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March 20, 2008

Folarin Campbell

Jim Larranaga

Will Thomas


THE MODERATOR: Joined now by George Mason. Coach, if you want to just begin with some thoughts on the game.
COACH LARRANAGA: Well, I want to congratulate Notre Dame. Mike Brey, his staff and team, I thought they did a terrific job tonight. They were very, very sharp defensively early. We had a hard time getting started offensively. And then what really hurt us is they went on that little run where they hit three threes in a row and got a lot of separation. I think in any game like this, the team that is constantly having to make the adjustments, they're the ones at the disadvantage.
I don't think Notre Dame had to change anything they planned to do. Their whole game plan was pretty much executed. And then in our situation, we found ourselves we weren't handling the ball quite well enough. We weren't defending them quite well enough. We weren't getting back in defense and contesting the threes well enough. We were constantly searching for both an offensive theme and a defensive theme that would work.
We utilized our bench a good bit. Never were really able to cut the lead below double figures and make ourselves a threat to make a great comeback. But I am extremely proud of my team for making it to the NCAA tournament, for my seniors, especially Will and Folarin, who have been absolutely unbelievable leaders, gentlemen, student-athletes. Every accolade you could describe what a coach is looking for in a player, these guys demonstrate, and they have throughout their careers. I just feel very, very bad for them to go out on a game like tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach. We'll take questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Will, 25 points, hard earned against multiple defenders. Talk about what it was like down there, having them change up the defense, defensive players on you seems like every possession?
WILL THOMAS: I guess it isn't anything new. Different teams been doing that the entire season, putting different defenders on me to try to wear me down. Even them running out, because we had different matchups than they did, so it was kind of hard.
But, still...

Q. Now that you have gone to the tournament and not advanced, does that put any different perspective what you did two years ago or that make you appreciate how hard it is a little more?
FOLARIN CAMPBELL: It makes me appreciate it. I guess I didn't really appreciate it, you know, until today. You know, every team in the NCAA tournament is going to be a great team. We played against a great team today. I mean, Notre Dame. Just to know what we did two years ago, playing Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State and Connecticut. I mean, I look back at that and I just see how remarkable that run was.
WILL THOMAS: I do appreciate coming to the NCAA tournament. I think that's what every college basketball player, coach, team, school wants to be at the end of the season, so...

Q. Folarin, what kind of went into the defense they were playing on you and how frustrating was it for you?
FOLARIN CAMPBELL: They played great defense. You know, they put a bigger guy on me, made it hard for me to get the ball. Every time I shot, it was contested. The majority of my shots were contested. The lanes were packed. They just played tremendous defense.
I tip my hat off to Notre Dame and their defense.

Q. Folarin, you mentioned they contested shots. They got guys 6'8", 6'10". You don't see that in the CAA. How difficult is it to play against those guys that size?
FOLARIN CAMPBELL: I mean, it's not that. It's the fact that I feel their big guys, I mean, they were quick enough and they were able to move, you know. If I would get past or have one on my hip, there was another big guy right beside him.
I mean, Notre Dame just played great defense, you know. Like I said, all my shots were contested. I mean, I tip my hat off to their defense.

Q. Even with the loss, how would you define this class with all that you accomplished, with you two, Jordan, and even JV who sat out a year?
WILL THOMAS: I would consider us one of the best. We accomplished a lot in four years. That's where I put us: one of the best classes ever to come through George Mason.
FOLARIN CAMPBELL: I see it as I think coach L went to the NCAA, I think this is his third time with George Mason, is that true?
FOLARIN CAMPBELL: Fourth time, I'm sorry.
To have it done in three years with us, I mean, twice in three years, I mean.
WILL THOMAS: Four years.
FOLARIN CAMPBELL: Twice in four years (laughter). I mean, it's great to go to the Final Four, to go to the CAA championship twice, come up short one and win the other one, our last one, I mean, it's great. You know, we've done a lot here. We know that. I mean, I don't know, it's just bad to go out this way.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys. Questions for coach.

Q. Is this one of the tougher classes that you have ever had to say good-bye to in your coaching career?
COACH LARRANAGA: Oh, yeah. I think what happens to me is, it's just that I think the passion I have for the game and have always had that, first as a player, then as a coach. I really fall in love with my guys because they give so much on the court, off the court. We put a lot of demands on them. Our standards are very high. For them to try to reach those standards are not easy.
We compete in a very, very strong conference, the Colonial Athletic Association is very underrated. And in the recruiting process, we're always trying to find the very best student-athletes we can get - not just basketball players, but people who will represent our university in a very positive fashion. And if you look at the three seniors who are going to be graduating, very much like two years ago when we graduated Tony Skin, Lamar Butler and Jai Lewis, and I don't mean graduated from the team, I mean graduated from the university with their degrees in hand. These three seniors, Jordan, Folarin and Will, they're all going to graduate very soon, in May or June. To know how much they've given to me, to our program, to our university, is immeasurable.
George Mason three years ago, at threes press conferences, nobody ever heard of us. Two years ago at the start of the tournament, nobody ever heard of us. Most people thought George Mason was a small private school. Nobody understood that we're the largest state university in the state of Virginia, that we have an incredible law school. We take great pride in having two - what's the - Nobel prize winners. That's something now that people ask the cliché has become: Who's the next George Mason? I think Will Thomas, Folarin Campbell, Jordan Carter, this class is very responsible for that.

Q. Do you appreciate what happened two years ago now? I know you had been to the tournament before and lost.
COACH LARRANAGA: You know, I knew two years ago we were doing something very, very special. In fact, I tell the players all the time, this is the greatest time in your life, I think. If you're in college basketball, this is fun. Being part of March Madness, there's nothing like this. I'm watching on TV today, the games are close, there's a blowout. I'm thinking to myself, Boy, only 32 teams will be around tomorrow. I'm sorry, day after. What time is it? Come Saturday.
I just want to be a part of this. I don't want to leave this thing. I want our players to experience every moment they can possibly experience 'cause it's great fun and it's great entertainment for everybody that follows college sports, and basketball in particular.
So I know what we did was very special two years ago. Cutting down the nets two weeks ago was very special, too, because we hadn't done that in a long time.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, coach.
COACH LARRANAGA: Thank you, everybody.

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