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March 17, 2023

Kevin Willard

Don Carey

Patrick Emilien

Birmingham, Alabama, USA

Legacy Arena

Maryland Terrapins

Media Conference

THE MODERATOR: We have Maryland players Don Carey and Patrick Emilien.

Q. For both of you, playing the Number 1 team in the country right now, Brandon Miller one of the best players in college basketball, but zero points. Do you look into the zero points, the injury potentially, or do you expect full strength out of him?

DON CAREY: You want to expect the best from that team, so probably expect them to be at full health and full throttle going into this game. But they have other good players as well. So really just sticking to the game plan we have and focusing on our strategy as well.

Q. Your defense has really been your calling card all season long. Going up against Alabama tomorrow, are there any big changes you guys are going to implement, or is it kind of more of the same defensively?

PATRICK EMILIEN: Not necessarily any big changes. Just really focus on transition and preventing the three. They have a lot of good three-point shooters, so just putting an emphasis on that.

Q. Don, what did you think of Alabama's game yesterday? What were your impressions of the game?

DON CAREY: They're a deep team. They play fast. They shoot a lot of threes. Athletic, well coached. They just have that pace. They've been playing at that pace all year long really.

But they make a lot of threes, and they're good at that.

Q. Pat, can you talk about your opportunity playing in the NCAA Tournament and then kind of the process these past 24 hours of shifting gears from the high of that win and then immediately preparing for the Number 1 overall seed in the tournament?

PATRICK EMILIEN: Yeah, I've been trying to get here my whole college career, so I've been enjoying every step of it so far.

Yeah, it is. It's a quick turnaround, just like the Big Ten Tournament. So we're just getting used to being very excited and then locked in a couple minutes after on our next game.

Q. Patrick, defensively Alabama has caused a lot of teams issues this year with their length, and with the short turnaround you guys have viewing them, what are some things you'll have to watch out for tomorrow defensively?

PATRICK EMILIEN: Yeah, like you said, they have a ton of length one through five. So just being aware of that and knowing they're going to have that extra step, and they're all three-point shooters, too.

So really just emphasizing that they're going to be more athletic likely, and they can shoot the ball. So we're just going to have to be gritty and stop them.

Q. Alabama (sic) is -- I think they're an 8.5 point favorite, almost four-to-one to win the game. Do you guys use that as motivation or does that anger you?

DON CAREY: No. They're the Number 1 team in the country, and I didn't even know the spread already. I think we just play our best brand of basketball, and we have a chance to beat anybody in the country. It's more about us than our opponent really.

Q. Patrick, what are your thoughts about going up against Charles Bediako?

PATRICK EMILIEN: Another Canadian fellow, so I'm looking forward to that. He's a really talented guy, big player, a lot of length. So I'm looking forward to competing against him.

Q. For Don, you mentioned playing your best brand of basketball. What is Maryland's best brand of basketball?

DON CAREY: We like to play at a high tempo, cause deflections, cause havoc on defense as well. We're a physical team and just play together really.

When we share the ball and the ball is popping, everybody makes shots, and that's kind of hard for the other team to guard.

Q. Don, for you, we talked about Brandon's game yesterday -- I don't know how much film you've gotten to watch, but obviously some. What has stood out to you about Brandon Miller's game?

DON CAREY: He can score on all three levels really. He's a confident player. His team gets it in the right spots, where he wants it at. He doesn't really force the issue. He lets it come to him.

Like I said earlier, him having a lot of other good players on his team kind of helps him as well because they can always branch off and create for themselves as well.

Q. Do you take anything away from the first game, or is it a whole new slate? How do you guys look at it?

PATRICK EMILIEN: Yeah, it's a whole new slate. West Virginia was a heck of a team, but once that game ended, we kind of cleared that out. So for right now it's just the next game mentality.

Q. Guys, obviously playing Alabama in Birmingham, it's no secret the crowd is probably going to be in favor of Alabama. What do you guys do to prepare for the crowd noise for tomorrow, and how is that going to factor into the game?

DON CAREY: I think we're all aware of that. The biggest step is for us to be mentally aware, mentally prepared for that. We had a lot of road games this year, with soldout crowds against us.

It's nothing we're not used to. We look at it as another road game really. We've got a lot of mentally tough guys, so I believe in these guys to get the job done.

Q. Don, obviously you've been shooting the ball really well recently. Alabama is the top three perimeter defense in the country. Has that been a conversation these past 24 hours, and what's the focus there going in?

DON CAREY: At times my three-point shooting is really just a credit to my teammates finding me in different rotations and things like that. Obviously my confidence is high because I've been consistently shooting at a high clip.

In terms of Alabama's defense, I think we've just got to play Maryland basketball, penetrate and kick, get in the gaps and make them rotate, and everything else will open up for us.

Q. This question is for both of you. Pretty unique situation here. This state is split down the middle as far as fans go. What is your message to Auburn fans?

DON CAREY: I've been hearing that Auburn fans are going to be in the building kind of rooting for us, but if they're rooting for us, we appreciate that. If not, we look at it like a road game. It's just about the guys that's on the bench, managers, the whole staff.

As long as we come together, I think that's enough alone, but we'll appreciate Auburn if they root for us as well.

PATRICK EMILIEN: Yeah, if anybody wants to come support Maryland basketball, we're here for it. We could use all the help we can get.

Q. Two years ago I think Donta and Hakim were on the team that lost to Alabama with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. Have they mentioned anything about getting Alabama back for that one? I think Jahvon Quinerly is really the only player Alabama has that was on there, too.

PATRICK EMILIEN: Those are two guys that bring it regardless of the situation. They don't really need extra motivation for games. They both come locked in every game. I'm sure, like they've treated every game, it's win or die. So they're going to bring the same mentality that they always do.

THE MODERATOR: At this time, we've got Coach Kevin Willard, and we're going to go straight to questions.

Q. You kind of joked yesterday after the game about some of the road struggles that you guys have had, and it wasn't so bad being down where you were. There's going to be a lot of Alabama fans here tomorrow. How do you kind of help your team avoid getting off to a slow start and get going and not letting the crowd take over?

KEVIN WILLARD: We just experienced it in the Big Ten Tournament, Indiana had 17,000 fans. We got off to a good start.

It's just something you've got to deal with. That's the bad thing about being the 8, 9 seed. That's why you don't want to be the 8, 9, because you're going to get a home game your second game.

I think we've played in enough venues. I don't think the crowd's the factor. If you look at Alabama's roster, I'm more worried about that than I am the crowd.

Q. Coach, you raved about practice on Wednesday. How was practice today? What was the main focus?

KEVIN WILLARD: Practice was okay today. Guys were in good spirits, good focus. It's tough to kind of go -- it was more of a mental day.

Just get these guys to understand 'Bama personnel, kind of what they're doing in their pick-and-rolls. We'll spend more time tonight on what they do defensively, but today was more or less put in the game plan. Really they're such a talented roster, trying to get these guys to understand personnel because I think personnel, more than anything with this team, is critical.

Q. 30 years ago you were around for a pretty big second round upset, your dad coaching. Wonder if there's anything he did, just in terms of mindset, general preparation, that maybe you learned from?

KEVIN WILLARD: No, he took his team to Magic Kingdom the day before. I remember because I was with him. It wasn't Magic Kingdom, it was -- the movie one. Universal, thank you. He took them to Universal and just kind of kept it relaxed.

Same thing with us. I think we're going to go to Top Golf later, kind of get them out of the hotel, maybe Cheesecake Factory, get out of hotel food.

Yeah, I think the most thing is every team is different. I think this team, my team, they're an older team. They kind of get it. They understand the challenge. I like that about them. They understand that Alabama's really good, they're very talented.

So we're really just letting them enjoy the experience but kind of get them focused for tomorrow.

Q. Kevin, you talk about personnel. As a coach who appreciates talented and good players, what's the scouting report on Brandon Miller?

KEVIN WILLARD: Oof. The funny thing about this roster is, I think this is the most talented roster I've seen in college basketball since the '93/'94 Kentucky team. I think Coach Pitino's '93 -- with Antoine Walker, Walter McCarthy. This team reminds me of that team with the length, athleticism, how unselfish they play, very similar point guards.

I love the way Jahvon Quinerly is playing right now. I'm happy for him. I've known him since he was in ninth grade.

The issue with Brandon is he has such good range. So it's not like you can just -- and he's so talented off the dribble. He uses his size. Everyone says he's Paul George, and that's a really good comparison because I think that's who he reminds me of.

You're not going to sit there and say, okay, we're going to pressure him and make him dribble. He can dribble. He makes plays, and he's unselfish.

We're going to try to switch up some guys on him, maybe put some taller guys on him. Again, you can't focus on him. He didn't score last night, and they scored 96 points. Like, I haven't seen that, and that's why, I think, this team reminds me of that '93/'94 team. They had guys that, if one guy didn't play well, they had two All-Americans coming off the bench.

So it's a talented roster, and I think what I'm really impressed with them -- I've watched their last four games now -- is how unselfish they are. They really pass the basketball. It's not a complicated offense, but it's a good offense because they're unselfish.

Q. You mentioned you're going to do a deeper dive on it tonight, but Alabama, third in the country on just defensive efficiency, third in perimeter defense. What do they do so well on that end that will present some trouble for you guys?

KEVIN WILLARD: It's because of how they play offensively is why they're good defensively. If you know Nate, they're trying to shoot threes and trying to get dunks. So I guess in practice you're trying to stop the three, and you're trying to stop dunks.

Because they're such a talented roster, they're going against each other. They're trying to shoot threes in practice. I'm sure they're trying to stop the threes in practice. They're trying to get dunks in practice, so I'm sure they're trying to stop dunks in practice. I think the way they play offensively dictates the way they play defensively.

So they're very aggressive. They switch out really well. They play a really good drop coverage on pick-and-roll where they're trying to get you take mid-range shots, which they don't want to take. They take very few mid-range shots, if any. I think the only one I've really seen take one is Miller and Jahvon Quinerly. No one else has taken a mid-range.

I think, because of the way they play offensively, it really helps them in the way they play defensively.

Q. On Brandon, Nate's kind of mentioned how he's dealing with a groin injury the last couple games. Have you noticed anything different about the way he's played or how they use him compared to before that?

KEVIN WILLARD: No, I mean, he's such a talented player. He's been through a lot. He's also a freshman that's gone through his first full college season. So I think, like I said, I don't think they really needed him last night. So it's pretty impressive when you score 96 and you don't need the second pick in the Draft.

No, I think he's big time. I think he just took a nice night off and well deserved.

Q. In terms of you guys, like how you played this year and how you'll play tomorrow, what version of that is how you expect to play next year, three years, five years from now?

KEVIN WILLARD: We press, but we really don't press. We will get much more aggressive as we get deeper. I want to get to the point where we have two or three presses, not just one press.

When you take over a job and you have 11 new guys that have never played, 7 guys that have played for three different guys, you've got to make sure you're really simple. You don't sit there and all of a sudden get them going, remembering what the last coach told them or the last coach from that.

So once we kind of get classes after classes after classes, we will probably play much more aggressive than we have played, especially at home. I mean, our home court advantage is probably as good as anywhere in the country. So when you get 17,900 going crazy, like it's the ultimate style to play when you have that kind of home court advantage.

So we will be much more aggressive as I go farther and farther down.

Q. You guys kind of leaned into a lot of national pundits picking West Virginia yesterday. Are you guys embracing the underdog role tomorrow, or is it just another game against a really talented team?

KEVIN WILLARD: I don't know if -- to be honest, I'd be shocked if our kids knew who everyone picked. They're watching Netflix. I don't know if they know -- I mean, like Pat's a well -- I've known Pat forever. He's one of the most national guys. They wouldn't know who Pat is. Don't take that the wrong way, Pat. It's just they're 18, 19, 20-year-old kids. I mean, I know who everybody is.

So, no, they understand the challenge at hand. That's what I've liked about this group. When we had Purdue on the road, Purdue at home, no one picked us. No one's picked us all year. These guys don't look at it that way. I don't think this generation looks at it that way from a standpoint of they're so inundated with Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, I don't think they know who like the national media's picking.

I don't think they're turning on -- I hate to say it. Sorry, everybody. They're not picking up Sports Illustrated. It's just not this generation. I do. Don't write anything bad about me. I still follow everybody, but this generation doesn't do it.

Q. Kind of just building off of that, there's been a lot of upsets in this South bracket. Do you use that as motivation for the players? Do you talk to them about that?

KEVIN WILLARD: No. You got to focus on trying to stop Alabama. You can't sit there and say, hey, that team beat that team. That's great.

No, like our focus is on Alabama. You can't focus on anything else besides trying to stop Alabama. That in itself is a challenge, so that's going to be our sole focus.

Q. One of the quirks about this being in Birmingham is you also have Auburn fans here tomorrow at the same session. Does that play into it at all?

KEVIN WILLARD: I would love for the Auburn game to be second. I'm hoping Auburn wins because then their fans will stick around. I'm afraid, if Auburn loses, then at 9:40 at night, knowing Auburn fans, they're probably going to the bar.

Q. Hard to follow up that. With the quick turnaround, how do you kind of balance preparing versus not preparing too much? Watching too many games or not enough? How do you balance that with the fast turnaround here?

KEVIN WILLARD: I think you just have to get a feel for your kids. We watched -- we did recovery last night. We talked to them a little bit about it. We watched film this morning. We just practiced.

Again, this generation does -- I think, because they're so well connected, they've played against guys in AAU. They do have a better feel for who guys are. This team has picked up scouting reports very well, and I think the fact that we really focus mostly on personnel when we do scouting. I don't do nearly as much plays or how we're going to stop plays. We have our defense, and we just play our defense.

It's a little bit easier this time of year because we are just hyperfocused on personnel.

Q. Do you have a message for the well-lubricated Auburn fans?

KEVIN WILLARD: Yeah, stick around. Should be a good game. And it's 9:40 at night. What else is there to do in Birmingham? It's like come watch a great game and chill out. I think the NCAA sells beer now. I'm not sure. Do they?

Yeah, it's a great place to be. It's going to be a good game. They've got a great game. Why not?

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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