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March 22, 2019

Matt Painter

Hartford, Connecticut

Q. I'm just curious, any similarities you see between either the program you have or the program you want to have and what you see in Villanova from a culture standpoint?
MATT PAINTER: Well, obviously, they've done a very good job of finding their guys and developing those guys with, you know, the four guys that we faced a couple years ago that are now in the NBA, and Paschall and Booth were in the game that we played also. So you can see kind of the evolution of their program from one year to the next, and then how it kind of continues. And they've had some guys leave early, but they've also had older guys. They've had a very good balance.

That's what you have to be able do is have consistency in recruiting and not have those empty classes, especially in their case where guys will leave after they have developed in a short amount of time. That's so key. That's how you keep winning. That's how you keep winning Big East Championships and National Championships is by advancing. Not by having a couple of good guys, but by having a handful of really good players that buy into a system.

So their discipline and their toughness and obviously their decision-making and their skill isn't just like a one-year deal or a one-player deal, it's a vision. It's a group of guys buying into it and sticking together and playing hard.

Q. You guys got a lot of components to your team, but you've got such a volume shooter and scorer in Carsen that I'm sure team do a lot of different things to try to limit him.
He can obviously get off and change a game for you all. What have teams tried? And you look at the man-to-man switching defense, how do you expect them to attack Carsen?

MATT PAINTER: I think they're going to make it difficult. They always try to take guys away whether they're switching ball screens or trapping ball screens or switching other action away from the basketball. They're going to get you out of rhythm. The one thing with Villanova, no matter who you have on your team, they're still going to do the same things they do.

They might change a little bit, but for the most part they're going to be very physical. They're going to play very hard. They're going make you beat them in a different way than you're used to. I think that's probably more important for our team to understand is when they take something away, you know, you can't stand. You have to keep moving. You have to go to that second, third option, and you can't panic.

I think once they get you kind of shooting into a crowd or shooting a little further out than you're used to, they have you where they definitely want you. You still have to be able to get the basketball in the paint. It's no different than what they're trying to do on the offensive end. If you let Villanova live in the paint, they're going to beat you. You have to do something and you have to be steady enough on the defensive end to keep them out of there.

Q. Just your thoughts on what Jay Wright has been able to achieve at Villanova in his time there. Obviously he couldn't get over the hump for a while, but two times in the last three years he got it done.
MATT PAINTER: I think people that don't win the National Championship, I think they do get over the hump. It is pretty difficult. You can't just call one team a successful team and the rest of us are failures. I think there's a lot of great coaches out there that don't make the NCAA Tournament some years. It's very difficult. It's very competitive. It's a hard thing to do.

He obviously did a great job at his previous stop and obviously earned the right to get the opportunity at Villanova, and he's been here a long time. That's a hard thing to do is stay some place for a long time. You have to have consistency. You have to have discipline, and you have to continue to learn from your own mistakes. Just from reading articles from him, five, six, seven years ago, they might have got a more talented guy or higher-ranked guy, but it wasn't a Villanova guy.

Here they've done a much better job the past five, six years getting his type of guy and the fitting into their culture and it led to a lot of wins and a lot of championships.

Q. Just to extend further on that, how hard is that to do in this sport with a current culture to get four-year players like Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart, those types of guys?
MATT PAINTER: Not all of those guys were four-year players even though they stayed three years. I think you put them in that mold. I think the hardest thing to do for him is knowing when they're going to leave. If you have a one-and-done guy who is the number one-ranked guy in the country, and everyone knows he's going to leave, you prepare for that. And when it's obvious, the people you're recruiting understand that and you don't have to argue that fact.

But when you have guys that wait in the balance and after their second year, they might be an end of the first round or second round guy or middle to the second round, they really don't know if they're going to go or not. With that most people that you top 100 type players, you sign them in the fall before you get to that point. That's a very tough balance to be able to do. You always have to prepare that people are going leave. When they don't leave, these freshman, they don't want to come in and sit. They want to come in and they want to play right away and they want that opportunity.

I think he has a great situation because now he's won at such a high level, been very consistent. He can show the substance. He can show what coming and maybe playing a role for a year and then developing into one of his stars in year two and three has paid off for those guys that have been successful at Villanova and also been successful professionally.

Q. Matt, can you provide an injury update on Nojel and whether he's a game-time decision and whether he's cleared?
MATT PAINTER: I think he'll be all right. We're going to go and practice a little bit here, not much. I think he'll be okay. I think it was good for him to get into the second half and be able to play a couple minutes for us. Everything looks like it's going to be a go.

Q. Coach, I was wondering if you got any chance to see Murray State yesterday or how much you might have seen of Ja Morant, and just as a basketball guy what your take is on him?
MATT PAINTER: I just watched him a little bit. I watched a little bit of the game yesterday, obviously not live. But he plays in a league that I used to coach in 20 years ago. So there's always been talented players in the Ohio Valley Conference. We played Belmont this year and were fortunate to beat them. They're a really good team, well coached. But the guy at Murray State, Matt does a good job. It's hard sometimes when you get a guy of that magnitude, but it's also kind of easy when they're passers. Ja Morant passes the basketball. He keeps everybody happy, and when you have the guys that can score 30 points in a game but also can get guys open shots, and they have a couple guys that can make shots and they got a couple good interior guys, and you have that balance at that level, that's pretty special. Because you have a big point, but you have size and you have shooters and now that's what high major teams look like. High major teams look like that kind of a balance because you're able to get out and guess those guys.

But I think Ja Morant is a pretty special player. When you can affect the game in different ways -- it's hard to get into a tournament and really scheme for those guys. You overdo some things, and those guys are making threes, they're going to be a tough out.

Q. Coach, how cool do you think this week has been for Aaron Wheeler being a Connecticut kid and what are you expecting for him tomorrow?
MATT PAINTER: Well, he did some good things for us yesterday. He got in foul trouble. He had four fouls. I should have played him more our the last game of the tournament. He did some good things for us. They had a good front line, big front line in Minnesota, but he offset some things with his ability to stretch the defense. That's what we really need from him. We need him to stretch the defense and get out in transition and make some plays. Last night he had a really good play in transition where he got fouled and scored the basket. So we feel Aaron is going to be a really good player. Obviously last year he redshirted. This year he played about 10 to 15 minutes a game and keeps working hard on his progression where he will play more for us in the future.

Things work in various ways. To be able to be from Connecticut and then come to a school in the state of Indiana and play in your first NCAA Tournament back in your home state, that's pretty cool, a little surreal.

Q. Matt, what do you think about the versatility of Eric Paschall for Villanova?
MATT PAINTER: He's a tough cover. I just got done watching him versus us three years ago. He had like 14 points in 8 minutes. But we had a different group. He played like the undersized five for them in that tape. And obviously we've watched him a lot through clips and things this year. So not too many guys can say they can play the two, three, four, and five and guard those positions. He's one of the few guys. I think he's got a bright future just because of those interchangeable pieces. He can shoot it. He can drive it. He's powerful. He's explosive. I think he'll play in the NBA for a long time.

But you have to be there with him and get him of rhythm and then you have to be able keep him in front of you and I don't think there's a lot of people that can do that. That's going to be a challenge for our team, just to try to keep him out of rhythm, keep him away from the rim as much as possible. Just not let him get going. When great players get go egg they're tough to stop.

Q. When you're in the recruiting process and you were looking for a guard and I know there's some local-ish guys who were you looking at Zavier Simpson and the guy that went to Illinois whose name escapes me.
Anyway, what made you say no we're going to go with this kid from Texas who really likes to fire it up. We're going live and die with him. What about him made you say let's give him this scholarship?

MATT PAINTER: Actually the scenario was different. We had a guy commit to us in the fall that decommitted to us in the spring. So then we had to start our recruiting at that time. So trying to now get back involved with Zavier Simpson, start recruiting the kid that went to Illinois, that has transferred from Illinois since, and then pick up Carsen's recruitment along with about four, five other guys, it's something I don't like to do.

Everybody says these four or five guys that are left are good enough to play in the Big Ten, but that doesn't mean they're the right fit for Purdue. I want the guys that fit at Purdue and are productive. Now, if there's five, six guys out there you can get involved with, how many of those guys fit your criteria and how many of those guys can you get that do fit your criteria? That's a sticky part of recruiting.

When we jumped in with him, just his ability to make shots is what jumped out to me. You know, I just think when you have somebody that can shoot that way and put that kind of points on the board, you just got to be able to figure it out. So we took him kind of as a point combo, but just a quality player, and we're very fortunate. We're very fortunate to be able to get him especially the circumstances I explained.

Q. Coach, I asked Carsen and Ryan this question as well. Two different questions. First one about the growth of your team from 6-5 to now 18-4 your last 22. What has been your biggest areas of growth in your team in the great 22-game stretch you've played?
MATT PAINTER: What did they say? Because they're the ones that play. They said it was all coaching?

THE MODERATOR: They said it was coaching.

MATT PAINTER: They said it was coaching?

Q. Yes.
MATT PAINTER: No question. They are trying to get more minutes, and they play 34 minutes a game.

I think it was our ability to defend and just ultimately play harder. You know, the thing I talked about after the Notre Dame game was, we all try to find our ways through our scoring. And one of the best things to be able to do as you grow as a player is to get over yourself, and it's really hard to do. As a coach, you got to get over yourself. Bill Walsh calls it the disease of me. You win games and you think it's you, but in reality, it's just a small part. If you win games at Purdue and you coach at Purdue, do you have a hand in the success? Yes, you have a hand in the success, but a very, very small part. It's still a player's game.

But as a player, if you have that attitude this a team game and we're in it, if you score 30 points and you understand a lot of people helped you score those 30 points, it makes it work. If you score 30 points and you think you're the one that did it all, it just doesn't work that way. But when you're trying to find your way in a game and you play 6 to 10 minutes a game or 10 to 20 minutes a game and take your value from the three shots you get, then you're missing the big picture. If you take three good shots and miss them, there's nothing wrong with that. If you take three bad shots and go one for three, there's something wrong with all three of those bad shots even though one went in.

You have to take your value, effort, attitude and ability to be productive. Guarding your man, not turning the ball over, executing. Those are the things that lead to winning. So I really just try to get each guy to understand that. And also kind of like when you're losing close games -- we lost to Florida State, Texas, Virginia Tech. They were all possession games. Two of them were on the road, one was neutral. We're not that far away. Yet if everybody can be just one possession better, we're going put ourselves in a lot better position going forward.

That's just kind of the message that I try to get across to each guy. And I thought each guy in their own little ways sacrificed and did those things. I thought the guys coming off our bench really helped. It really helped understanding that their ten minutes was important. Instead of thinking I played ten minutes and this stinks, I don't get to play more. If you play hard and you're a freshman your time is going to come.

Q. St. Mary's deployed two big men occasionally last night against Villanova. Is that something you saw that you think you can work with Haarms and Williams. You used it a few times this year.
MATT PAINTER: I think we could possibly do that. But whoever is playing well, whoever is defending and doing a good job, I think is who we'll stay with. I think that's going be an important piece to this game. You know, what guys do we have who start and what guys do we have coming off the bench that could match up well with them, that they have some -- they're very versatile guys so it's a tough match-up for us. If we can do that and still take care of the basketball. I don't see why there's any problem of us playing two bigs but a lot of times we just stick with our rotation with the guys that we have.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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