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March 12, 2008

Tom Crean

Lazar Hayward

Jerel McNeal


THE MODERATOR: Coach, opening comments.
COACH CREAN: I haven't had a chance to look at the stat sheet in depth yet, but we knew in this game we were going to get their best shot, which we felt we did. We were going to get a very hungry and spirited team, which we did.
I think he (Bobby Gonzalez) did an outstanding job of recovering from a tough game the other day with Rutgers to have his team absolutely ready to play. They had a great game plan. It took us a little bit to settle into it. But I'd say the last ten to eight minutes of the first half we started to figure out exactly what it was going to take to win the game. We got in the bonus early which helped us, and we knew we had to attack and get to the rim.
It was an incredible experience for our players to see just how challenging this month is. We're proud of the way that we played in the second half. I thought our guys showed incredible maturity. They continued to understand how aggressive the game was and we continued to be in attack mode. The number one key for us defensively was our ability to get back in transition, we settled in and got better at that. And the number one key overall for the entire game was our ability to rebound the ball, and we definitely did a fantastic job of that. We don't have a lot of size, so we have to have a lot of heart and fight to rebound the ball, and we did do that. And these two to my left did an outstanding job.
Everybody that came in brought us something, and we'll build on it and get ready to play Notre Dame team tomorrow night.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by Jerel McNeal and Lazar Hayward.

Q. Jerel continues to fill the stat sheet, how important is he for this team?
COACH CREAN: I think it goes without saying how important he is. It feels great to be sitting in here with him in his uniform and being able to play the game. Because last year with his injury he didn't get a chance to be in this tournament. But Jerel has done great things for this team from the first day he played the game at Marquette, and he will continue to. He's not only one of the best players in the conference, but I think he's one of the best players in the country, and I think it's because he plays both ends of the floor with an absolute vengeance, and I think that's what separates him.
And Lazar Hayward came tonight and in the second half they both played very similar in the way they were aggressive, attacking the rim, rebounding the ball, challenging, you know, Seton Hall defensively, and I'm proud of the way they played. Certainly not only them, their teammates did a great job with them as well.

Q. Jerel, can you talk about what it's like being here this year and maybe how motivated you are from being injured last year?
JEREL McNEAL: Yeah, it's a good feeling just being out here, being able to get out there on the court with my teammates and actually be playing this year. It was a tough time last year just going through the whole injury thing. You know, having to sit there and try to coach from the sidelines and motivate my team more, trying to help them win games. But it was a good feeling to be able to be out on the court with these guys and be able to make things happen and get after it and try to win a Big East Championship.

Q. You're so known for your defense, but it seems like more and more you've been able to supply offense. Can you talk about working on that and what you're trying to bring on that side.
JEREL McNEAL: I mean, with the type of team that we have, it's just offense where everybody shares the ball. You know, there are going to be the nights where you're going to be the guy that gets open shots and open looks, and you're going to be the guy that can make plays. Tonight was one of those nights. I was getting open looks. But all the credit goes to my teammates, because without these guys and the way Coach coaches us and teaches us to move the basketball and play unselfish and play together, none of us would be able to just come out and play one-on-one and have great nights.

Q. You had two very different games against Notre Dame. Can you talk about what you take from those two games?
COACH CREAN: I think both teams have a familiarity with each other. They'll have an understanding of us, and we'll have an understanding of them. They've just continued to improve as the year's gone on; we think we have as well. We understand that the first game we played was their first true road game that they had played, and they certainly recovered from that and played outstanding during the season.
In the game down there it was a great turning point for us. It was one of those defining periods for us to leave the game with. Even though we didn't win the game, we never had a situation inside the game where we didn't feel we could win. Even down double figures, we felt like we could come back and play. We just fell a little bit short. It was a one-possession game at the end.
So we feel like we have an understanding, like I said. We're excited about the match-up, but at the same time we understand how good they are.

Q. How difficult is it to go into a game like this, and kind of grind it out, to Notre Dame, even though it's a fight or you're out of it?
COACH CREAN: I think again, you can't win this time of year -- if we allow them to come out and score 80, 85 points, we're not going to win. It can't be that type of game. At the same time, we're not going to back off from playing either. We want to get up and down the court. But they're a much better defensive team than they get credit for sometimes. They score a lot of points and they've got some guys that score those points and do it in a very exciting way. But at the same time they've really improved defensively as the year has gone on.
We don't know what the game will be like. We just know whatever it is, we have to be able to get inside of it, adjust to it, and try to do our best with it.

Q. Can you talk about the first time you played Seton Hall, you struggled offensively as well. What do they do that make it's so hard for you? And can you talk about you held them scoreless the last five minutes of the last ten possessions, did you do anything different at the end of the game?
COACH CREAN: In answer to your second question, we went a little smaller in the end with the foul situations, which allowed us to switch a little bit more. But I thought our guys locked into understanding what they wanted to do. A couple times Eugene Harvey split us in the pick-and-roll or refused the pick-and-roll. Those are two of his great strengths as a guard. We missed some shots that we make, you know. But we have not won because we've shot the ball at an incredible rate all year long. We had the maturity to keep really playing at a high level defensively and on the backboards, even though we weren't scoring at a high rate and shooting the ball great. But I would say they have a lot to do with that. They have very good athletes.
Again, not only are they athletic, they're very good basketball players. They're long, certainly Brian Laing has always created a match-up problem for people in this league. You put him at the 4, he does great things. He can come down and guard. They've had a very good year. I know they've lost a couple games as of late, but they've had a very good year with good players, and I hope their season continues from this. I'd be shocked if it didn't.

Q. You mentioned just before that you don't have great size, so you have to have great heart. Having said that, you've had more offensive rebounds than they had defensive rebounds. Surprise you, shock you, impress you?
COACH CREAN: Well, it's something to build on. That's a unique statistic. I thought our guys again had an incredible hunger to get to the backboards. In this time of year, you've got to bring everything that you have, and you've got to take it up another notch. So whoever we have on the floor has got to be a participant in creating extra possessions for us. Whether it's offensive rebounding, loose balls, whether it's deflections, whatever it is, we've got to be in position to do that. I thought our guys did that. To outrebound them that way is a statement to the way they played. The way they played on the backboards and the tenacity they played with throughout the game.

Q. Lazar, kind of another double-double for you. How does this speak to the team, to your own play going down the stretch?
LAZAR HAYWARD: I think it's just with some of the same things that Jerel said, you know. It's just a reflection of how we play. And this whole team we have a bunch of guys that always wants to win. And you know, we have a bunch of hungry players. When things like that happen it's just because we're so hungry and we're so eager to win.

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