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March 14, 2008

Jamie Dixon

Levance Fields

Ronald Ramon

Sam Young


COACH DIXON: Obviously, great win for us against a very good team. We have tremendous respect for the Marquette program. Their kids and how hard they play. I thought we really jumped off to a great start offensively. Executed very well, as we knew Marquette would keep battling. Very surprised that we could come away with a win with them getting 21 offensive boards, 47 rebounds. But we took care of the ball, took good shots. I thought our offense was good for the most part. We had some guys made plays, Ronald, Sam, great drives when we needed them as they stepped up the defense. It was a great win for us against again a very, very good program, and proud of our guys, once again. Thank you.

Q. It's truly remarkable that you got into the Big East championship seven of the last eight years, what is it that your team plays the best when it's tournament time in the Big East?
COACH DIXON: Probably have to ask the players that as well. But I think we have a good focus. We understand what it's about. We do, it's a cliche, but we do take it one game at a time. We don't talk about it as a tournament, we talk about it as the next game that we've got, and that's how we really look at it.
We love playing in New York. We have New York guys. We'll do anything we can to play in the Garden. We'll change schedules around. We'll change events around. We want to get our kids back here. We've told Joel Fisher, that runs the events here, that we'll play in any of the events that they have. We do enjoy playing here. They take very good care of us. I guess that helps, too.
But you're beating good people. I know the record is pretty -- I guess I've had people coming up to us, and there's a lot of talk about the record. I don't know what it is. I know we've beaten very good people playing here, non-conference and conference. But again, you've got to have good players and kids that want to compete and play at the best place to play in the world, really. I grew up hearing about it from my dad. And these guys heard about it growing up themselves. So I guess that has something to do with it.

Q. Over the past seven years in that streak you've only been to the tournament, having played all four days, twice. Is it more difficult to get there on the fourth day and how are the challenges going to be tomorrow playing after that?
COACH DIXON: I think it's probably more difficult to win more games. But we'll be ready to play. We'll be after it. We'll be there. We'll show up. We're going to be ready. I know our guys are anxious to play. They're looking forward to the opportunity. Nobody was tired out there at all, so. We'll be ready.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by Levance Fields.

Q. The crowd was strongly favoring your team. Can you talk about any psychological benefit that may have had on your play?
SAM YOUNG: Repeat that again.

Q. The crowd was strongly favoring your team. Can you talk about any psychological benefit that may have had on your play?
SAM YOUNG: I'm not sure of the question.

Q. How did the crowd affect you guys as a team?
SAM YOUNG: Oh, oh. A lot of guys' families out there. Of course we've got so many New York guys, a lot of their families grew up here and a lot of their families are able to come to the game. So of course we'll have more people. And me being from the D.C. area, it's not too far from here. When you're looking in the crowd and you see your family, you see your fans and your friends, that gives you a lot of motivation and a lot of energy to take the extra step and initiative to do whatever is needed to win the game.

Q. When you first played here at Madison Square Garden when you were young and you were a kid, what do you remember about it?
RONALD RAMON: You know, it's one of the greatest places to play at, especially growing up in New York City. You always want to play at the Garden. You always watch the Knicks play, and you always want to come down when Jordan used to play here and watch him play. You look at it, and you want to be in that situation. You want to go out there and play. Now that it's presented to us, you want to go out there and compete and do the best to play in front of your family and friends.
LEVANCE FIELDS: It's like Ron said, it's very exciting growing up here. We look forward to this. Our friends and families. We get a lot of tickets for people to come. It's exciting. Something about the Garden. Special things happen. So every chance we get to play here, we're excited about it. This is our second home, as Coach always says during the shooting rounds. We're used to the fans cheering for us and a lot of people coming out.

Q. It seems like you do kind of own the event, but is it specifically just about this city and who comes to the games and the building, or does it have something to do with the event also?
RONALD RAMON: I think it has to do with the team. As a team we get focused. We take every step of the season differently. We separate it. We call it the four seasons. The first season is the non-conference games. Then we go to the regular Big East games, then you get to the Big East Tournament, and then the NCAA Tournament. So we take it one step at a time.
This is one of the events that we try to get focused for, and come out and play the best basketball we can play.
LEVANCE FIELDS: It's just, like I said before, it's a special place to play. Lot of guys that's not from here or freshmen on the team they get pumped up even more. It's their first go-around, and me being in my third year, and Ronald in his fourth, like I said, we just love playing here. We take advantage of it. We play hard, we battle and we're used to being in this situation. The biggest thing is once we get on that bus, we've got to get ready for Georgetown. Because since I've been here, and three years with Ron and Sam, we've been in this situation. So it's time to cash in and get this championship.

Q. You were quick to point out yesterday that you guys hadn't quite finished the job here in the last couple of years, and during your time you're 1-5 in the six title games. Can you talk about what it would mean to you to win tomorrow?
RONALD RAMON: It would mean a lot, especially being a senior. How every single player on the team is talking about us doing it for the seniors. "Let's go out there and play the best basketball."
Nobody's celebrating. We're just trying to get focused and prepare for the next game. We're glad that we're back in the championship game, but it's time, like Levance said, to go out there and play the best basketball on the last day of the tournament.

Q. Two things about Levance: The first game against Marquette was his first game back. Was it a night-and-day difference tonight offensively? And secondly, how comfortable were you with him at the foul line when you were struggling at the foul line?
COACH DIXON: Yeah, obviously, it was night and day. It was something that we anticipated. A lot of people thought it was going to be easy to come back and be ready to go right away. Even probably Levance thought it would be easier than it was. We talked about it, but still I don't think you're ever prepared for it. Usually guys are out for the season when they're out that long. It's really gone as we anticipated. It's going to take some time, and we knew it would take three, four games for him to get his feet under him.
So it's really, you know, we talked all along about focusing on the last four games. I thought it would take us two weeks for him to get into it, us getting used to him, and then him just getting his legs and getting through it and getting knocked down a few times. Then finding out that his foot was all right, the conditioning, and all of the things that came with it. So there may have been some rush to judgment by others, but not by myself.
So I think I just kept encouraging him. I think there were some frustrations at times with Levance, tried to prepare him for it, but I think that's to be expected. But he got through it, and our guys had confidence in him. We're where we wanted to be at this point right now.

Q. Were you comfortable with him shooting those free throws at the end?
COACH DIXON: I mean, he's made them all his career. I thought I looked relaxed over there, maybe I didn't. But I feel very comfortable with all three of our guys up here knocking down free throws at the end. We're very good at making shots the end of games. We have very good character and toughness. We play late-game situations in practice. But these guys, you're talking about guys that won state championships and city championships, and prep school championships. You know, they didn't win just because they came here; they've won all their lives.

Q. I know that you and Jessie are pretty good friends, did you call or text each other before the tournament and did you reach out to him tonight? What will it be like playing against him tomorrow?
LEVANCE FIELDS: Well, you know, we always talk. Actually I seen him at halftime going into the locker rooms. He gave me five and said, "I'll see you tomorrow." So we're real close friends.
Obviously it's going to be fun to play against him again. Played against them last year, but they came out to win this. Like I said, it's very exciting, but I know not only in my mind, but the three people to my right up here, and the rest of the team that are here, we want to finish it up. We're happy about being here. We know this is a special spot to be in, but like I said, we're used to being here, but we want to finish it out, that's the most important thing right now.

Q. How important was it to get Jerel McNeal in foul trouble early?
COACH DIXON: It was a key. Obviously, he's a great player. We had some guys in foul trouble, DeJuan was in foul trouble. It's just part of the game. But I liked the way that we got him. We took some charges and that was something we emphasized going into this game, and that was big. We thought he's a driver, he's a guy that gets to the basket. We've got to get our body in front of him, and we've got to be there. That's how we got a couple of them. So that was a big part of it, I think. So we earned it. We had to earn it.
It's something we talked about doing as a team. So it's something we've gotten better at, too, down the stretch here as we've gotten better as a team defensively.

Q. We've heard the two New York guys talk about how they feel about the Garden and everything, but from your vantage point when you see these New York guys and they're coming up on a game at the Garden, can you describe the way they begin to act differently or what you see in them?
SAM YOUNG: To be honest, if I wasn't part of this team I probably wouldn't think of the Garden and respect the Garden as much as I do. They let me know just from their actions and the emotions that this is the most famous arena. Every time we come here, they show that emotion. When I see that, I have no choice but to get excited and to be a part of what they already know, the knowledge that they have about the Garden.

Q. You missed the regular season game against Georgetown. Obviously, you've played them so many times, what's it going to take to knock them off this time?
LEVANCE FIELDS: Actually we were able to handle them pretty well without me. So I'm just hoping we'll be able to do the same thing tomorrow. They're a tough team. They have a 7-footer in the middle, and a lot of perimeter shooting. They do a great job in the offensive executing. We've just got to come out and do more than them. We've got to do it on defense, as Coach said tonight. The biggest thing was getting McNeal in the foul, but it's the way we did it, taking charge and being physical. They shot 31%, and that's knowing how Pitt plays defense. A couple games in my first game back we just weren't getting after defense. So hopefully that continues tomorrow. We've been doing well in this tournament, and like I said, we just want to close it out.

Q. You talked about the guys winning state championships and champions before they got to Pitt, is that something you specifically target in your recruiting, guys that have won that help you create the culture?
COACH DIXON: Yeah, of course. I think watching Ronald's AAU program, his high school program, I remember watching in his AAU program he didn't lose a game all summer long. Watching him down in the Peach Jam and different places. Levance won a state championship or city championship. Sam went undefeated in his high school senior year and his prep school year. So I've just messed these guys up a little bit since they got here.
But otherwise, yeah. You want guys from winning programs that have been coached. They've all been coached. They've all been around the game and it's important to them. So it's important to us. I want it to be just as important to them.

Q. When you guys were able to stop Dominic James for most of that game, everybody knows what a great player he is, what did it take? And when you had his confidence rattled for most of the game what were your thoughts on the court?
RONALD RAMON: Like I said, from the beginning of the game we try to come out and be aggressive. Try to stop the ball screen, try to make him just make plays. Kick out some of the drives that he was having. But we were doing a great job as a team. Guys were staying with the shooters. We were able to get a lot of open shots and we did a great job staying with our hands up and not getting fouls. You know, after him getting in foul trouble a little bit and not being able to create for his team he got a little frustrated and we took a little advantage of that.
LEVANCE FIELDS: For the most part, like I say, he's a great player. He's very quick. We just kept a hand in his face. Don't give him the drive and make him shoot contested shots. We did that. Did a pretty good job of that. And he was off, and like Ronald said, he got into a little foul trouble and got frustrated. We kept getting after it. So it was a great job by all the guards, because at different times all of us could be guarding him or McNeal, Matthews. We all just helped. And the big guys did a great job of rebounding.

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