keeps improving and he gets more of an opportunity -- there's times that he doesn't get much of an opportunity for us, and I stick with some older guys. But I think as his career goes on and progress is -- you know, his improvement will definitely jump up with more minutes and more opportunity, but he's been a really good fit for us.

Q. When you talked to the media on Sunday, you said you didn't know much about Old Dominion. What have you learned since then? Particularly, what do their big men bring to what they do?
MATT PAINTER: I think they're a very tough, determined team. I think they're a very good defensive team. Obviously Caver and Stith are good scorers. Caver is a lead guard that can take you off the dribble, create his own shot. Stith can drive down threes, knock down the ball, post the ball just a very -- player. To go around with Green. Green really played well here. He only averages ten points, but he has a game every four games where he stepped up and gives that punch.

But their size around the rim, whether it's Robinson, the guy that starts for him -- really three centers are all guys that help them with their length and their athleticism, their ability to block shots. I think that probably jumps out more than anything. I think it's going to be important for us to keep them off the glass, but I think that starts with containing the perimeter players that I talked about. If those guys are beating you off the dribble and making plays and getting to the rim, now you don't have great rebound balance.

Now, those guys get dumpdowns, they get dunks, they get offensive rebounds, and now Old Dominion is getting a bit of everything. When that happens to go along with their great defense, that's how they beat teams. The thing that really jumps out for me as a whole for Old Dominion is their ability to win close games. A lot of times they split close games they seem to win one out of three or three out of four when those games are close.

Q. Matt, a few questions ago, a question about Aaron Wheeler, he came out of Brewster Academy, the New England Prep League. What is it about that league that is a cut above the most other high school leagues across the country and why does it submit so many D-1 players?
MATT PAINTER: Obviously, it continues to grow because kids want to be prepared to play in college and they're looking for every advantage they can get, so they can play immediately in college. Some people look at it as being able to get through college quicker, you know? Some other people look at it as, hey, I want to play immediately in college, so they want to put themselves in the best situation.

To be able to go to that league or play in that league at a school like a Brewster definitely helps them. They get elite coaching, but it's also elite competition. A lot of times in the summer -- you play elite competition in the summer, but the preparation is not the same. Because not all AAU teams, you are going to be able to put in time because the guys are scattered all over in terms of practice.

Here you're going year round. These guys are preparing, these guys are great coaches, but the competition is at that level, too. Any time you have great competition and great coaching, guys improve and help themselves.

Q. Coach, looking at Old Dominion especially on defense seems like they try to pack the line and force outside shots. Is that something you try to tell your team not to settle for outside shots? That's the game plan there.
MATT PAINTER: I try to get good rhythm shots more than anything. I think to try to have like a general answer going against somebody that has had success like them, each one of our guys is different. Obviously if you're talking to Carsen Edwards, Ryan Cline, obviously those guys are going to be different than maybe a couple other of our perimeter guys. Just trying to get things in rhythm.

More than anything, no matter who we play is trying to have a balance, just not living and dying on your perimeter, shooting all of the time. You got to be able to get the basketball to the rim in some capacity. Whether those are drives or post-ups, offensive rebounds or getting into transition a little bit more. I think it's important for us to be able to sprinkle our threes in instead of dominating with our threes.

Now, if the game kind of evolves and we're making a lot of shots, I think that can change some things. But going into it with the mindset of doing a little bit more than the other, but we really just try to let the game evolve. And if that's happening, we try to be able to run some things to get the ball at the rim more.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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