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March 14, 2023

Chris Jans

Tolu Smith

D.J. Jeffries

Dashawn Davis

Shakeel Moore

Dayton, Ohio, USA

UD Arena

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Media Conference

Pitt 60, Mississippi State 59.

CHRIS JANS: Yeah, there was no doubt in our minds that we would fight and scratch and claw, and we did. I think it was 58-52 if I'm not mistaken, and we end up taking the lead, and they took it right back, and obviously we had a couple chances there at the end to win the game, but it didn't happen.

Q. Talk about what you saw on that last play, what your initial reads were and when you found Shak in the corner?

DASHAWN DAVIS: Really I just seen Shak was open so I just passed him the ball. It was really simple.

Q. Tolu, as Coach had mentioned, everyone talked about your fight all season. You go down six late. What did this group show one more time making that 7-0 run and put yourself right back in the spot, where after that three, it looked like it would have been dagger?

TOLU SMITH: Yeah, I'm proud of this team, very proud of this team. We fought, scratched and clawed. We've been through a lot of situations like this, and yeah, I'm just so proud of the team, and happy to be a part of this season with these guys.

Q. When you talk about being in this situation, you know this feeling, how important is it to lift each other up and especially lift Shak up after that shot?

TOLU SMITH: Yeah, it's a big thing for us. Team and loving each other is something that we bank on. Shak's shot wasn't the reason why we lost. It was other things that contributed to the loss. And we had a great look at the end of the game, and just sometimes the cards don't fall in your favor. But I'm so proud of this group. Like I said, I'm so proud of everybody. I'm proud of the coaching staff, and yeah.

Q. Shak and D.J., you both talked throughout the whole season how badly you wanted to get back to March Madness. I know it stings right now, but you had that opportunity. What did it mean to grind through everything, the highs and lows of the season and have the opportunity to come here and experience this?

D.J. JEFFRIES: Like Tolu said, we've been through a lot of adversity, and I couldn't be more proud of these guys. We've built a brotherhood that's forever going to be a brotherhood. Tonight we came up short. It's not the result that we wanted, but I'm proud of us.

We've been through a lot of ups and downs, but we stayed together, we kept fighting. That's something that was instilled with us early, just stay together and keep fighting, and that's what we did, but we came up short.

Q. Coach Jans talks about being a good aspect of playing in the First Four was getting this stage to play on where everybody is watching you tonight. What do you have to say to people looking at Mississippi State recruits just about the culture and kind of how cool was it to have this stage all to yourself tonight?

D.J. JEFFRIES: It just shows that Coach knows what he's doing. He's been here multiple times. He told me from the beginning that he said just trust him. We trusted him, went out there and fought for him each and every day. We sacrificed a lot during the season, so we know what he's doing. You've just got to believe in him, and if you want to go to the NCAA Tournament, come to the Bulldogs.

Q. Tolu, your thoughts on the culture the eyes out there watching Mississippi State basketball?

TOLU SMITH: Yeah, I'm a big advocate for Coach Jans. Before the season we had a meeting, we sat down, we talked and I loved everything I was hearing, and I think all our goals aligned. We made it happen, and everything that he said was going to happen happened. He has a blueprint, he knows what he's doing. Like D.J. said, just got to trust and believe in him, and the culture is changing. It's changing at Mississippi State in a good way.

Q. Shak, for guys like you coming back next season, how much do you think this experience can help and build what you guys want to do next season.

SHAKEEL MOORE: Just shows us what to expect for next year. Keep believing, keep fighting, keep trusting in Coach and he'll get us where we want to be. Just got to stay together.

Q. Chris, what does it mean to you to hear the praise that your players had for the job you did this season and the belief you were able to instill in them when you came in?

CHRIS JANS: I mean, what are they going to say? I'm standing right here. I don't think they have much of a choice but to spin it in a positive way.

You know, I told them when we made the tournament in our locker room, congratulations, how proud I was of them. The last thing I told them before we took the floor is congratulations, you're in March Madness. You're where every college basketball player yearns to be, and you've got a wonderful stage to show everybody what you stand for, both for the front of your jersey and for your back.

Certainly we're extremely disappointed with the outcome, but those kids, when you out-rebound someone 49-28, usually you'd expect to win. But you've got to give Pitt a lot of credit. They played obviously well enough to win. We just struggled in the first half to guard them. We just couldn't contain it. They were 8 for 13 from three, and it was still a one-point game, and we had eight turnovers and they had two.

Then in the second half, I think we got up maybe two or three was the most we ever got up. And same for them, I think, for quite a while until with three minutes left, it was six. And then our guys went on a run and put themselves in position to win the game, and it was back and forth.

I'll always remember this group, for their belief, for their buy-in, for their coachability. I've told them that many times throughout the year. I reiterated it in the locker room just now because it'll be my first group at Mississippi State.

We're proud of our accomplishments this year. Certainly we want more. We want to be playing on Friday. But it's not meant to be.

Q. I know you talked about it's not about building up a program, it's about building a program for that year. When you reflect on that and where you are now, how proud are you of your ability and this team to have done that and gotten to this point?

CHRIS JANS: That's what I told them. Maybe a few people outside of our locker room really believed that we had a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. And I said, there's probably people in this locker room that questioned it when we started talking about that when we arrived. So yeah, I mean, first year, that was the goal that we set, and we reached it this year. We'll see when we get into next year how it'll go.

But it's a credit to these guys. It really is. Coaches are going to coach and work and plead and try to get the most out of them, but if there's no buy-in, there's no belief, then it's not going to happen. Some of it was blind faith. I didn't have deep-seated relationships with any of these guys when they chose to come back. And then we added pieces to the puzzle, and we end up having a good year and something they'll be proud of the rest of their lives.

Q. A couple questions about that last shot. Were there other options you were looking at on that play there? And to follow up on that, what's your message to a guy like Shak? It was a shot he was hoping to make, but what do you say to a guy like that in that situation?

CHRIS JANS: Yeah, there were multiple looks on that play. I think maybe we have run it one time all year long, and there were a couple lob options early. And then obviously like Ram said, he found Shak in the deep drift, and there was no one around him for 10, 15 feet. It was a heck of a look. Fortunately we got it off quick enough where we had at least one tap at it. I don't think the second one was probably in time, but at that point it's all you can ask for, a chance -- the ball is in the air, to win an NCAA Tournament game and still have enough time to get a put-back.

It was a heck of a shot by Burton there to give them the lead, and it was really obviously a great game for the fans, and it was a great environment. Certainly appreciate all the folks in the Dayton community for coming out and supporting. I know it's a basketball-crazy community and they showed up tonight, and we're appreciative of that.

Q. I know Tolu said Shak's shot wasn't the reason you lost, but when that shot comes out of your hand and doesn't go through the net, it's a lot harder to feel that way yourself. How are you also helping lift Shak up and the rest of the team?

CHRIS JANS: He was the first one into the locker room, and all I said was that was a heck of a look. He gets it. I don't think he's going to wear that very long. I think anyone would be disappointed. But we all understand how that works, and it was a heck of a look. I was glad that he had the look. I felt really good when he rose up, and I didn't have a good angle, so I didn't have to go through the process of understanding whether it was going to go in or not, but he'll be fine.

Q. You've obviously been focused on this game, but with the portal already being open, how quick is your staff going to have to turn around and start preparing for next season?

CHRIS JANS: That's already begun. That never ends. Recruiting never ends if you're playing or not. We'll probably obviously have more time to focus on that as we go forward.

Q. Like you said, really big stage tonight, only game on, everybody is watching. What was it like to put Mississippi State basketball on the map, this being the second tournament appearance in over a decade?

CHRIS JANS: Yeah, I don't necessarily believe that we put them on the map, but we reintroduced ourselves to college basketball, and hopefully -- certainly we've been a team that has struggled shooting the basketball all year long. It was well documented. I'm sure people that don't know us very well didn't believe it the way we started the game. That was awesome, an awesome way to start.

But it feels good. It feels good. I'm happy for our fan base. I know they wanted more. I certainly wanted more. Our players wanted more. But we'll have perspective here real soon, and I think we'll all be proud of the accomplishments that this team had and the season that we had, and hopefully it'll help us going forward.

Q. You mentioned the buy-in from this team, whether it be the belief off the court or the play on the court. How important are guys like Shak and Cam moving forward now and keeping that foundation, kind of building that culture that you want moving forward at Mississippi State?

CHRIS JANS: Yeah, it's more fun in your second year because you've got guys that get it, that understand what they've went through, what lies ahead. So to be able to have players coming back, to be able to talk to the recruits when they're on campus. And then when our team eventually arrives to be able to lead them, just get them to understand from a player's perspective the expectations that we have on a daily basis and how we do things in practice, in the weight room, in the classroom, and the community.

Your first year is always tough because everybody is new regardless if they've played there or not, and hopefully we'll have a bunch of guys back heading into next season.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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