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April 4, 2019

Shaka Smart

New York, New York

Texas 81, Lipscomb 66

COACH SHAKA SMART: It's great to see them so happy. Our team has gone through a lot of twists and turns this year, and those guys were extremely disappointed with the way that we ended the regular season. So to see those guys so happy and excited and connected with each other, really throughout this whole tournament, it says a lot about them and a lot about their character.

Lipscomb is a really, really good team. We played them last year, and we knew how dangerous they were coming into this game. They did a great job battling back and fighting in the second half, but I thought Courtney Ramey was probably the biggest difference in this game, even though he didn't score a lot, but he did a phenomenal job on Garrison Mathews, who is one of the best scorers in the country. You know, to hold him without a field goal for the first three quarters of the game was huge, and that was Courtney being locked in on the game plan.

And then our seniors stepped up and played like you want seniors to play down the stretch. Those guys had their ups and downs this year, and again, it's great to see them finish the season, finish their careers on such a high note, win the Championship, winning their last five games.

I told the team afterwards, that's not something to take for granted because it's not too often you get to win your last game.

Q. Were you able to use the game against Lipscomb last year; were you able to hold Garrison down for a lot of the game, as well?
COACH SHAKA SMART: We use the tape as coaches. It's such a quick turnaround, we didn't use a lot of it with our guys. We were selective with what we showed them. We knew he's a guy that's constantly moving off the ball and so we wanted to Tay attached to them.

It's the first time all year we ever guarded a player and said you have absolutely no helper responsibilities. We just said, "Courtney, stay attached to him. You don't have to help your teammates any time you can drive or a post-up."

And they scored on the post on us early a lot, but we just felt like if we could keep them from making threes and keep him from getting going, we'd have a great chance to win the game.

Q. Just does winning the NIT mean and what does it do for the program?
COACH SHAKA SMART: Well, first of all, it's great to win a Championship, any time you get in any type of tournament. There's 32 really good teams in the NIT to start this tournament.' So to be the last team standing, and to be able to win a Championship is big.

But to be honest with you, the meaning of winning here tonight is something that's going to be determined over the next several months by our team. There has been teams that have come and won the NIT and they have been able to use that as an unbelievable spring board into a more successful season next year and an NCAA Tournament tournament run. There's been teams that haven't.

So we've got to make sure that we are one of those teams that -- I told Matt and Courtney when they came off the court, I said, "You guys have experience here in this tournament, what goes into winning, what goes into winning a championship. Now it's something that we need to bring to bare consistently in order to win more championships."

Q. Piggyback a little bit on that, the development here on your young players during this run, kind of elaborate on how they have grown?
COACH SHAKA SMART: Yeah, I think our young guys, freshmen and sophomores, have really made a lot of progress. Gerald Liddell, specifically, he played more minutes in the NIT than he played the whole rest of the year, and the problem he had when he first got to campus was he couldn't breathe on the court. So it was hard for him to play; he's always tired.

He's gotten in better shape over time, and he's still a ways from a from being the player we think he will be, but he came in tonight and gave us a big contribution. All of our young guys stepped forward. And those two young guards, Matt and Courtney, I'm biased, but I believe those guys can become elite college basketball guards.

They have got a long way to go. They have to get even more connected and help each other, be the best players they can be, but I believe in those guys.

Q. Talk about the last two games, you came out with a sense of urgency, especially the perimeter --
COACH SHAKA SMART: Yeah, we just wanted to defend them with great attention to detail and effort. It's amazing what happens when you try really, really, really hard, because there's got to be a why. There's always got to be a why.

I thought the great thing about coming up here is our guys' why was each other. They wanted to play for each other. They wanted to win together. And to me, that's the most powerful why for any team. You know, it can be elusive because there's so many other things that get in the way sometimes in guys' minds, but it's pretty simple and it's pretty awesome when you get to that point. And that's why our guys defended so hard these last couple games.

Q. What did you think about the experimental rules? Do you think it helped? Hurt? Do you like them?
COACH SHAKA SMART: I like the rules. I was pointing out to the officials, the foul count at one point, but I like experimenting with rules. I think it gives a little bit more flow of the game when the team fouls start over halfway through the half.

I like the fact that there's no one-on-one, because us, sometimes that's been an adventure.

I think the wider lane and the deeper three-point wide provides better spacing for the offense, but then again, you have to make the shots, too. We started the game, we missed I don't know how many threes that we had taken, but it was nice in the second half to see some of those go down.

Q. You and Kerwin shared a moment when he came out in the fourth, can you describe what was said?
COACH SHAKA SMART: It's been -- you know, we've been through a lot together. We came in about the same time. We didn't recruit snoop but I remember my first week on the job, going to his house and sitting down with him and about 15 family members and just starting to get to know him.

You know, he's always wanted to come to Texas. He's a kid that feels really, really strongly about the University of Texas. He's had some phenomenal moments. I don't think he thought he would be in college this fall. None of them really do. But it's been four years where he's done a lot of good things and if you look at the all-time books and steals and points and assists, he's up there. He's in there.

You know, part of that is because he's hung in there and he's played four years. You know, helped his team in a lot of ways. But my biggest hope for him is that he can use this experience, these last five games, to continue to grow and continue to understand that the connection between his inner character as a person and the strides that he makes as a basketball player, because he's obviously really talented and I think he's got a bright future.

Thank you, guys.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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