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March 23, 2019

Tony Benford

Tremont Waters

Skylar Mays

Naz Reid

Jacksonville, Florida

LSU - 69, Maryland - 67

THE MODERATOR: Coach, you're heading to the Sweet 16.

TONY BENFORD: Yeah, I'll tell you what, I'm really proud of my guys. Really came out and executed our game plan. I thought Coach Bill Armstrong who had the scout did a great job. But these guys took the game plan to the floor. We knew it was going to be a paint game. We wanted to attack the paint and protect the paint and the I thought we did that in the first half. We did a good job pushing it in transition, Tre did and Sky. We played inside-outside, but second half got a little stagnant, I give credit to Mark, he made a good adjustment there but my guys, these guys made big plays. Great players make great plays and they made plays and that's why we're moving on.

Q. Tremont, just describe the last play. Was it designed to do exactly the way it happened?
TREMONT WATERS: Yeah, we wanted to pretty much hold the ball, take the last shot and not shoot the ball too quick so they wouldn't have a chance to clear on the other end and put up a shot. So Coach Benford and the coaching staff and actually my teammates said they wanted me to take the shot, so we just held the ball out, Naz came and set a screen and I made a play.

Q. Tremont, can you just describe the feeling of being able to do that in that moment, and where exactly were you on the dog pile near the bench afterwards, and just what that feels like? You don't see a whole lot of dog piles in basketball.
TREMONT WATERS: Yeah, well, I was in the bottom of the dog pile, and just the feeling, it feels amazing. To have a great support system behind me and my teammates, my coaching staff, and all the fans that were here, to give me the confidence to go out and make a play like that is a very humbling feeling, and I'm going to continue to do everything I can to help this team win and just keep pushing for my guys.

Q. Tony, what went into the choice of having Tre being the guy on that last possession there?
TONY BENFORD: Well, it was a play that we run. We've run it a few times during the year. We knew against man and zone, especially against that three-two, we had to do a great job of screening that top guy, the three-two, and we told Naz, whoever is up there if they're in the zone, just screen that guy and put a body on him, and Naz did a great job and Tre -- and great players make great plays, and he made a great play.

Q. Naz, can you talk about your battle today with Fernando and Stix and what your relationship is with those guys off the court?
NAZ REID: Fernando, he's huge. The game plan was really good. Try to get him off the glass. If I don't get the rebound, at least one of my teammates will, and I mean, he's one big guy. It was really, really hard. And Stix, he's a tremendous player. We've played together, played against each other since seventh grade, so I've known him for a while. He played a great battle today, and I give props to both of them.

Q. With everything this team has been through, can you talk a little bit about what this means for you personally and for the team to get to a Sweet 16 after all this?
TONY BENFORD: Well, it's huge for these guys. They're the ones that paid the price. They've been through a lot. We know the story of adversity these guys have gone through, losing obviously Wade at the beginning of the year. We started and then obviously with Coach not being here with us. I give it to these guys. They have taken ownership of this team. It's about these guys. These threes guys here and the rest of those guys, they trust each other and respect each other, they love each other, and when you have a team like that, you have a chance to win games, and that's why we're able to keep moving on.

Q. Coach Calipari was mentioning the reason why the SEC got so many teams in and was doing so well is because of the number of close games everybody seemed to be involved in. You guys had seven overtime games this year, you had this game. Is there any end of game situation or any second half situation at this point that you guys feel like you can't handle?
SKYLAR MAYS: No, I won't say so. We prepare for it. The coaches do a great job of putting us in adverse situations in practice with the six-minute games that we do and we'll start the six minutes down seven, and usually when it applies to the game we're not in that type of situation where it's not as bad so we feel like we're prepared for it and we can figure out a way to win, and we've been able to do that this year.

Q. Naz, all the highlights, when this tournament is over and they play the One Shining Moment, it's probably going to show the move Tremont made to the basket to win the game. May not necessarily remember that Skylar made two free throws and knocked down a three, and he is the guy I hear is sort of the calming guy on this team. Can you talk about the five points he scored, the two free throws plus the three ball that kind of set the tone for what happened at the end?
NAZ REID: I mean, Sky makes plays like that per usual, so for us, it was like something we've seen every day. He's very good at it, and just keeping calm is something he does -- he keeps the coaching staff calm, the players calm. He's a calm player who can get through adversity and do anything he can do at any moment by doing that.

Q. Coach Benford, the first half it seemed like you guys were totally in control offensively, all of your plays and sets were going through. In the second half they threw the zone at you. How difficult was that to keep your guys' composure and take good shots down the stretch?
TONY BENFORD: Well, I thought we did execute. These guys did a great job of -- like I said, Coach Bill Armstrong had the scout and he did a great job of preparing those guys with the scouting report and we wanted to attack the paint, like I said earlier, and we wanted to push them in transition. The problem with pushing in transition is that we had to get rebounds and those guys are pretty tough to keep off the glass. But we were able to do that, Tre was able to get a great push, and we were able to get some easy baskets in transition so we were able to extend the lead. But I give Mark -- he made a great adjustment. We knew they were going to run the three-two and we had worked on it, but when you don't have but a day to prepare, it's tough. You've got to make shots. At the end of the day, I don't care what zone, you got to make shots, but we made a couple adjustments and Skylar made some plays for us.

Q. Tony, when they called the tech on Mark and you get two foul shots, you go up 15 and I guess a team can go in two ways, but Maryland seemed to make that a turning point for them. Is it interesting how that can work?
TONY BENFORD: No, I've been doing this 28 years at this level. I've seen it work. They did a good job of -- again, he changed his defense because they couldn't guard us in man. My guys were really executing. But I thought when they made the change, we got stagnant, didn't make shots, and they made shots and did a good job. So I give Maryland credit.

Q. When they went to that zone, you had a pretty good stretch there where you guys were just settling for deep balls there and there were a couple of time-outs in that stretch. Are you trying to hammer home in that --
TONY BENFORD: Yeah, good question, because the thing I told our guys, even man or zone, because we knew we talked about it before the game, that they run -- I don't care if it's man or zone or three-two, we've still want to attack the paint. And I thought we got away from it. Our movement wasn't very good. We called a couple plays out of the time-out and scored, but then I thought sometimes we settled too much. But at the end of the day, you've got to make shots, and we made the big one at the end.

Q. I think you only had six in the second half, but overall you outscored them 26-13 off the bench. Talk about the advantage that your bench gave you today?
TONY BENFORD: Well, we have eight starters. I think we have the best eight players in the country when you watch us play. We have eight starters. All those guys have been in the starting lineup all year. They've all made plays and really contributed. Bring Emmitt Williams off the -- he can start for anybody in the country. Darius Days, he can start for anybody in the country, Javonte Smart -- so we got eight starters and all those guys can make plays.

I knew Darius would play well. He didn't play -- we didn't play him -- it was our fault we didn't play him as much. We should have played him more and I told him to be ready and being here in Florida, he did a great job here in front of his family.

Q. Can you just talk about the personalities on this team? Obviously two big closers you saw there down the stretch with Skylar before that and Tremont now?
TONY BENFORD: I tell you what, I think Skylar Mays is one of the most underrated players in the country. We know what he does in the classroom, 4.0 student, scholar-athlete, but anyway, he's a heck of a player, too. I think because he's so smart, people forget how good of a basketball player he is. But he made some huge plays, and to do that -- Wayde Sims was like a brother to him. Those guys grew up, and he's -- I know Wade is watching over us. But then Tremont is just a player. I mean, he's a guy that makes plays, and I don't know how he got through that shot with all those big guys in there, and he made it, but the basketball gods were watches over us today.

Q. 5 and 2 in overtime games and two of the victories were against tournament teams, one of the losses, you split with Florida, which is a tournament team, and FSU, who's a tournament team. What makes these kids tough at the end of the game?
TONY BENFORD: That's a great question. We went 5-1 in the league and we played six overtimes in the SEC, the best league in the country in my opinion. I think what it is, it's the closeness of this group. They're not afraid of the moment. We sit there in the huddle, we do a three-minute game, we weren't playing as well as we needed to, and Skylar just said, Coach, Coach, we're going to be okay, we're going to win this game.

And so I just think that these guys -- we got multiple guys that can make plays off the bounce, then you've got Naz that can score inside, so when you've got guys that can make plays and believe they can go make a play any time regardless of the situation, it makes the job easier as a coach and you have a chance to win close games.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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