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March 7, 2007

Tom Crean

Dan Fitzgerald

Dominic James

Wesley Matthews


Q. With Jerel being out, somebody needed to step up and it was you tonight, 20 points, can you speak about your performance?
DAN FITZGERALD: We knew when he was out that everybody had to step up. We got nine guys that are playing and I think everybody, everybody is stepping up and doing a little more than what we normally do, and we have to win.

Q. You struggled in the first half shooting, you only had four points the first half and didn't pick up your next point until way late in the second half; how did you feel out there tonight and how can you build from tonight, poor shooting towards the regular season, how do you build for the rest of the tournament?
DOMINIC JAMES: Yeah, it was a struggle tonight, you know, shooting and things like that. But throughout the game, I was just trying to find a way to impact the game and impact my team winning.
You know, just getting guys on the open shots, getting to the lane, a lot of defenses collapsed on me and trying to get open shots and guys like Wesley and Dan and Cubillan, Mike stepped up big for us tonight and hit a couple of threes. That's the kind of thing I have to do to impact the game different ways and it doesn't have to be scoring all the time. It's getting guys involved in playing good defense.

Q. Did you get concerned when the score was tied?
DOMINIC JAMES: We just wanted to focus on our defense. They was getting a lot of easy baskets and they was getting to the free throw line, too, so they was stealing momentum away from us. That's the thing we looked forward to. In the huddle, that's one thing we were emphasizing was getting stops and letting the offense come. We were trying to run plays with a lot of continuity, everybody touches it and make everyone work on defense and on offense, that's the kind of things we were looking forward to doing.

Q. What about tomorrow's opponent, how did you do against them this season; how did you do so well?
DAN FITZGERALD: Well, just like we did tonight, just playing as a team. We're nine-deep and when we move the ball, and rebound and defend, and we rebounded real well today, that was the goal to make sure we out-rebounded them. That was a big key for us. So when we are defending and getting key stops and limiting them to one shot and rebounding and running and start moving the ball, that's when we are the best.

Q. Towards the end of the game you got fouled and went to the free throw line for a couple big free throw attempts, nine of ten tonight from the free throw line, clutch shots when necessary; how do you feel when the game is on the line and you need to make your free throws, what's going through your head?
WESLEY MATTHEWS: You try to block everything out and you've been shooting free throws for such a long time and it's the easier shot, just you and the hoop and you've got to block everything out, block the time-out, block the score out, just step up and make the shot. And that's just what I try to do. I knew the team needed the shots and knew they were coming back and the time was running down so we just need to keep pushing that lead. It was just stepping up and doing what we've been doing forever and just making free throws.

Q. Were you surprised at those three-pointers -- your reaction on the bench?
DAN FITZGERALD: He did the game before, he hit a couple big threes, too. He's playing a little more three so he's on the perimeter more. Those are the kind of things we need from our bench, coming off the bench and making plays and either keeping the level of intensity or raising it, so he did a great job.
TOM CREAN: Well, we totally anticipated a great game with St. John's. Our respect for them is phenomenal. I think Norm Roberts is an outstanding coach. When you look at his record of what he's done in the past and now what he's doing at St. John's they are outstanding. They have got so many good young players.
Both teams had to play without just an absolute key heart and soul member of their team, and McNeal and then with Lamont Hamilton, but they did not miss a beat. They have good guards. Mason is a superstar in the making and Calhoun is, too. We knew it was going to be a very aggressive physical game.
Our keys going into the game, they are 12-2 when they out-rebound their opponents and we did not want to make it 13. For us to win the rebounding game was a huge step and it was our No. 1 key, and taking care of the ball on offense and moving the ball was another key. 14 assists and eight turnovers is good for us in that sense. We wanted to make sure that we got good shots, and for the most part, we did.
We knew it was going to be a great crowd. We knew they were going to be an excellent team, and I don't think the game disappointed anybody in the sense of how hard both teams played.

Q. You had mentioned rebounding. You guys had 15 offensive rebounds today; what do you have to say about the aggressiveness on the boards?
TOM CREAN: We had to. You can't win big games, you certainly cannot beat a St. John's team if you don't rebound the ball. So that was by far the No. 1 thing, because again, like we said, they are 12-2 when they out-rebound their opponents. He preaches rebounding, I'm sure, he obviously does because they are excellent at it. We had to be in that position, we have to gang rebound, we have to have our guards rebound, we have to have the bench rebound. We just cannot rely on one or two people to clean up the glass for us, we have to have a team that does it. For the most part we did a pretty good job of them blocking out. For them to get seven offensive boards because Calhoun alone was averaging four and a half the last five games. That was the key to the game that we were able to win that battle.

Q. Dominic James did not have a stellar game. You are also not playing McNeal because he's battling injury but you had a lot of intangibles stepping up in Hayward, Barro coming through. Talk about the intangibles and how important that. Is?
TOM CREAN: First off, your opinion on Dominic not having a good game is your opinion. My opinion is he played an outstanding floor game, shots looked like they were not going in, they just didn't go. But to have eight assists in this game and to play 37 minutes and five defensive boards and keep his team moving, great plays down the stretch, that's how I evaluate the game. He made everybody else better. We obviously miss Jerel, no question about that, he's one of our two leading scorers, he's an attack guy, steals, you name it, he gets it done. But our team is growing. Mike has answered the bell the last couple of games, and great line I heard this past fall from Scott Skiles when he was talking about another BIG EAST guy, Adrian Griffin at practice, he said, "A-play-on-demand league." And I think all sports are like that, college and pro obviously. And we have talked about that all year, whenever you go to the bench, those guys have got to be ready to contribute and tonight they were.
Burke playing the way they were, Cuby (David Cubillan), those really helped us. We have a short bench right now so there are certain things we have to do a little differently but we have to have great presence with guys like Lazar and Ousmane and then with our bench.

Q. There's been some skepticism in New York if the St. John's program is moving forward; do you clearly think with the young talent they have they are?
TOM CREAN: Oh, my God, absolutely, there's no question that they are. I think if you ran a poll, not only in the BIG EAST, but around other coaches, Norm Roberts has got tremendous respect out there, he really does. They do so many good things. They really -- their zone offense, we knew early on we could not give them a steady diet of zone tonight because they do so many things against the zone, their man offense, their ability to drive, his abilities as a coach to come out of time outs and get what he wants -- he's a great coach. I don't know their staff as well but they are really developing, I'm sure they are good as well. Mason a year ago was a real prospect because of his youth and length. Now he's as legit as they come. You're going to say the same thing about Calhoun in a year. Lawrence has gotten better under him. Obviously Hamilton and Hill are doing excellent things before the injuries and I'm probably forgetting somebody. Patterson guards, Larry Wright comes in and makes plays. He's made Larry Wright a ton better than what he was in high school because we had a chance to see him a little bit. I think their program is in great shape.

Q. There's almost no rest, another game tomorrow, what do you have to do against a tough opponent tomorrow?
TOM CREAN: Well, you know, I think it's good for both teams that we just played. It makes the preparation and the retention of that preparation that much easier because we just went through it.
So what we'll do is really focus on our rest. I'm glad we're playing late at night. I think it's -- I love it, the Garden, there's nothing like it. And for these guys to be in this Thursday night game is fantastic.
We know they are good and they have been great games every one of them, the four we have played with them. We have a lot of respect for what they do, how hard they play defensively, their execution offensively. They have got, certainly, in Aaron Gray, one of the most legitimate post-up players in all of America. There again, they are far from a one-man team. They go nine-deep and know exactly what they are doing. But that's what's so great about this league.

Q. (On Jerel McNeal's injury)?
TOM CREAN: It's still on a day-to-day. If you went and asked him, he would be planning to play tomorrow night. We are evaluating that every day.

Q. Why have you guys had more success than most teams in the BIG EAST against Pitt, do you think?
TOM CREAN: I don't know. They have been great games all the way across the board. I mean, every game has been outstanding, and come down to the wire.
You know, we've just been fortunate I guess at the end of the games, but we have a lot of respect for them, and it's hard to play somebody three times, but our guys are more excited about being in the Thursday night game than anything. And to know Pittsburgh is going to be there, we know we've done something good, because Pittsburgh is an outstanding team.

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